Often confused for one another celery and lovage are closely related and offer many of the same health benefits.
Celery is notoriously tough to grow and can be a real labor of love for any keen gardener. Whereas lovage just looks after itself and has a lot to offer in terms of foliage and beauty in your garden.
So let’s look at the finer details to see if you can ‘get away’ with growing lovage rather than the challenge that is celery!
Celery Vs Lovage
- Lovage is a hardy perennial, and I do mean hardy! From frosts and droughts to strong wind your lovage will thrive. Celery however is a half hardy biennial. This means in the second year it will flower and self sow it’s seeds. Grown as an annual though!
- Celery is a cool weather crop, whereas lovage will thrive in full sunshine or partial shade. Lovage enjoys drier roots, whereas celery can be found growing wild near bogs and marshes.
- The stem of lovage is hollow and makes for a fun straw in the summertime. The stem of celery is a semi circle, like a horseshoe when cut into slices.
- Lovage leaves are a herb that tastes like a stronger version of celery with anise undertones. Lovage seeds are a spice used in cooking and even given the name of celery salt, just to make it more confusing! The root of lovage is a vegetable and will be a great ingredient in a gentle herb stew. Celery leaves are edible and taste like a slightly salty earthy flavor. The stalk is edible and can be cooked or eaten raw.
- Homegrown celery and organic supermarket celery are very similar in taste, whereas lovage fresh from the garden has a real potency. That coupled with the scarcity of lovage at all but the best farmer’s markets makes it a great herb to grow in your own garden.
- Celery grows to around 30cm (12inches) after 130 days of germination. Lovage grows to be 2m (6 feet) in height and has a lovely yellow flower head that it puts up in the second year.
I know that I may sound biased but your garden will so much more relaxed without a needy crop like celery growing in the sun, but not mid-day sun, but with wet roots etc. Go for lovage is I was you and now I hope to show you how suitable it is as a substitute as well.
Substitutes For Celery
Lovage is by far the best replacement as you can use it in all of the ways that you might use celery, raw, cooked and even in a Bloody Mary. So I have broken it down with the options and how you would use them in place of celery.
Celery seed is a great ingredient to use in stews and casseroles in place of the salty and savory flavor or celery. It will not replace that crunch and texture though and may be used in conjunction with other replacements and even with carrots added to give the texture.
Weirdly celery salt is often made using lovage seeds. So this is a great substitute for the saltiness and can be used in soups, casseroles and stews. It is even quite nice on top of salads and will replace that subtle flavor but not texture. So think about combining it with cucumber when raw or even apples.
With it’s unmistakable anise flavor fennel is not a straightforward swap for celery. Use sparingly and only really in dishes that call for raw celery. The crunch is perfect as a substitute but fennel is sweeter.
Bok Choy / Pak Choy
The crunch is ideal as a replacement for celery and you can keep that crunchiness even when cooked. Bok Choy is from the brassica family and has a great amount of nutritional content as well. Perfect in stir fry’s and roasted too.
Celeriac is basically the same plant as celery but cultivated for it’s root. However they cannot just be interchanged in recipes. The texture is massively different and celeriac does taste like celery, but with heavier earthy tones.
There is a very simple Indian stir fry called Poriyal and it is so quick and easy, but you can replace the celery with tinned water chestnuts. This recipe from Spices and Aroma uses an entire head, so this is equivalent of a standard sized tin of water chestnuts, chopped to roughly quarters.
I would replace water chestnuts for celery in cooking only and not for raw salads. Water chestnuts from the tin don’t have the strength of flavor that fresh ones do, but they are so much more convenient! There is a savory and sweet mix with a nutty back round flavor. This works as a substitute for the crunch of celery as well, but so much more nutrient rich!
Cardoons grow and look like a cross between a thistle and artichoke, but you only eat the stems. You need to blanch the stems as you would do for celery and then you can harvest and serve in much the same way. It is an Italian vegetable that is used widely in the Mediterranean, but can be hard to find in farmer’s markets. So check out our full growers guide here.
If you are looking for that crunch in a salad then green apples are great, but the slight sweetness of red apples is a great added bonus too. Celery will be quite a tough flavor to beat in this instance as it is a vegetable that gives a salty but crunchy profile. For this reason you can substitute apples but with a few other considerations like adding cucumber will make the salad come together a little more cohesively.
Our absolute favorite substitute or even replacement for celery. Both in our garden and in our kitchen! The stem of lovage can be harvested and used raw as a replacement for the savory taste of celery but with an added anise back note. It’s not too strong but be aware that it adds an extra dimension. The leaves of lovage are very similar to celery and can be used interchangeably as you have a long harvest period when grown in your own herb garden. The roots of lovage are also useful in stews and casseroles and have a very familiar flavor profile!
What To Use Instead Of Lovage
How you replace ingredients depends on how you intend to use them. Lovage is completely edible so this offers up some interesting solutions.
100% celery is a great substitute for lovage. It can be hard to get hold of lovage seasonally whereas celery seems to be in abundant supply all year round. Use the stalk cooked, raw or the leaves in salads. Celery and lovage share the salty, savory flavor and will be a great swap for one another in most dishes. The only thing that a celery stalk can’t do is be a straw like lovage can!
Lovage Seeds = Celery Salt
Depending on how you are cooking your dish lovage seeds ground down to celery salt can be perfect. The savory, earthy flavor is there and you can easily add it to the start of cooking as opposed to later on when you might add lovage. Also if you have a salad that calls for lovage leaves and it is out of season you can make up a vinaigrette with celery salt and drizzle over to give a similar flavor, if not texture.
A full on aniseed flavor that needs to be handled well. replacing lovage is not a straight swap and the substitution will be noted. The stalk of fennel can be candied just like lovage and angelica can. This makes a great swap and really the texture is spot on. The leaves are not similar, but you can get a great earthiness from them when added raw to salads. Not to be discounted at all and a great option to have up your sleeve.
Flat Leaf Parsley
Looks wise this is a great swap for the leaves of lovage. You will also find that it wilts when cooked so use in herb salads and as an addition to your nutritional content.
Celeriac is in the same family as lovage and celery but grown for it’s root. So you can use it for the flavor that is so familiar but not similar in texture. Perfect in stews or soups.
Further Reading & What Next
- How to grow Lovage from seed – the perfect substitute for celery and one way to grow your own straws!
- Spices And Herbs What Are The Important Differences Lovage leaves are a herb the root a vegetable and the seeds a spice. Have a look as to how this can work for many other useful herbs in your garden.
- www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition To learn more about the health benefits of celery.
- www.verywellhealth.com To learn about Lovage and the quantities of nutrition and possible side effects.
Really there is no one perfect substitute and it can be hard to try and replace in the garden and in your kitchen. Hopefully we will have given you some ideas and inspiration. Please do add your own wins in the comments. It is always great to help each other!
Thanks for reading and best of luck!