Celery leaves are commonly discarded parts of the celery plant since most people prefer to use the stalks. What most people overlook is the fact that celery leaves are highly flavorful and quite versatile when it comes to enhancing savory dishes. They may be even more useful than the stalks. Here are some of the best uses for celery leaves.
Use celery leaves as one of your salad greens. The paler color makes a nice contrast against the darker-colored leaves of other greens like arugula and spinach. You can chop the leaves or leave them whole. The intense celery flavor that they bring can liven up an otherwise bland salad and serve as a nice complement to milder and sweeter vegetables.
They are great in tabbouleh as well. Tabbouleh typically uses parsley and celery leaves make a great substitute for parsley. If you want to tone down the intensity of the celery flavor in a salad, you can mince the leaves and add them to your dressing instead.
As a garnish
Celery leaves make a great topping for any dish that you can enhance with a chopped green garnish. It works well as a substitute for a parsley garnish, especially since it is more flavorful. Add chopped celery leaves over creamy pasta dishes or sprinkle them onto your steak just before serving it.
On a sandwich
Replace the leafy greens in your sandwich with celery leaves. Celery leaves can work in any sandwich, but they work best for sandwiches that are supposed to contain strong-flavored greens. For example, you can use celery leaves in a banh mi where they are an excellent stand-in for cilantro. They are great on burgers and subs as well if you want more flavor than you can get from lettuce.
The kind of celery that you find in Western grocery stores is different from the variety typically used in Chinese cuisine, but the flavors are similar. Chinese celery is leafier and looks a bit more like parsley, which is why celery leaves make such a good alternative in Chinese-style stir-fried dishes. Chop your celery leaves or toss them into your wok whole. The savory, slightly bitter flavor pairs well with most seasonings used in the common stir-fries.
You can improve almost any kind of soup with the addition of the celery flavor in one form or another. Celery leaves bring that flavor and an attractive green color as well. Use them in everything from chicken soup to a white bean soup. They are a great ingredient for rounding out the umami flavor in stocks and bone broths.
Many people find the flavor of cilantro to be unpleasantly soapy. Celery leaves make a great cilantro alternative for these people and can work in most of the dishes that require cilantro, including salsa. A tomato-based salsa will be greatly enhanced by celery leaves. You can also add them to your guacamole and tacos.
The traditional pesto is made with basil leaves and sometimes mint to provide both flavor and the bright green color. Basil gives pesto its sweetness and peppery licorice note. Despite having a much different flavor profile, celery leaves can play the same role by providing an equally strong savory flavor. Look for the celery bunches with the darkest leaves to ensure your celery leaf pesto has a color similar to that of basil pesto.