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Why can’t you freeze celery?

Celery is a staple in many recipes and a popular vegetable to keep on hand. However, unlike many other fresh veggies, celery does not freeze well. If you’ve ever tried freezing celery only to end up with mushy, watery sticks, you know first-hand that celery and freezing don’t mix. But why is that exactly? Here’s a closer look at why celery freezes poorly and what you can do to preserve it instead.

The Composition of Celery Stalks

To understand why celery doesn’t freeze well, it helps to know a bit about the vegetable’s composition. The parts of celery we eat are the stalks, which are made up of:

  • Water – Celery is about 95% water.
  • Fiber – Both soluble and insoluble fiber make up much of the structure.
  • Minerals – Small amounts of calcium, magnesium, and potassium.
  • Vitamins – Such as vitamin K, folate, and vitamin C.

When celery is frozen, the water inside the stalks expands as it turns to ice. This expansion causes the rigid cell walls to rupture and leak, resulting in limp celery once thawed. The abundant fiber in celery also absorbs excess moisture during freezing.

What Happens When you Freeze Celery

Here is a more in-depth look at the effects of freezing on fresh celery stalks and why the end result is less than ideal:

  • Cell damage – Ice crystals that form during freezing rupture the rigid plant cell walls. This destroys the crunchy texture.
  • Moisture loss – The abundant water inside the celery seeps out after cells break down.
  • Limp texture – With water lost and cells damaged, the celery ends up bendy and soft when thawed.
  • Waterlogged fibers – The fibers in celery soak up excess moisture released when ice crystals melt.
  • Diluted flavor – With so much fluid and moisture shift, the concentrated celery taste becomes muted.
  • Faster spoilage – The loss of structural integrity speeds up spoilage once thawed.

For these reasons, frozen and thawed celery ends up mushy and watery with weakened fibers and very little crunch or flavor. The damage to the plant cells and composition essentially ruins the celery’s texture and taste.

Ideal Storage for Celery

Since freezing isn’t ideal for celery, what’s the best way to store it? To extend shelf life without sacrificing texture and flavor, follow these tips:

  • Keep celery whole – Don’t chop before storage, as exposed surfaces lose moisture faster.
  • Wrap it – Wrap the intact stalks loosely in aluminum foil to retain moisture.
  • Use the fridge – Store wrapped celery in the coolest part of the fridge, away from ethylene-producing fruits.
  • Put it upright – Store celery vertically in a cup of water, like a bouquet of flowers.
  • Eat ASAP – Plan to use fresh celery within 5-7 days for peak quality.

Proper fridge storage keeps celery crisp for up to a week. For longer storage, celery can be frozen under certain conditions (more details below).

Can Celery Be Frozen Successfully?

Celery’s high water content and delicate cell structure make it fundamentally a bad candidate for freezing. However, there are a few preparation tricks that can yield slightly better results:

  • Blanching – Briefly boil celery for 1-2 minutes, then submerge in ice water. This helps stabilize the cell walls.
  • Freezing it wet – Pack blanched celery tightly with some added water to allow for expansion.
  • Using it cooked – Freezing and thawing will turn celery to mush. Use frozen celery only for cooking in soups, stews, etc.

Even with these tricks, frozen celery loses its signature crunch. It also absorbs odors very easily in the freezer. For best results, try to use fresh celery as soon as possible.

What About Freezing Celery Juice or Cooked Celery?

In addition to raw celery stalks, people often wonder if you can freeze celery juice or cooked celery successfully. Here’s a look at how these forms of celery fare in the freezer:

Celery Juice

Fresh celery juice does not freeze well. The juice will become watery and diluted due to the separation of fluids. Celery juice is best consumed immediately after juicing. If you won’t use it right away, store tightly sealed in the fridge for up to 24 hours.

Cooked Celery

Because cooking softens celery’s crunchy texture anyway, cooked celery freezes better than raw. To freeze:

  1. Blanch chopped celery for 1-2 minutes.
  2. Cool completely in ice bath.
  3. Drain and pack into airtight containers or freezer bags.
  4. Freeze for up to 6 months.

The cooked celery will still be relatively soft when thawed, but can be used in cooking or soups as desired. The flavor holds up better than frozen raw celery.

How Long Does Celery Last in the Fridge?

Proper storage is key to maximizing celery’s shelf life. Here’s how long celery lasts when stored in the fridge:

Storage Method Fridge Life
Whole, wrapped stalks 1-2 weeks
Whole, upright in water 1-2 weeks
Chopped in airtight container 5-7 days

Properly stored, fresh celery will maintain its texture and flavor for up to 2 weeks. Chopping shortens shelf life. Use whole celery within 5-7 days once chopped.

Signs Your Celery Has Gone Bad

How can you tell when celery has passed its prime and needs to be tossed? Here are a few signs that celery has spoiled:

  • Limp, bendy stalks
  • Wilting or shriveling
  • Brown or slimy ends
  • Dry, browning leaves
  • Strong bitter smell
  • Moldy or mushy spots

Fresh celery should be crisp, bright green, and free of discoloration, smell, or moisture at the bottom. Discard celery at the first signs of spoilage.

Uses for Celery Besides Eating Raw

Don’t let extra celery go to waste! If you can’t eat it all fresh, here are some ways to use up celery:

  • Soup – Celery adds flavor and nutrients to stocks, broths, and blended soups.
  • Juice – Blend into fresh vegetable juices for a hydrating kick.
  • Bake – Add chopped celery to muffins, breads, cakes, and cookies.
  • Cook – Sautee to use as a base for stir fries, pasta sauce, etc.
  • Season – Use celery leaves, seeds, and dried celery to flavor dishes.
  • Garnish – Get creative with fresh celery leaves or thinly sliced stalks.

Don’t let excess celery go to waste! Use it up with these tasty ideas.


Celery’s high water and low starch content prevent it from freezing well. Freezing and thawing causes limp, watery celery with muted flavor. For best results, store fresh celery stalks properly in the fridge and aim to use within 1-2 weeks. Cooked celery freezes a bit better than raw. But for maximum crunch and fresh taste, enjoy celery right after harvest without freezing.