The Crunchy, Tangy Salad That Made Me Fall in Love With Celery

Why this humble stalk deserves a starring role in your next salad.

March 27, 2019
Photo by Rocky Luten

We've partnered with FreshDirect to share delicious, family-friendly meals—from breakfast all the way to dessert—that highlight fresh, quality ingredients.

Spring salads may bring to mind tender greens, verdant sweet peas, slender rainbow carrots, and bright, beautiful radishes. But there's likely a vegetable already hanging out in your crisper drawer that can bring just as much freshness, vibrancy, and snap to your salad-making as any of these seasonal gems.

I’m talking about that bunch of celery you probably only bought because a recipe called for one stalk of it. Yep, it can—and should—star in your next big bowl of dressed greens.

Celery is one of the most overlooked, underrated salad ingredients out there. It’s also inexpensive, wholesome, and reliable no matter the season—it’s always got your back even when the fridge is bare.

My friend Sara (aka Food52 community member, hardlikearmour) introduced me to celery as a main ingredient after she raved about a salad she had at Joshua McFadden's since-closed restaurant, Roman Candle, in Portland, Oregon. And it was her slivered celery and walnut salad (a riff on McFadden’s version) that forever opened my mind (and heart) to this humble little stalk’s deliciousness and versatility.

Taking several cues from her recipe, I created this celery and lentil salad with tossed salsa verde that’s hearty enough for the main plate. I love the way the grassy sweetness of the celery complements the earthy lentils (another ingredient that doesn’t get enough salad respect, in my opinion). The raisins, almonds, and Pecorino pack in sweet-nutty-salty notes, and the lemon-anchovy vinaigrette brings a savory brightness that anchors the whole dish. Instead of chopping and stirring herbs into the vinaigrette, I keep them whole and toss them in as the salad’s greens—a simpler, fresher play on an Italian salsa verde.

Even better, this salad can be served on so many different occasions: Make it for a simple weeknight dinner, tote it to a picnic or potluck, or serve it at your next soirée. Once assembled, it can easily hang out at room temperature for a few hours—just give it another toss before digging in. And while I like its contrasting textures best on day one, it’s also good the next day, after the lentils have soaked up the tangy vinaigrette and the celery has relaxed its crunch. It’s like getting two very good salads for the price of one.

Whether you’re making this versatile little number for yourself, or creating your own version that checks all of the same flavor and texture boxes, check out these celery tips first:

  • For maximum freshness, store celery in a plastic bag with all of the stalks still attached. You can also wrap it in foil, which allows the ethylene gas produced by celery to escape, keeping it fresh for longer.
  • For the best texture and presentation, slice the celery on a long diagonal using a sharp knife; it’ll be less stringy this way, and prettier, too.
  • If your celery is particularly fibrous, simply peel off the outer layer with a vegetable peeler.
  • Don’t throw away the celery leaves! With an intense celery flavor, they’re perfect when treated like herbs or greens, and their pale green hue makes a beautiful addition to any plate.

With this salad and these tips in your back pocket, you can wink at other recipes (gratins, sodas, soups, and more!) that call for just a few stalks of celery and buy the whole bunch with confidence.

more ways to love celery

In partnership with FreshDirect, we're celebrating the season's best produce by whipping up recipes where the ingredients take center stage, like in this zippy celery and lentil salad with tossed salsa verde. Here, fresh celery—which is nutritious, delicious, and oh-so versatile—is the star of the show, while lentils, herbs, and a punchy lemon-anchovy vinaigrette tie the whole dish together. Make this impressive yet easy salad any night of the week with help from FreshDirect, which can have everything you need delivered right to your doorstep.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Chris
  • BerryBaby

Written by: EmilyC

I'm a home cook. I love salads. Two things you'll always find in my refrigerator are lemons and butter, and in my pantry good quality chocolate and the makings for chocolate chip cookies.


Chris March 27, 2019
i've been a fan of celery in salads since i can remember. the crunchiness and freshness it adds is what does it for me. while i do sometimes slice it on the bias, as stated above, i also dice it sometimes when i'm making what we here in chicago call a "garbage salad", which has just about everything from the veggie drawer and a few other things thrown in. it's also a quiet star in my chicken and potato salads. call me a celery lover...
BerryBaby March 27, 2019
I too make Garbage Salad...I use the Gene and Georgette recipe. Love it!!!