31 Days of Vegetables

Celery: The Best Ways to Pick It, Cook It, and Eat It

updated Jul 25, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn

Ah, the humble stalk of celery: Both hyped and derided as the ultimate diet food, celery is actually a surprisingly valuable player in your pantry’s stockpile. While it might not often play a starring role in a dish, it’s such a fundamental part of many dishes that the French consider it part of their holy trinity, and plenty of dishes just wouldn’t taste the same without it. Here’s everything you need to know — and a few things you may be surprised to learn — about celery.

Is Celery a Vegetable?

Both botanically and culinarily, celery is solidly in the vegetable category. Historically a marshland plant, the entire plant is not only edible, but also delicious. While the stalks are most popular in the west, the roots (called


great pesto. Dried, the leaves are often sold as celery flakes, or celery salt.

The Celery Top 5

Here are five fun reads to help you see why celery’s so great.

  1. Feel like celery just isn’t exciting? Here are six ways to boost your interest.
  2. And let’s talk about the celebrity-inspired celery juice trend: Here’s what you need to know.
  3. Save the base! You can grow more celery from it.
  4. Don’t be afraid of celery root! Here’s how to peel and prepare it.
  5. And here’s why the leaves deserve more of your attention.

How to Choose the Best Celery

Unlike avocados or melons, selecting fresh celery from the store isn’t too difficult. Look for firm stalks that are tightly gathered and bright green, avoiding anything that appears wilted (especially if the leaves are attached), rubbery, or has brown spots. That’s it!

What Are the Nutritional Benefits of Celery?

Celery comes by its reputation as a diet food honestly: Being mostly water, a standard 3.5-ounce serving of raw celery stalks is very low in both calories and nutrients. You can find 16 calories, and 3 grams of carbs. Celery also contains small amounts (between 3 and 9%) of a wide variety of vitamins including A, most B vitamins, C, and E. It contains 28% of your dv of vitamin K, however. That’s the one that helps with bone marrow and with regulating calcium in the blood.

Does Celery Have Negative Calories?

For many years weight-loss groups would claim that certain foods — celery chief among them — were so low in calories as to actually have negative calories. This meant that the actual work involved in chewing and digesting them burned more calories than the food itself offered. However, the idea of negative calories in food has, for the most part, been thoroughly debunked. So while you won’t get many calories from munching on raw celery, you will get some.

How Much Fiber Is in Celery?

Celery may be touted for its fiber content, but it actually lags behind a lot of other veggies and grains. Although you’ll find about 1.6 grams of fiber (or 6% of your dv) in a standard 3.5-ounce serving of raw celery, most legumes such as beans, peas, or lentils have far more per serving. And veggies or fruit like apples, raspberries, collard greens, and artichokes are all higher in fiber.

The Best Ways to Cook Celery

Make a mirepoix! This is the base of many soups and a bunch of French recipes, and it consists primarily of a 2-1-1 ratio of diced onions, carrots, and celery. Simply start sautéing that in butter or oil, and voilà! You’re halfway to a stock, a meatloaf, a quick soup, or more.

Celery is also great raw. You can’t make chicken salad without it, but we also like it in a more summery salad, and of course braised in a skillet, or slow-cooked into a hearty soup.

How to Store Celery

The best way to store celery depends on whether or not it’s whole, or already chopped. If it’s whole, believe it or not, you’re best bet is getting rid of the plastic bag and wrapping it in aluminum foil, then putting it in the fridge. If it’s chopped, it’ll keep from drying out if it’s submerged in water, in a jar or container.

Can You Freeze Celery?

If you have more celery than you’re going to use right away, you can chop it up and freeze it, along with onions and carrots to make a handy ready-to-use mirepoix. (You can even buy this ready-made at the store.) We do recommend blanching it first to help it stay crisp and tasty. Here’s why. Whole celery can also be frozen, but when thawed, it won’t be crispy, and will only be useful in soups or stews, so we don’t recommend it.

Can Dogs Eat Celery?

According to the American Kennel Club, dogs can, in fact, eat celery! While it doesn’t provide a lot of necessary nutrition, it can be a tasty treat, and some dog owners use it to help keep their pet’s breath fresh. Whenever introducing a new food to a diet, however, it’s best to check with your family veterinarian first.

Is Celery Keto?

Many vegetables are high in net carbs, which makes getting (or remaining) in ketogenesis (the state where your body burns fat instead of carbohydrates) difficult, if you eat them. Celery, however, is low enough in calories, and high enough in fiber, that it’s not a problem. That’s why many keto-dieting books and sites recommend celery. We’ve even used it in our keto-friendly lunch ideas.

No Fresh Celery? Here’s What to Substitute.

If you don’t have fresh celery on hand, but want to add a little of that vegetal flavor to a soup, sandwich, stock, or other dish, you’re in luck! Just keep a jar of celery seed on hand, and you’ll have access to all the flavor you want. In fact, one of our writers even prefers it to fresh celery.

If you’re looking, instead, to bulk up a chicken salad, fill out a soup, or switch up your crudité staples, then look for other crunchy greens: Cucumber, zucchini, or broccoli can all do in a pinch, but possibly the best substitute is fennel stalks.

The Best Ways to Use Up Leftover Celery

Make ants on a log! Just smear some peanut butter or cream cheese inside the celery’s hollow, and then load it up with raisins, blueberries, or other dried fruit or seeds.

If you’ve still got extra celery on hand, here are eight interesting ways to use it up from around the web, including a slaw, a frozen sweet granita, and a cocktail!

Our Top 5 Celery Recipes

What’s your favorite recipe or use for celery? Any favorite way to cook it?

31 Days of Vegetables: How to fall in love with vegetables in 31 days. How many of these splendid veg have you eaten this month? Take a look at the whole list and take our July challenge to eat every single one!