Easy Lacto Fermented Bok Choy

by Kaitlynn Fenley
a mason jar of of baby bok choy fermenting on a counter.

This easy lacto fermented bok choy recipe is perfect for beginners and seasoned fermentation enthusiasts. Try making fermented bok choy with basil and lemon, or customize the recipe with other spices like garlic and black pepper.

Making Lacto Fermented Bok Choy

Bok choy is a type of Chinese cabbage, similar in texture to Napa cabbage. Since bok choy, and all cabbages, grow low and very close to the soil their microbiome composition is wonderful! This makes all cabbages easy vegetables to ferment.

It’s important to start with fresh vegetables for this fermentation project. You can use these easy tips to make sure your bok choy is fresh and ready for fermentation:

  • Crisp and Snappy: The leaves should be firm and crisp with turgor pressure. You should hear a “snap” when you break off a bok choy leaf. If the leaves are malleable and you can bend the leaves with no snapping, the bok choy isn’t fresh.
  • Color: Fresh bok choy leaves have bright white bottoms and vivid green tops. Don’t use bok choy that has yellowing on the green parts of the leaves.
  • Start Cold: Before fermenting, store your bok choy in the fridge in a bowl of cold, filtered water. This will help keep the bok choy fresh and crisp.
pouring salt and water into a mason jar to make fermented bok choy.

Fermented Bok Choy Health Benefits

Why is bok choy such a healthy vegetable? It’s a part of one of the BEST groups of vegetables, a group known for incredible health benefits, the Brassica vegetables. Brassica vegetables are loaded with health-promoting phytochemicals, such as vitamins, fiber, minerals, glucosinolates, and phenolic compounds. The beneficial effects of Brassica vegetables on health improvement can be attributed to the complex mixture of antioxidant phytochemicals in these veggies. Many of the polyphenols found in this bok choy help to reduce inflammation and the symptoms of inflammatory conditions. 

Let’s dive deeper into those phenolic compounds found in all types of cabbages. Depending on the structure, polyphenols can be classified into simple phenols, phenolic acids, hydroxycinnamic acid derivatives, and flavonoids. Phenolic compounds are known to be protective against cancer and heart diseases because of their potent antioxidative properties.  These polyphenols become more bioavailable and potent through the microbial action of fermentation. During fermentation we allow desirable microbes to transform plant fiber and generate even more bioactive peptides and polyphenols. 

Bok Choy Fermented for One Month

The probiotic bacteria in fermented bok choy are very similar to the probiotic bacteria found in fermented green cabbage (sauerkraut). At the completion of fermentation, fermented bok choy is loaded with beneficial, gut-health-promoting Lactobacillus bacteria.

Here’s what happens when you ferment bok choy:

24 – 48 hours: All contents in the jar should be submerged beneath the brine. At this time there are still Gram negative bacteria and opportunistic pathogens present. These microorganisms utilize oxygen, and they will use up all the oxygen in the liquid.

48 hours – 10 days: After 48 hours you should start to see lots of bubbles being produced. This is when the ferment enters stage two of vegetable fermentation. Leuconostoc bacteria begin to thrive and all Gram negative organisms die off.

10-14 days: The bubbles in the brine will decrease, as the ferment leaves stage two and enters stage three. The ferment will become cloudy, the color will change, and a pleasant sour smell will develop. Lactobacillus species begin to thrive in this time period.

14 – 21 days: Lactobacillus make up majority or all of the microbial population. Leuconostoc bacteria die-off. Lactobacillus spp. produce copious amounts of lactic acid and make the fermented cabbage smell even more pleasantly sour. This is the time in which the vegetable mixture becomes preserved.

21 – 28 days: This is when you want to smell and taste test. Wait for the kraut to smell and taste as you like, and refrigerate when you find the smell and taste most pleasant! We like our’s best when we refrigerate at about 25 days.

mason jar full of cut baby bok choy and lemons filled to the brim with water, in three weeks it will be fermented bok choy.

Supplies to Make Fermented Bok Choy at Home

top of a mason jar with bok choy and lemons inside. Spoon full of salt is laying next to the jar.

Making Preserved Bok Choy with Fermentation

Burp the Jar

During the first few days of fermentation: carbon dioxide and bubbles will be produced. Sometimes jars will become very full of liquid, and this liquid can seep out. 

  • If using a standard mason jar lid: remove the lid and tamper everything back down using a gloved hand, tamper, or spoon. Make sure everything is still submerged below the brine. 

Always Trust your sense of smell

Fermented bok choy should smell pleasantly sour. Never eat fermented vegetables that smell repulsive or like alcohol. 

Never eat anything that has mold growing on it

By following directions you should not encounter this problem. Note that most vine-growing vegetables that are wild fermented will have something called pellicle growth. This is completely normal for vine growing vegetables as long as it does not look furry, pink, blue, black, green, or magenta. 

Sometimes pellicle formation occurs with cruciferous vegetables. It all depends on the vegetable microbiome and vegetable growing conditions. An off white, and kind of crinkly pellicile is normal. If you have surface growth like the pictures above, it’s a harmless mixed colony of wild yeasts. It’s not “mold”…you can skim it off the top and still eat your bok choy.

