Bok choy, otherwise known as Chinese cabbage, is a staple in Asian cuisine. Its crisp, juicy flavor with a hinge of bitterness makes it a great addition to all kinds of meals.
And like most veggies, bok choy goes bad rather quickly. If you’re left with tons of leftover bok choy, you’re probably wondering what to do with it. But don’t worry, you don’t need to eat the whole thing. Bok choy can be stored in the freezer, for a period of up to 12 months.
The main issue with freezing and defrosting bok choy is that it can easily lose texture, flavor and color unless you know exactly what to do. And that’s what you’re going to learn today.
In this guide, we’ll go through everything you need to know about freezing bok choy. And not only that, but you’ll see how to best prep your bock choy leftovers for freezing, as well as how to best defrost it. So if these are the answers you’re looking for, keep reading!
Can Bok Choy Be Frozen?
The problem with bok choy, like with most other vegetables, is that its leaves and stems contain lots of water. As you freeze it, all that water becomes ice. And when you leave it to thaw, all the ice simply melts away, leaving your bok choy looking mushy.
Some people claim that blanching before freezing will prevent bok choy from getting withered and doughy. Blanching means you need to heat up bok choy in hot water or steam, and then quickly submerge in ice. This is supposed to lock in the flavor and texture, so that it doesn’t get diluted when it melts.
However, not everyone’s on board with this option. In fact, some people believe that blanching is what causes bok choy to become all soft and yucky.
We’ll cover everything you need to know about freezing both fresh and blanched bok choy. Then, you can decide for yourself which method is better.
Here’s how you can freeze fresh bok choy:
Thoroughly wash bok choy leaves in the sink, then let them dry completely. There should be no water residue, unless you want ice to form and your bok choy yo go mushy. If needed, use a cotton cloth or a towel paper to pat the leaves dry.
You want to freeze only the freshest leaves. So keep an eye on yellow leaves and those that are slowly turning this shade. Throw them away.
Grab a knife and a cutting board, because you’re about to chop up bok choy to make it ready for use. Aim for small chunks that can be put in stir-fries and other meals you use this vegetable in.
When cutting, make sure to hold the knife at a 45-degree angle. This gets you that clean cut that increases the stem surface area and helps them cook faster.
If you’re using baby bok choy, feel free to skip this step. These leaves are small enough that you don’t need to cut them.
Fill a freezer bag with bok choy chunks. Before you seal them, make sure to let all the air out. Excess air can causes oxidation, and that can cause your bok choy to spoil, even while in the freezer.
Don’t forget to label the bag before putting it into the freezer. Once frozen, it’s hard to tell the difference between bok choy and other green veggies (see also Can You Freeze Swiss Chard).
Do I Need To Blanch Bok Choy Before Freezing?
Blanching bok choy before freezing is not mandatory. But as we already stated above, lots of people do it. They state it prevents bok choy from going withered, but other people claim it’s actually blanching that causes all that mess. After all, you’re adding water to the whole process.
Furthermore, it’s no secret that blanching takes time and effort. But the final result might be well worth it. We definitely recommend freezing bok choy both fresh and blanched and see which end result you like more.
This brings us to the next point.
How Can I Freeze Blanched Bok Choy?
It goes without saying that you should always pick the greenest and freshest looking leaves when in a grocery store. If there are leaves that are turning yellow, get rid of them. You don’t want anything to shorten the shelf life of your bok choy.
If you want to blanch your bok choy before freezing it, here’s a step by step explanation on how to do it.
Thorougly rinse bok choy leaves in the sink to get rid of dirt and dust.
Grab a sharp knife and chop off the stem ends. Then, shred the leaves into small square bites, just like you’d use when making ramen or soup.
For blanching, you’ll need a large kitchen pot, like a saucepan or a soup pot. Fill it with water and place it on the stove on medium to high heat. Bring it to a boil.
For this step, you need to grab a steamer basket or a colander. Whichever of these you have at home will be fine. Place bok choy leaves in it, and then submerge the whole thing into the pot with boiling water.
Let the bok choy blanch for a while, until the leaves get a bright green color. This shouldn’t take more than 40 seconds. You’re going to cook it later anyway, so there’s really no need to spend much time preparing them before freezing them.
And now for the fun part. After about 40 seconds, it’s time to take the basket with bok choy out of the boiling water and cool it down instantly. To do this, you’re going to need a bucket of iced water. It’s time to submerge bok choy again, this time in frost-bound cold water. By doing this, we’re stopping the cooking process and preventing getting that soft icky texture.
