Bok choy (pak choi) salad is a quick and easy, Asian-inspired side dish that's crunchy and refreshing. This recipe is gluten-free and soy-free with a vegan option.
What is Bok Choy (or Pak Choi)?
Bok choy, also called pak choi, spoon cabbage, or Chinese cabbage, is a vegetable with a deliciously crunchy texture and a mild, cabbage-like flavor. The entire thing is edible and can be enjoyed either raw or cooked.
There are two main varieties: regular and Shanghai. Regular bok choy has long white stalks with crinkly, deep green leaves whereas Shanghai bok choy has leaves that are smoother and oval-shaped, with light green stalks. Both varieties have immature or "baby" versions.
- Bok choy - for this salad, use the Shanghai variety with light green stalks and smoother-shaped leaves. You can also use baby bok choy, but because they're smaller in size, you'll need a larger quantity. You can find bok choy year-round at the grocery store.
- Persian cucumber - this variety is crunchy, refreshing, and has a thin, tender skin.
- Fennel - another textural element with a slight licorice/anise flavor.
- Garnishes - green onions (also called spring onion), roasted peanuts, and black sesame seeds.
- Dressing ingredients - lime zest and juice, rice vinegar, olive oil, toasted sesame oil, dijon mustard, maple syrup, fish sauce, and a pinch of salt.
How to Make Bok Choy (Pak Choi) Salad
Step 1. Cut off about half an inch of the root end, pull the stalks off and thoroughly wash them under cold water to remove the dirt. Thinly slice the bok choy stem and leafy greens like you would celery.
Step 2. Cut the cucumber into thin quarters slices, and remove the core from the fennel bulb. Cut into paper-thin slices - a mandoline is great for this. Add all the cut vegetables to a large bowl.
Step 3. Whisk together the dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Alternatively, you can do this in a glass jar with a lid and shake vigorously. Pour over the vegetables and toss to combine.
Step 4. Garnish with sliced green onions, chopped roasted peanuts, and black sesame seeds before serving. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge and consume by the following day.
Make It Your Way: Substitutions & Variations
Please remember that recipes are just a starting point.
How can you make this bok choy (pak choi) salad using what you already have? Here are some ideas...
- No cucumber? - sub red, yellow, or orange bell pepper.
- No fennel? - you can also use apple.
- No green onion? - use cilantro/coriander leaves or just omit completely.
- No peanuts? - add roasted cashews or almonds.
- Make it nut-free - use roasted pepitas or sunflower seeds.
- Make it vegan - omit the fish sauce and add an equal amount of soy sauce, tamari, or coconut aminos to keep it soy-free.
- No rice vinegar? - sub apple cider vinegar, white wine vinegar, or champagne vinegar.
- Add-ins - to bulk it up you can add cooked and cooled ramen noodles and cooked protein of choice to make it more of a main dish.
Frequently Asked Questions
There's no difference as they're the same vegetable. They have different names depending on where you're located. In the U.S., it's called bok choy and in the U.K. it's known as pak choi.
The whole vegetable is edible, just be sure to rinse the stalks and dark leafy greens thoroughly beforehand. Enjoy their crunchy texture raw in salads or cooked in stir fries and soups. They can also be roasted or braised.
Occasionally bok choy (pak choi) will have black flecks on the ribs that look like dirt, but don't come off. These black flecks known as "pepper spots" are a harmless cosmetic condition that has no impact on taste or texture.
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Bok Choy (Pak Choi) Salad With Sesame Lime Dressing
- 2 heads bok choy/pak choi (Shanghai variety) about 8 cups sliced, see notes
- 1 persian cucumber, sliced into thin quarters
- ½ fennel bulb, core removed and sliced paper-thin
Sesame Lime Dressing
- 1 green onion (spring onion), sliced
- 2 tablespoons roasted peanuts or substitute
- black sesame seeds