Taste test at three weeks

If you prefer more tart and sour fermented vegetables, let them fermentation proceed at room temperature for up to five weeks.

What Temperature Should I Keep My Fermented Bok Choy at?

While fermenting, keep the temperature between 70-80 degrees F. Keep out of direct sunlight. After fermentation, keep refrigerated.

How Long Should I Ferment Bok Choy For?  

After 3 weeks, remove the fermentation weight and smell and taste test. Your fermented bok choy should smell pleasantly sour, and it should taste similar to sauerkraut.

Do I Need to Refrigerate Fermented Bok Choy? 

Yes. After fermenting for at least three weeks, place a regular mason jar lid on the jar and refrigerate. Consume within 6 months for full probiotic benefits.

adding a fermentation weight to a jar of lacto fermented bok choy

More Fermentation Recipes to Try

Print

Fermented Baby Bok Choy

Try making preserved bok choy by fermenting it into a bioavailable superfood! This easy lacto fermented bok choy recipe is perfect for beginners and seasoned fermentation enthusiasts.

  • Author: Kaitlynn Fenley
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 1 Quart 1x
  • Category: Fermented Foods
  • Method: Fermentation
  • Diet: Vegan

Ingredients

Scale
  • 400 grams Baby Bok Choy
  • 1 Teaspoon Dried Basil
  • 2 Slices of Lemon
  • 20 grams Unrefined Sea Salt
  • 400 grams Filtered Water
  • 1/4 Cup Sliced Green Cabbage Leaves (optional)*

Instructions

  1. Wash your fermentation equipment (jar, weight and lid)
  2. Lightly rinse the baby bok choy with cool water.
  3. You can chop the bok choy or you can leave it whole if the whole pieces fit properly in the jar. 
  4. Place your kitchen scale on the counter. Turn it on and set it to weigh in grams.
  5. Place a bowl on your kitchen scale and tare/zero the scale.
  6. Add the bok choy into the bowl on your scale until the scale reads 400 grams.
  7. Remove the bowl of bok choy from the scale and set it aside.
  8. Place a small, empty bowl on your scale and tare/zero the scale.
  9. Weigh out 20 grams of salt and place it aside. 
  10. Place your empty, clean jar you’ll use for fermenting the bok choy on the scale, and tare/zero the scale again making sure your scale is still set to grams.
  11. Add 400 grams of filtered water to your fermentation jar.
  12. Add the bok choy, the salt, and the lemon and basil (or whatever spices you’ve chosen to use) to the jar of water. Place a secure lid on the jar and shake for about 3 minutes until all the salt is dissolved. 
  13. Remove the lid. Place your glass fermentation weight in the jar, making sure to submerge the bok choy, basil, and lemon pieces and the weight fully into the liquid. 
  14. Secure the standard mason jar lid and allow to ferment for at least 21 days. 
  15. It should get bubbly in the first few days, which is when you will burp the jar. You can rinse off the lid and re-adjust the fermentation weight any time you need to.

Notes

  • *bok choy sold bagged in grocery stores can be an exceptionally clean vegetable, with an inadequate microbiome, making it difficult to ferment properly. In order to ensure fermentation proceeds, you can add in 1/4 cup of fresh sliced green cabbage leaves. This recipe works best with bok choy from the farmers market, or your own garden. 
  • Taring/zeroing the scale with a container on it subtracts the weight of the container, allowing you to weigh only what is added to the container. After taring/zeroing the scale, the scale should read 0.0 with the container on it.
  • This recipe works best with a 32 ounce (quart) mason jar

Keywords: fermented,baby bok choy

Reference Material:

Phenolic Compounds in Brassica Vegetables

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Leave a Comment

Recipe rating

6 comments

Marcy Grote May 26, 2020 - 12:32 pm

My store doesn’t carry baby Bok choy . Can I substitute regular Bok choy?

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley May 26, 2020 - 4:17 pm

Absolutely! You’ll just want to chop it into pieces since it won’t fit in the jar whole like baby bok choy.

Reply
Emma Schroeder June 5, 2021 - 2:23 pm

Thanks for sharing! I’m excited to try it! I’m curious about the addition of lemon. In addition to flavor, do the lemon slices serve another purpose?

Emma

Reply
Kaitlynn Fenley June 6, 2021 - 4:26 pm

No, the lemon is just in there for flavor. But if you add too much lemon with the peel it will develop a soapy flavor. You can leave it out if you’d like.

Reply
Scott Nelson July 16, 2021 - 4:56 pm

I started my first batch of this recipe today. Your equipment notes say 16 oz. jar, but I needed a 32 oz. jar and everything just fit. It is also my first attempt at fermentation. I am using silicone fermentation lids. I will let you know how it turns out. I see peppercorns in the photos, do I need to add those? Thanks for posting this article.

Reply
Janice October 20, 2022 - 9:10 am

My favorite fermentation recipe for fall! I grow bok choy in my garden, so I harvest some while it’s still small and use this recipe to preserve it. I like to add garlic and red pepper, but I leave out the lemon.

Reply