Many recipes call for cilantro and coriander. Many people wonder if the two are the same thing. Well, are they? Not exactly.
There is an understandable level of confusion regarding the similarities and differences of coriander and cilantro. They come from the same plant- known as Coriandrum sativum. So, in the U.K. and Australia, coriander and cilantro are a singular item- coriander.
While they come from the same plant, cilantro is the plant’s leaves and stem while coriander refers to the dried seeds of the plant. The fact that they come from different parts of the plant also means that the two have entirely different flavor profiles. So, in North America, there are two words, coriander and cilantro, to account for these differences.
Cilantro is the leaves and stalk of the plant. You may have also seen it referred to as Chinese Parsley or coriander leaves.
Normally, it is freshly chopped and sprinkled on top of dishes as garnish. Cuisines that use many spices, like Asian, Caribbean, and Latin American (think the classic guacamole and pico de gallo dishes) frequently use cilantro.
Because cilantro and coriander are different parts of the plant, they also provide different flavor profiles. Cilantro provides a lemon, pepper, and overall pungent taste to dishes.
To substitute it in recipes, fresh parsley and basil leaves will be your best bet. Parsley and basil are closer in flavor profiles to cilantro than coriander seeds.
Coriander are the seeds of the plant.
The seeds have a woody, sweet, and citrus-like flavor profile. Because of the sweet tones of coriander, coriander powder can be incorporated into dishes alongside nutmeg, ground ginger, and cinnamon. So, unlike cilantro, coriander is used in sweet and savory dishes.
You may have noticed coriander seeds or coriander powder called for in many recipes. Because of the sweet and savory tones of dried seeds, coriander has a wider use. Coriander seeds are used in a variety of dishes to flavor soups, salsas, curries, and masalas. They are frequently used in Indian, Middle Eastern, and Asian cuisines. Certain dishes, like pho, incorporate both parts of the plant (coriander in the broth and cilantro in the garnish).
If you have coriander seeds, you can enhance their existing flavors and turn them into a powder quite easily. Simply gently toast the seeds in a non-stick pan and grind them afterwards to make a powder. Then, incorporate the powder in the initial stages of your dish to ensure that the flavors have plenty of time to seep into the dish.
Hopefully this helped clarify some of the cilantro and coriander confusion. To easily remember the difference: coriander is the seeds, cilantro is the leaves!
Here are some dishes that incorporate cilantro: