Bok Choy Substitute – What Can You Use?

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Bok choy is a type of Chinese cabbage with bright green leaves and white-colored bulbous bottoms. This leafy vegetable has a mild, cabbagey flavor and is commonly used in Chinese cooking. 

If a recipe is calling for bok choy and you don’t have any at hand, you might be wondering if there is any ingredient you can use instead.

So, what is the best bok choy substitute? Napa cabbage is the best bok choy substitute. Napa cabbage is a type of Chinese cabbage with dense, tightly packed crispy leaves and mild flavor. Other suitable substitutes for bok choy are Swiss chard, baby spinach, choy sum, mustard greens, nan ling, broccoli, and asparagus. 

This article lists the best bok choy substitutes and explains how to use them in your favorite Chinese cuisine recipes. 

What is Bok Choy?

Bok choi is a type of Chinese cabbage often used in Chinese cooking. It’s sometimes called pak choi or Pok Choi. 

Unlike regular cabbage, bok choy doesn’t have tightly backed leaves but forms white bulbous bottoms and green leaves.

Bok choy has a crunchy texture and a subtle cabbage-like flavor that lends a delicious aroma to stir-fries, soups, and salads.

Bok choy can vary in flavor, size, and color. Vegetables with larger leaves are ideal for soups and salads. Choose bok choy with narrower heads when making stir-fried dishes. 

5 Best Bok Choy Substitutes

Bok choy is available year-round at supermarkets across the USA. But, your local store might not have any at the moment. 

In that case, a substitute for bok choy can come in handy! Let’s see what are the best ones:

1. Napa Cabbage

The best substitute for bok choy is napa cabbage. Often called Chinese cabbage, napa cabbage is commonly used in Asian cooking.

Unlike bok choy, napa cabbage has a tightly packed oval head and crispy heaves. Napa cabbage has a delicious flavor, that is a combination of cabbage, celery, and iceberg lettuce. 

The leaves of napa cabbage don’t wilt when exposed to high temperatures and add crunch to stir-fry dishes. 

2. Spinach

Spinach is a green, leafy vegetable. It’s chock full of vitamins and minerals that offer numerous health benefits. Raw spinach is similar in flavor to bok choy. 

If you decide to use spinach as a substitute for bok choy, look for veggies with dark green leaves that are free of pests and brown spots. Substitute spinach for bok choy in recipes that require the greens to be closer to raw than cooked. 

3. Swiss Chard

Swiss chard is an excellent substitute for bok choy in recipes. Also known as chard, swiss chard is a green, leafy vegetable with highly nutritious leaves. 

Swiss chard’s leaves can come in red and green colors, while leaf stalks are usually white, yellow, or red. Chard’s colorful leaves are bursting with mild, sweet, and earthy flavors similar to bok choy.

When using Swiss chard as a replacement for bok choy, cook the Swiss chard’s stems for 10 minutes to achieve a similar texture to bok choy. 

4. Mustard Greens

Mustard greens are a great substitute for bok choy in recipes that call for frying and braising. Also known as Indian mustard, Chinese mustard, or leaf mustard, mustard greens are closely related to cabbage and kale. 

Raw mustard greens have a peppery, pungent, and a little bitter flavor similar to mustard. However, once cooked, the leaves lose most of their sharpness and start tasting more like bok choy and spinach.

5. Choy Sum

Also known as Choi sum, Choi sam, Cai Xin, and caixin, choy sum is a leafy vegetable widely used in Chinese cooking. Choy sum is closely related to mustard greens and has a mild cruciferous flavor similar to broccoli and spinach.

This leafy vegetable has a crunchy texture, like baby bok choy, giving stir-fried recipes a chewy consistency. Substitute fresh choy sum for bok choy in salads or sauces. 

Can I use Spinach instead of Bok Choy?

Yes! Spinach is an excellent replacement for bok choy in most recipes. Spinach and bok choy have a similar flavor and can be used interchangeably in dishes that don’t require the greens to be heavily cooked.

Is Bok Choy Similar to Cabbage?

Yes, bok choy is very similar to cabbage. In fact, bok choy has a mild cabbage-like flavor and a similar crunchy texture as cabbage. 

Although similar in flavor and texture, bok choy and cabbage are different. Cabbage has a densely leaved head while bok choy has wide leaves and white bulbous bottoms. 

Can I use White Cabbage instead of Bok Choy?

Yes. White cabbage is a great replacement for bok choy in Chinese food recipes. Like bok choy, white cabbage is a common ingredient in Asian cooking. 

Most recipes call for sauteed and braised white cabbage. But you can also use it to substitute bok choy in salads, and stir-fries.

Can You use Broccoli instead of Bok Choy?

Yes. Broccoli is a perfect substitute for bok choy in various dishes. Broccoli looks nothing like bok choy but is one of the best replacements you can use in recipes. 

The mild and slightly sweet flavor of broccoli is similar to the flavor of bok choy. These delicate aromas bring out the flavors of stir-fries, salads, and soups, and won’t overpower any recipe. 


Bok choy is a leafy vegetable widely used in Asian cooking. This versatile vegetable is available at most grocery stores all year round. If you can’t find bok choy locally, there are several other leafy veggies you can use instead when making your favorite Asian recipes.

Napa cabbage is the best substitute for bok choy. But you can also use Swiss chard, mustard greens, spinach, white cabbage, and broccoli.

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