Celery salt is a versatile savoury seasoned salt. It is readily available in most grocery stores. But, if you find yourself in a pinch and in need of a quick celery salt substitute, or if you wish to make homemade celery salt without preservatives, then I’ve got your back!
This post includes instructions for quick celery salt made with celery seeds and homemade celery salt with fresh celery leaves. It highlights ready-to-use alternatives to celery salt and covers the best substitutes for celery seeds.
I also include instructions on storing homemade celery salt and how to use it. It’s your one-stop celery salt substitute shop!
What is celery salt?
Celery salt is a seasoning made with table salt and dried celery leaves or ground celery seeds (or lovage seeds).
Like table salt, many commercially produced celery salts contain anti-caking agents. It can also have sodium nitrate as a preservative to prevent spoilage. Food producers can therefore list celery salt (with sodium nitrate) as an ingredient without specifying sodium nitrate, effectively using celery salt as the preservative.
What does celery salt taste like?
As the name suggests, celery salt is salty with a celery-like flavour from ground celery leaves or seeds. The initial taste is only of salt, but the celery becomes more prominent in the aftertaste. The flavour is grassy and distinctively celery, yet mild, with a slightly bitter taste.
Celery salt made from seeds has a stronger herbaceous flavour and more intense bitter notes than the version made with dried celery leaves.
Chances are you’ve tasted celery salt without knowing it. It is one of the main ingredients in the iconic Old Bay Seasoning and is suspected to be part of KFC’s secret spice mix.
The perfect substitute for celery salt
The best homemade celery salt contains salt and some form of celery (either whole seeds or dried leaves). Using whole celery seeds is the easiest way to create a great substitute for shop-bought celery salt in no time.
But if you have the time (or an abundance of celery leaves), I also add instructions for homemade celery salt with dried celery leaves.
How to make celery salt with celery seeds
Place one tablespoon of celery seeds in a spice grinder, coffee grinder, or mortar and pestle. Grind the celery seeds until fine.
Add two parts salt for every part ground celery seeds. So, if you have one tablespoon of celery seeds, add two tablespoons of salt. I use sea salt, dessert salt or kosher salt. But if you prefer table salt, you can use that.
If you have coarse salt, add it to the ground celery seeds and grind until fine. Or, for fine salt, simply mix the salt into the ground celery seeds.
How to make celery salt with dehydrated celery leaves
Grab a bunch of fresh celery stalks with leaves. And pick the individual celery leaves from the celery stalks.
Rinse the celery leaves and shake off as much water as possible. Pat them dry with a clean kitchen towel.
Arrange the leaves in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 180 °C (350 °F) until the leaves are dehydrated and crispy – but not brown. It should take about five to seven minutes (in my conventional non-fan oven, 6 minutes seem to be the magic number).
Remove the leaves from the oven and allow them to cool completely. They will continue to crisp up as they cool down.
Then, use your fingers to crumble the leaves. Only use the crispy leaves.
You can return limp leaves to the oven for an extra two minutes to crisp up. Or reserve the limp leaves for homemade stock or soup. Discard any twiggy bits that don’t crumble finely.
For fine celery salt, place equal parts crushed celery leaves and salt in a grinder or mortar and pestle, so use one tablespoon of salt for one tablespoon of dried leaves. Grind it into a fine powder.
Or, if you prefer a coarser celery salt, combine the crushed celery leaves with flaky salt in a jar and shake to distribute the crushed celery leaves evenly.
Celery seed substitutes
If you’re in a pinch and don’t have celery seeds, you can make a seasoned salt similar to celery salt.
None of these herbs and seeds will be an exact match for celery seeds. Celery seeds have a very unique taste. These common herbs and spices have different flavour profiles compared to celery seeds.
That said, these celery seed substitutes make seasoned salts you can use as you would celery salt.
Follow the instructions for making celery salt with celery seeds, but substitute the one tablespoon of celery seeds with a tablespoon of:
- nigella seeds,
- dill seeds,
- fennel seeds,
- caraway seeds,
- coriander seeds,
- one star anise pod,
- dried parsley or
- dill weed (dried dill leaves).
How to store homemade celery salt or celery salt substitute
Whether you made celery salt with celery seeds, a celery seed alternative or dehydrated celery leaves, you should store it in an airtight container.
Ground spices lose their potency over time, so it is best to use any homemade spice mix within 30 days. But you can keep it for up to one year without fear of it going off. The taste will just get less intense.
More celery salt alternatives
If none of the above celery salt substitutes fit your celery salt needs, there are still a few ready-to-use alternatives you can try.
Perhaps the most straightforward celery salt alternative is to use regular salt. It lacks the herbaceous celery-like aftertaste, but it is a good substitute if you are in a pinch.
You can make dill salt from dill seeds or dill weed with the instructions for making celery salt. But dill salt is also available ready-made in grocery stores. So, if you already have dill salt at home, this will be your best substitute.
Garlic salt has a much stronger taste than mild celery salt. And it lacks the herbaceous flavour of celery salt, but it is a great way to boost the flavour of dips and salad dressings that call for celery salt.
Not quite as intense as garlic salt, onion salt has a sweeter taste. And it lacks the celery-like herbaceousness of celery salt. But, like celery salt, onion salt is delicious when sprinkled on popcorn and roast potatoes.
What is celery salt used for?
Celery salt is a versatile pantry staple that adds flavour to dishes without overpowering them. It is most common in savoury dishes.
Elevate cold salads
Replace regular salt with celery salt in cold salads like potato salad, egg salad or tuna salad for a savoury flavour boost. Try this herbed potato salad recipe.
Chicago-style hot dogs
A Chicago-style hot dog is an all-beef frankfurter in a poppy seed hot dog bun from Chicago, Illinois. It has many toppings, including yellow mustard, chopped white onions, sweet pickle relish, a dill pickle spear, fresh tomato slices, pickled peppers and a dash of celery salt.
Give your next batch of loaded fries a Chicago-style treatment and sprinkle it with a dash of celery salt!
Add a subtle celery flavour to salad dressings with celery salt instead of regular salt.
For a celery salt salad dressing, combine one teaspoon of celery salt with one teaspoon of mustard powder, one tablespoon of honey, one tablespoon of finely diced shallots, ¼ cup of vinegar, and ½ cup of extra virgin olive oil. Shake in a jar or whisk well to combine. Or half the vinegar and add two tablespoons of finely chopped preserved lemon. Taste and adjust the acidity and celery salt to suit your salad.
Add celery salt to meat rubs and other spice blends.
For a quick Old Bay substitute, mix one teaspoon celery salt with one teaspoon paprika and half a teaspoon of ground black pepper. See my Old Bay substitute post for a more intricate spice mix.
A classic Bloody Mary (or Bloody Caesar) cocktail is not complete without a celery-salt-dusted rim.
To dust the rim of your cocktail glass with celery salt, first wet the rim of the glass with water. Then sprinkle celery salt in a bowl and roll the glass around the celery salt until the edge has an even coating of celery salt.
Homemade Celery Salt
- Spice grinder – or coffee grinder or mortar and pestle.
- 1 tablespoon celery seeds (or fresh celery leaves)
- 2 tablespoons sea salt
- Place the celery seeds in a spice grinder and blitz until very fine. Or use a mortar and pestle.
- If your salt is coarse, add it to the ground celery seeds and continue grinding until well combined. Or, if you have fine sea salt, simply combine it with the ground celery seeds.
- The celery salt is ready for use – the fresher, the better. But you can also store it in a sealed container for up to one year.
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