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Celery seed (Recipe: refrigerator zucchini pickles) {vegetarian, gluten-free}

First published in June 2007, this updated pantry ingredient post features new photos, links, and tweaks to the recipe. Special thanks to my friends Bob and Charlotte for the zucchini (and blossoms, what a treat!) from their garden, and to all of the friends who've left zucchini on my front porch this month. Oh, and don't worry about adjusting your computer screen; it's turmeric that gives these pickles their vibrant yellow color.

Refrigerator zucchini pickles, from The Perfect Pantry.

If it weren't for potato salad and pickles, my celery seed would be toast.

All winter, it sits on the spice rack, pushed farther and farther to the rear of the shelf.

In summer, when I'm ready to make pickles and potato salad (Why only in summer? I don't know.), I retrieve the celery seed, dust off the jar, use a few teaspoons here and there, and send it back to its place. Every other year or so, I throw out the mostly-full but decidedly less-zesty spice, buy a new jar, and start the cycle again.

Time to admit that maybe celery seed shouldn't be in The Perfect Pantry? Time to broaden my culinary repertoire?

Time to start drinking Bloody Marys?


Celery seed -- called apio in Spanish, ajmoda in Hindi, sedano in Italian and kan-tsai in Chinese -- is not actually the seed of the leafy celery stalks that garnish those Bloody Marys, though it has the same ancestry. The seed comes from Apium graveolens, a marsh plant called smallage or wild celery, grown primarily in India but also in China, France, and California.

Light- to medium-brown in color, celery seeds have a more spicy taste than the familiar stalks of cultivated celery; in Herbs & Spices, an essential reference for any cook's library, Jill Norman describes the aroma and taste as having hints of nutmeg, citrus and parsley. Use sparingly, as that spicy taste can overwhelm. Be sure to purchase whole seed rather than ground; when ground, this spice quickly loses its balance, and the flavor becomes quite bitter.

A common ingredient in pickling, celery seed also plays an important role in cole slaw and chicken salad.

And without celery salt -- 3 parts kosher salt mixed with 2 parts ground celery seed -- the Bloody Mary would be toast, too. 


Refrigerator zucchini pickles

From the pantry, you'll need: onion, cider vinegar, honey, celery seed, turmeric, dry mustard.

Makes 1 quart; recipe can be halved or doubled.


2 lbs small zucchini
1 small yellow or white onion
2 cups cider vinegar
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp kosher salt


Cut unpeeled zucchini into thin slices, like cucumbers. (If you have a mandoline with an adjustment dial, set it to 1/4-inch.) Peel onion and slice thin. (Also on the mandoline, if you're using one.) Place vegetables in a large stainless steel or glass bowl.

In a stainless steel saucepan, combine remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil and pour over vegetables. Let stand 1 hour at room temperature.

Pour vegetables and liquid back into a stainless steel saucepan. Return to heat, bring to a boil, and cook 3 minutes. Pour into hot, scalded jars. Cover tightly and refrigerate.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:
Half-sour dill pickles
Bread and butter pickles
Zucchini waffles
Tart zucchini relish
Vinegar veggies

Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Quinoa with grilled zucchini, chickpeas and cumin, from Pink of Perfection
Zucchini with lentils and roasted garlic, from Steamy Kitchen
Zucchini with cashews, from My Feasts
Persian zucchini frittata, from Mysoorean
Curried ratatouille, from No Recipes


Need more creative ideas for using zucchini? Get 23 Zucchini, my e-book packed with fantastic recipes, full-color photos and a few fun videos. With the FREE Kindle Reading app, delicious zucchini recipes will always be just one click away on any computer, tablet or smart phone. Click here to learn more.

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


I started doing simple things like sprinkling some celery seed on chicken before roasting it in order to 'use it up.' And I (re)discovered that it's a wonderful umami-enhancer and a totally great addition to a basic roast chicken/potatoes/carrots/parsnips mixture during the colder months. Toasting some up in a pan and then grinding it into a powder was a way for me to make my own seasoned salt blend -- which helped my man feel a bit easier about learning to cook. YAY!

When it's warm out, I'm also a fan of it in my coleslaws too. And a few salad dressings! It's definitely become more all-purpose for me over the past couple of years. Check it out!

I know that I have to replace that bottle of celery seed that's been sitting in my pantry for a couple of years. This recipe is a great reason to do so!

