Best Substitutes For Celery Seed

Celery seed is an unusual spice commonly used for pickling and canning. However, celery seed is excellent in salads and sauces, so what do you do if you have a recipe that requires celery seed, but you don’t have any? What are good substitutes for celery seed?

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The best substitutes for celery seeds are other celery products, including fresh, powdered, or flaked celery and celery salt. Spices like dill, caraway, coriander, fennel, and Nigella seeds make suitable substitutes, while fresh parsley and lovage can also work.

You’re probably most familiar with celery seed as an ingredient for sauerkraut, but this versatile and understated spice has many uses. Choose a variation from the celery family or another warm, aromatic spice to mimic its flavor.

The Best Substitutes For Celery Seed

Because celery seed is not a particularly common spice outside of the pickling recipe book, it’s handy to see what this ingredient is and what you can use it for before looking at the best substitutes.

What Is Celery Seed?

Actually the tiny fruit of the wild celery plant, celery seed is a dried spice known for its warmth and crunch. These little brown “seeds” are available in either whole or ground form.

Celery seeds offer a robust flavor in a small package — the size of poppy seeds, they encapsulate the essence of celery, earthy, grassy, and astringent. If used gently, celery seed is a background spice, adding to the layers of flavor. Used with a heavier hand, this spice becomes bitter, somewhat like an oniony or mustardy version of celery, without the fibrous stringiness.

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This spice is an essential ingredient of many pickles, especially pickled cabbage, better known as sauerkraut. They pair well with coleslaw and potato salad and are critical for homemade ketchup and barbeque sauce. Their heat makes them an ideal component in a spicy dry rub or wet brine for chicken or meat, as well as a tasty salad dressing.

For the best flavor substitutes, choose a product from the celery family, either dried, flaked, powdered or fresh celery.

Celery Salt

salt with celery and a wooden spoon on a ceramic bowl
  • Best for: Dry rubs, brines, sauces, stews, soups, salads
  • Substitution ratio: 1 teaspoon celery seed = 2 teaspoons celery salt

The best substitute for celery seed in recipes where you’re looking for the flavor of celery seed is celery salt, which contains ground celery seed (as well as salt and anti-caking agents).

On the one hand, celery salt is a fantastic substitute as you’ll get the exact flavor of celery seed if you use enough of it. On the other hand, celery salt will add salt to your dish, so take care not to add too much additional salt, or your food will become unpalatable. 

As a rule of thumb, use twice as much celery salt as you would celery seed, but be cautious in adding it and taste as you go, especially before adding any salt the recipe requires.

If you’re not familiar with celery seed, try celery salt as a gateway spice. Celery salt is a worthwhile addition to your spice cupboard because it’s a highly versatile seasoning. Use it liberally to edge the glass for Saturday morning’s Bloody Mary, or scatter over popcorn, corn on the cob, French fries, eggs, chicken, or sausages. 

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Celery Powder

  • Best for: Dry rubs, brines, sauces, stews, soups
  • Substitution ratio: 1 teaspoon celery seed = 3 teaspoons celery powder

Celery powder is an unusual spice in that it comes from either dried and powdered celery stalk, leaves, or root or crushed seeds. Either way, this spice is an ideal substitute for that typical celery flavor.

Use celery powder when you use crushed celery seeds, such as in a dry rub for the barbeque or to add a punch of concentrated celery flavor to a sauce or stew. Because the spice is powdered, you won’t get the crunchy texture.

Celery seed is more powerful and bitter than celery seed made from celery, so you will need to use a lot more to get the same level of flavor.

Celery Flakes

  • Best for: Dry rubs, brines, sauces, stews, soups
  • Substitution ratio: 1 teaspoon celery seed = 3 teaspoons celery flakes

Celery flakes are the dried and finely chopped leaves and stalks of the domesticated celery plant and an ideal flavor replacement for celery seeds.

Although the flakes won’t give you the crunch of seeds, they rehydrate and provide some texture.

However, as with powdered celery, you will have to use three times as much flaked celery to get the same flavor punch.

Fresh Celery

fresh celery on plate and on a table
  • Best for: Dressings, sauces, stews, soups, salads
  • Substitution ratio: 1 teaspoon celery seed = 6 teaspoons diced celery 

If you are looking for celery flavor from the celery seeds, rather than a textural match, go to the original plant: fresh celery always adds a bright, herbaceous note to any dish.

Celery seed has a much more concentrated celery flavor than the stalks and leaves of the domesticated celery plant, so you’ll have to use a lot (six times) more to get the same flavor intensity.

You’ll also get a completely different texture. Instead of the mild crunch of the seeds, celery provides bulk and fiber, so you’ll need to dice it very finely. However, this consistency is appealing in stews and soups, so it will be advantageous.

Fresh celery also provides additional color, so it is a good choice for adding to salad dressings, soups, and stews.

The Best Spices To Substitute For Celery Seed

If you can’t find any celery seed, raid your spice cupboard for another aromatic spice – there are several seeds, whole, and ground, that can be excellent substitutes.

Caraway Seeds

spoon of caraway seeds on wooden cutting board - full frame
  • Best for: Pickles, salads, brines
  • Substitution ratio: 1 teaspoon celery seed = 1 teaspoon caraway seed

Caraway seeds are tiny, brown seeds with an intensely sweet aroma and a warm, lemony anise flavor. Even smaller than celery seeds, they deliver a powerfully rich taste and work well in both sweet and savory recipes.

