Tiny and absolutely packed with flavor, celery seeds are a wonderful way to get the unique flavor of celery into your dish without changing the texture or volume of what you're cooking (which is what happens when you use the plant's stalks, ribs or leaves). For this reason, celery seeds are often an ingredient in pickling recipes, salads, soups and stews. They're also a common ingredient in certain Southeastern Asian dishes.
Although it's not the most common spice around, you can find celery seeds in just about any grocery store or market with a spice section, as well as in online spice and bulk goods stores. However, if you find yourself without celery seeds, and with no good or easy way to procure them for your dish, don't worry. It's very likely that you have a reasonable celery seed replacement in your fridge, pantry or spice rack.
Celery Seed Substitute 1: Celery Ribs and/or Leaves
Celery ribs, leaves and seeds all have the same, very familiar aroma, so adding ribs and leaves to your dish instead of seeds is a good celery seed substitute choice. But since celery seeds have a much more concentrated flavor, you have to use more chopped celery to make up the difference. For every 1 tablespoon of celery seeds, use 6 tablespoons of celery ribs and leaves.
This is not a good celery seed substitution if a large volume of added celery will change the texture or volume of your dish too much. To minimize the difference, chop your celery very finely, or run it through your food processor.
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Celery Seed Substitute 2: Celery Salt
Another great option is celery salt, which is a simple mixture of ground celery seeds and sodium. This will add the needed celery flavor to your dish without the increased volume that comes with celery ribs or leaves. However, note that you also will be adding more salt to your dish, so cut back on the sodium elsewhere in your recipe, or you'll have an over-seasoned dish.
For every 1 tablespoon of celery seeds called for, added a tablespoon, plus a bit more, of celery salt. Again, just be sure to cut some salt out of the dish elsewhere!
Celery Seed Substitute 3: Celery Flakes
Do you see a trend here? Dried celery flakes are made from celery leaves and have an intense celery flavor. Replacing celery seeds with celery flakes might change the appearance of a dish, but not its taste.
Celery flakes are more concentrated in flavor than fresh celery, but less potent than celery seeds. For every 1 tablespoon of celery seeds called for, add 3 tablespoons of celery flakes.
Celery Seed Substitute 4: Dill Seeds or Fresh Dill
Another small seed that comes from a common spice, dill seeds share a number of characteristics with celery seeds. And although they certainly taste different from each other, they share a somewhat similar flavor profile. If you don't have any of the suggested ingredients, or if you're pickling something, dill seeds are a good replacement option – especially because the replacement ratio is a very easy 1:1.
Fresh dill is also a reasonable option – it will give your dish the similar fresh, bright taste of celery. Just be sure to add more fresh dill than you would dill seeds. Try doubling the amount.
Celery Seed Substitute 5: Caraway Seeds
Caraway seeds are another celery seed replacement to use in a pinch. Use the same amount of caraway seeds as celery seeds in your dish to get the same strong punch of texture and flavor – even though the flavor profiles of the two seeds are quite different. This is an especially good replacement if you're making cole slaw or potato salad that calls for celery seeds, but it doesn't work quite as well if you're pickling something. Also, be aware that caraway seeds have a strong, distinct anise flavor that some diners love, but that others strongly dislike.
Sarah Aswell is a freelance writer living in Montana.