HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Hate cilantro? Try celery leaves!

  • f

Thanks to this board, and posts from a while ago, I learned that you could sub celery leaves for cilantro to approximate the "clean taste" normal tasters associate with it, and avoid the "blech! gross! soap! taste" I (and cilantro-haters) taste. I tried it last night, in a tomato/onion/jalapeno topping that went on top of a curried rice salad, then topped with garlicky yogurt sauce. The celery leaves lightened things and tasted fresh. I'm not a huge celery fan, but you didn't get "celery" taste, just a green freshness. I'm inspired to try this in all sorts of dishes now. Yippee!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. very interesting and a great tip I'll have to try out. Personally, I'm a cilantro addict, but I do have a friend who hates the stuff. Good to know for when he's around!

    1. What a great tip. I always have celery(and leaves) around, but not always cilantro, so that'll be a great sub. Like a bit of cilantro in things, but not a lot. Thanks, I'm going to try it tonite in a guac.

      1. IMO, celery leaves are the most commonly underutilized ingredient. If you liked that substitution, try it when it's not a substitution. They are fantastic added to a salad, chopped into a salsa verde or chimichuri, chopped and sprinkled atop a pureed vegetable soup (cauliflower is a particularly good match), and used like parsley to give a little clean sharpness to cooked pastas in light sauces.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Aaron

          Definitely agree... I love celery leaves and use them more often than the actual celery!

          1. re: Aaron

            That's exactly why I love Asian celery: more leaves, parsley-like stalks. They're often mistaken for cilantro or parsley, but smell distinctly celery-like.

            Great in a cold salad with hard pressed tofu, shredded carrots, sesame oil, and soy sauce, and a myriad other dishes. I'll have to try them as a parsley substitution.

            1. re: Aaron

              Agree--great in soups and broths as well.

              1. re: Aaron

                I also agree...though I love cilantro, celery leaves are tremendous...I use them in my chicken and dumplings recipe but am always looking for more uses! Great topic!

                1. re: Aaron

                  I've added fresh, chopped celery leaves to the top of my fried rice and stir fry dishes and it adds that great, clean finish.

                2. What a wonderful tip, thank you for sharing!

                  I am a cilantro addict but have come to realize it is one of those things people love or hate. Since I almost always use it at the last moment in dishes, this will be a great, easy substitute for when I am serving to those less than impressed with the flavour of cilantro.

                  1. I grew up detesting broccoli. This wasn't a preference, it was a limitation that I was, over time, able to work past. Broccoli is now one of my favorite foods. If someone had come along and found a workaround that allowed me to never eat broccoli again, I would have lost out on a tremendous amount of pleasure in my life.

                    I know it's easy to say "well I don't like cilantro, I shouldn't have to eat it" and chalk it up to personal preference. It's more than that though. It's a limitation, predominantly a cultural one. You just happened to grow up in a culture that didn't use cilantro, that's all. Instead of finding ingenious ways of working around the problem, confront it head on. Try mincing it finely and using a tiny amount in appropriate foods such as salsa. That's how I overcame my cilantrophobia. Tiny, almost indetectable amounts at a time.

                    It doesn't happen overnight. First you deal with it, then you get used to it and eventually it doesn't taste right without it. It's a process. The most important part of the process is coming to terms with your ego. If you don't, at some point, say to yourself "I could be wrong," you will lose out. Big time. Picture your favorite food and then imagine your life without it. I'm not saying cilantro will be your absolute favorite food, but once you get past your phobia, you'll love it. Trust me on this.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: scott123


                      No one should have to defend their likes/dislikes and substitution requests, especially on a home cooking board where we are all virtual strangers. Your response presumes a number of things about me, and quite frankly, is more than a little snarky.

                      1. In fact, I grew up in a culture, community, and family that embraces and uses cilantro on a very regular basis. I have tried for 25 years to learn to enjoy it, and I eat it when it is present in a dish, never asking that it be removed for me. I draw the line at adding it to dishes I'm preparing for myself. To me, cilantro does not make whatever it's in taste good, but rather taste a little soapy, dull, and muddy. This goes for a few leaves finely minced in salsa to a large amount strewn over a dish as a garnish.

                      2. As I'm sure you're aware, cilantro contains a chemical, phenylthiocarbamide (PTC), that some people can taste and some people can't. See the wikipidia entry here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phenylth.... As far as I've found, personally and scientifically, there is no "real" way to turn yourself from a pcp-taster to a pcp-nontaster. I'm sure some people have success with weaning themselves onto cilantro. I have not.

