Easy Bok Choy Soup Recipe (Vegetarian, Vegan)
This Bok Choy Soup is like a warm hug in a bowl – easy to prepare with simple ingredients and ready in just 20 minutes! It’s a clear broth Asian soup with bok choy that’s light in texture but full of flavor. The broth, infused with ginger and garlic and sautéed in toasted sesame oil, brings a delicious depth to every spoonful.
In this recipe, I’ll share my special tricks on how to cut bok choy and cook it to perfection in the soup – ensuring it’s tender, crispy, and never mushy. This is why it’s a top favorite vegetable soup among my readers! Plus, if you’re craving a stir-fry, don’t miss our Bok choy stir fry – a delightful sister dish to this soup.
With healthy, simple, and accessible ingredients, there’s a reason why people love a good recipe for bok choy soup. Here are what you need for the dish:
- Shanghai Baby Bok Choy: Chosen for its soup spoon-like shape and gorgeous green stalks, Shanghai baby bok choy adds not only a sweet and tender crunch but also a vibrant color to our vegetarian pak choi soup. This type is commonly found in Western markets, making it a convenient and delightful choice for this recipe.
- Toasted Sesame Oil: Saute ginger garlic with a small touch of sesame oil to infuse the soup with a rich, nutty aroma.
- Garlic Cloves: Brings a pungent and spicy flavor that deepens the soup’s taste.
- Ginger Root: Offers a warm, slightly spicy bite, enhancing the overall flavor.
- Coarse Sea Salt: Used for seasoning and enhancing the natural flavors of the ingredients.
- Fresh Shiitake Mushrooms: Contribute an earthy taste and a meaty texture.
- Olive Oil: Used for sautéing, adding a mild, fruity undertone.
- Chicken Broth or Vegetable Broth: Forms the soup base, providing depth and richness.
- Coconut Aminos: Adds a sweet and savory, soy-like flavor, naturally gluten-free, but less salty. Can also use a smaller amount of light soy sauce.
- Shiitake Mushroom Seasoning (Optional): A great substitute for MSG, this seasoning adds a deep umami flavor to the soup. If unavailable, homemade chicken bouillon powder can be used as an alternative, enhancing the broth with a savory chicken flavor.
- Green Onions (Scallions): Offer a mild, slightly peppery flavor and a pop of color.
If adding poached eggs to the soup:
- Eggs (for poached eggs, optional): Add a creamy, rich element to the soup.
- White or Apple Cider Vinegar (for poaching eggs): Helps the egg whites set faster when poaching.
Tips for storing bok choy: Keep baby bok choy fresh by storing it unwashed in a stasher bag with a paper towel in the fridge’s vegetable drawer. Aim to use it within 2-3 days for the best texture.
Substitutions and variations
- Bok choy substitutes: Can’t find bok choy? No worries! Chinese spinach, yu choy sum, Napa cabbage, or AA choy are all fantastic alternatives, offering a similar light taste.
- Broth varieties: For homemade broth, try my Instant Pot bone broth, Chinese chicken soup, or shiitake mushroom broth (using rehydrated dried shiitake). Check out our article on how to prepare dried shiitake mushrooms.
- Soup seasonings: For a warm, cinnamon-like twist, add a small pinch of star anise powder. For some heat, consider garlic chili sauce, red pepper flakes, chili oil, or sriracha sauce. Vegetarian oyster sauce is great for an extra savory kick.
- Add noodles: Mix in rice noodles, ramen noodles, or kelp noodles (low-carb) for a heartier meal. Explore more types of Chinese noodles in our dedicated article.
How to make bok choy soup
This simple Chinese soup with bok choy is not only healthy and easy but also vegetarian or vegan-friendly. These steps are designed to maximize flavor and ensure every spoonful is as comforting and satisfying as it can be. Let me show you how to cook with bok choy in soup so they are tender, crisp, and flavorful.
- Prepare the Bok Choy: For small baby bok choy, halve them. If you have regular-sized bok choy, quarter them. And for large bok choy, chop them into bite-sized pieces. After preparing, rinse them well and set them aside to drain.
- Start the Aromatics: Heat a medium-sized pot over medium-low. Add sesame oil, followed by garlic, ginger, and a pinch of salt. Sauté until fragrant (about 1 minute).
- Add Mushrooms: Toss in shiitake mushrooms with olive oil and sauté briefly (30 seconds).
- Simmer the Broth: Pour in the stock. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer for 5 minutes.
- Poached Eggs (Optional): While the broth simmers, poach the eggs in boiling water with a dash of vinegar, if using.
