Overnight Japanese Celery Pickles (Serori Zuke)


Celery is not the most traditional Japanese vegetable and yet the aroma and flavours of these pickles seem so typically Japanese, I would not put this dish into the “fusion” category. The delicately vinegared, slightly smokey, dashi-based brine mellows the celery’s taste, but keeps it refreshing and crisp, making these overnight pickles a wonderful winter side-dish, which might even convert some celery haters.

This unusual idea comes from Gaku Homma’s Folk Art of Japanese Country Cooking, a book I bought with an Amazon gift card won at Nami’s Just One Cooking. Nami’s blog being an extraordinary source of Japanese recipes, I obviously opted for something which would remind me of her generosity. I wanted an original addition to my kitchen library and I didn’t regret my choice. Apart from containing a huge collection of traditional home recipes (often enriched by foreign influence, such these celery pickles), the book is a real mine of information about Japanese countryside food-related customs, and a fascinating explanation of different aspect of Japanese meals and ingredients. An aikido school creator and restaurant owner in Denver, Gaku Homma is certainly not a typical cookery book author and his different approach is also very interesting. As a passionate pickler, I was obviously particularly attracted by the “tsukemono” (pickles) chapter and am particularly keen on exploring it further. Thank you so much, Nami, for this wonderful present!

I have slightly adapted the recipe to a smaller batch of celery, low-salt soy sauce and adjusted to my taste. Check the original recipe in Gaku Homma’s book.

If you feel like experimenting with celery, you might like this short-term Celery Kimchi:

Celery Kimchi
Celery Kimchi

Here are some other easy Japanese pickles I am very fond of:

Daikon (Dried and Pickled)
Daikon (Dried and Pickled)
Kyuuri no Kyuuchan
Kyuuri no Kyuuchan
Pickled Ginger (Gari)
Pickled Ginger (Gari)
Pickled Radish
Pickled Radish

TIPS: Pickled celery can be served as a side dish with practically anything, but I think it’s particularly exceptional with seafood and fish.

The brine is based on Japanese stock (dashi). I have used one made with dried bonito flakes and konbu (see the recipe here), but it can be prepared with shiitake or dried fish too. Do not substitute this stock with Western chicken stock. Japanese stock is very quick to prepare, but if you cannot find the ingredients, it can be bought powdered in Asian grocery shops.

Preparation: 20 minutes + 24 hours

Ingredients (fills a 400 ml jar):

2 celery stalks, cut into bite-sized pieces

1/4 teaspoon salt


200 ml dashi (Japanese stock; I made one based on dried bonito and konbu, see the recipe here)

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

2 tablespoons low-salt soy sauce

Blanch the celery pieces for 3 minutes in boiling salted water.

Put into cold water to stop them from further cooking.

Drain well.

In a jar combine the brine ingredients.

Place the celery in the brine.

Close the jar and refrigerate overnight.

These pickles will keep refrigerated for about a week.


26 Replies to “Overnight Japanese Celery Pickles (Serori Zuke)”

  1. WOO!! I’m a passionate pickler here myself (as you probably already know). I’ve always made very basic pickles though, with salt sugar maybe vinegar and spices, (the complicated ones like achar is a completely different category on its own so let’s not talk abotu that) but I love this use of dashi and soy sauce in the pickling! DEFINITELY DEFINITELY doing this one. Love how you can replace some of the salt with an even more flavourful type of ‘salt’. Was hearing about this Japanese chef curing egg yolks with soy sauce and mirin instead of salt and sugar- HOW BRILLIANT! Love this one.

    and p.s. Our blog ESP strikes again. I mention a fermentation workshop I’m doing in my latest post. WHAT IS WRONG WITH US?! 😉

    1. Thank you so much, Shuhan. Yes, I know you are one of those who are not afraid of pickling 😉 I am really happy we share this passion. These pickles are really fantastic. I love especially the smokey taste of dashi (I made dashi with dried bonito). I’m jumping to your blog! It’s magical indeed! We have a special link 😉

  2. Sissi, you’ve outdone yourself with your simple overnight Japanese pickled celery! I’m never…ever without fresh celery in my fridge. I use it for so much of my cooking, and eat it raw; never have I ever tasted the Japanese pickling way, but I have tasted it the Korean kimchi style…just love spicy pickled veggies, and this one certainly is on top of my list to make. Thanks for sharing; yet another creative pickling recipe!