                      3. Cilantro is the only food I dislike the flavor of. And as I already mentioned, I never ask for it to be left out of dishes where it belongs. I am excited to use celery leaves as a fresh-tasting alternative in dishes where the "freshness" of cilantro is required. As I don't taste the "freshness" of cilantro, using it for my own personal cooking renders the dish soapy-tasting and dull, the opposite of the idea of the dish. I would rather be true to the flavor profile, to me, of the dish than to the exact ingredient list.

                      4. My ego? I assure you, it bothers me to no end that I cannot get over my cilantro-hate. I am proud of my wide-range of tasting palate, and think of it as a (be it genetic fluke) weakness that I do not enjoy cilantro like the rest of my family, or a certain percentage of the world. I assure you, I'd rather like cilantro and truly enjoy the myriad dishes it's served up in.

                      5. It's just an herb. Please don't read ego and cultural hegemony into it.

                      1. re: Foodie2

                        Anger is good. It's part of the process. I was furious when people questioned my hatred of cilantro. Livid.

                        I didn't say what I said to win a popularity contest. I said it because I, myself, detested cilantro for 29 years and I regret it tremendously. If I can share my story/recommendation and one person listens, I'm happy.

                        Will you be that person? Who knows. It's your life. If you want to define yourself as a cilantro hater, be my guest. All I'm saying is, you have a choice. You're not condemned to walk this path for all eternity. If I can choose a different path, you can too.

                        1. re: Foodie2

                          Yeah, we're taking this a bit far, no? I myself have a strong aversion to cilantro (which, fortunately, my husband shares), but I certainly don't define myself in those terms. I just don't like cilantro. And I'm not all concerned about missing out on all that fabulous cilantro-laden food there is to be enjoyed. There's lots of other stuff to eat. No excuses, no explanations, no apologies. How big a deal is this, anyway?

                        2. re: scott123

                          I've tried this method with several foods, and its worked on mostly everthing except cilantro. I did exactly what you said by starting with very small minced amounts here and there, and it just made me dislike cilantro more and more. I now enjoy brussel sprouts and turnips, and I'm tackling Jackfruit this year.

                          1. re: scott123

                            Well, you really hit the nail on the head with this one. I'm a major cilantrophobic!! But with your gentle prodding, I will make an effort to reacquaint myself with this ingredient bit by bit and bite by bite. But if I really, really, REALLY still hate it, all bets are off!!.......tee hee.

                            1. re: scott123
                              Aurthur Choke

                              Scott123, I couldn't agree with you more. I was about to say that I don't trust people who don't like cilantro (or tomatoes), but you provided a much more civilized response. As for Foodie2's comments, I'm not buying it. The wikipedia definition cited says that 70% of people can taste PTC (the bitter flavor); and I can gare-on-tee that 70% of the people don't hate cilantro. I guess I'm way too judgemental, but when I'm with someone who picks out the cilantro (or tomatoes), I just shake my head and write them off as a "white bread eater".

                              1. re: scott123

                                Ok, I am one of those people who hates cilantro. I am also someone who seeks out novel cuisines and flavors and is delighted in the discovery of the pleasure of new and unfamiliar cultures. I have tried everything you suggested over a period of years and the best I have gotten to is being able to tolerate a very small amount of cilantro if it doesn't dominate the food.

                                It is not a phobia. I am also not afraid of either cilantro or soap, but have interest in making either part of my diet. Cilantro is, for me, like grating soap in my food.

                                Perhaps you might want to understand that we don't all perceive flavor (or for that matter sound, color, texture, etc) in exactly the same way. If Foodie2 (or I -- or anyone else) don't like cilantro, just allow it to be part of our otherwise very fulfilled lives.

                                I am delighted to get the tip about subsituting celery leaves and can't wait to try it.

                              2. I used to only put celery leaves into stock, but from posts here I started chopping it into tuna and chicken salad etc. I bet there's more vitamins in there than the stalks.

                                1. Last fall I found a "cutting celery" plant at my favorite nursery. It was meant to be used for the leaves, not the stalks. It grew like heck all winter and is just going to seed now. I made a lot of use of it in all the ways the posters have mentioned. Look around for one; I'm sure it would do well in a container if you don't have a garden.

                                  1. Colleagues, you have suggested many wonderful things, but I'm afraid you have missed the most important of all celery-leaf recipes: Mme. Yeo's Non-Gefilte Celery Fishball Soup. I reveal it here for the first and only time.

