How To Use Up Celery

Celery Heads in the Market

Celery in the Market

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Celery is one of those vegetables that you can always find in your refrigerator— when it is too late. Delicious when fresh, if not stored properly it wilts quickly and loses flavor. And you have to buy a whole head, even if you are one person. Fortunately, celery is flexible and cooked or raw, adds flavor and vitamins to many different recipes.

Celery has grooves and leaves where dirt, sand and insects collect, and must be cleaned carefully. That’s another reason it often lies neglected in the vegetable bin.

Some experts say that you can store celery for up to a month, wrapping it in aluminum foil. But I find that with good planning, I can use up a fresh head of celery within a week. My methods will work for smaller families, but sometimes it’s best sense to share with a friend.

Choose a celery head with green stalks and bright green leaves.  Once leaves begin to lose color, they lose flavor. It should also feel heavy. Older celery weighs less because it has lost most of its moisture, and the stalks splay out. Examine some internal stalks for black, brown, soft spots, or holes from insect infestation. Don’t confuse celery with celery root or celeriac, a tasty but dirty knob-shaped vegetable. Celery seed is sold as a spice.

Prepare fresh celery as soon as you can. Having cleaned and cut celery on hand increases the chance that you will use it. Celery dries out quickly, and washing will remove any insects that are also interested in your produce.

Cut off and discard a thin layer from the bottom of the celery. Separate the stalks, working your way from the outside toward the smallest, palest stalks in the center. These are delicious fresh.

Soak stalks in water for a few minutes to loosen the dirt. Then use a vegetable brush, paying attention to the ridges of the bottom of the stalks, and the base of the smaller branches at the time. Look for signs of insect infestation, like holes in the leaves  or indentations on the inner curves of the stalks. Cut away the damaged part of the celery and look out for webbing or black spots in the rest of the celery.

Once the celery is clean, you can use it in your recipe. If you want to store it in the refrigerator, shake off as much water as you can from the stalks and leaves. then dry carefully by laying the stalks in a single layer on a towel on your counter or table. Celery leaves are dense and take a while to dry, so turn them over occasionally and replae with a dry towel if necessary. Keep the dry celery parts in a closed container, bag, or jar along with a cloth to soak up excess moisture.

To freeze fresh celery for cooking, lay damp leaves or stalks next to each other, but not touching, on a flat cookie sheet. Place the cookie sheet uncovered into the freezer. After a few hours when the celery has frozen, put the pieces into a bag or container and keep in the freezer. When you are making a soup or stew, remove as much as you need. Even the green leaves will have the flavor of fresh.

Here are more ideas for celery:

  • Soups. Celery leaves add color, flavor, and vitamins to soup and is classic in chicken, lentil, split pea, vegetable, and almost any other kind. Add leaves and stalks in big chunks, chop and saute along with onions at the beginning of the recipe, or slice and add near the end.
  • Raw. Stuff stalks with peanut butter or soft cheese. Cut up stalks for salad. Waldorf salad contains apples, celery, walnuts and mayonnaise.
  • Sauté chopped celery stalks and leaves along with onions for a start of just about any casserole. If you have extra, save the raw or cooked chopped vegetables in the refrigerator or freezer for As long as you are doing it, make extra that you can add to another recipe. Store in the refrigerator for a few days, or freeze if you won’t need it until later.
  • Chop celery into batter for quiche, vegetable patties, stews, or hamburgers.
  • Store raw for later. If you find you can’t use it all up right away, be sure it is completely dry and put it in a reusable container in the refrigerator. A small absorbent clean rag (instead of a paper towel) can soak up any moisture that acumulates that could add to spoilage.

 If you enjoyed this post you may also like:

Save Money by Eating Less Meat and More Vegetable Protein

Seven Ways to Use Up Leftover Bread

Don’t Bite the Bugs: Avoiding Insect Infestation

Photo Credit: JM Rosenfeld


  1. We use celery all the time in soups. I also put diced celery in with the tuna and mayonnaise. Makes it go further, tastes crunchy and when I make several cans at one time, it last just fine in the refrigerator for a couple of days.

    When the celery comes home, I immediately cut off the leaves. Then I put the celery, as yet unwashed, into a closed tight plastic bag. I pull off the stalks as needed and then wash them. I sometimes have two of three heads sitting in the fridge at one time. Can last even up to a month that way.

  2. Ilana-Davita says

    Celery is one of those vegetables that you can always find in your refrigerator
    Funny this seems very British, maybe also very American. I only buy celery when a recipe calls for it, not as a regular item like tomatoes or cucumbers.

  3. Great post, very informative! I had never thought of freezing celery. I’ll have to do it.

  4. Elisabeth says

    I love celery in stir fries. For some reason, stir frying brings out its flavor even more.
    Don’t forget, you can also dip them in hummus.

  5. Celery is the only vegetable that I don’t like. Go figure

  6. I can say that fresh ginger freezes great! I buy a big root and put in the the freezer and slice off a piece whenever I want to cook with it. Basil also freezes well.

  7. Celery is also a great addition to chicken salad, which – in turn – is a great way to use up cooked chicken from soup.

  8. I-D,
    Who knew?

  9. Elisabeth, I agree about stir-fry, and often use the last of the head for that.

  10. Ariela, you’re entitled to dislike at least one. THanks for sharing the ginger tip.

  11. Mrs. S.
    I haven’t made chicken salad very much. What else do you put in it?

  12. Mrs Belogski says

    my kids and i love celery, but my husband won’t touch it with a barge pole. I tend to cheat and buy the ready to eat sticks, which i just eat straight out of the packet, or put on the table at supper time, at the other end of the table from my husband! also good in modified waldorf – with 2 out of chopped apple, orange and pineapple. The juice from the fruit means you don’t need a dressing, but the children do tend to pick out the fruit and leave the celery behind for me.

  13. I usually keep it fairly simple. In addition to the cut up cooked chicken and chopped celery, I add generous amounts of mayo, black pepper, and garlic powder. Upon occasion, I’ve added some chopped herbs (e.g. parsley), but my kids don’t really like it that way. Also, in the winter months, I serve it with clementine segments. They make a nice contrast in terms of color and flavor. (I got that idea from the JPost.)

  14. I’m coming in very late so I don’t know how many people will see this, but whenever I buy a head of celery I trim and wash it all and then stand it up in a container of water in the refrigerator. As long as you’re careful not to knock it over it will keep MUCH longer that way, as the constant supply of water keeps the stems fresh and crisp. Check the water occasionally and add more if it’s gotten too low.

    PS Celery spread with peanut butter makes a great healthy snack alternative that even fairly young children can prepare for themselves.



  17. its the first time I bought celery so thanks for telling how to clean and store it
    I think I`m going to be as big celery lover!!
    Hope the kilo`s would love it too!!