Celery seed has a strong earthy taste and is used in many European and Mediterranean dishes. The flavor is similar to that of celery and its leaves, but much stronger. Therefore, only a small amount of celery seeds are needed for any recipe. Although a common ingredient in some soups, breads and dressings, celery seeds are not as commonly used as celery or other herbs or spices. If you find yourself with a recipe calling for celery seeds and have none in the house, substitute with more common items.
Because celery seed is intimately related to the celery plant and its elements, you can use other parts of the plants in place of celery seed in a recipe. Celery stalks have a much lighter flavor than the seeds, so a few stalks should be used in place of a tsp. of celery seeds. Chop celery stalks into soups, stews, salads and other meals calling for celery seeds. This is especially useful for meals that will be cooked, as this will give the celery stalks an opportunity to soften and breakdown into the item. Otherwise the stalk may be too fibrous for items such as dressings.
Finely chop celery leaves, jam-packed with flavor, into fresh dressings and sauces. Use six times as much of the chopped celery leaves as celery seeds. Therefore, if you need 1 tbsp. of celery seed, use 6 tbsp. of celery leaves.
An essential oil made from celery seed can be added to dishes calling for celery seed.
Celery salt is a popular spice found in many cupboards. Celery salt consists of a mixture of celery seeds and salt. Therefore you can use just a bit more celery salt than you would of the seeds to compensate; however, make sure you eliminate a portion of the salt called for in the recipe. The portion you eliminate should be equal to the amount of celery salt you added.
Celery seed is often used in pickling processes, along with dill seed. Dill seed has a similar, complementary flavor. Use an equal amount of dill seed as you would celery seed.
There are some spices that have flavors likened to celery seed. If you happen to have these on hand, you can use them instead of buying celery seed. Caraway seeds, lovage seeds and nigella seeds can be used to flavor dishes in a similar manner as celery seed.
References and ResourcesThe Cook's Thesaurus: European Spices
The Cook's Thesaurus: Global Spices
Recipe Tips: Nigella Seeds