This week we’re spotlighting two items from the AllSpice aisles: Cilantro Leaf (from the herbs section) and Coriander (from the spices section). We’re talking about these together because they both come from the same plant – Coriandrum sativum – yet they have very different flavors and uses.
An aside – Just like measuring, the U.S. does things differently when it comes to cilantro and coriander. In most of the world, coriander refers to the stems and leaves of the Coriandrum sativum plant and coriander seed refers to the seed of the plant. In the U.S. we use cilantro, the Spanish word for coriander, to refer to the stems and leaves of the plan and coriander to refer to the seed. Keep this in mind when you review recipes to make sure you’re using the right ingredient.
Cilantro refers to the stems and leaves of Coriandrum sativum. You’ll commonly find this herb used in Asian, Indian, Mexican, and Middle Eastern cuisine. It’s frequently used as a garnish or added after cooking or added to cold dishes (like salsa) because exposing the herb to heat causes it to lose its taste.
You’ll either love it or hate it – there’s really nothing in between. For those who enjoy cilantro, the flavor is pungent and citrusy. Those who don’t enjoy it typically describe it as soapy. This happens because the leaves contain naturally occurring aldehyde, which has a soapy taste. Some people’s taste buds do not detect aldehyde, and those tend to be the people who like cilantro (it’s legit – genetics play a role in whether or not you like cilantro).
Fresh cilantro is usually sold in bunches and has a very short life once it’s cut from the plant. Keeping dried cilantro around can be useful to avoid wasting large amounts of fresh when you only need a little. The dried version does not pack as much of a cilantro-y punch as the fresh, so you may need to use a bit more to achieve the desired taste.
See recipes that call for Cilantro Leaf in the AllSpice recipe library.
Coriander is the dried seed of Coriandrum sativum. Its flavor is much less polarizing than the flavor of Cilantro and is nutty and warm. You’ll see it frequently used in recipes for meat rubs and blends, curries and rice dishes, and pickling. It pairs nicely with other warm spices like Allspice, Cloves and Cumin.
See recipes that call for Coriander in the AllSpice recipe library.
We’re sometimes asked whether coriander and cilantro can be substituted for one another. The short answer is no. Based on their different flavor profiles and consistencies, coriander and cilantro don’t make a good substitute for one another. If you need a decent substitute use parsley in place of cilantro and cumin in place of coriander.