Celery is one of those foods that has experienced a surge in popularity in recent years. Nutritional and extremely versatile, celery has slowly made its way into a large variety of recipes, from salad to juice.
If you’re looking for a celery substitute, it’s better to start from the recipe you have in mind. In fact, there are many replacements for celery, but some are recommended for soups, others for salads, stuffing, or for different purposes.
The 15 best substitutes for celery
For many years, celery has been considered “top model food” because it is said the amount of calories you burn by eating celery outnumbers the amount you gain from eating it.
Indeed, celery is a low-cal, low-carb, and low-fat option that seems like the perfect addition to a diet plan. However, there is also much more than that behind this green vegetable.
In recent years, celery has moved from the status of staple food to that of the main ingredient. Celery was originally used for medical purposes because it’s a good source of:
– Vitamin K
– Vitamin A
Being so rich in micronutrients, it is no surprise celery juice has recently become a very popular addition to people’s daily routine.
Sometimes, simply removing celery from the recipe is enough, with no needed replacement. More often, it is difficult to replace that special something that celery adds to your dish, but luckily we have many options to choose from.
1. Celery seeds
Celery seeds are one of those seasonings you should always have stored at home. They’re very popular as a spice and can be found whole or ground.
Whole celery seeds are the size of pepper seeds and are dark brown in color, while ground celery seeds are a brownish-green powder.
They’re used in a large variety of recipes, including salads, dressings, brines, and sauces.
Celery seeds do not come from the celery we find in grocery stores, but rather from wild celery, which has a stronger flavor. These seeds are effectively the dried fruits of the celery plant.
They taste very similar to celery, so they are a good celery replacement, but they have a sort of bitter and earth-like flavor. Using an excessive amount of seeds could make you feel like you just ate a spicy pepper.
2. Bok Choy
Bok Choy is a Chinese cabbage that is known for being a good substitute for celery but also a good alternative for bell peppers.
Not only bok choy is a great substitute for celery in soup and other cooked recipes, but it also works as a substitute for raw celery.
Bok choy is a good source of nutrients such as:
– Vitamin A
– Vitamin C
– Vitamin B6
– Vitamin K
– Water (95% of bok choy is, in fact, water)
Its crunchy texture is ideal for soups and stirs fry recipes. In order to make sure that it tastes as similar as possible to celery, do select bok choy with the hardest stalks, which will give you a perfect celery-like crunch.
Carrots are one of the easiest items to find in this list and it’s one of those ingredients you probably already have at home, so it makes for a perfect last-minute celery alternative.
They provide the signature crunch that celery usually brings to the dish and they’re also rather sweet, which makes it the perfect substitute for celery in pasta sauce, for example.
Carrots offer several nutrients and can help you lose and maintain an ideal weight. If you use celery as a raw snack, you can easily swap it with carrots for a change. Carrots make for a healthy and low-carb snack that will make you feel full for a long time.
4. Bell peppers
Bell peppers, and especially the green bell pepper, are a good alternative to celery in meat stews, salads, and even in stuffing recipes.
Bell peppers are non-spicy peppers that taste rather sweet, but not all of them taste the same. In fact, if red, orange, and yellow peppers do have a sweet flavor, green bell peppers have more of an earthy flavor that is closer to that of celery.
You can use a diced green bell pepper for salads or for a sauté with onions and carrots, which is typically used when making meat-based recipes. You can also cut the green bell pepper into slices to obtain a substitute for celery in stuffing recipes.
Fennel stems are commonly considered the best substitute for celery. Although the flavor as a whole is different from the celery, the texture is extremely similar.
Fennel can be swapped with celery in many recipes. For example, if you need a celery substitute in soup, diced cooked fennel stems are the perfect replacement.
When raw, fennel may taste somewhat pungent, but its flavor becomes milder once cooked. On top of that, they carry a sort of anise flavor that strongly resembles the aftertaste of celery.
Fennel is perfect if you’re looking for something similar to celery but you also want to add something new to your dish. It still has the crunchy texture of celery, but it can also offer a tasty alternative to the usual flavor.
6. Water Chestnut
Water chestnuts come from Chinese cuisine and they’re very flavorful. Their texture resembles that of a pear or other similar fruits that give a good crunchy feeling, and their taste is somewhat fruity as well.
You can replace celery with fresh water chestnuts — not the canned ones! They’re perfect for salads, stir-fries, and woks.
If you’re looking for a substitute for celery in a chicken salad, look no further: water chestnut might be the new interesting addition you won’t be able to live without.
You can only gain by replacing celery with water chestnut because this plant is extremely healthy and has plenty of benefits for us: it’s low in sodium, rich in potassium, and has zero cholesterol.
Cucumbers are refreshing and crunchy, offering a valid alternative to celery for salads, but they’re also perfect for drinks or pureed into soups. They’re low-carbs and can be consumed as a snack.
Their flavor is both sweet and sour and can change slightly depending on the freshness, but it’s not really strong so it’s certainly not their main characteristic. However, cucumber has a well-balanced flavor that can be enjoyed by many, regardless of their preferences on sweet and sour.
On the other hand, their crunch resembles that of celery, so feel free to swap it into your sandwich or anywhere you have raw veggies and are in need of the signature crunch celery provides.
8. Green Apple
Green apples have a light fruity taste that is not too sweet or bitter, which makes them incredibly popular as a fruit juice. In fact, they’re often mixed with celery when making smoothies, but they can also stand alone pretty well.
