I love trying recipes from different cuisines to sharpen my cooking skills. Among all the cuisines, I find that Asian cuisine is the hardest to try out because not only are the flavors unfamiliar to our style, but there is also the lack of ingredients in the market.
Bok Choy is one of the most common vegetables in many Asian recipes. However, it is not always available in the US local stores. That’s why in this post, I will share with you the best bok choy substitute for your Asian-Inspired dish below.
What Does Bok Choy Taste Like?
Bok choy (also known as Pak Choi or Bok Choy), the Chinese chard or cabbage, appears widely in many Asian recipes. It is one of the leafy green vegetable types that belong to the mustard family, like cabbage, turnips, kale, and broccoli.
This ingredient was first introduced to America in the 19th Century. However, the history of Bok choy in Asian cuisine is archaic dated back 6000 years ago.
Although its name relates to cabbage, the size of this fresh vegetable is much smaller than a regular-headed cabbage and more of a resemblance of celery or lettuce. You can use all of the bok choy from stalks to green leaves for a variety of dishes like stir-frying or pan-frying with sizzling oyster sauce.
Besides being a fresh and fiber source in cooking, bok choy is a medicinal ingredient in China due to its nutrition.
You can find it rich in essential nutrients like vitamins (A, C, and K) which can improve your eyesight, enhance your immune system and heart conditions. Bok choy also contains a lot of potassium and calcium that are beneficial to your blood pressure and bone strength. With only nine calories per cup, bok choy is an ideal veggie for your low-calorie diet.
Like the cabbage family, the taste of the bok choy is fresh and mild with grassy and peppery notes. Crunchy, soft, and crispy is my description of the texture of this vegetable.
9 Bok Choy Substitutes
Bok choy is a special type of Chinese vegetables that are plenty in Asian cuisine but not much in our western cuisine. They also require a certain soil and temperature condition, making it inaccessible in some countries. Luckily, we can always find the best substitute for bok choy.
#1. Swiss Chard
Swiss chard is one of the most popular vegetables in Southern Europe. It has a long history since Aristotle first mentioned the appearance of red-stalked chard. In the modern era, swiss chard can be seen in many Mediterranean recipes as a rich source of fiber.
This plant has different large green leaves with bright colored stems from red, yellow, pink, and purple. It also comes from the same leafy green family with bok choy making swiss chard the perfect substitute for Chinese cabbage.
If you eat swiss chard leaves raw, they will have a tender and slightly bitter taste. Once cooked, the bitterness will be eliminated, leaving a sweet flavor similar to spinach.
#2. Napa Cabbage
If you’re looking for an excellent substitute for bok choy that still has an Asian trait, I recommend you try out Napa cabbage or Chinese white cabbage.
This is one of the most popular Asian cabbage that is used widely in Chinese cuisine. The name of this vegetable comes from the Japanese word, Nappa, which means leafy green.
This cabbage is larger than bok choy, with a structure formed by many pale green and thick leaves with white stalks. When cooked, it has a crunchy and rougher texture, but the flavor is mild and grassy, similar to the bok choy.
Napa cabbage can be used for stir-fry dishes, additional ingredients in noodles, to side dishes for dumplings and rolls. You can try it raw for salads or pan-fry it as a source of fiber in your diet.
#3. Yu Choy
Another great Asian substitute for baby bok choy is Yu Choy. You can also know this vegetable from other names like choy sum or Chinese broccoli. Like bok choy, yu choy is a native in China with a history since ancient times.
It is part of the leafy green family with dark green oval-shaped leaves and long tender stalks. The texture of Yu Choy is crunchy and tender with a green and sweet taste and peppery note similar to baby spinach and bok choy.
Similar to cabbage, you can saute, pan-fry, steaming or eat the entire one raw for salads, chicken broth, and stews.
#4. Gai Lan
Similar to Yu Choi, Gai Lan is one of the most popular vegetables in Asian cuisine. You can spot some labels for gai lan as Chinese broccoli as well! Due to the similar taste with you Choi, gai lan can substitute bok choy in a wide range of dishes.