    1. Dear Elisabeth, thank you so much for your kind words. I don’t use celery as often as I should (I grew up without celery: in a big part of Europe celery is not traditionally used), so I am still discovering it.

  3. Yes, in Japan, celery is still regarded as a foreign (Western) vegetable, and I don’t know why.

    I wonder if Honma’s recipe specifically says to blanch celery first.

    1. Hi Hiroyuki, it’s Honma who says to blanch the celery. It takes some of the harsh anise seed taste off the sticks.

  4. You are the Queen of pickling my dear!!!!! Celery pickles? That’s a new one on me. However, I must say that because of you, I eat A LOT more celery than I use to. It used to just be a chopped up ingredient, but now I’m using chunks of celery in stir fries and such. You have stirred my curiosity about celery pickles. You certainly make them good delicious!

    1. Thank you so much, MJ. That’s a new one for me too 😉 I’m glad you eat more celery because of me (it’s very healthy apparently!). Yes, for me stir-fried celery has also been a huge discovery!

  5. I love following your pickling adventures Sissi and seeing this pickled celery brings new hope and life to the possibility of reviving the tasteless North American celery!!! :). Yes, all is possible my friends. I go through jars of pickled vegetables for snacks and must really get on the domesticated track with these lovelies. The combination of dashi and soy sauce sounds delighted here. Thank you for the inspiration.

    1. Hi, Kelly. Thank you so much for the compliments. This celery has definitely lots of flavours. Are organic celeries also tasteless in the US? I thought maybe it was the super-quick growing method…

  6. How interesting! Pickled celery is new concept. You are so clever and like to try kimuch version too. The pickled radish is like art, very pretty!

    1. Hi, Gintare. I used to be scared of celery until recently and then realised that in spite of its strong aroma it has a delicate quite neutral refreshing taste. Since then I have been keeping on looking for new experiments with it and love every single one.

  7. Ohhh so you bought this book! I saw this book on Amazon when I was searching Japanese cookbooks. Now I know this is a good book to recommend – I know how much you care about the quality of cookbooks, so thank you for recommendation. 🙂 I love the texture of celery and I’ve never prepared a dish like this. So happy to learn something new. Also, it’s great that you keep introducing dashi as “very easy to cook”. Most people are hesitant as it’s a new ingredient. But the fact that you mentioned it’s easier than homemade chicken broth… it’s so true! 🙂 And no, can’t replace with any other stock rather than other kinds of Japanese dashi… 🙂 Great post!

    1. Hi, Nami. Thank you so much for your kind words. Actually I told you about this book, but it was so long ago, I’m not surprised you have forgotten (I’m really ashamed it took me so much time to start cooking from this wonderful book! as the only excuse I can say the book is fascinating and I kept on reading and rereading it…). Anyway, thank you once again for your generosity and for this wonderful present! Without you I would have never discovered it.
      To tell you the truth I must have used once maybe instant dashi… It’s quite expensive here and when I discovered how easy it is to make my own, I never stopped.

  8. I grew up eating homemade pickles and after I moved out I have kept a jar of pickle with me whole these years. However, I have not tried to make the Japanese pickles although I always love them when I eat at Japanese restaurants. I am thinking of trying this celery pickle with my instant dash base. Will let you know how it came out 🙂 Thanks for sharing!

    1. Hi, Yi. Do let me know whether you liked it. (If you have time, do try making your own dashi). Good luck!

    1. Thank you, Mr. Three-Cookies. I tried once celery and peanut butter. It wasn’t actually bad… I think it was our friend Ping who doesn’t blog any more who talked about it.

  9. Ooh, that first picture immediately drew me in – I’ve told you before how much I love celery I think. I bet it must be really good like this – the fresh crisp celery would take on that lovely texture which things get when they’re pickled to become a bit more chewy but still crisp, but in a different way… crunchy I guess, instead of crisp.

    I just discovered pickled feferonis (actually I just looked that up and it’s a Swedish word it seems… in English it’s “Peperoncini”). I’m obsessed with them. I bought a huge jar and it’s almost half gone already because I’m just eating them as a snack!

    1. Hi, Charles. Thank you for the compliments. Yes, I remember you love celery (talking about obsessions: from what I see on British tv and read in British press I think Britons are in general obsessed with celery!). Here actually they don’t become chewy, but take a slightly smokey taste because of dashi.
      I think I have heard about feferonis on Mr. Three-Cookies’s blog. I pickle chillies every year, so I never buy such things, but before I started doing it I always liked pickled medium hot chillies too.

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