When can babies eat bok choy?
Bok choy may be introduced as soon as your baby is ready to start solids, which is generally around 6 months of age.
Background and origins of bok choy
Bok choy is a brassica—the family of cruciferous vegetables that includes broccoli, cabbage, collard greens, and kale. The leafy green originated in China, where it has been cultivated for thousands of years as a source of food and medicine. In fact, its name comes from the Cantonese language, which is sometimes transliterated to “pak” choy or anglicized to “Chinese cabbage” in English-speaking parts of the world.
There are different varieties of bok choy to try—some with long, flat jade-colored leaves and narrow stalks; others with frilly emerald-colored leaves and white spoon-like ribs. Size varies, too. Bok choy can grow up to 2 feet in height, but there are smaller varieties (often marketed as “baby bok choy”) that have a milder taste.
★Tip: Fresh bok choy has a shorter shelf life than some of its cruciferous cousins. Store the unwashed leafy greens in a loose bag or towel in the fridge for 2 days, or freeze the cabbage in an air-tight container for up to 10 months.1
Is bok choy healthy for babies?
Yes. Like its fellow cruciferous vegetables, bok choy is a nutrient powerhouse. The leafy green contains lots of essential nutrients, including calcium, vitamins A and B6, and high amounts of vitamins C and K—important contributors to a baby’s growth and development. Take advantage of boy choy’s abundance of vitamin C by serving the greens alongside plant-based foods that are full of iron, like beans, lentils, and tofu. The vitamin C helps baby’s body absorb the iron, which is critical at this early stage of life.
Bonus: Bok choy is packed with phytonutrients and antioxidants that help prevent cancer and benefit the body in countless ways.2 They even help the body break down toxins—a mighty superpower in our modern era in which potentially harmful chemicals surround us in our everyday environment.3 4
★Tip: Add a squeeze of lemon or your favorite citrus while cooking bok choy. The acidity not only helps preserve the bright green color, but also helps retain the plant’s nutrients.5
Is bok choy a common choking hazard for babies?
No. Bok choy is not a common choking hazard. However, the leaves can cling to the roof of the mouth and back of the throat, which can cause discomfort. To make it easy for babies to eat, mince or finely chop cooked bok choy and fold into other foods or serve large sections of the white rib for baby to munch on.
As always, make sure to create a safe eating environment, stay within an arm’s reach of a baby during meals, and check out our age-appropriate serving suggestions.
Is bok choy a common allergen?
No. Bok choy is not a common allergen, though information is limited. Because bok choy is a member of the cruciferous vegetable family, bok choy may also trigger sensitivities in individuals who react to broccoli and cabbage. Sensitivities to cruciferous vegetables may also arise in individuals with Oral Allergy Syndrome (also called pollen-food allergy syndrome) and in particular, those with sensitivities to mugwort pollen.6 Oral Allergy Syndrome typically results in short-lived itching in the mouth and is unlikely to result in a dangerous reaction.
As you would when introducing any new food, start by offering a small quantity during the first couple of servings. If there is no adverse reaction, gradually increase the quantity over future meals.
How to cut bok choy for babies with baby-led weaning?
Every baby develops on their own timeline, and the suggestions on how to cut or prepare particular foods are generalizations for a broad audience. Your child is an individual and may have needs or considerations beyond generally accepted practices. In determining the recommendations for size and shape of foods, we use the best available scientific information regarding gross, fine, and oral motor development to minimize choking risk. The preparation suggestions we offer are for informational purposes only and are not a substitute for child-specific, one-on-one advice from your pediatric medical or health professional or provider. It is impossible to fully eliminate all risk of a baby or child choking on any liquid, puree, or food. We advise you to follow all safety protocols we suggest to create a safe eating environment and to make educated choices for your child regarding their specific needs. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read or seen here.
6 to 12 months old: Bigger is better! At this age, larger shapes are easier for babies to hold and munch, so try offering whole, cooked bok choy ribs—the firm, light green or white part of the plant. Keep in mind, when offering a long piece of food like a cooked bok choy rib, baby may poke the back of their tongue or mouth with a bit, causing some harmless gagging. Don’t be alarmed; this poking and prodding the tongue with sticks of food can actually be beneficial in helping baby learn the boundaries of their mouth. Not up for the big piece of food? You can also just mince both the leafy greens and the ribs, cook until soft, and fold into soft, scoopable foods like mashed vegetables and grain salads.
12 to 18 months old: Try serving cooked bok choy on its own to familiarize the flavor of this nutritious leafy green. If the leaves make you nervous, mince or shred them and serve alongside some water in an open cup to help wash them down.
