Napa Cabbage Vs Bok Choy Vs Yu Choy - How to Tell the Difference - Kitchen (Mis)Adventures (2024)

Preparing to cook a recipe needing Chinese vegetables? Among the most popular Chinese leafy greens are napa cabbage, bok choy, and yu choy.

You’ll most definitely find these greens in the vegetable section of Asian supermarkets or in the Asian section of your local grocery stores.

Whether you need napa cabbage, bok choy, or yu choy for a recipe, it is easy to find them at the store because of their distinct features based on leaves, stems, and colors. But how do you know which is which? That is why in this quick guide, I share the most important aspects of each vegetable.

You will learn about each vegetable’s color, type, taste, and size, among other things. On top of that, I share my best recipes on how to prepare and cook these vegetables for a hearty meal. Read this guide before heading to the supermarket for some grocery shopping.

What Is Napa Cabbage?

Napa cabbage is a Chinese vegetable that is also known as Chinese cabbage, celery cabbage, or winter cabbage. It is commonly used in Asian recipes in China, Korea, and Japan.

Napa Cabbage Vs Bok Choy Vs Yu Choy - How to Tell the Difference - Kitchen (Mis)Adventures (1)

You can eat it raw for coleslaw, salads, and wraps or cooked in soups, sautees, or the popular Korean kimchi.

You would definitely want to try this delicious cabbage and reap its nutritious benefits. It is full of antioxidants and rich in Vitamins A, C, B6, and B12. It supports bone strength, heart health, and skin, to name a few of its benefits.


Unlike a round green cabbage that you normally see in grocery stores, napa cabbage is oblong with long leaves. It has an elongated head that ranges from 25 to 50 centimeters long and 15 to 20 centimeters wide. The head should feel dense and heavy when held.

Its green and white leaves are similar to lettuce leaves because of their elongated shape.

The leaves are thick, veiny, and crinkly. Moreover, the leaves are compact and closely clustered together.

Taste & Texture

It has a pleasant and milder taste with a hint of sweetness and earthiness compared to other types of cabbages. The texture is more tender with a crunchy base. The light green parts are crisp and delicate, while the white base is firmer.

Napa Cabbage Recipes

Napa cabbage is best for salads, soups, stews, and stir-fries. If you want to try napa cabbage for your meal plan, here are some recipes to try:

  • Cabbage Kimchi
  • Easy Kimchi(Shorter version)
  • Gamjatang 감자탕 / Korean Pork Bone Soup
  • Galbijjim 갈비찜 / Beef Short Ribs Stew

What Is Bok Choy?

Bok choy (白菜) is another type of Chinese cabbage that is green and leafy. It is also called pak choi, spoon cabbage, and bak choi. You can find different types of bok choy in the supermarket, such as Shanghai bok choy, white bok choy, and baby bok choy, to name a few.

Napa Cabbage Vs Bok Choy Vs Yu Choy - How to Tell the Difference - Kitchen (Mis)Adventures (2)

You can eat all parts of the bok choy, including leaves, stems, and even flowers. Similar to most green leafy vegetables, bok choy is a superfood abundant in vitamins and minerals. It is known to reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, and manage diabetes.

Napa Cabbage Vs Bok Choy Vs Yu Choy - How to Tell the Difference - Kitchen (Mis)Adventures (3)


Although there are different types of bok choy, its appearance is generally the same. It is recognizable for its long thick stem and round bulbous base. The leaves are usually green and the stems are white or light green, depending on the type of bok choy.

For instance, white bok choy is the regular type with dark green leaves and white stems about 10 to 14 inches long. On the other hand, baby bok choy is short and stubby, about 3 to 6 inches long. Another type is Shanghai bok choy, which usually has greenish stems and smoother oval leaves.

Taste & Texture

Bok choy is usually crisp and firm. If you get white bok choy, the taste is sweet and slightly bitter like spinach. Shanghai bok choy has a milder and sweeter taste than regular bok choy, which has a similar flavor profile to celery. As for baby bok choy, you can expect a mild flavor similar to lettuce.

