Bok Choy Soup

4.67 from 3 votes
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Try this truly Chinese-style bok choy soup for a uniquely savory and flavorful way to enjoy more vegetables with your dinner. {Gluten-Free, Vegan}

Chinese bok choy soup

In China, soup is something that is always on the table, particularly at dinner. According to Chinese tradition, your dinner should always include at least three dishes and one soup (三菜一汤, san cai yi tang). 

This bok choy soup is super easy. If you have always wanted to do something different with bok choy rather than just put it in stir-fry, you need to try this bok choy soup.

Chinese soups are usually made with simple ingredients and are very easy to make. My bok choy soup is no exception to this rule. Along with fresh bok choy, it uses ginger and zha cai (榨菜), a Chinese pickled mustard plant stem, for big flavor.

Ingredients for making bok choy soup
Bok choy soup close-up

What is Zha Cai

Zha cai is a type of pickled Chinese mustard stem. It has a wonderful combination of spicy and sour and salty all together. It kind of reminds me of sauerkraut with a hint of hot chili pepper and sweetness. The texture is interesting, too. It’s crunchy but also tender. The only thing I can really liken it to is a pickle. 

Zha Cai, Chinese pickled mustard stem

I recommend finding zha cai at your Chinese grocery store or on Amazon. It is what gives this bok choy soup such a spectacular flavor and aroma. Believe it or not, this soup takes just 20 minutes to make, from start to finish. With just six ingredients, it will make the perfect complement to your Asian-inspired dinner. Plus, it’s vegan and gluten-free so it’s a soup anyone can enjoy.

Most people only know wonton soup, egg drop soup, and hot and sour soup from their neighborhood Chinese restaurant. While there’s no denying those soups are delicious, try my bok choy soup. It’s a simple recipe that will add more color and nutrition to your meal. 

Bok choy soup with ginger and pickles

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Try this truly Chinese-style bok choy soup for a uniquely savory and flavorful way to enjoy more vegetables with your dinner. {Gluten-Free, Vegan}

Bok Choy Soup

4.67 from 3 votes
Try this truly Chinese-style bok choy soup for a uniquely savory and flavorful way to enjoy more vegetables with your dinner. {Gluten-Free, Vegan}
Author: Maggie Zhu
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: home style
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4 servings


  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup zha cai (Chinese pickled mustard plant stem) (*Footnote 1)
  • 2 ” (5 cm) ginger , minced
  • 1 green onion , sliced
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 6 to 8 heads baby bok choy , halved or quartered depending on the size


  • Heat the sesame oil in a medium-sized pot over medium-low heat. Add the zha cai, ginger, and whites of the green onion. Saute for 3 to 5 minutes, or until they become fragrant and just start to brown.
  • Add the vegetable stock and bring to a boil.
  • Add the bok choy and bring the stock back up to a simmer. Cover the pot and cook until the bok choy is tender, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the greens of the green onion and a drizzle of sesame oil if desired. Adjust the seasonings to taste with a pinch of sugar, salt, or a splash of the zha cai pickle liquid. (*Footnote 2)


  1. Depending on the brand of zha cai you buy, it comes in different sizes. If you bought the whole stems, cutting them into thin slices is the best way to release the flavor. If you bought the cut type, then you can add them directly into the soup.
  2. The flavor of the soup is largely determined by the type of vegetable stock and the brand of zha cai you buy. Adjust the taste at the end according to your taste.


Serving: 1serving, Calories: 55kcal, Carbohydrates: 5.9g, Protein: 1.1g, Fat: 3.4g, Saturated Fat: 0.5g, Sodium: 561mg, Potassium: 173mg, Fiber: 0.9g, Sugar: 2g, Calcium: 70mg, Iron: 1mg
Did You Make This Recipe?Don’t forget the last step! Leave a comment below, and tag me @OmnivoresCookbook and #OmnivoresCookbook on Instagram!

If you give this recipe a try, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it (once you’ve tried it), and take a picture and tag it @omnivorescookbook on Instagram! I’d love to see what you come up with.

Other Chinese soup recipes

Lilja Walter is a part of the Omnivore’s Cookbook team and worked closely with Maggie to develop and test this recipe.

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Reader Questions and Reviews

  1. Fred Rickson says:

    Thanks for providing a photo of a product. Our large Asian food store has a staff that doesn’t speak much English, but a photo always works.

  2. gloria randall says:

    what can i use as a substitute for Chinese pickled mustard plant stem? please respond!

  3. Cindy says:

    4 stars
    This is such an easy to make recipe. Thank you!
    I’ve always wondered how some soups (and a chili oil with black soy beans) have this salty/umami flavor – and now I know! My mom has no idea about this, I dont think her father shared this type of “secret ingredient”.
    I was able to find the zha cai , the exact packaging above in my asian grocer – but it listed shrimp in the ingredients. So a warning to those who are vegan – ask about ingredients. I did find one that was labeled vegetarian.

    • Fawn says:

      TY for posting this! We have a shellfish allergy in my family and are usually pretty careful but it’s nice to be warned ahead of time when we need to take extra precaution on something you wouldn’t think you would need it! So because of this post we did search and read all ingredients; we were able to find some without the shrimp, though it ended up being the whole plant (stems and leaves) but was still very good.

  4. Fawn says:

    I just discovered your website and this was the first dish I made with my family. It was very easy and so good! Thank you for it! I also enjoyed the photos a lot, it made getting the ingredients hassle free (I actually went shopping for 3 of your meals at the same time and it was a lot easier when I had photos for everything!). I’m very excited to try more of your recipes. 🙂

  5. Marlene says:

    5 stars
    I know this sounds crazy but I didn’t have any zha cai but I had bought toy and really, really wanted to make some soup. So I made this recipe and used homemade pickled garlic and a bit of gojucaru. It actually came out great! I look forward to making this the “right” way next time but thank you for the inspiration.

  6. Bad Kitty says:

    5 stars
    It’s a cold, rainy, soup kind of day today, and when this recipe came up in my search, I knew this is IT. I thought I had bok choy, but forgot that I had used it all for a different meal. I substituted with a small head of napa cabbage, which worked great. I grated the ginger on a microplane, added sliced white button and baby bella mushrooms, a dash of chili oil for a nice little kick, sliced shrimp cake for some protein, and a couple tablespoons of fish sauce to taste, served over Vietnamese banh canh noodles. I loved the undertones of the ginger. What a versatile soup recipe! With my additions, it made for a very hearty, delicious, and filling soup! I will be making this often when I want to use up some veggies. It really hit the spot. Thank you!

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