The shape of gai lan can be similar to European cabbage with a long crunchy stalk and large dark green leaves. It is also part of the mustard family with the familiar sweet and green taste but slightly bitterer than you choi.
When cooking gai lan, you should cook the thick stem before the leaves as they take a longer time to soften.
#5. Baby Spinach
Baby spinach is a common vegetable that you can find in any market. It is a younger version of regular spinach harvested from 15 – 35 days after the planting date. The reason why baby spinach is a better candidate than regular ones is its flavor and texture.
Similar to bok choy, baby spinach has small and tender dark green leaves with a mildly sweet taste and bitter note, which you cannot achieve with normal spinach. The texture of cooked baby spinach is also softer, which is suitable to substitute bok choy leaves dishes.
#6. White Cabbage
If you’re looking for a cheap way to substitute bok choy, you should check out white cabbage. It is no stranger as a side dish for roasted meat and smoked bacon recipes, and it definitely makes a great ingredient for your Chinese soups.
With a round and firm shape packed with multiple pale green leaves, white cabbage has a sweet and mild taste which is perfect for salads. It is slightly harder than bok choy in terms of texture, but you can always soften it by steaming.
#7. Mustard Green
Alongside the kale, broccoli, cauliflower, mustard green is another member of the mustard family that can be a great bok choy alternative. There are different types of mustard green, but usually, they are green with large and soft leaves.
When eating raw, mustard green can have a strong bitter and peppery flavor. However, when it is cooked, the flavor becomes much milder and sweet with the spicy note that is perfect for any bok choy leaves recipes.
#8. Celery Root
Celery root or celeriac might come to your surprise that it is on the substitute list for bok choy. Although it might not be similar to bok choy for steaming and pan-fry recipes, it is a great substitution for stews and soups.
Celery root has a round shape and crunchy, parsnip-like, and crispy texture. When cooked, it has a mild, sweet, and celery-like flavor. You can prepare the root by grating or cut it into matchsticks and cook it with other vegetables. You can also find other celery root substitutes like parsnip and celery leaves for your recipes.
#9. Nan Ling
Another great substitute for Bok Choy is Nan Ling or white celery. This is a popular plant that originated in Asia countries described as a cousin of western celery.
Nan Ling comes with a medium size similar to coriander with large lobed leaves. The leaves are flat and thin with a dark green color. The stalk is hollow inside, making it less crunchy and tenderer than the western celery. The white celery has a mild green taste with peppery notes, suitable for substitute bok choy.
How To Use Bok Choy Substitute
There are many vegetables you can use to substitute bok choy in different recipes. Therefore, it is important to know how to combine the plants appropriately.
A common way to cook bok choy is stir-frying. It can be cooked alone or a variety of vegetables. This is the best way to squeeze out the sweet and green taste with the soft texture of vegetables.
Therefore, in this case, you can substitute bok choy with Napa cabbage or Yu Choy as they have a similar soft and tender texture with Asian flavors. Moreover, you can also use all their stems and leaves in cooking.
For salads, bok choy compliments other leafy vegetables so that different dark green plants can substitute it with a mild flavor. You can use swiss chard, gai lan, and baby spinach to give your salads a sweet and mild taste.
Lastly, bok choy is used in soups, especially in Asian cuisine. They are added to give a crunchy texture rather than acting as a flavor influence. Thus, nan linh, celery root, or mustard green can all be a great substitution for bok choy because of their crunchy texture and peppery note.
1. How To Store Bok Choy?
When bok choy is stored properly, it can last up to 3-4 days in the fridge and 4-6 months in the freezer. You can store bok choy similarly to storing cabbage.
2. Leek vs Bok Choy: Which One Is Better?
As we know, bok choy is a type of fibrous vegetables with a sweet and mild flavor. Leek also has a similar flavor. However, the leek is a type of onion, so it may not work in certain recipes requiring green vegetables.
Bok choy is one of the most popular, nutrient-rich, and delicate foods in Asian cuisine. However, it can be hard to access in certain countries.
Therefore, if you’re working on Asian recipes, especially Chinese cooking, finding out the best bok choy substitute to maintain the dishes’ distinctive flavor will benefit your further cooking journey with Chinese dishes.