Pan-Seared Baby Bok Choy for the “Eat More Vegetables” Win!

July 29, 2023

Pan-Seared Baby Bok Choy for the “Eat More Vegetables” Win!


Adventures in Vegetables

I saw baby bok choy at the grocery store and wanted to do something with it, so I grabbed 3, without a plan. I haven’t cooked with bok choy much, but the Grill-Meister likes it, so I thought I’d leverage that as part of my eat more vegetables strategy.  It’s a not-so-minor victory for me when he actually likes a vegetable dish that I’ve cooked, and I’ve learned to lean in to that challenge. I had no idea what I wanted to do with the bok choy but trusted that inspiration would strike in time for dinner. 😊

It did.

I decided to pan-sear and slightly char the bok choy, because that’s how I finally won the broccoli battle, back in the day. It turns out that there’s nothing like a char on a cruciferous vegetable to make it palatable for the Grill-Meister, and even more so when I serve it with hollandaise. That’s our charred broccoli on a bed of hollandaise below, alongside the Jalapeño Popper Grilled Cheese from Jeff Mauro’s cookbook, Come On Over. (Check out a post about that excellent cookbook here.)

Charred broccoli alongside the Jalapeno Popper Grilled Cheese from Jeff Mauro's cookbook are on the table at Glover Gardens

So hmmmmmm, did I want to do a hollandaise treatment for the bok choy, or, double-hmmmmm… maybe a different creamy-tangy treatment would do? I had some homemade caesar salad dressing from Susan Spicer’s recipe in her cookbook called Crescent City Cooking (a winner, trust me!) and decided to do a bok choy caesar salad. At the time, I thought this was an original idea, but a Google just now revealed that lots of people have shared similar recipes. Sigh. But that’s ok, I would have done my own approach anyway; I’m funny that way. 

Gilding the Lily

I pan-seared the bok choy in a cast iron skillet in the outdoor kitchen along with some grape tomatoes and served it with the caesar dressing and croutons on my plate.

Seared baby bok choy caesar salad

My better half looked at it before plating and thought it would be good without the dressing.

Seared baby bok choy with grape tomatoes, salsa macha and parmigiano-reggiano from Glover Gardens

He was right.

Sometimes, the most straightforward approach is the best one. The pan-searing and my toppings of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano and salsa macha drizzles were all the bedazzle that the beautiful green and white bok choy needed, and the bright red pop of the tomatoes was a delight, both visually and taste-wise. The thicker parts of the bok choy was pleasingly al dente, balanced nicely by the charred green leaves and sweetness of the tomatoes. The caesar salad approach was good, but it was a ‘gilding the lily’ thing.

We will DEFINITELY be having this dish again – it was an “eat more vegetables” win!

Next time, I’ll just go with the ‘elegant simplicity’ approach. Sometimes, less really is more, right? I’ve captured the recipe below.

Recipe: Pan-Seared Baby Bok Choy and Tomatoes

Serves 2-3


  • 3 heads of baby boy choy
  • 1 dozen grape tomatoes
  • 1-2 TBSP of neutral oil with a high smoke point, like grapeseed oil
  • Freshly ground pepper and salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 TBSP salsa macha or chile oil
  • Small block of Parmigiano-Reggiano (for grating, about 1 TBSP)

Cooking Instructions

Trim the stem ends of the bok choy, removing any brown portions. Arrange on a small cookie sheet or platter along with the tomatoes and brush all over with the oil. Season with pepper, salt and red pepper flakes.

Heat a cast iron skillet on high for about 3-5 minutes, then turn it down to medium-high and arrange the bok choy in the pan cut side down (don’t add the tomatoes yet). Sear for a few minutes until you have a nice char, then turn and sear the other side. The leaves may blacken, and you can adjust the positioning of the bok choy in the pan to minimize the contact between the leaves and the pan surface by overlapping them with the white parts, if necessary. After turning, place a lid on the pan for 2-3 minutes so that the steam will help cook the thick white parts.

