What is Celery Seed?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Celery seed is the seed of plant closely related to celery, cultivated specifically for its aromatic, flavorful seeds. It can be found as an ingredient in spice mixes all over the world and is also available plain in whole and ground form. Like other plants in the Apiaceae family, celery seed has a strong celery like flavor and aroma, with a faint hint of spiciness. Most grocers stock it, and it can also be ordered online, although consumers who plan to eat it should make sure to order the food-grade product.

Celery seed is cultivated in India, France and China.
Celery seed is cultivated in India, France and China.

India, China, and France all cultivate celery seed, which appears to have originated in the Middle East. The small, brown, crescent shaped seeds are often included in pickling mixes or added to dressings, soups, breads, and a wide assortment of other foods. They add the unique flavor of celery to foods without the bulk or the undesired crunch of the vegetable. In many cases, it is used whole so that the seeds explode in the mouth when they are bitten into, creating a burst of flavorful volatile oils.

Ground celery seed is used in things like celery salt and other spice mixes. French cuisine often incorporates this spice, as does Cajun cuisine. The ground seed is also available on its own, so that cooks can make their own spice mixes. Like other spices, the ground or whole seeds should be kept in a cool dry place and used within six months for the best flavor. Ideally, cooks should purchase whole seeds, grinding them as needed.

It is possible to grow celery seed at home, in any place where celery will grow. Like celery, it requires a long, cool growing season, with partial sun exposure. The plant is not frost tolerant, and it prefers moist, potassium-rich soil. It also requires periodic fertilization, in the form of compost or manure, along with well drained soil.

These seeds look a lot like cumin seeds, so they can be easily confused. Cooks can avoid mixing them up by become familiar with the scent of both spices, and their slightly different shapes. In addition, labeling spices clearly is always a good idea. Spice labels should include the date that the spice was purchased, so that the cook knows when it may no longer be good.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I hadn't even heard of celery seed until I saw it in the ingredients list of a store bought salad dressing one day. I went and bought some and started making my own salad dressing with it.

You can put it in any salad to add a slightly bitter flavor, especially if you make tangy sauces. My favorite salads to use celery seed is spinach salad potato salad and coleslaw. I think it makes a good pair both with vinegar and mustard.


I used to think celery seed was just the seed that grew the celery plant I am more used to seeing in foods. It's good to know they actually are slightly different.

I also wonder if celery seed would be a way to avoid the stomach problems some people experience from celery, whiccan cause gas in those with irritable bowel syndrome or other stomach problems.


I like to use organic seeds when I'm cooking, so I've been thinking about growing my own. It gets so expensive to keep buying the organic stuff from the store!

Is it okay to start celery seed plants in the house before putting them outside?


I am definitely going to try to start using celery seed in some of my recipes. I have never liked using celery. But it's because of the texture, not the flavor. I am very sensitive to the texture of my food, and cooked celery is just one that I have never been able to tolerate.

Using celery seed as a substitute for regular celery could be the answer to my problem! I'm going to be making a big pot of chicken noodle soup soon, and I think I'll try adding some celery seed to it. Thanks for the info!


My problem with spices is that I occasionally get in the mood to cook, but mostly I'm not interested. When I do cook however, I do like to use different spices. The problem here is that my herbs and spices are usually sitting in the cupboard for a long time, and I rarely get to the end of a bottle.

If it's best to use celery seed within six months to get the best flavor, is there a length of time that you absolutely should not use it after? Does it expire to the point of becoming harmful?

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