Steamed bok choy with garlic oyster sauce
Steamed bok choy is a fantastic, fiber-packed side dish. Ready in 15 minutes, the baby bok choy is steamed until perfectly tender and crisp. A drizzle of garlicky, savory sauce makes it even more delicious.
You’ll learn how to prepare and steam bok choy, and how to make the sauce using my homemade vegetarian oyster sauce. If you want to change things up, my bok choy stir fry recipe only has 3 ingredients, and is irresistibly yummy.
Steamed baby bok choy is a simple, really tasty side dish. You only need a handful of ingredients to make this easy steamed bok choy recipe:
- Baby bok choy – I prefer using baby bok choy as they are the most tender and crisp. They are about 4.5-5-inches in height. You only need to slice them into halves, so they’re the easiest to prepare. You can find baby bok choy in most Asian grocery stores.
- Coconut aminos – It’s naturally sweeter and less salty. You can also use light soy sauce but reduce the quantity by half.
- Vegetarian oyster sauce – You can either use my homemade sauce made with dry shiitake mushrooms or use any store-bought sauce that’s vegetarian. It’s one of the must-have Chinese pantry staples to cook your favorite dishes!
- Shaoxing wine – We use this to create an authentic sauce. You can also use Taiwanese michu or dry sherry. If you prefer making it without alcohol, use stock instead.
- Avocado oil – It’s a neutral-flavored oil that we use to saute garlic. Olive oil is also great for sauteing.
- Garlic cloves – You’ll need to use a lot to create the signature garlicky flavor. Make sure to mince them finely.
- Coarse sea salt – I prefer using coarse salt because it’s less salty so you won’t end up using too much salt in your cooking.
- Toasted sesame oil – To drizzle over the dish to add more flavor.
Substitutions and variations
- Bok choy size: If you can’t find small bok choy, I recommend using medium-sized bok choy that are 8-9 inches tall.
- Oyster sauce: If not using vegetarian oyster sauce, add another 1.5 tablespoons of coconut aminos or 1 tbsp light soy sauce. Thicken the sauce with slurry (1 tsp starch with 1 tbsp cold water).
- Different flavors: You can also add grated fresh ginger or ground black pepper to the sauce. If you prefer, add a touch of rice vinegar and chili flakes for a tangy and slightly spicy sauce.
- Enjoy it with other Asian sauces: Drizzle some gluten-free hoisin sauce or garlic chili sauce over your stir fry for a different flavor variety.
If you love Chinese greens, my guide on Chinese vegetables has more Asian leafy green varieties that I know you’ll love. Be sure to check it out!
How to steam bok choy
Steamed baby bok choy is a simple, repeatable dish when you use the right technique. Steaming brings out its fresh, mildly sweet flavor, while garlic adds a savory kick. My method makes sure the bok choy has the perfect crunch and tenderness every time.
- Trim the tip ends if it’s tough. Slice the bok choy lengthwise into halves. If using regular-sized bok choy, quarter it. For large bok choy, dice the stems into 1.5-inch sections and the leaves into 2-inch sections.
- In a big bowl of water, separate the stalks gently to rinse out the dirt. Then, combine coconut aminos, oyster sauce, and Chinese cooking wine or stock in a separate small bowl.
- Add 1 inch of water to a large steamer pot. Bring it to boil then lower the heat to medium. Add the bok choy with its stems facing down and the leafy side facing upwards. Place them at an angle to allow better hot steam circulation.
- Steam bok choy for 5 minutes in a covered pan. Their stems should be crisp, while the leaves should be deep green but tender.
- In another saute pan, saute the garlic with a bit of oil and a pinch of salt over medium heat for 10 seconds. Add the sauce in, and stir with a wooden spoon.
- Pour it all over the bok choy. Top it off with some toasted sesame oil.
How do you cut bok choy for steaming?
- For baby bok choy around 4-5 inches tall, simply halve them lengthwise.
- For medium-sized bok choy that are 8-9 inches tall, quarter each one into four pieces.
- For large bok choy that are 10 inches or taller, separate the stems from the leaves. Dice the stems into 1.5-inch sections and the leafy parts into 2-inch sections.
Before steaming bok choy, arrange the bok choy in the steamer by placing the stems facing down and the leaves facing up in an upright, standing position to allow the steam to circulate.
For large bok choy, steam the diced stems for 3 minutes first before adding the leaf pieces for 2 more minutes. Cutting the bok choy according to size helps ensure evenly steamed, tender yet crispy bok choy.
How to make-ahead, store, and reheat
This bok choy side dish has a short cook time, so you don’t have to make it ahead, but here are some suggestions if you need to prep it ahead:
- Make-ahead: Make the vegetarian oyster sauce in advance, if you’re making it from scratch.
- Storage: After bok choy is steamed, you can pack it and the sauce separately or in the same airtight container before keeping it in the fridge. It’s best to finish them within 2-3 days.
- Reheat: You can enjoy the dish chilled, or warm. Simply reheat it in a microwave on medium for 1 minute.
What to serve with steamed garlic bok choy
You can easily pair these quick Chinese steamed vegetables with a main dish like rice, or other tasty dishes for a wholesome meal.
- Rice dishes such as air fryer rice or air fryer fried rice or even low-carb shirataki fried rice goes amazingly well with garlicky bok choy.
- Make it a full meal and serve it with easy side dishes like beef in oyster sauce and black pepper chicken. You can even make bok choy soup if you have extra veggies!
