Celery is a vegetable that's common to most grocery stores, with a distinct taste and crispness that adds character to many different dishes. Celery is also a common snack food, especially among people looking to shed some weight. Finding an appropriate substitute for celery can be challenging, as the combination of flavor and texture is nearly impossible to match, but alternatives are out there if you're willing to look.
If your cooking instructions call for celery in a certain form or amount, it's useful to know what that translates to in whole form. Then, you'll know if you have enough on hand or how much to pick up if you have to make a trip to the store. One bunch of celery that you'd find at the store equals about 2 cups of celery after it has been chopped up into bite-sized pieces. One cup of chopped or sliced celery is roughly 2 to 3 medium ribs, and one rib will give you about 1/2 cup of sliced celery.
Substituting for Texture
The crisp texture that celery is known for is one of the main features desired when it's used for snacking or raw in salads, and it adds characters to cooked dishes where it is used in a longer list of ingredients. Cutting fennel bulbs into smaller, bite-sized pieces makes a decent texture substitution, and while the flavor is different than celery, it is still distinct. Rhubarb would work well for texture alone, but the bitterness would prevent you from using it as an alternative in any specific dish. Typically, rhubarb is dipped in sugar when eaten as a snack to balance the bitterness. Bok choy also has a similar texture, and it can handle a long, slow cooking process and remain intact.
Substituting for Taste
Trying to substitute for the flavor of celery is pretty much an exercise in futility, as the taste of celery is quite distinct. If you want to create a celery flavor in a soup or stew and you don't have any celery, you can add some celery seed. It doesn't take very much to create a bold celery flavor, so it's wise to use it sparingly if you don't have any celery to add. Sometimes, celery seed is called celery powder when you buy it in the supermarket.
Selection and Storage
Even though it is available all-year round in the supermarket, it's still important to look for celery stalks that are tightly formed and firm with leaves that look fresh. Celery that is darker green in color will have a stronger celery taste, and it will usually keep for up to two weeks in the crisper in your refrigerator. Store the celery with the stalks attached to the base until you are ready to use it, then break them off one at a time or cut them all free from the base with a sharp knife.