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One of the most popular vegetables, celery is something that can be eaten raw or used as a main ingredient in delicious soups, stews, casseroles, and other dishes. In fact, celery is the top ingredient in almost all types of cuisine. A member of the same veggie family that includes parsley and its close relative the carrot, celery is perhaps best known for its crunchy texture, but is also a great addition to many dishes due to its earthy and somewhat peppery flavor. Yet if you don’t like its flavor or don’t have it on hand when cooking, there are plenty of things you can use as a celery substitute. Before you head to the kitchen to whip up that next great soup or other dish, here are 18 vegetables and other things you can use as suitable celery substitutes.
Table of Contents
- 1 What Can I Substitute for Celery?
- 2 The Best Celery Substitutes
- 3 How Should I Substitute Celery?
- 4 What Should I Look for When Buying Celery?
- 5 Can Celery be Left Out as an Ingredient?
- 6 FAQ
What Can I Substitute for Celery?
Though some of the most well-known dishes are made with celery, such as French-base Mirepoix and Soffritto, there are actually many great substitutes you can use as a celery replacement. While these will be discussed in greater detail as we progress, some of the most widely-used substitutes for celery include carrots, fennel, Bok choy, and many others.
When you do opt to use a celery substitute, always remember that the taste of your cuisine may not be exactly as it would be if celery were included as a main ingredient. Since all vegetables, even those very similar to celery, have their own unique characteristics and tastes, you will need to be willing to experiment with various celery substitutes to find ones that give you the flavor you desire. But once you hit on some winning combinations, you won’t hesitate to substitute for celery when necessary.
The Best Celery Substitutes
Now that you’ve had a sneak preview of some possible substitutes for celery and how they might be used, let’s dive into them a bit more to see which ones will work best for you and your favorite dishes.
If you’ve heard of fennel, you might be thinking you’ll be using fennel seeds or herbs as your substitute for celery. But in this case, you’ll be using the stems of the fennel. Similar to carrots and parsley, fennel stems will have a very pungent taste when raw, but get much milder when cooked.
Thus, if you’re using it as a celery substitute in soups, stews, or other dishes you are cooking, don’t worry about it having too strong of a flavor, since the fennel will develop a much milder taste similar to celery the more it cooks. Combining this with its texture that is almost identical to celery, you may find yourself turning to fennel more often than you expected when cooking dishes that have celery as a main ingredient.
Also known as celeriac, a root vegetable, celery root also has a very earthy taste that is arguably stronger than fennel or celery itself. Because of this, it is a very popular substitute for celery in stews or sauces that require a bold taste.
When using celery root as a substitute for a dish that requires celery, it will be easier to work with if you slice it up into extremely thin pieces. Not only will this allow it to cook faster, but also let it release its flavor more easily so that it encompasses the dish as you intended.
Should you be searching for a Chinese celery substitute, Bok choy is a great option you can use anytime you like. Commonly known as Chinese cabbage, it is used in many different Asian dishes. Very similar in texture to celery, it also mirrors celery in that it contains many of the same minerals and vitamins, making it a healthy substitute as well.
High in fiber, Bok choy looks like a combination of celery and spinach. In fact, its taste can be mild and bitter-like when eaten raw, closely matching the taste of spinach. However, the crunchy white stalks soon begin to taste much milder as they are added to soups, stews, and stir-fry dishes, and allowed to cook. Whether you are fixing an Asian soup, stir-fry dish, or something else, you’ll barely notice any difference in overall taste.
If you don’t have any celery in your kitchen, chances are you do have some carrots that are handy and can act as a suitable celery substitute.
Like celery, carrots are great to eat raw, since they come with high levels of beta carotene, calcium, and vitamins A and K. Here you can read our article and learn if carrots are man made. If you use carrots as your substitute ingredient for celery, whatever you are cooking up in your kitchen may have a slightly sweeter taste than if you used celery. However, it won’t be an overwhelming sweetness, only a very mild one at best. A very popular substitute celery ingredient for pasta sauces, give carrots a try now and then to see what you think.
When stalks of celery are not available, look to your spice rack and grab a jar of celery seeds to use as a viable substitute for celery. When using this substitute, it’s often best if you use seeds that are grounded as fine as possible, since they will mix in easier with other ingredients. Tasting almost identical to celery, the seeds may initially have a slight bitterness to them, but this disappears very quickly once cooking begins.
Should you use celery seeds as your substitute, it is usually best if you use as small an amount as possible, due to their strong flavor. If you don’t, you may overwhelm your dish with the taste of celery.
Made from salt and grounded celery seeds, celery salt is being used by more and more chefs as an easy and tasty substitute for actual celery. The perfect ingredient for various vegetable-based pasta sauces as well as tomato soup, celery salt can also be used in stews of all sorts and even many types of salads. If using it as your substitute ingredient in soups or sauces, be careful to add only a minimal amount of celery salt. Otherwise, the taste will be much too salty for anyone’s preference.
When you want to try something new in your dishes as a substitute for celery, take a close look at the Mexican vegetable jicama. While it has leaves, flowers, stems, and the root, everything on jicama other than the root is toxic, so only use the root as you’re cooking.
While it has a crunchy texture like celery and also many of the same vitamins and minerals, jicama is noted for its unique nutty flavor. If you use it as an ingredient in soup, stew, or other foods, you’ll need to pay close attention to how long it cooks. Should it cook for too long, it will lose its crunchy texture and much of its nutty flavor. A very popular ingredient in many Mexican dishes, don’t shy away from jicama if you love fixing these types of foods.
Looking similar enough to celery to be its twin, cardoon stems are slightly bigger than regular celery and taste bitter and nuttier than you would expect. To get rid of the bitterness, you can soak cardoon in salt water before you use it for your cooking.
While it generally won’t work very well as a celery substitute in salads, cardoon is very suitable for almost any cooked dish that requires celery. If you use it, you’ll need to cook it a few minutes longer than you normally would celery in order to ensure the bitterness goes away completely.
Another popular substitute for celery in many Asian dishes, water chestnut is also a viable ingredient that can be used in African and Australian dishes as well. Growing underwater in these parts of the world, water chestnut is a plant that is harvested primarily for its flavor, which seems to combine the sweetness and tartness of both apples and coconuts.
Extremely popular as a go-to ingredient on all types of salads, water chestnut is also an excellent choice for use in dishes that are stir-fried, sauteed, grilled, or fried.
If you want to use a traditional vegetable in place of celery that will offer such similarities in taste and texture that you and others won’t notice the difference, cucumbers are your best bet. Crunchy yet also refreshing, cucumbers will be a great substitute if you are making a dressing or dip, and will of course do excellent as a sub in a salad.
Should cucumbers be your substitute ingredient, try to use ones that are as fresh as possible. Otherwise, they tend to lose their crunchiness and texture, which could be detrimental if being used in a salad.
A vegetable that often doesn’t get the respect it deserves, parsley’s taste is stronger yet lighter than that of celery. Because it does taste stronger than celery, it’s best to use less of it than what your recipe may call for when using celery.
As for where it will work best as a substitute for celery, look to use parsley in salads, soups and sauces, and especially when you are mixing in other ingredients with ground meat, since it is known to enhance the flavor of virtually all types of meat.
Yes, onions can be used as a celery substitute and do quite well for themselves in the process. Offering incredible texture, you’ll want to make sure you don’t use onions that are exceptionally strong, since even after cooking a long period of time they will still overwhelm the dish with their flavor. Instead, look to sweet onions, red onions, or others that offer a much milder taste.
In many kitchens, onions are substituted for celery in various soups, stews, and salads, primarily because their flavor and texture merge very well with carrots, which are also primary ingredients in these culinary creations.
Of all the vegetables that can be substituted for celery when cooking, bell peppers manage to beat out even cucumbers in regards to tasting the most like celery. Fantastic in salads, bell peppers also work well when combined with onions and carrots as the base for many meat recipes.
When it’s soup time in your kitchen, asparagus is a great celery substitute in soup, especially if you are creating a Chinese soup. Featuring a texture that matches celery almost exactly, asparagus is also the perfect substitute for celery in stir-fry dishes, since it can add a wonderful level of crunchiness to your meal.