Their flavor is not the only thing there is to love about this fruit. They also have a crunch that is very similar to celery, so they’re ideal for a healthy snack or as a substitute for celery in salads.
Green juices made with green apples or celery are especially recommended during warm seasons because they help in keeping your body hydrated and free from toxins.
Jicama is considered one of the best celery and celeriac substitutes. Its crunchy texture and lightly sweet and nutty flavor are a perfect alternative to celery in salads.
It is commonly eaten raw, but you can also choose to cook it as long as you don’t cook it for long, otherwise, it will lose its crunchy texture.
Jicama’s popularity is increasing, also thanks to its role as a celery substitute. It is extremely good for our health since it contains vitamins, fibers, and minerals that reduce the risk of heart disease and improve our gastrointestinal system.
You can use diced jicama, onions, avocado, tomato, corn, and coriander for a low-effort and delicious salad full of nutrients.
The differences between celery and celeriac (also called celery root) have many people confused. The two are born from the same plant, but are cultivated differently: while celery is cultivated for its stalks, celeriac is cultivated for its roots.
They share a similar taste, but celeriac is considered by many to be earthier and more intense than celery.
Celeriac is a great substitute for celery in recipes that require cooking. It’s especially good when replacing diced celery stalks. It is not recommended to use it as a raw substitute for celery unless you slice it very thin.
Cabbage won’t give you the same flavor as celery, but if you’re out of options it is nonetheless a good substitute for celery and it’s enough to add a pinch of salt to enhance its flavor.
It is very important to choose a cabbage head that is firm and void of blemishes. The leaves should be shiny and crisp. It is better to buy a whole cabbage head rather than pre-cut cabbage because the latter loses its vitamin C.
Cabbage gives a perfect celery crunch to your soups and salads. You can also use cabbage as a celery substitute in risotto.
Among the several health benefits of cabbage, it helps prevent type 2 diabetes and is full of antioxidants that help fight cancer by reducing inflammation.
Parsley is a very popular aromatic herb that gives a good kick to your recipes, especially in spaghetti sauce.
Celery and parsley belong to the same family and are very similar in pretty much every aspect except taste. In fact, you can cut parsley leaves the same way you would do with celery and it would be hard to notice the difference.
However, parsley has a brighter and stronger taste than celery, so it would be better to use it in smaller amounts than you would do with celery for the same recipe.
Cardoon has stalks that look very similar to celery stalks and it’s a good substitute for celery in cooked recipes, as long as you keep in mind that cardoon needs a longer time cooking than celery.
Its taste is slightly sweet and tender, and it’s a low-cal vegetable just like celery. Furthermore, cardoon contains nutrients that help lower cholesterol levels so it’s good for the cardiovascular system.
To prepare the cardoon, you need to rinse it thoroughly and trim its ends. Given that it has sometimes a bitter aftertaste, you can fix it by leaving it to soak in salt water for an hour before cooking it.
Onions, just like all aromatic vegetables that add flavor to your recipes, can be used as an alternative to celery.
If you’re looking to replace the taste of celery, you can try different kinds of onions and see what fits your taste the most. Of course, most onions have a stronger and richer taste than celery, but it’s not always a bad thing. In fact, you may find that some recipes will benefit from this alternative.
On the other hand, if you’re looking to mask the taste of celery because it’s not pleasant to you or your guests, you can also use onions, carrots, and other vegetables of your choice to easily hide its flavor.
15. Dill seed
Dill seed powder mixed with salt is a good substitute for celery salt. Celery salt is nothing more than concentrated celery mixed with salt, so the principle works in the same way.
Celery salt is a well-known spice in the kitchen and can be used in many recipes. Since it’s so versatile and used, you can happen to run out of it at the last minute. In that case, if you can get a hold of dill seed, you can pretty much obtain the same results.
How to choose a celery substitute.
When choosing a celery substitute, there are dozens of alternatives to choose from and they’re all valid replacements for celery, even though it is hard to find one that has the same exact characteristics, so you’ll have to settle for something similar.
Celery is extremely versatile and works well with many different recipes. If you need a substitution for celery, consider which one of its characteristics your recipe is lacking:
– Flavor: it is hard to find something similar to celery flavor even among the vegetables of the same family. The wisest option would be to keep celery seeds among your spices, but if you run out of celery in all forms, you can also opt for jicama, green apples, or cucumbers. As celery doesn’t have a strong flavor, if you want to experiment and spice things up in the kitchen, you could also try different vegetables and spices with a stronger flavor to replace celery.
– Texture: when cooking soups, sauces, and stews, texture is one of the main aspects to consider. Celery has a particular texture that is not easily replaceable, and you probably can’t find another vegetable that will give you the exact same result, but alternatives like bok choy, jicama, and fennel can bring you pretty close to the desired outcome.
– Crunch: celery has a crunch factor that becomes fundamental especially when making salads or using raw vegetables for other purposes. Many vegetables have their own signature crunch, but not all of them are the same. If you need to replace celery and you need its signature crunch, you can try carrots, green apples, cabbage, or also water chestnut. You can also mix them with celery if you just wish to add more crunch to your salad or you want to try something new.
– Seasoning: celery seeds and celery salt are popular spices that you should always keep in the kitchen in case you need to give your dish that additional something that would make it perfect. However, if you run out of these spices or you cannot find them in your area, consider using onions, garlic, dill seeds, or even parsley. Most of these replacements will have a stronger flavor than celery, so make sure to regulate the quantities if you’re not looking for that kind of change in your final outcome.