If you’ve ever wondered what those knobby, brown roots in the produce section are, this guide on celery root will answer all the questions you ever had and more.
One of the most unappreciated winter root vegetables is the humble celery root. It’s not very pretty, but it deserves a bit more attention because beneath the ugly exterior, a whole lot of flavor awaits the home cook willing to give it a try.
It’s become a popular ingredient in my winter kitchen, and it seemed high time I shared a little more about it. It’s something I hope to encourage my fellow seasonal cooks to try and this guide will help you feel confident about bringing them home.
What is Celery Root?
Celery root, also commonly known as celeriac or knob celery, is a starchy root vegetable that sprouts stalks and leaves very similar to celery. But, it’s not the same plant. It’s a variety of celery, but the stalks of celeriac are much more strongly flavored and fibrous (though they’re great for stocks in moderation).
Like most roots, such as turnips or parsnips, they come into their peak season in late fall and are available for us to enjoy throughout the winter. When kept dry and cool, either in the fridge or a root cellar, they keep for weeks.
It’s interesting that it’s fallen into unpopularity in recent years, because celery root has been around throughout much of human history. Its use has been noted in texts dating way back to the Middle Ages and across ancient Egypt and Greece.
Today it’s still an important ingredient in European countries, particularly in German, Scandinavian, and French cooking.
What does Celery Root Taste Like?
The white flesh that hides under the knobby, hairy exterior contains a good deal of delicious flavor. The texture is light and fresh, with notes of earthy nuttiness and a subtle hint of celery.
You can think of it like a potato, but with the delicate freshness of crisp celery stalks mixed in.
Is Celery Root Good For you?
Yes! In addition to the pleasant flavor, using celeriac in your cooking adds easy nutrients to your meal. They’re lower in carbs and calories than potatoes and even work as an easy swap in most recipes.
They’re also high in dietary fiber, vitamins B and C, and especially vitamin K, which is important for blood clotting and bone metabolism. Celery root also contains magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, potassium, and other minerals and antioxidants.
Where to Buy Celery Root?
The first step is looking at the right time of year. They’re often available (and will taste best) when purchased from fall through winter.
Most grocery stores will carry them at that time, though they may be hiding in a small bin if they’re not popular in your region. They can also be found at farmer’s markets and especially in CSA boxes from local farms during the cold months.
How To Pick the Perfect Root
To maximize the flavor you can enjoy from celeriac, it helps to know how to choose one. They should be firm without any soft spots, and feel heavy for their size.
It’s tempting to choose the largest ones, but often those are more watery than flavorful. Avoid tiny ones too. By the time you’ve peeled them, there won’t be much left to enjoy. Aim for roots that are about 1-1.5 pounds, or the size of a large orange.
What to Do with Celery Root?
But in addition to the traditional roasting, baking, and pureeing (it’s also AMAZING in soups and stews), you can actually enjoy it raw as well. Thin slices, coarse shreds, or fine dices of celeriac have a crisp, light flavor. They pair naturally with other winter roots like carrots, strong herbs like thyme and tarragon, and seasonal fruits like pear or apple.
You can check out my fresh celery apple salad for a perfect example of how tasty it can be raw! But, perhaps the most classic raw form is in the French remoulade. It highlights grated fresh celery root tossed with mayonnaise, lemon, and Dijon. You can find the recipe for it below.
Truthfully, once you try your first celery root, no matter how you prepare it, I firmly believe you’ll have found a new favorite root veggie. I love to use it in place of cooked potatoes and as a lovely fresh addition to salads. I hope this guide helps you feel eager and confident in choosing a good one the next time you see them at the market.
Celery Root Remoulade
- 1 celery root (about1 1/3 lb or 600g)
- 1/2 lemon
- ¼ cup mayonnaise
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- salt and black pepper , to taste
- Peel and grate the celery root coarsely (alternatively cut into matchsticks /julienne). Place in a large bowl and sprinkle with lemon juice from 1/2 lemon to prevent browning.
- In a small bowl, mix the mayonnaise and mustard. Incorporate the dressing into the celery. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.