Add the tomatoes to the pan and put the bok choy back onto the cookie sheet. Stir the tomatoes after a moment or two to get them charred and then add them to the bok choy. Grate the cheese over the bok choy, drizzle with drops of salsa macha or chile oil, add a little more salt and pepper and serve.


  • This recipe was created in an outdoor kitchen because cast iron searing creates a lot of smoke. If you’re cooking inside, be sure to have your vent fan at the ready.
  • A non-stick pan shouldn’t be used for this dish, because they shouldn’t be preheated on high heat and you won’t get the desired searing.
  • You can add a dressing like I did in the test kitchen, but it’s not necessary – the dish really is great in its simple form.
  • While you can use chile oil for the post-sear drizzle, I highly recommend salsa macha. Its rich, smoky, fiery taste adds kick and depth to the bok choy. Read about it here.
  • The recipe was developed for our empty nest of only two people, but would be easy to increase the portions. Just estimate 1 to 1½ bok choy heads per person, and about 6 grape tomatoes.
  • This would be a good vegetarian main dish, as the thicker portions of the bok choy are almost like vegetable steaks.
  • If you’re a wine drinker, this pairs very well with a light-to-medium red, like a pinot noir or a malbec.
  • We didn’t have any leftovers, but if there were any, they’d be fabulous chopped up and added to the filling for a quiche. I would complement the charred flavors with a smoked cheese in the quiche, like gouda. Hmmmm, maybe I need to develop a recipe for that….

Join Me in the Kitchen

About Salsa Macha

Salsa Macha from Lolita Fine Foods atop a pork tenderloin steak

Salsa macha is a rich, smoky, spicy condiment that originated in Vera Cruz. It’s also very versatile, complementing a wide range of proteins, including seafood, chicken, meat, eggs, even cheese. It’s equally good on beans, cooked vegetables like the bok choy in this post, as a drizzle to give some pizzazz to a panini or a pizza, or as a dip for fresh vegetables or chips.

I am crazy about salsa macha and usually have it on the table at meals. At left, it’s drizzled atop a thick pork tenderloin steak. Yum!

I source my salsa macha from Lolita Specialty Foods at the Tomball Farmers’ Market in Southeast Texas. You can make your own, and there are recipes galore on the internet, from home cooks and bloggers, chef Rick Bayless and even the New York Times, but as long as the fine folks at Lolita Specialty Foods are producing it, that’s my go-to. They ship! (This is not a paid advertisement, I just really like this product.)

Postscript: Back Off, Spell Check!

Typing bok choy multiple times on a MacBook in Notes is more annoying than when your ankle socks scrunch down into into your tennis shoes and make your feet lumpy! Spell check wants to change “bok” to “book”, “boy” or “box”, and choy just confuses it completely.

Sometimes, we really are smarter than the technology. 😁

© 2023, Glover Gardens

Reminder: this is a non-commercial blog, and any recommendations are strictly my opinion and not a paid advertisement. 

6 thoughts on “Pan-Seared Baby Bok Choy for the “Eat More Vegetables” Win!”

  • And of course, spell check changed the first mention of baby bok choy to baby “boy” choy. It’s fixed now, 30 seconds after posting, but anyone who received the post via email subscription must be chuckling. Technology. Sigh. I wish AI was smart enough to know when you DON’T want spell check!

  • Actually, in Asia, these are Bok Choy. Those giant things we buy in the US don’t exist there. Try using them in an Asian inspired stew or soup whenever summer ends.

    • I would RATHER call them bok choy! Leave it to us, the U.S., to have everything bigger. I guess it’s not just Texas… what is your recommendation on the Asian-inspired soup? I’m thinking pork, ginger and mushrooms, but am interested in your ideas, given your extensive time and travels in that region.

  • Looks delicious! Re broccoli, I do it in the oven with oil, lemon juice, garlic and chilli and it comes out looking similar to yours. Sometimes on its own and sometimes with halloumi or smoked tofu. I like it even better with cauliflower!

Tell me your thoughts...

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: