Celery has made its way into many recipes in various cuisines, partly due to its nutrient-dense content and high versatility. It’s often used to add its flavor, texture, or crunch and can be eaten raw, pickled, baked, or cooked in a variety of ways.
Celery has a peppery, mildly earthy flavor with a hint of bitterness that turns into mild sweetness when cooked. It’s watery, yet it has a crunchy texture. Many find that they do not like celery, and if you need an alternative, you can choose from many celery substitutes.
The best celery substitutes include bok choy, fennel, jicama, carrot, celery seed, celery salt, water chestnut, green bell pepper, cucumber, green apple, celeriac, broccoli, cabbage, parsley, cardoon, onion, and leek. However, there is no one-size-fits-all alternative, so choose one that works best for the recipe you’ll be using it in.
Best Celery Substitutes
1) Bok Choy
Bok choy is a root vegetable also known as Chinese cabbage, pak choi, or pok choi. Its white stalks have the crunch of celery, while the leaves have a mild bitterness similar to spinach. And, like celery, bok choy has high water content and is also nutritionally dense.
Many prefer bok choy over celery as it always has the mild sweetness that celery only releases once cooked. And, despite the high water content, it isn’t as bland as celery.
Bok choy can serve as an excellent celery substitute in stir fry, soups, casseroles, stews, steamed dishes, raw recipes, mirepoix, and the “Holy Trinity.” When choosing bok choy for a celery alternative, select the firmer stalks, as they will give you the perfect crunch that celery provides.
2) Fennel Stalk
Many consider the green fennel stalks to be the best celery alternative. They have celery’s crispy texture and a distinct herbal flavor similar to the aftertaste of celery. It tastes like licorice or anise when raw but acquires a mildly sweet, mellow flavor similar to celery once cooked.
Because of this, fennel stalks work best as a celery substitute in cooked recipes such as soups, stews, stocks, braises, and mirepoix. However, note that fennel stems take longer to cook than celery.
When selecting fennel stems for a celery replacement, choose the straightest ones you can find—the more fragrant the fennel, the better, as it means it is fresh.
Jicama, yam bean, Mexican yam bean, Mexican potato, or Mexican turnip is another root vegetable used as a celery substitute. It’s juicy, crunchy, and has a mild flavor that’s nutty and mildly sweet.
It works best as a celery alternative in raw recipes such as salads, but you can also cook it if you need to. However, note that it will lose its crunchy texture when cooked for too long.
To choose the best jicama, look for round and firm tubers. When using this root veggie in raw recipes, use a durable knife to peel it with because it has thick skin.
Carrots are a great choice if you need a last-minute celery substitute. They are the most readily available options on this list and are a common ingredient, so you might already have some in your kitchen.
Carrots have a crunchy texture similar to celery but a different flavor despite being mildly sweet. Still, you can easily swap celery with carrots in many recipes. They make for a good substitute in soups, stews, stocks, sauces, stir-fries, salads, and other raw recipes.
If you want your carrots to maintain their crunch even when cooked, make sure to add them towards the end of your cooking. You can substitute a half cup of chopped carrots for each stalk of celery.
5) Celery Seed
Celery seeds are often used as a seasoning to give dishes a celery flavor. Although it tastes similar to celery, celery seed has a slightly bitter, earthy flavor. It comes from wild celery, hence the stronger flavor.
You can buy celery seeds in two forms—whole or ground. They work best in sauces, salads, stews, soups, dressings, and brines as a celery substitute. Some people also use celery seeds instead of celery in stuffings, mirepoix, and the “Holy Trinity.”
When replacing celery with celery seeds, use a smaller amount as using too much can result in a flavor similar to a spicy pepper. For example, substitute ½ tsp of celery seeds for each stalk of celery and adjust as needed.
6) Celery Salt
Celery salt is a spice mix of salt and ground celery seeds. This combination results in a stronger flavor and aroma than fresh celery. Celery salt also has a slightly spicy taste.
If the recipe calls for a little salt aside from the celery, you can use celery salt instead. Keep an eye on how much you add to the dish, as too much can make your dish inedible. If you wish to use it as a celery substitute, simply use it as you would regular salt.
You can make celery salt at home by mixing one part of ground celery seed with two parts of salt. You can use this spice mix in soups, stews, pasta sauces, marinades, and salads.
7) Water Chestnut
Freshwater chestnuts are aquatic vegetables often used as an ingredient in Chinese cuisine. Unlike canned water chestnuts, the fresh kind is very flavorful. They’re sweet, nutty, tart, and somewhat fruity, with the crunchy texture of an apple or pear.
You can use water chestnuts as a celery alternative as they have a similar texture and flavor. They work excellently in salads, stir-fries, soups, and even in grilled, fried, or sauteed dishes.
When using water chestnuts as a celery substitute, make sure to use only the fresh kind and not the canned ones.
8) Green Bell Pepper
Green peppers have the closest flavor to celery out of all bell peppers. They’re mildly sweet but have a more earthy flavor similar to celery. In Cajun cuisine, green bell pepper is a staple ingredient in the “Holy Trinity,” along with onion and celery.
Green bell pepper does excellently as a celery alternative when you need its flavor more than texture. While bell pepper also has a crunch, it is often less crispy than celery.
You can use green pepper instead of celery when making mirepoix, but they truly shine in meat stews, stir-fries, sautés, stuffings, salads, and other raw recipes.
Cucumbers can make an excellent substitute if you need celery more for its crunch than its flavor. Like celery, cucumbers have a watery but crunchy texture. They have a mildly sweet flavor, but it’s even less pronounced than celery and can be unnoticeable.
The cucumber’s crunchy texture makes it an excellent celery substitute in salads, dressings, and other raw recipes where crunchiness is a priority. And, like celery, cucumber has a high water content that makes it a suitable celery alternative in drinks.
However, cucumbers can taste bitter or sour depending on their freshness and where and how they were grown.
10) Green Apple
Green apples have a crunch similar to that of celery but are sweeter. If you need a crunchy texture and want to add a little sweetness to the dish, green apples work well as a substitute for celery.
The green ones taste sourer and less sweet than red apples but have a crispier texture due to their thicker skin. Because of this, green apples work better as a celery substitute than red apples.
Like cucumbers, green apples work best as a celery substitute in salads and other raw recipes. Or, you can also use them in stuffings.
Many people confuse celeriac with celery, but while celery is cultivated for its stalks, the roots are the centerpiece in celeriac. Celeriac, also known as celery root, has a taste similar to celery except that it is stronger and earthier. Like celery, it has a crunchy texture and acquires a sweeter taste when cooked.
If you need a substitute for cooked celery, celeriac can be one of your best options. It truly shines in recipes where it replaces diced celery stalks or chopped celery to be cooked in stews and soups.
You can also use celeriac to replace raw celery, but you will need to cut it into extra-thin slices as it is denser and more flavorful than celery.
12) Broccoli Stem
If you’ve used the broccoli’s florets, don’t throw away its stems. Broccoli stems taste a little sweeter and milder than the florets, making their flavor more similar to celery. Plus, they also have a crunchy texture like that of celery.
Broccoli contains less water than celery and is thus more flavorful. So if you’re looking to replace celery with something that has a little more flavor, broccoli might be just what you need. You can replace celery with broccoli stems in soups, stocks, stir-fries, and salads.
If it’s your first time working with broccoli stems, peel the outer layers and cut about an inch from both ends. Then, you can slice them lengthwise to look more similar to celery or cut them however you wish.
If you’ve run out of options, you can replace celery with cabbage as a last resort. It won’t provide a flavor similar to celery, but it has its crunch and is similarly high in water content. Adding a pinch of salt will enhance its flavor, but that won’t fool anyone into thinking it’s celery.
If you need celery’s crunch more than its flavor in a cooked recipe, you can use cabbage instead. It will do well in risottos, stir-fries, some soups, and even salads.
Parsley and celery belong to the same family of plants, and both can be used interchangeably in certain dishes. However, parsley has a bright, peppery taste that’s lighter and stronger than celery and is typically used as an herb.
Parsley looks similar to celery leaf and can be a good substitute for it if you use it as a garnish. Still, you can also use it in cooking. It will add a kick to your dish, so make sure to use less as parsley has a stronger taste than celery.
You can use parsley to substitute celery in some soups, sauces, vegetable dishes, and as a seasoning for ground meat.
Cardoon, also known as artichoke thistle, is a leafy vegetable whose green stalks look very similar to celery stalks. It has a slightly sweet taste similar to celery but doesn't have celery's crunchy texture. After peeling away the skin, what's left of the cardoon stalk is tender.
They may look the same, but cardoon stalks must be carefully trimmed and peeled before eating or cooking, unlike the celery stalk, which you can eat right after washing. Cardoons also take longer to cook than celery.
Since cardoons lack the crispiness of celery, they replace celery best in cooked recipes. This way, the lack of celery’s crunch won’t be as noticeable.
Onions add flavor to dishes and give off a pleasant aroma when cooked. If celery's flavor and aroma take priority over its texture in the recipe, onions can be a good substitute.
Since celery has a mellow taste, most onions have a richer taste than celery. However, some recipes will benefit from the stronger flavor of onions over celery's mild flavor.
You can choose from the many different types of onions to use as a celery substitute. For instance, the green onion has a mild flavor and a crunch that makes it suitable for replacing celery in salads.
Leeks are vegetables that look similar to green onions. They have a mild, sweet flavor similar to celery, but they contain a hint of onions since they belong to the same family.
Despite this mild onionlike flavor, leeks work well as substitutes for celery in soups, stews, stocks, risottos, stir-fries, mirepoix, and the "Holy Trinity."
Here's a quick look at the best celery substitutes mentioned above. Let's get to know them, shall we?
|Bok Choy||Has a similar texture as celery; suitable celery replacement in soups, stews, stir fry, and raw recipes.|
|Fennel Stalk||Has celery’s crunchy texture and a stronger flavor when raw. When cooked, it acquires a taste similar to celery.|
|Jicama||It has celery’s crunch and a mildly sweet, nutty flavor. Best used in raw recipes.|
|Carrot||Provides the crunch and has a mildly sweet but overall different flavor.|
|Celery Seed||A spice that tastes very similar to celery; can be used to replace celery as a seasoning.|
|Celery Salt||A combination of salt and ground celery seeds; can be used in place of celery and salt.|
|Water Chestnut||Has celery’s crunch and a deliciously sweet and nutty flavor. Only use the fresh ones.|
|Green Bell Pepper||Has a mildly sweet, earthy flavor and a little crunch. Best used as a celery substitute for flavor.|
|Cucumber||Not very flavorful but has a crunch similar to that of celery.|
|Green Apple||It has the same crunch as celery but tastes sweeter.|
|Celeriac||It has the crunch of celery and its flavor, albeit more pronounced.|
|Broccoli Stem||Sweeter and milder than the florets, these are similar to celery in texture and flavor.|
|Cabbage||It has a crunchy texture but a different flavor from celery. Cabbage will work in a pinch.|
|Parsley||Can replace celery if it is used as an herb or a garnish.|
|Cardoon||It has a similar slightly sweet flavor as celery but lacks its crunch.|
|Onion||Have a pleasant aroma and often a stronger, richer taste than celery.|
|Leek||They have a mild, sweet flavor and crunch similar to celery but contain a hint of onions.|
No, celery seeds come from wild celery, not the usual kind you see at the grocery store. Wild celery has a stronger flavor than the typical celery.
In stuffing, you can substitute celery with celery seeds, celery salt, fennel stalks, green bell pepper, or carrots if it isn’t already an ingredient.
When replacing celery in stocks, the flavor takes priority over the crunchy texture. So, you can choose from the following when replacing celery in stocks: fennel stalks, celery seeds, green bell pepper, carrots, leeks, cabbage, and bok choy.
If you need to substitute celery in a soup, you can use celeriac, fennel stalks, carrots, or onions. Celeriac stands out as the best celery substitute in soups. However, a combination of carrots and a pinch of celery seeds will also result in a similar texture and flavor to celery.
When using carrots, fennel stalks, or onions to replace celery in soups, swap ½ cup of these chopped vegetables for each stalk of celery needed.
Tuna salad, chicken salad, potato salad, and many other salads often have celery as an ingredient. To replace celery in salads, you will need a similar crunchy texture. Some of the best celery substitutes in salads are green apples, carrots, bok choy, green bell pepper, jicama, cucumber, and cabbage.
Mirepoix, the flavor base often used in French cuisine, comprises carrots, onions, and celery. If you need to substitute celery in mirepoix, you can use fennel stalks, green bell pepper, or the bottom part of bok choy.
Celery is an important ingredient in bolognese as it adds lightness and flavor to the dish. You can choose from bell peppers, bok choy, fennel stalks, onions, and asparagus if you need an alternative.
Replacing celery in a potato salad will require a crunchy substitute. Some of the best options include green apples, green onions, cucumber, water chestnuts, bok choy, and jicama.
Freshwater chestnuts make the perfect substitute for celery in a chicken salad. They have the same crunch and provide a sweet, nutty flavor that blends well with the other ingredients in chicken salad.