At first glance, bok choy and common cabbage are quite different. As we mentioned earlier, bok choy has dark broad leaves and long white stalks (similar to celery), whereas light-green cabbage is grown in a head devoid of stalks. Additionally, bok choy is much leafier than other varieties of cabbage.
Comparatively, bok choy leaves are much more tender than the firm, fan like leaves of green cabbage. This is due more to the shape of the vegetable than the leaf itself; bok choy leaves hang loosely off the top of the plant, as opposed to sitting in a tight head, allowing bok choy leaves to have a lighter texture. Don’t think that bok choy is a softie though; the stocks offer a juicy, gentle crispness that excels in stir-frys.
With its compelling appearance, you may expect bok choy to have an explosive flavor, but in truth, bok choy is milder and sweeter than green cabbage. Additionally, bok choy tends to be less bitter, but still has that underlying pepperiness associated with cabbage. Similar to most leafy greens, the bitterness of both dies down in the cooking process, allowing the natural sweetness to reach the front of your palate.
Luckily, both varieties are exceptionally versatile to a ton of cooking methods. They’re essentially interchangeable when cooking, as the distinction between the two has more to do with texture and flavor rather than structural integrity. That being said, bok choy tends to require a longer cook time, so plan accordingly.
- Pro Tip: It’s important to note that both varieties tend to get grit lodged into their leaves, so be sure to give both a thorough rinse before using.
If you’re looking to keep a lower produce budget, you may be better off with green cabbage, as it’s generally cheaper than bok choy and tends to have a better yield. For those who prefer bok choy but still need to save a few bucks, we’d recommend trying napa cabbage, as it is the closest in flavor and is generally in between bok choy and green cabbage price wise.
While green cabbage and bok choy share a similar nutritional profile, the latter has a few key differences that give it a leg up on the competition. Aside from being a good source of calcium and phytonutrients (a trait shared with green cabbage), bok choy has higher levels of vitamin A and beta-carotene than other varieties of cabbage. On the flip side, green cabbage is a better source of fiber. Regardless of your preferred variety, you can rest easy knowing that you’re offering essential vitamins and minerals every time you cook with cabbage.