When you’ve eaten broccoli in the past, you’ve probably done like most people and cooked the florets while throwing away the stems. But when you’re using broccoli as your substitute ingredient for celery, you’ll be focusing on the stems and much less on the florets.
Since broccoli stems have a very similar texture and crunch like celery, using them raw as part of a salad or adding them to your stir-fry dishes will work out fine. Whether they are chopped or sliced, broccoli stems will surprise you by tasting and feeling almost exactly like celery.
A member of the radish family, daikon will definitely take its place as one of your favorite substitutes for celery. Although it may be a bit hard to find in most stores, it will be worth the effort of tracking it down in specialty stores once you start using it in your soups.
Unlike many other radishes, daikon has a mild flavor that contains much less of a peppery taste. If you use this for your next pot of soup, cut the roots into small pieces and let them cook until they get good and done. However, be careful that you don’t let them go so long that they turn soggy, since this will obviously do away with their crunchiness and flavor.
For crunchiness, texture, and taste, apples are hard to beat when standing in for celery in a salad of any kind. Whether it’s a garden salad, chicken or tuna salad, or anything else, using a delicious red or yellow apple in place of celery will give your meal a great taste and plenty of color contrast.
No, this substitute for celery is not for the birds. Instead, you can buy sunflower seeds fit for human consumption and substitute them for celery in your next salad. Extremely nutritious, cheap to purchase, and an ingredient that blends in easily with many types of salads, this will be an unusual yet tasty sub for celery.
How Should I Substitute Celery?
When you are wanting to substitute celery, what you ultimately use as your substitute ingredient will depend largely on what is most important to the dish you are preparing, which can be flavor, texture, seasoning, or other factors.
When texture is your primary concern for your dish, substitutes such as carrots, fennel, onions, bell peppers, or even scallions and leeks can work very well. Though you may notice a slight difference in the texture of your food, these options will still give you what you want.
Since this is such a unique aspect of any culinary dish, you will need to try different substitute ingredients for celery in order to find out which ones please your taste buds the most. While celery itself has a unique flavor, so too do such substitutes as water chestnuts, jicama, Bok choy, and many others. Along with the substitutes mentioned earlier, you may also want to try kale or cauliflower, both of which are also noted for the flavoring they bring to dishes.
When celery is not available to be used for seasoning, don’t panic. Instead, you can try such other options as onion powder or garlic powder, parsley, smoked paprika, cilantro, or dill seed. But remember, you usually have to use lesser amounts of spices when seasoning is your goal, since their flavors are often stronger than actual celery.
Substituting in Stuffing
If you need to substitute for celery in stuffing, your best bets will be celery seeds, celery salt, or fennel, since all of these bring with them the bang of flavor and texture required of most stuffing.
What Should I Look for When Buying Celery?
When you are buying celery, always make sure the stalks are green, look and feel fresh, and are strong enough that they snap back when you pull on them. Also, the celery leaves should be crisp and have a healthy, green color.
When you use actual celery in your dishes, try to use the leaves as well. If you do this in a salad or soup, you’ll get extra calcium, Vitamin C, and potassium.
Finally, after you’ve bought celery, try to use it within two days after bringing it home. Otherwise, even if stored properly in your refrigerator, it will start to lose its freshness and flavor, leading to limp stalks that won’t add much of anything to your food.
Can Celery be Left Out as an Ingredient?
While you may think that since so many things can be substituted for it that celery does not play a major role in how your food looks or tastes, you are wrong. Along with giving salads and stir-fry the crunch they need and deserve, celery also is a key ingredient in making sure soups, stews, sauces, and other dishes have the correct aroma. Because of this, even if you don’t have celery nearby, opt for a suitable substitute that will give what you’re cooking the texture, flavor, and aroma it needs.
What Vegetable is Equivalent to Celery?
There are many vegetables that are equivalent to celery in terms of their texture and taste. The most common include cucumbers, carrots, and bell peppers. However, others such as onions, cauliflower, and kale are also very similar to celery.
Can I Omit Celery?
While you can choose to leave celery out of your list of ingredients, doing so is likely to affect the flavor, texture, and seasoning of the food you have prepared. Therefore, it’s best to use a substitute ingredient if at all possible.