- Use baby or medium-sized bok choy — they are more tender than large ones. Look for crisp
- bok choy with bright green leaves. Avoid any that are wilted or yellowing.
- Cut bok choy according to size. Trim off the very end of the stems if they are tough.
- Only wash the bok choy after slicing them. For baby bok choy, halve it; for medium size, quarter it. For large bok choy, dice it into sections.
- Wash the bok choy thoroughly to remove any dirt or grit.
- To prepare the oyster sauce mixture, combine oyster sauce, soy sauce, and Chinese cooking wine or stock in a small bowl. Whisk together until well combined.
- Add about 1 inch of water to a large pot or wok with a steamer basket. Bring to a boil.
- Arrange the bok choy in the steamer basket with stems down and leafy up, without overcrowding the basket. Cover and steam for 5 minutes over medium heat until just tender but still crisp.
- When steaming bok choy, the water should be simmering but not boiling so that the water won’t spill over to the vegetables.
- The keys are to not oversteam the bok choy so it retains some crunch, and to whisk together the oyster sauce mixture well so the flavors marry. Adjust sauce ingredients to taste.
Steaming time for bok choy depends on size. Baby bok choy (halved) takes 5 minutes, medium size (quartered) takes 5-6 minutes, and large bok choy (diced) stems take 3 minutes then add leaves for 2 more minutes. Do not oversteam, as bok choy should be crisp-tender. Arrange bok choy stems down, and leafy side up for even steaming.
Steaming is better than boiling for cooking bok choy. Steaming preserves more nutrients, flavor, color, and crispy texture of bok choy compared to boiling. Boiling can make bok choy soggy and look less vibrant. Steaming gently cooks bok choy in its own juices. Aim for 5-6 minutes of steam time until just crisp-tender. Arrange bok choy stems down, and leaves up in a steamer basket for even cooking. Steaming gives the best taste and texture for bok choy.
The best way to eat bok choy is to lightly steam or stir-fry it to retain its crisp texture. Overcooking makes it mushy. Bok choy has a delicious, mild flavor that pairs well with garlic, ginger, sesame oil, oyster sauce, soy sauce, chiles, or Whole30 peanut sauce. It’s excellent in soups, stir-fries, or as a side dish. Enjoy bok choy raw in salads too like my chopped bok choy salad. Its tender leaves and crunchy stems make a refreshing, nutritious addition to any meal.
Yes, both the white stems and green leaves of bok choy are edible and delicious. The stems are crunchy and juicy while the leafy parts are more tender. When cooking bok choy, the stems take slightly longer to become tender. The entire vegetable is nutritious and full of vitamins A, C, and K. Eat and enjoy the white and green parts of bok choy.
Steamed bok choy recipe
- 1 lb baby bok choy, halved, 4.5 to 5-inch height
- 2 tbsp coconut aminos, or 1 tbsp light soy sauce
- 1.5 tbsp vegetarian oyster sauce
- 0.5 tbsp Shaoxing wine, or Taiwanese michu, dry sherry, stock
- 1 tbsp avocado oil, or olive oil
- 0.8 oz garlic cloves, finely minced, 4 large cloves
- Pinch coarse sea salt
- Drizzle toasted sesame oil
- If the bottom tip end is tough, trim of the tip ends. Slice the baby bok choy lengthwise in halve. For medium size (regular) bok choy (8-9 inch height), quarter it. For large bok choy (10-11 inch height or more), please see notes section.
- Plunge them into a big bowl of water, and gently separate the stalks between the layers to rinse out the dirt.
- In a bowl small bowl, combine the sauce ingredients with coconut aminos, oyster sauce, and Chinese cooking wine or stock.
- In a large pot with steamer basket and lid, add 1-inch water. Bring it to boiling then lower heat to medium. The water should be simmering but not boiling so that the water won’t spill over to the vegetables.
- Add the bok choy to the steamer basket with stems side facing down and the leafy side facing up. Some overlaps are okay. Try to place them with different angles to allow the hot steam to circle through. The bok choy will look like they are in up-side-down “standing” position.
- Cover the pan with a lid and steam for 5 minutes. The bok choy stems should be crisp and with some bites to them; whereas the leaves should be tender but still in deep green color.
- Remove the bok choy and place them on a large serving plate. Allow them to cool down to room temperature.
- In a separate saute pan, add the oil and saute the garlic over medium heat with a pinch of salt for about 10 seconds. Take care not to burn the garlic.
- Add the sauce and stir with a wooden spoon for 10 seconds. The sauce will thicken slightly, turn off the heat.
- Pour the sauce over the bok choy. Drizzle with toasted sesame oil. Serve immediately or warm.
- If not using vegetarian oyster sauce, add 1.5 tbsp more coconut aminos or 1 tbsp light soy sauce. And thicken the sauce with slurry (1 tsp starch with 1 tbsp cold water).
- After steaming, the bok choy stems should be crisp and with some bites to them; whereas the leaves should be tender but still in deep green color.
- For large bok choy (10-inch height or more), separate the leaves from the stems and dice the stems into 1.5-inch sections and the leaves to 2-inch sections. When steaming, steam the white color stems first for 3 minutes then add the leafy greens and steam for 2 more minutes. Check and steam further if necessary.
- Chinese cooking wine (and Taiwanese michu cooking wine) are not gluten-free. You can either use stock or gluten-free Japanese mirin in my Chinese pantry staples.
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