                                    Prepare or if you must then buy 12 ounces of "fish paste", i.e., yúhuá 魚滑 or yújiāng 魚漿, the *uncured* form of surimi. (Shung Kee Food Co., Ltd. in New York's Chinatown, 160 East Broadway, makes it; you can find it for $3/12 oz. at Déchāng Supermarket on Mott St.) Also buy Chinese celery or pick it in heidipie's nursery.

                                    Prepare a pot of plain fish stock, seasoned mildly to taste; bring it almost to a boil but don't let it turn cloudy. Clean the celery - o my swineherd! - and remove and put aside the leaves. Finely chop the celery stalks, praising them silently for their crunchiness, and mix well into the yújiāng - about 1 or 2 cleaned plants per 12 oz. of plain yújiāng. When the soup is hot enough, drop balls of celeried yújiāng into the soup.

                                    (Note: you can make the balls by hand, in which case please do not use my towel after washing. Or you can use an ice cream scoop or teaspoon to form the "balls"; hold the yújiāng-bearing utensil in the soup for a few seconds until the ball can be shaken free, then plunge the utensil into ice water so it doesn't cook the raw yújiāng remaining in the mixing bowl when you form the next ball. Yújiāng cures quickly when exposed to heat. Be careful not to let a ball stick to the bottom of your pot while waiting to shake it free of the spoon.)

                                    When all the balls are in the soup, let them cook for a little while - they will swell up as they do. As they cook, do not think to yourself, "Ah, these are like gefilte fish," since gefilte or "filled" fish is actually supposed to be served as the stuffing inside the skins of the fish from which the flesh was cut. There is nothing gefilte about these fish balls! When all are fully cooked and seething with the flavor of your wonderful fish stock, take them out and put them into large East Asian-style soup bowls. The balls may lose some of their volume when removed from the soup, but I counsel you not to despair. Then take the celery leaves you had put aside earlier and put them into the soup to cook, which they will do quickly. No need to cut them - the leaves are small. When almost done, take them out and put them into the bowls, on top of the balls.

                                    Holler for your guest to present herself at table while you pour the soup over the things in the bowl. Serve and devour.

                                    1. I am not a huge fan of celery, so for years I've used the leaves and tops of stalks, and tossed the stalk when it is called for in soup/stews.

                                      As an aside, my hatred for cilantro of all types goes beyond my hatred for garlic and onions, since I will at least eat garlic and onions if and only if they are thoroughly cooked and don't have any crunch left. At restaurants, I re-send dishes to the kitchen that previously had cilantro merely picked out of the dish by the kitchen staff because it's essence truly overpowers.

                                      I realize this may sound spoiled to some, but if I specifically state at a restaurant that I do not want certain ingredients that haven't been incorporated into the body of the dish (read: premade), I'm paying for those items not to be in it. *shrug* Even cooked cilantro, quite frankly, ruins the natural essence of any dish it is in. It may be because I have a preference in preparing my food (meat, seafood, vegetables, grains) steamed, unseasoned, and unsalted. :) Yeah, I'm of Japanese descent, big surprise. :P

                                      Anyway, if it wasn't for the previous poster bumping this, I would have totally missed this. Interesting substitution! I'll check it out the next time a recipe calls for cilantro. :) Thanks so much!

                                      1. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!!! I, too, HATE cilantro and could never understand how anyone could like it. In fact, cilantro is the reason I am completely turned off of Vietnamese food which I used to love. To me, if you want to get the taste of cilantro, just suck on an iron bar!!! Anyway, thank you so much for posting this solution. Now, the problem becomes where to find celery leaves because most supermarkets tend to lop them off before selling this produce!

                                        1. Thank you so very much, Foodie2 for this tip. My SO and I are first-generation, non-"white bread eater"-Americans (whatever that even means) and I've had an amazingly tough time recreating some of the flavors our mom's cooked for us growing up sans cilantro (the no-cilantro thing is new to me and his mom's learned to tweak spices over the years).

                                          One question though: did you read any info on whether cooking the leaves for an extended period of time vs. using the leaves for finishing changed the flavor significantly?


                                          1. I'm a cilantro-lover (thankfully don't get the soapy taste at all), but people really should understand that there is a significant portion of the population that perceive cilantro as tasting like soap. It's not the same as disliking broccoli.

                                            I think celery leaves are such an underappreciated ingredient! I absolutely hate celery (hate, hate, hate it - I could smell a piece of raw celery a mile away), but the leaves are great. I use them liberally in cooking. I wish you could just buy celery leaves! Instead I have to buy the whole celery and hope my husband and daughter eat the rest.