Root vegetables don’t do sexy. In fact, you could say they’re the edible equivalent of an ugly sweater party. And if there is a scuzzy, drab, bizzarely patterned, ribbon-embellished member of the bunch, it would be celeriac (also known as celery root, turnip-rooted celery, or those knobby things in your CSA box that bear a passing resemblance to Jabba the Hutt).
What celeriac lacks in physical charm, it makes up in purposefulness. Big, hardy, and robust, it has many of the same workhorse qualities as potatoes, but with less starch and a nuttier, more savory flavor. This means that it will give you fries that are lighter and more ethereal, mashes that don’t devolve into a lifeless paste, and soups that glide across the tongue without being gluey.
As celeriac’s name suggests, it is part of the same botanical family as celery. The two come from different but related plants, however. The root sprouts edible leafy stalks, which resemble celery, but they are often trimmed close before reaching market, leaving bumps and pockmarks at the crown that often pack in residual dirt between their crevices.
It’s important to wash celeriac thoroughly before using it, to get rid of anything that might be hanging out in those nooks and crannies. You can feel free to slice off and discard most of that rough and bumpy top and focus on the smoother bottom portion. The outer layer tends to be tough and chewy and should be stripped off—it’s best to use a paring knife here and not a vegetable peeler, since the latter’s flimsy blade is no match for the hardy surface. Once you’ve removed the peel and have a nice, white bulb in your hands, make sure to break out your sturdiest kitchen knife: the stubborn root doesn't give itself up easily, demanding a bit of upper body strength to chop it into pieces.
As rugged as celeriac is in its raw state, it can also be meltingly tender, sweet, and smooth when cooked through. The recipes below run all shades to and in between—check them out for a glimpse into the many possibilities that come from this humble vegetable.
1. Celery Root Latkes with Pastrami
Latkes get an extra dash of chutzpah when you swap out plain potatoes for the earthy tones of celeriac. Get our Celery Root Latkes with Pastrami recipe.
2. Celery Root Soup
This is about as close as you’ll get to creamy without having to reach for the milk: celeriac, potatoes, and tart apple are pureed together to give this soup its luxuriant feel and rich flavor. Get our Celery Root Soup recipe.
3. Winter Vegetable Soup with Watercress Pistou
If you prefer your soup on the chunky side, this brothy version features cubes of celeriac, parsnips, and turnips garnished with a peppery watercress pistou. Get our Winter Vegetable Soup with Watercress Pistou recipe.
4. Shaved Celery, Celery Root, and Radish Salad
It’s crunch time! Raw celery, celeriac, and radishes make for a salad worth chewing on while a champagne vinaigrette and wisps of parmesan add a bright and perky accent. Get our Shaved Celery, Celery Root, and Radish Salad recipe.
5. Garlic and Herb Celeriac Fries
Since celeriac has low levels of starch, it doesn’t crisp up quite as much as potatoes do when you bake or fry it. But it does get nice and tender on the inside, making it ideal for steak-cut style fries. Get the recipe here.
6. Celery Root Purée
When you’ve had your fill of potatoes, puréed celeriac can be a brilliant alternative. The mash goes equally well next to light poultry or seafood as it does heavy and saucy braises or stews. Get our Celery Root Purée recipe.
7. Celery Root and Mushroom Stuffing
So many stuffing recipes quickly dissolve into an unappealing, mushy paste. Not this one: here, chopped celeriac and mushrooms provide a chunky base while the pre-toasted cubes of bread are allowed to get crisp and crunchy in the oven. Get our Celery Root and Mushroom Stuffing recipe.
8. Easy Shepherd's Pie
Root vegetables take the place of beef in this vegetarian version of the classic dish that’s just as hearty and savory as the original. Get our Easy Shepherd's Pie recipe.
9. Bockwurst and Mushroom Noodle Bake
German-style sausages go with way more than just vinegary potatoes. This recipe mixes things up by pairing bockwurst with a egg noodle casserole studded by pieces of diced celeriac. Get our Bockwurst and Mushroom Noodle Bake recipe.
10. Golden Beet and Celeriac Remoulade
Celeriac is a relatively obscure vegetable in the states. Yet in France, it’s a superstar, popping up most notably in céleri rémoulade. The creamy slaw features shreds of the root in a mustard-spiked dressing. Get the recipe here.
11. Tartine with Celery Mousse, Caramelized Bacon and Rosemary
The brilliance of these open sandwiches lies in their simple sophistication: the celeriac is quickly blanched and puréed, then spread on slices of bread and topped with bits of bacon and rosemary, delivering maximum impact with minimal effort and technique. Get the recipe here.
Header image: Shaved Celery Root and Radish Salad from Chowhound
Miki Kawasaki is a New York City–based food writer and graduate of Boston University's program in Gastronomy. Few things excite her more than a well-crafted sandwich or expertly spiced curry. If you ever run into her at a dinner party, make sure to hit her up for a few pieces of oddball culinary trivia.