- Season the Broth: Adjust the flavor with coconut aminos and shiitake mushroom seasoning (or salt).
- Cook the Bok Choy in soup: Increase heat to medium. Add bok choy, stem side down, and cook for 1-2 minutes. Then submerge the entire bundle, including the leaves, in the hot broth for an additional minute.
- Finish and Serve: Drizzle with a bit more sesame oil and sprinkle spring onions. Serve in bowls with a poached egg on top of each.
Special Tips on Cooking Bok Choy in Soup
Let’s talk about mastering the art of cooking Chinese bok choy in soup! Here are some essential tips to ensure your bok choy is always crisp, tender, and never mushy.
Choosing bok choy
- Baby Bok Choy: They’re the tiniest and sweetest in the bok choy family, perfect for tenderness. Find them in Chinese, Japanese, or Korean grocery stores.
- Regular Bok Choy (8-9 inches tall): Common in Western grocery stores, they’re bigger than baby bok choy but still great for soup.
- Large Bok Choy (10-11 inches tall): These are more fibrous and a bit tougher, but still delicious.
How to prepare bok choy for soup
- Cutting: Baby bok choy? Halve it. Regular bok choy? Quarter it. Large bok choy? Chop into bite sizes. Refer to our guide on how to cut bok choy for more info.
- Washing: After slicing, wash them properly. For lengthwise-sliced bok choy, gently separate the stalks and rinse. For crosswise-diced bok choy, wash in a bowl of water until clean.
How to add bok choy to soup
- Halved or Quartered: Place the stem side down in the broth, cook for 2 minutes, then submerge fully for 1 more minute.
- Diced Bok Choy: Add stems first to simmer for 2-3 minutes, then the bok choy leaves for about 1 minute or until they turn dark green and tender.
How long to cook bok choy in soup
- Stems vs. Leaves: Bok choy stems take a bit longer, around 2-3 minutes, as they’re heartier. Leaves just need about 1 minute to cook.
How to make ahead, store, freeze, and reheat
Whether you’re preparing it fresh, storing it for later, or reheating it. Here’s how to keep your soup perfect at every stage:
- Make-Ahead: Chop your garlic, ginger, and shiitake mushrooms in advance to save time. You can also prepare and wash the bok choy a day before – just pat it dry to maintain its crispness.
- Storage: Keep the soup in an airtight container in the fridge and enjoy it within 2-3 days to savor its freshness.
- Freeze: For the best texture, freeze only the broth, without the bok choy. Cook vegetables in small batches when you’re ready to serve. Simmer the broth and add fresh bok choy for that perfect crunch. Don’t forget to check our tips on storing bok choy!
- Reheat: Microwave the soup on medium for 1 minute, stir, then another minute until warm. Alternatively, reheat on the stovetop. The bok choy may lose some crispness, but the flavor will still be fantastic.
What to serve with bokchoy soup
Looking for the perfect companions to serve alongside your Chinese vegetable soup? Whether you’re in the mood for something hearty, light, or vegetarian, we’ve got you covered.
- Stir fries: Elevate your meal with flavorful stir-fries like Chinese Black Pepper Chicken or Black Pepper Beef. For seafood lovers, the Chinese Steamed Cod with Ginger Scallion Sauce is a must-try. Or, spice things up with a Ground Chicken Stir Fry with Green Beans.
- Rice and noodles: Complement your soup with comforting rice dishes like Steak Fried Rice or Din Tai Fung Fried Rice with Shrimp. For noodle enthusiasts, Garlic Chili Noodles and Spicy Peanut Noodles are fantastic choices.
- Vegetarian and vegan pairings: Light and healthy options include Rice Paper Dumplings, perfect for a starter. Try the Shanghai Rice Cake with Napa Cabbage and Bok Choy for a hearty vegetarian main. And don’t miss the Roasted Chinese Eggplant, a flavorful vegan delight.
- Choosing Bok Choy: Select baby bok choy for its tenderness and sweetness. If not available, regular or large bok choy can be used, keeping in mind their larger size and firmer texture.
- Preparing Bok Choy for Soup: Cut baby bok choy in halves, regular bok choy in quarters, and large bok choy into bite-sized pieces. Ensure thorough washing, especially between the stalks, to remove any dirt.
- Adding Bok Choy to the Soup: Add bok choy stems side down in an upright position. This method allows stems, which take longer to cook, to be submerged in the broth while keeping the delicate leaves partially out for less time.