I think with a Bloody Mary in hand you should discover new ways to use this spice. it sounds intriguing and I can imagine it in soups and curries too! :o) But these pickles are pretty cool and I have to admit I have never heard of potato salad with celery seeds!

Laurie, you are absolutely right, celery seed is much more versatile than we give credit for. I have another recipe here on the blog for a chicken salad with lovage and celery seed; it's one of my favorites.

Cookin' Canuck, I'm turning over a new leaf and trying to use celery seed a bit more these days.

Meeta, I like the way you think! I haven't used it in soup, but now I'm going to give that a try. Potato salad with celery seeds is fairly common here in the US, where we often add chopped celery to the salad, too.

Celery seed is critical for some recipes, including pasta salad in my house. While I'm not a pickle gal, I am a pickle relish gal and also a zucchini gal, so I'm thinking I'll make these pickles and turn them into healthy homemade pickle relish. I am so not keen on using the store-bought varieties of pickle relish because of all the dyes, HFCS, et. Thanks for sharing, Lydia! Will Pin and share on my gfeFacebook page. :-)


Shirley, thanks for the social media love. And you are so right about store-bought pickles, preserves, etc. Read those labels carefully, as some of them are full of many scary "ingredients" we'd never have in our own pantries. Let me know how your pickle relish comes out!

Nothing like homemade! Maybe that is something I can try when I'm finished with my job - only 33 more work days!

Mimi, you can celebrate retirement with pickles, as long as there is also champagne!

I'm crazy about celery seed. It's an essential ingredient in the Shrimp and Macaroni salad that's such a Denny family favorite. Must try making these pickles; I have plenty of zucchini!

Love this recipe! I buy bulk spices from the health food stores, and keep the old jar to put them in. I only buy a small amount of spices like celery seed, but large bags of dill weed.
This way I know they're all fresh.
Thanks for the great ideas you post!

Kalyn, every time I see that shrimp and macaroni salad mentioned on your blog, I just want to inhale a big bowl of it!

Sheryll, great way to keep your spices fresh. Some can also go into the freezer, which extends their shelf life. Great idea to reuse your old jars, too.

Lydia, those look great - what a gorgeous photograph! I have the same dilemma with celery seed - yesterday I went to Penzeys and bought a new jar to replace the one (still mostly full) that I bought last summer for pickling! At least at Penzeys you can get the small, .9 oz jars, so I don't feel as guilty for replacing them.

To the posters who make home-made relish: it sounds great - but doesn't all the dicing involved take forever?

I have to agree I don't use this spice very often and mine gets a bit dusty! It would be great to have some "winter recipes' - off the top of my head I am thinking mixed in with roasted and pureed parsnips?! even just adding a new twist to regular mashed potatoes?

I use my celery seed in a salad dressing with dijon mustard, a good vinegar, and extra-virgin olive oil. It is really good on a green salad with beets.
Also, we make a bbq sauce for fish and chicken with citrus juices and celery seed.
I want to try these pickles really soon!

Judy, I buy those very small jars now, too, and I keep them in the freezer. And as for the dicing... well, I would go the food processor route, and have a more rustic relish!

Carol, all of those sound like great suggestions. Let's try them.

Lee, I just happen to have beets and some greens waiting to be turned into something, and now you've inspired me to try a vinaigrette with celery seed on a beet salad. Thank you!

Recipe using celery seed...

1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup worchestshire
1 tsp salt
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp celery seed
1/4 cup brown sugar
Tabasco or hot sauce to taste
Mix together, and baste meat with...

fantastic on pork ribs, also good with chicken. My mom would have this on baked potatoes instead of butter when we had ribs...

Jason, you know I am going to try this right away! Thanks for sharing your mom's recipe, and for inspiring all of us to use our celery seed.

You should definitely take up drinking bloody marys! and I like to use up celery seed by adding it to potato salad as well as coleslaw. It adds great flavor!

I will have to look for some celery seeds. the zucchini pickles look mouth-watering.

Laura, I have that thought frequently (about the Bloody Marys)! Love adding some celery seed to my cole slaw, too.

Paz, it's easy to find in any grocery store spice section.

I love the yellow color. There's an artisan pickle guy at my local farmers market, and he sells a sweet pickle with mustard that's delicious.

TW, how lucky you are to have a pickle guy at your farmers market! I love making my own pickles, and being able to tweak the flavorings depending on the herbs I have in the garden and what's on my spice rack.

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