What is Cilantro?
What is Coriander?

What is cilantro explains the relationship between coriander and cilantro while also explaining when to use which and what to substitute if you don't have any.

Cilantro vs Coriander

Confetti Mild Cilantro Seeds icon

Calypso Slow Bolt Cilantro Seeds and Plants icon

Buy One Cilantro Plant icon

Did You Know?

One of cilantro's common names is Chinese parsley.

Cilantro is an annual herb grown for its culinary and medicinal properties. 

The three images above are all pictures of cilantro plants.  There are several varieties or types available to gardeners.  Most sport wide, flat leaves that look a lot like those of Italian parsley.  In fact, you could easily confuse the flat-leaved types for parsley when shopping for cilantro in the grocery store.  Other types have more finely cut leaves like those of Confetti.

When a recipe calls for cilantro, it is referring to the leaves of the  Coriandrum sativum or coriander plant.

What is Coriander?

Whole dried coriander seeds poster.

When a recipe calls for coriander, it is referring to the small, brown seeds of the Coriandrum sativum plant.  Each plant will produce about a quarter cup of the aromatic 1/8" seeds during its life.

These seeds can be saved and planted the following spring to produce a crop of their own, or used whole or ground in recipes.

Cilantro vs Coriander

Cilantro on a fish taco.

Same plant, different parts.  The leaves (cilantro) are chopped and added to Mexican, Chinese, and Middle Eastern dishes where their pungent flavor is desired.

The lemony seeds (coriander) are used as a baking spice and in Indian curry.

Most recipes will be quite specific about which one is required.

Cilantro - Coriander Substitute

According to the Joy of Cooking, my most trusted food reference, cardamom is an acceptable coriander alternative. The same book lists flat-leaf parsley and basil as cilantro substitutes, but, in my opinion, neither of these herbs really tastes like cilantro.

Knowing cilantro's flavor profile might help you to mix up a closer approximation of it in a pinch.

Coriander and Cilantro Flavor

Bunch of fresh cilantro.

Fresh cilantro tastes like a combination of parsley, lovage, and juniper berries.  There is a tangy bitterness in it which has been likened to citrus peel, sage, or rosemary.

Coriander tastes like a a mixture of cardamom and cloves with a pinch of white pepper thrown in.

Substitution Advice:

Personally, I greatly prefer the taste of parsley to that of cilantro, but I use both herbs in cooking because I have found that parsley just does not do an effective job of pinch hitting for cilantro in salsas, etc.

And although parsley is a wonderful tonic herb, it lacks cilantro's powerful health benefits.

Related Pages:

Tips for Growing Cilantro

Discover Coriander/Cilantro Health Benefits

What are Rose Hips?

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