Celeriac, also known as celery root, turnip-rooted celery, or knob celery, is a large, bumpy, brown vegetable that's harvested in the wintertime. It is popular in German and northern European cuisines and is grown around the world. It's also popular in North African, South American, and some island cuisines like Puerto Rico. Celeriac is part of the same botanical family as parsley, parsnips, and carrots, and can be roasted, boiled, steamed, mashed, and even grated raw into salads.
What Is Celeriac?
Celeriac is a variety of celery that has a big, bulbous stem, much like an ugly, knobby turnip (hence the nickname). Unlike other types of celery, it's harvested for the round stem (often confused as a root) instead of the green shoots. The vegetable is peeled to reveal a smooth, white interior, and can be eaten raw or cooked. The skinny stalks and greenery are also edible and are sometimes used for garnish. Because celeriac is less common than celery, it is often sold for three times the price per pound.
How to Cook With Celeriac
Before using, celeriac should be scrubbed well. Trim the top and bottom, then use a peeler to remove the brown peel. Use a sharp paring knife to remove bits of roots and hard-to-reach areas as needed. Celeriac will discolor if the peeled flesh is left exposed to air. Either use right away or submerge in cool lemon water to use later.
Celeriac is frequently grated when served raw in salads, such as the popular French dish celeri rémoulade. It can also be chopped or sliced and boiled, steamed, roasted, fried, grilled, or sautéed. It can be used in a mash or pureed and used to make a silky soup.
Celery root can also step in for potatoes in some recipes to make a low-carb version. Try replacing half of the potatoes in mashed potatoes or blended potato soup.
What Does Celeriac Taste Like?
Celeriac has a flavor similar to regular celery, but it's slightly nutty with a hint of parsley. Unlike celery, it has a firm, nonfibrous texture similar to a turnip. Its flavor is a little more pronounced, especially when comparing cooked celeriac and cooked celery. Cooked celeriac tends to gain sweetness, especially when roasted.
While not as popular as its stalky sibling, celery root is just as versatile. Raw, grated celeriac is a crunchy addition to salads and slaws. Roast thick slices or cubes of celery root and serve alongside meat. Add boiled, pureed celeriac to creamy soups, or slice thin and deep-fry like chips or fries.
Where to Buy Celeriac
Look for celeriac during the winter months. It can sometimes appear in supermarkets and health food stores and may be labeled as celery root. The veggie is typically sold by the pound, with one small root weighing about a pound. One pound of peeled, chopped, raw celery root equals roughly two cups. It's popular at farmers' markets when in season. Look for celeriac that is firm and unblemished. A green blush is okay, and it can be sold with or without the stalks attached.
To grow your own celeriac, plant transplants (seeds can be germinated indoors for up to 10 weeks) on the average last day of frost. Plant in full sun and compost often. Celeriac can take up to four months to mature and should be harvested before the first hard freeze.
How to Store Celeriac
Store unwashed, unpeeled celeriac in the crisper drawer of the refrigerator for up to three weeks. If the stalks are still attached, remove them and store separately or discard. Use celeriac while still firm. As it ages, it will become dry and hollow inside.
Cooked celeriac will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days. It can also be frozen for up to three months.
Celeriac vs. Celery
The name celery root might lead you to assume that celeriac and celery come from the same plant. And while they are in the same family, some varieties of celery produce tender green stalks, and some varieties produce big, tasty "roots." To further confuse things, celery root is not technically a root. It's a swollen base of stems that form a round, knobby mass.
Celeriac and celery have a similar flavor, although it tends to be more pronounced in celeriac. Cooked, celery root maintains more flavor than celery and gains a mellow sweetness. Raw celery has a crunchy, stringy texture that's high in water, and celeriac is more compact. Celeriac can sometimes be used in cooked recipes that call for celery-like stews, but they should generally not be substituted for each other.