- Cooking Time for Bok Choy: Cook the stems for about 2-3 minutes, ensuring they soften but remain crisp. Then, submerge the leafy parts for no longer than 1 minute. This approach ensures the leaves are cooked just right – tender but not overcooked.
- Use Toasted Sesame Oil to sauté the ginger and garlic. This will infuse your broth with an extra layer of rich and nutty flavor.
- Choosing and Preparing Shiitake Mushrooms: You can use either fresh or rehydrated shiitake mushrooms. If opting for rehydrated ones, don’t discard the mushroom water. Filter it and use it as part of your soup broth for an enhanced flavor. Check our guide on preparing dried shiitake mushrooms for more details.
In soup, eat both the stem and leafy parts of bok choy. The stems are crunchy and juicy, and the leaves are soft, tender, and slightly peppery.
Boil bok choy stems for about 1-2 minutes and the leaves for 1 minute. This keeps it tender yet crisp. Overboiling can lead to a mushy texture, so it’s best to cook it briefly.
Baby bok choy is a smaller version of bok choy. They are pretty much the same. Baby bok choy tastes tender and sweet because they are harvested earlier than the mature full-size version of bok choy. Baby bok choy also has a stronger peppery and mineral flavor than the full-grown version of matured bok choy.
Bok choy has a slightly bitter, mineral, and peppery flavor. Bok choy stems are shaped like a spoon. They are crisp yet full of water. Bok choy leaves are tender and taste peppery. Both bok choy stems and leaves are edible raw or cooked.
More soup recipes with bok choy
Looking for more delicious ways to add bok choy to soups? We’ve got a fantastic selection of recipes that showcase this versatile vegetable in various mouth-watering ways. Check these out for more culinary inspiration!
- Asian Chicken Noodle Soup: A quick bok choy chicken noodle soup, perfect for a cozy night in.
- Brisket Pho: Experience the magic of tender brisket paired with crisp bok choy in this classic Vietnamese noodle soup.
- Lion’s Head Meatballs: Savor these large, juicy meatballs, traditionally served with Chinese cabbage and bok choy for a hearty meal.
- Whole30 Tantanmen Ramen: Indulge in this Whole30-compliant ramen featuring chicken thighs and bok choy in a creamy, savory broth. A guilt-free treat!
Bok choy soup recipe (上海青菜湯)
- 18 oz. baby bok choy, halved or quartered
- 1.5 tbsp toasted sesame oil
- 0.6 oz garlic clove, thinly sliced, about 3 large
- 0.4 oz ginger root, thinly sliced
- pinch coarse sea salt, or to taste
- 4 oz fresh shiitake, sliced
- 1-1.5 tbsp olive oil
- 3.5 cups chicken bone broth, or vegetable stock
- 1 tbsp coconut aminos, or to taste
- 1 tsp Takii shiitake mushroom seasoning, optional
- 2 bulbs spring onions (scallions), diced
For the poached eggs (optional):
- 4 large eggs
- ½-1 tbsp white or apple cider vinegar, to add to the boiling water
- Slice the bok choy in half. For large bundles, quarter them. Rinse and clean under cold water. Set aside to drain.
- Preheat a medium-sized soup pot over medium-low heat until it feels warm. Add the sesame oil, garlic, ginger, and a pinch of salt. Saute over medium heat until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add the mushrooms and olive oil. Saute for 30 seconds.
- Add the stock and cover with a lid to bring the broth to boil over medium-high heat, about 4 minutes. Then lower the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.
- In the meantime, make soft poached eggs, if using. Please see directions in the notes section.
- Taste the broth and adjust with seasonings. I added 1 tbsp coconut aminos and about 1 tsp Takii shiitake mushroom seasoning to add depth and extra flavor. If you don’t have this Asian seasoning, season with more salt and coconut aminos to taste.
- Bring the heat up to medium and add the bok choy. place the bok choy stem side down first and leave the leafy parts above the broth so they look like they are standing upwards. Cook the stems for 1-2 minutes then submerge the whole bundle including the leafy parts in the hot broth for 1 minute.
- Turn off the heat. Season with another dash of toasted sesame oil and sprinkle spring onions. Divide the soup into 4 serving bowls and add one poached egg to each bowl. Serve hot or warm.
- Bring a pot of water to boil (about 4-inch/ 2.54cm) deep and add a small dash of vinegar.
- Crack one egg into a small ramekin or bowl.
- Stir the water to create a vortex.
- Gently slide the egg into the middle of the vortex and set a timer for 3 minutes.
- Once the egg is done, use a slotted spoon to remove the poached egg.
- You can also poach eggs in an air fryer, see our post on Air fryer poached eggs.