Tatsoi Is the New Spinach (Haven't You Heard?)

January 28, 2020

Every week we get Down & Dirty, in which we break down our favorite unique seasonal fruits, vegetables, and more.

Today is all about our new favorite green. Learn what to look for at the market, and how to work it into meals from now till next week. 


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Tatsoi. Sometimes we just need to talk about a vegetable because it’s fun to say. (Are we the only ones that feel this way?) We could say it all day, but the truth is, there are many other reasons to get this green into your regular rotation. 

Before we start: We're going to tell you what tatsoi is. Tatsoi (Brassica rapa subsp. narinosa or Brassica rapa var. rosularis) is a member of the brassica family—along with . mustard greens and Brussels sprouts. It has rounded leaves shaped like a spoon, which have a buttery texture and a slightly sweet flavor. 

If this all sounds a bit unfamiliar, we should also mention that you've almost certainly eaten tatsoi before. The mild, mustardy leaves often show up in mixed salad greens, so—surprise!—you're probably already acquainted. What's so great about this green? Once you track it down, (aliases include tat soy, tat soi, broadbeak mustard, spoon mustard, spinach mustard, and rosette bok choy), it'll quickly become one of the most versatile green vegetables you know. It's friendly with a number of cuisines and preparations, much like the rest of its leafy-green siblings. 


What to Look For
Flower buds (1), especially when they are green and tightly closed, are crunchy and perfectly edible, but indicate that the plant has bolted. (This means the plant was focusing its energy on reproduction, so the edible parts of the plant may be a touch more bitter or a little tougher, depending on the vegetable.) If you're growing your own tatsoi, this is a sign to head out to the garden and harvest. 

If you're at the market, you might want to pass on these in favor of a different, non-bolted bunch. Tatsoi leaves should be a deep glossy green (2) and free of any bruising, wilting, or yellowing. Aside from in salad mixes, you might find tatsoi at specialty grocers, but your best bet (as always) is to visit a farmers market. As a bonus, if you go to market, you could find a whole intact head of tatsoi; grown in cooler weather, tatsoi is stunningly beautiful and hugs the ground like a flat leafy rosette. In warmer weather tatsoi grows more upright (3)—not as visually arresting, but just as tasty.  


How to Store and Prep
You know the drill: wrap the leaves (4) in a damp paper towel, and store them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days. Prepare fresh tatsoi by separating the leaves (if you found a whole head) and washing well. 

How to Use Tatsoi
Tatsoi is a very versatile green, equally suited to being served raw or lightly cooked. To make it easy, just use tatsoi anywhere you’d use spinach. Lightly steam or sauté it, wilt the leaves with a warm dressing, or add them to a soup at the end of cooking. In Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone, she lets tatsoi shine in a simple salad with scaliions, chives, and a sesame vinaigrette. Looking for more ways to use it? We thought you might be. Here are enough ideas to get you through the week:

Saturday: Meyer Lemon Risotto (Something great to do before Meyer lemon season ends!)
Sunday: Borlotti Beans on Toast with Greens 
Monday: Hot Smoked Salmon, Soba and Asian Greens Salad
Tuesday: Crisp Tofu with Asian Greens and Peanut Sauce
Wednesday: Halibut with Cashews, Tatsoi and Orange
Thursday: Steamed Spinach with Balsamic Butter (Here, just sub tatsoi for spinach.)
Friday: Tatsoi with Avocado and Egg

Photos by James Ransom 

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • harold smith
    harold smith
  • mela
  • Alex
  • irinaleibo
  • Rhonda35
I like esoteric facts about vegetables. Author of the IACP Award-nominated cookbook, Cooking with Scraps.


harold S. December 3, 2018
Can you jiuce tat soi
mela August 14, 2017
Looking forward to exploring some of these links from Antonia James. In the meantime, though, I'm afraid the links in the article aren't working anymore - they go to odd places. I wonder if that can be fixed, or if the links are just gone?
Alex August 14, 2014
I've been growing Asian vegetables for several years. This year, I decided to grow tatsoi for the first time. It's a fast grower, has a very pleasant taste and is quite attractive. I'll will definitely be growing it next year, together with mizuna, Taiwan bok choy, komatsuna and others. Thanks for the informative article and useful tips.
mbujold June 5, 2020
I started growing tatsoi recently. It's a pretty plant, doesn't bolt as quickly as some. You can cut some and leave some leaves, it usually grows back nicely. Nice, mild flavor.
irinaleibo April 1, 2013
Looks like what we buy called Baby Bok Choy.
I slice it up and toss it with garlic and oil for pasta.
Lindsay-Jean H. April 2, 2013
Yes, they do look similar! Baby bok choy would be a great substitute for tatsoi in most of these recipes.
Rhonda35 March 30, 2013
We received a beautiful bunch of tatsoi in our farmers' box this week. Used some of it for salad (with watercress and butter lettuce, also from the box.) I'll have to try the rest in one of the suggested recipes. Thanks for this tutorial about tatsoi!
witloof March 30, 2013
I love tatsoi and buy it at the farmer's market here in NYC. It is generally available in the late summer and early fall.
AntoniaJames March 29, 2013
Thanks for posting this! I have not seen tat-soi here yet, though the yu choy has been excellent of late. I suspect it would do well in all of the recipes you suggest. Here is an interesting thread from the Hotline, with some other good ideas: ;o)
Kenzi W. March 31, 2013
Great thread! Thanks for this.
Lindsay-Jean H. March 31, 2013
That's how I discovered the soba noodle salad! Thanks for highlighting this AntoniaJames, there are so many gems in the Hotline.
AntoniaJames April 2, 2013
I just discovered another terrific use -- for the stems!! Thanks to BeijingRose, in her recipe for red-braised pork belly (and the very long conversation we had, within the comments), I recently used the stems from a similar green, yu choy, to make "Chinese Preserved Vegetable" (also called "Pickled Vegetable"). It's essentially a lacto-fermented pickle spiked with a touch of rice wine and lightly flavored with scallion. Oh my, are they ever good! Here's the recipe, with the thread containing a lot more detail about "pickled vegetable": I highly recommend that you try this. I can hardly wait to make another batch. I suspect I'll be buying even more long-stemmed choy sum and yu choi (and tat-soi, whenever it returns to our local farmers' markets) than I already do, just for this purpose. ;o)
Lindsay-Jean H. April 2, 2013
Funny you should mention pickled stems!! There might be more in your future....
AntoniaJames April 3, 2013
Can't wait to try it with mustard greens stems! Our Asian farmers' market tables are overflowing with greens of all kinds, including a flat mustardy green sort of like a hot baby bok choy. I recently discovered this excellent recipe for mustard greens, which I've been making regularly since first trying it: We like this dish best without the stems, so you can be sure those will be transformed into pickles, posthaste. Apparently the hard ribs of cabbage and core pieces are also commonly pickled this way. Stay tuned. ;o)