Bok Choy Recipes

Stir-frying, air-frying, and blanching are all possible ways to prepare bok choy. If you prefer stir-fried bok choy, try my recipe Stir-Fried Bok Choy And Mushrooms. For air frying, follow my Air Fryer Bok Choy Recipe.

Blanching is one of the easiest ways to cook bok choy, which you can try here with Blanched Bok Choy With Vegetable Sauce, Bok Choy With Savory Oyster Sauce, or Garlic Bok Choy. Before starting with these recipes, follow my guide on How To Eat, Cut, Store, And Cookbok choy for easy preparation.

What Is Yu Choy?

Yu choy is also referred to as Chinese flowering cabbage, yu choy, choy sum, and yao choy. It is available all year round and can be harvested in various stages. You can find yu choy dishes in Asian cuisines commonly served as a side dish.

Napa Cabbage Vs Bok Choy Vs Yu Choy - How to Tell the Difference - Kitchen (Mis)Adventures (4)

This healthy vegetable is an excellent source of Vitamins A, B, and C. It is rich in iron, magnesium, fiber, and calcium. Moreover, it is a good source of fiber, antioxidants, and natural folates.


Yu choy has small, oval, green leaves and thin, light green stalks. The fleshy stalks are about 20 to 30 centimeters. Some stages of yu choy will have yellow flowers attached to them in groups of 10 to 20 buds.

Taste & Texture

The taste is sweet with notes of bitterness and pepperiness, similar to baby spinach. You may also notice a mild earthy taste. Moreover, each bite is tender and crunchy.

Yu Choy Recipes

You can steam, stir-fry, sauté, or blanch yu choy. It is perfect for salads, soups, noodles, and light sauces. Try my recipe for a delicious yu choy side dish.

Let’s Compare!

Chinese Broccoli Vs Bok Choy

Chinese broccoli is also called gai lan. Compared to bok choy, the leaves and stalks are thinner and darker. It has dark-green leaves and long narrow stalks. You can closely compare it more to yu choy than bok choy.

Napa Cabbage Vs Bok Choy Vs Yu Choy - How to Tell the Difference - Kitchen (Mis)Adventures (5)

The taste and texture are comparable to regular broccoli. It is sweet and a bit crunchy. It gets its bitter and earthy taste from its dark-green leaves.

Napa Cabbage Vs Bok Choy

You can easily differentiate napa cabbage from bok choy with its shape. Napa cabbage is like a regular tightly packed cabbage but oblong-shaped. On the other hand, bok choy has a bulbous stem with loose oval leaves.

When it comes to the flavor profile, napa cabbage is slightly sweet with a hint of peppery taste. Bok choy also has a mild and sweet taste but with a slight bitterness.

Yu Choy Sum Vs Bok Choy

Both yu choy and bok choy have oval green leaves. However, yu choy has smaller green leaves and thinner green stalks. Moreover, yu choy does not have a bulbous base like bok choy.

Yu choy is slightly bitter with a hint of sweetness. In contrast, bok choy has a sweet taste and mild bitterness.

Wrap Up

To sum up, napa cabbage has an oblong shape, bok choy has oval leaves and a bulbous stem, and yu choy has smaller oval leaves and thinner green stems. These Chinese vegetables are highly nutritious and perfect as a side dish or main ingredient for an entrée. Serve a hearty dish of Chinese vegetables using my recipes mentioned above!

Do you love Chinese vegetables? Which Chinese vegetable is your favorite? Let us know your answers in the comments section below.

If you want to learn more about Chinese vegetables, read my short guides on How Different Is Bok Choy From Other Similar Vegetables?and A Foodie’s Guide To Bok Choy. Follow me on Instagramand Tiktokfor more informative guides.

Napa Cabbage Vs Bok Choy Vs Yu Choy - How to Tell the Difference - Kitchen (Mis)Adventures (2024)
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