As you already know, excess moisture can cause bok choy to become mushy once defrosted. That’s why you always need to make sure all the leaves are fully dry beforehand. You can leave them to air dry, but tapping them with a kitchen cloth or a paper towel will surely speed up the process.
There’s a neat little trick that can actually help bok choy keep its flavor and texture for a longer time. Before you actually freeze bok choy, you need to flash freeze it. Here’s what that means.
Take a sheet pan and line it with baking. Spread bok choy leaves around the sheet pan without leaves touching each other, if possible. Then, place the whole thing into a freezer for about 15 to 20 minutes. By then, bok choy should be rather firm to the touch. If it isn’t, let it sit for a bit longer.
Once firm, your bok choy is ready to be frozen. Transfer bok choy leaves in ziplock freezer bags and store them in the freezer. Don’t forget to remove the excess air to prolong the life of bok choy.
How Can I Store Bok Choy In The Freezer?
Veggies tend to be bulky when frozen, due to their high water content. Bok choy is no different, so keep that in mind when deciding on how many veggies you want to freeze.
Once you’ve chopped bok choy into small square bites, place them in their designated ziploc bags. Make sure to grab a Sharpie a write a label with the content of the bag as well as the date frozen. A pen won’t do, because it will smudge as soon as the first water droplet hits the bag.
Here’s a handy trick for getting the air out of the bag. The only thing you need is a straw.
Grab a ziplock bag filled with bok choy and seal it almost all the way. Leave just enough room to fit in a straw. Then, use that straw to suck out even more air out of the bag. And that’s it!
Of course, if you own a vacuum sealer, save yourself the hassle and use that instead. But lots of people don’t, so this is the best alternative option out there.
Don’t forget that you can also freeze previously cooked bok choy. You’re just going to need a plastic container with an airtight lid or a ziploc bag. But keep in mind that this is an option only if you’ve cooked it in the last three hours. Any meal older than 3 hours is possibly already growing bacteria on the surface, and certain species don’t die even when frozen.
During hot summer night, your bok choy can spoil even within an hour of being cooked. That’s why you should keep it in the fridge before you pack and freeze it. But don’t leave it there for more than 3 to 4 days. Bok choy should always be stored in an airtight container or a bag.
Oh and never wash fresh bok choy heads before storing them in the fridge. Any moisture left on the leaves can cause bacterial growth.
How Long Can Bok Choy Stay In The Freezer For?
By freezing your veggies, you’re prolonging their shelf life for quite some time. In the case of bok choy, you can keep it up to 12 months in your freezer before it starts going bad. But, it can also spoil way earlier. If it were kept at the steady temperature of 0°F the entire time, that wouldn’t be a likely scenario.
But every time we open the freezer, the temperature rises, and that shortens the shelf life. Chances are we all do this a million times each day, so you get the point.
How To Defrost Frozen Bok Choy
How should you defrost bok choy depends on the way you’re going to use it.
If you’re making a stew for example, you don’t even have to do that. You can just take bok choy out of the ziploc bag and put into the pot. When in contact with hot liquid, your frozen veggies will defrost in an instant. Plus, this way, it retains flavor and texture.
If you plan on grilling or even eating bok choy fresh, then it needs to thaw for an hour or two.
You should place frozen bok choy into a bowl filled with room-temperature water. This way, it defrosts slowly while retaining the flavor and freshness.
When short on time, you might be tempted to put it in a bowl filled with hot water instead. While it’s true it will shorten the time it takes to defrost, it will also cause bok choy to cook in it for too long. This, in return, will make it lose flavor and become mushy. In other words, it will be gross.
How To Use Frozen Bok Choy For Cooking
For stews and soups, you don’t have to let bok choy thaw for hours. Instead, you can just put frozen veggies into the pot in the middle of the cooking process. The heat will defrost it in minutes, without messing up with the flavor or texture. That way, your bok choy will stay crunchy and juicy.
Alternatively, you can put frozen bok choy into the fridge for a few hours. It will thaw slowly over time, which will make it soft but not soggy. Defrosted bok choy should be consumed within two days.
Bok choy is rich in vitamins and nutrients, which makes it a great addition to all kinds of meals, from soups to stir-fries. And in case you’ve got leftovers, don’t throw them away. Bok choy is a seasonal plant, so you might not find it in your local store outside of the winter season. But it’s good to know that you can freeze it both blanched and fresh, depending on your preference.