The term celery powder may refer to ground celery seed, dried celery juice, or dried and powdered celery. Whichever of these three products it indicates, celery powder makes it easy to add a concentrated burst of celery flavor to your food. The version made with dried celery juice can also be used to preserve meat if you want to try curing meat without sodium nitrate. Whether you need celery powder for its flavor or for its nitrate content, there are alternatives. Consider the following celery powder substitutes.
Your best bet: Curing salt 1
For curing purposes, the ideal celery powder substitute is also the most reliable meat cure on the market. The point of curing is to reduce bacteria in order to render the meat safe to eat without a significant risk of infection from Clostridium botulinum and other food-borne pathogens. Sodium nitrate draws moisture out of the cells in the meat, including moisture in any bacteria present. This kills the bacteria and keeps the meat from becoming toxic. Celery powder may provide the same benefits since it too contains nitrates, but is not considered to be as reliable as sodium nitrate. Of course, it should be noted that you may be increasing your risk of consuming carcinogens by using sodium nitrate.
A decent second choice: Dried celery flakes
Celery flakes refer to finely chopped and dehydrated stalks of celery. Celery flakes are intended to provide both the flavor and the texture of celery in soups, sauces, and other dishes. Dehydration gives them a much longer shelf-life when compared to fresh celery. You can use celery flakes as a celery powder substitute in dishes where the difference in texture will not matter or will actually be an improvement over celery powder’s fine texture.
Note that celery flakes will not be a good substitute if what you are looking for is a meat cure. The celery juice used to cure meat is specially formulated for that purpose and may have been fermented to convert some of the nitrate to nitrite. If you are replacing celery powder in a dry rub, it may be necessary to grind the flakes to a finer consistency to make them blend more evenly with powdered spices so that they can adhere to the meat.
Use twice the amount of celery flakes that your recipe requires for celery powder to start out. You can add more to taste afterward.
In a pinch: Chopped celery
All parts of the celery plant provide you with a similar flavor. This includes the leaves and stalks. However, they do not all have the same concentration of that flavor. You can use any of the parts to provide the same savory notes that you would get from celery powder, you will just have to use more of it. Note that chopped celery will also have a considerable amount of fiber and moisture that is not present in celery powder. You may have to change the liquid content in your recipe to compensate.
You may need to use three or four times the amount of chopped celery to provide the flavor that your dish would get from celery powder.
For a true nitrate free cure for meat that does not include nitrates from celery or any other source, it is possible to use plain table salt or sea salt. However, it is important to note that this significantly increases the risk of food-borne illness as well as long-term health risks from excessive salt consumption.