Bok choy is a Chinese leaf also known as pak choi and Chinese cabbage. It is commonly used in Asian cuisines such as stir-fries.
It is a seasonal vegetable and not available all year. You will be pleased to know that it can be frozen to prolong the shelf life.
There are 2 types of bok choy - baby and mature. Both can be eaten raw in salads or cooked.
When frozen correctly, bok choy can be stored safely for up to a year.
For best results in terms of taste and texture, we advise eating bok choy within 4 to 6 months of freezing.
How to freeze bok choy
There are a few steps to follow in order to freeze bok choy correctly. Cut off the hard stem at the base of the bok choy. Pull the individual leaves apart to separate the bok choy. Wash the leaves gently in cool, running water.
Use this time to examine the quality of your bok choy. Dispose of any wilted or discolored leaves. If you have a large head of bok choy, consider cutting off the tougher, teacher white end of the leaf. This has a higher water content than the green sections and does not freeze as well.
Place a large pan over a medium-high heat and pour in 3 inches of water. Bring to the boil. Cover the pan’s opening with a steamer basket and place the bok choy inside. Cover the steamer with a lid and steam the bok choy leaves for around 3 minutes.
While the bok choy is steaming, prepare a large bowl full of iced water. Take the steamer off the pan and submerge the bok choy leaves in the iced water to rapidly cool. Continue to hold under the water until the leaves are completely cold. This process is known as blanching.
Allow the water to drain off the leaves and shake any excess off. Using a paper towel or dishcloth, lightly press the bok choy leaves to remove any remaining water droplets.
Some people believe that blanching the bok choy is counterintuitive as it adds moisture to the leaves. These people simply recommend washing the leaves and patting dry. Chop the leaves up into bite-sized pieces and place in a ziplock freezer bag.
Place the bok choy leaves into a freezer-safe ziplock bag. Leave an inch of space at the top of the bag for the leaves to expand into. Squash out any air in the bag and seal tightly closed. Label the bag clearly with the contents and the date frozen.
Another way to freeze bok choy is to use the flash freezing method. Follow the blanching instructions above and pat completely dry. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lay the bok choy leaves flat on it.
Place the baking sheet in the freezer for at least 2 hours, or overnight. Once the bok choy leaves have frozen solid, remove from the baking sheet and transfer to a ziplock freezer bag or airtight container.
If using a ziplock bag, expel as much air as possible before sealing. Ensure the container is clearly labeled with the contents and date frozen.
Place in the freezer and store for up to 6 months.
If you have used bok choy in a dish and have some left over, place in a rigid airtight container and seal. If the bok choy is in a sauce, we suggest freezing this separately.
How to defrost bok choy
If you are using bok choy in a hot dish where it will be cooked, there is no reason to thaw. Especially in the case of stir-fries, where the dish is cooked quickly over a high heat, the bok choy will thaw during the cooking process.
If you do not want to do this, you can transfer the frozen bok choy to the fridge a few hours before you need to use it. Keeping the leaves in a single layer will help them to defrost faster.
Another way to defrost bok choy is in an airtight container. Place the sealed container in a large bowl of lukewarm water and allow the gentle heat to melt the ice crystals. This process should take a couple of hours at most.
Factors to consider before freezing bok choy
When choosing a bok choy, look for one with vibrant green leaf tips. Take care to avoid any plants that are bruised, yellow, or wilting.
Leaves generally do not freeze very well, so you should be aware that the texture of bok choy may be altered by freezing. This is because the vegetable is 95% water and so many ice crystals will form within the leaf calls.
The irregular structure of ice crystals that form during freezing can pierce the leaf cells. This damages the delicate leaf structure and can cause the leaves to wilt slightly.
Blanching is not necessary when freezing bok choy, but we highly recommend it. The main purpose of blanching vegetables is to lock in the vibrant color and flavor. The ice bath stops the cooking process and prevents your leaves from becoming overcooked.
Store bok choy at the top of the freezer with nothing placed on top of it. This is because the leaves are delicate and will snap easily under pressure.
To freeze bok choy and retain the fresh color and flavor, we advise blanching it before cooking. Once blanched, dry thoroughly and place inside a freezer-safe ziplock bag.
It is important to remove as much air as possible from the bag, to prevent freezer burn forming.
Due to the high water content of bok choy, the texture is likely to be softer once thawed than it is fresh. We hope that armed with these tips, you feel confident in your knowledge of how to freeze bok choy and prevent unnecessary food waste.
If frozen correctly, bok choy will remain safe for consumption indefinitely. For best results, we advise eating it within 4-6 months.