18 to 24 months old: Time to explore! Serve cooked bok choy any way you like it. Experiment with adding cooked bok choy to dishes like congee, curry, and ramen. Manage your expectations, too: toddlers often begin to reject new foods around this age and are learning how to assert their independence and test relationships to caregivers. Don’t let this deter you from trying! Continue to serve veggies at mealtime, refrain from pressuring a toddler to eat, and be patient.
For more guidelines, recipes, and one-on-one email support, see our Starting Solids bundle.
Recipe: Bok Choy with Garlic and Peanut
Yield: 1 cup
Time: 10 minutes
Age: 6 months+
- 2 heads baby bok choy or 2 large stalks bok choy
- 1 garlic clove
- 2 teaspoons peanut oil
- ½ teaspoon lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon finely ground peanut (optional)
- Wash, dry, and cut the bok choy stems and leaves into age-appropriate pieces. If baby is younger than 12 months you may want to tear the leaves off of the white, light green ribs and mince those while keeping the firm rib whole. For toddlers, finely chop the whole bok choy.
- Steam the bok choy on the stovetop or in the microwave until soft, between 3 and 6 minutes depending on size.
- Peel and mince the garlic while the bok choy steams.
- Warm the oil in a skillet set on medium heat. When it shimmers, add the garlic and stir to coat. Cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Turn off the heat.
- Transfer the bok choy to the skillet and stir to coat in the garlic oil.
- Drizzle the lemon juice over the bok choy and stir to coat. Sprinkle finely ground peanut on top.
- Cool to room temperature before serving.
- Serve: Scoop the bok choy into baby’s bowl. Let baby self-feed by scooping with hands and trying to pick up the food. If baby needs help, pass a pre-loaded utensil or a piece of food in the air for baby to grab from you.
Cooked bok choy keeps in an air-tight container in the fridge for 3 days. It can also be stored in the freezer for up to 10 months, although the greens soften to a mushy texture over time.
This recipe contains a common allergen: peanut. Only serve to your child after this allergen has been safely introduced.
Bok choy tastes mildly sweet with just a hint of mustardy bitterness—a taste that becomes more pronounced as the plant matures and grows larger. Play up the sweet-tart flavor by serving bok choy with fellow vegetables like acorn squash, bell pepper, broccoli, butternut squash, carrot, cabbage, cauliflower, cucumber, green beans, parsnip, pumpkin, rutabaga, snap pea, snow pea, sweet potato, or turnip. Take advantage of the vitamin C within bok choy by serving the leafy greens alongside hearty meat and fish like arctic char, beef, bison, chicken, salmon, shrimp, or trout or iron-rich plants like chickpea, edamame, kidney bean, or lentils. Bok choy soaks up flavor and nutrients from the food in which it is cooked, so try cooking with different liquids or oils like coconut milk, mushroom stock, peanut oil, or sesame oil. Season the greens with bold aromatics like chives, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, ramps, and scallion, or Sichuan peppercorn. And add a squeeze of lemon, lime, or your favorite citrus to add brightness!
J. Truppi, MSN, CNS
V. Kalami, MNSP, RD
K. Grenawitzke, OTD, OTR/L, SCFES, IBCLC, CNT
S. Bajowala, MD, FAAAAI. (allergy section)
R. Ruiz, MD Board-Certified General Pediatrician and Pediatric Gastroenterologist
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. FoodKeeper App: Bok Choy. Retrieved March 10, 2021
- Maruthanila, V.L., Poornima, J., Mirunalini, S. (2014). Attenuation of Carcinogenesis and the Mechanism Underlying by the Influence of Indole-3-carbinol and Its Metabolite 3,3′-Diindolylmethane: A Therapeutic Marvel. Advances in pharmacological sciences, 832161. DOI: 10.1155/2014/832161. Retrieved March 10, 2021
- Higdon, J. V., Delage, B., Williams, D. E., Dashwood, R.H. (2007). Cruciferous vegetables and human cancer risk: epidemiologic evidence and mechanistic basis. Pharmacological research, 55(3), 224–236. DOI:10.1016/j.phrs.2007.01.009.Retrieved March 10, 2021.
- /Kapusta-Duch, J., Kopeć, A., Piatkowska, E., Borczak, B., Leszczyńska, T. (2021). The beneficial effects of Brassica vegetables on human health. Roczniki Panstwowego Zakladu Higieny, 63(4), 389–395. Retrieved March 10, 2021
- Managa, M.G., Remize, F., Garcia, C., Sivakumar, D. (2019). Effect of Moist Cooking Blanching on Colour, Phenolic Metabolites and Glucosinolate Content in Chinese Cabbage (Brassica rapa L. subsp. chinensis). Foods (Basel, Switzerland), 8(9), 399. DOI:10.3390/foods8090399. Retrieved March 10, 2021
- American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology. Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS) or Pollen Fruit Syndrome (PFS). Retrieved March 10, 2021