As a substitute for celery seed, caraway seeds are ideal in pickles, as well as in coleslaw, pasta, and potato salads. They provide both the crisp crunch and concentrated depth of flavor that celery seed offers, although the taste is not identical.

Dill Seeds

Dill seeds
  • Best for: Pickles, dressings, brines, cabbage dishes
  • Substitution ratio: 1 teaspoon celery seed = 1 teaspoon dill seed

Also part of the pickling canon, dill seeds are tiny, flat oval seeds with the characteristic licorice flavor of the dill plant.

Dill seeds are an excellent substitute for celery seeds if you make pickles of any kind or salad dressings. Although their flavor is not the same, dill and celery are intense and aromatic, offering a crunchy mouthfeel. 

Use dill seeds in equal quantities to celery seeds in any recipe calling for celery seed.

Fennel Seeds

fennel
  • Best for: Pickles, brines, dry rubs, sauces, curries
  • Substitution ratio: 1 teaspoon celery seed = 1 teaspoon fennel seed

With a strong anise flavor like dill, fennel seeds are an excellent substitute for celery seed if you want texture and full-bodied taste.

As a celery seed substitute, fennel won’t match the grassiness of celery but has a sweet aromatic warmth that enhances flavors in the same way as celery seed does.

Use fennel seed in equal quantities to celery seed, especially when you’re cooking Italian food, where you’ll find this flavor commonly — pasta sauces or meat sauces are a great match.

Coriander Seeds

Close up of dried coriander seeds
  • Best for: Dry rubs, brines, soups, stews, curries
  • Substitution ratio: 1 teaspoon celery seed = 1 teaspoon coriander seed

Another spice substitute for celery seed is coriander seed (not the fresh herb, which tastes quite different). Coriander seeds are round, ribbed and brown, slightly larger than celery seeds, and can add flavor to a variety of dishes. 

Coriander seeds’ flavor is unusual, ranging from peppery to citrus, with hints of cloves and cardamom. They make an excellent substitute for celery seed because of the intensity of flavor, not necessarily because of the similarity. However, they will add the same crunch and aromatic warmth as celery seed.

Use coriander in equal quantities if you’re looking for general spiciness, especially in dry rubs for barbeque and as a flavor layer in soups and stews.

Mustard Seed

Yellow mustard seeds in bowl. Top view.
  • Best for: Dry rubs, brines, pickles
  • Substitution ratio: 1 teaspoon celery seed = 1/2 teaspoon mustard seed

Mustard seed is usually ground and made into a mustard. However, as a substitute for celery seed, mustard seeds (either white or yellow) can offer the heat and astringency needed.

Mustard seed is sweet, spicy, and savory, so you’ll need to use less of it than of celery seed. Toast mustard seed in a bit of butter or oil in a frying pan to release the flavor and aroma.

Nigella Seeds

Nigella seeds with wooden scoop in a bowl
  • Best for: Dry rubs, brines, curries, dressings
  • Substitution ratio: 1 teaspoon celery seed = 1 teaspoon Nigella seed

Common in Indian and Asian cuisine, Nigella, kalonji, or black cumin seeds are another spicy substitute for celery seeds. 

Kalonji seeds are tiny black seeds with a hot, slightly nutty, and bitter flavor similar to caraway seeds or onions. They make a brilliant flavor enhancer and delightful topping for salads or sprinkled over other dishes.

Use these unusual seeds in equal quantities to celery seeds, especially if you like a little bitterness in your dish.

Like mustard, toast Nigella seeds before using in other dishes.

The Best Herbs To Substitute For Celery Seed

Because of its fresh, floral flavor, celery seed can taste more like a herb than a spice. It therefore makes sense to use fresh herbs as a celery seed substitute if you don’t have any suitable spices around.

Lovage

bunch of young lovage on a green grass in spring time
  • Best for: Dressings, sauces, stews, soups, salads
  • Substitution ratio: 1 teaspoon celery seed = 1 teaspoon dried lovage or 4 teaspoons fresh lovage

Lovage, sometimes called wild celery, is a bold, bright herb with a celery-like taste but a spicier hit. Chefs will use lovage as a substitute for fresh celery, so it could also replace celery seed.

Instead of the grassiness of celery, lovage has hints of anise and lemon, which reminds one of fennel rather than celery. This interesting flavor makes lovage a great substitute in dressings, sauces, and salads.

You can use dried or fresh lovage, both of which are pretty potent. Use equal amounts of dried lovage as you would celery seed, or three to four times as much minced fresh lovage.

Texturally, lovage won’t give you the same crunch as celery seed, but it’s a good option if you were going to use ground celery seed.

Parsley

Composition of a bunch of parsley plant on soil
  • Best for: Dressings, sauces, stews, soups, salads
  • Substitution ratio: 1 teaspoon celery seed = 2 teaspoons dried parsley or 4-6 teaspoons fresh parsley

Another herb that makes a good celery seed substitute is parsley. Because it is so freely available, fresh parsley is a convenient substitute.

Parsley offers the same grassy freshness as celery but is not an authentic flavor and texture match for celery salt. Use it when you need a bright flavor and color to lift a dressing or soup or top a salad. 

Because parsley can have a more subtle flavor than celery seed, you’ll need to use a lot more of it, both in fresh and dried form.

So, What Are The Best Substitutes For Celery Seed?

Celery seed is an unusual spice, but it is well worth using it beyond pickling and sauerkraut. If you can’t find celery seed, use another version of celery for a similar flavor. However, spices like caraway, dill, mustard, coriander, fennel, or Nigella seeds are the best substitutes if you want to imitate the crunch and aromatic warmth of celery seed.