It’s happened to us so many times that while we’re cooking from a recipe-book, and it suddenly calls for coriander, we often wonder whether it is referring to the dried herb we find in a bottle or fresh cilantro leaves, which are often referred to as coriander. There’s a lot of confusion surrounding this polarizing herb.
But don’t you worry dear readers we here to help you. Here is a simple breakdown between coriander and cilantro that will bring about more clarity and confidence to your future culinary adventures.
Cilantro vs. Coriander
What’s the confusion?
Both cilantro and coriander come from the very same plant: Coriandrum Sativum. However, they are named differently in different parts of the world. In North America, especially the United States cilantro refers to the leaves and stalks of the plant while the dried seeds of the plant are called coriander. It’s an entirely different story in the United Kingdom and in other places like Australia where the word cilantro seldom makes an appearance, and coriander is typically used across the board. To avoid confusion, we will refer to the leaves and stalks of the Coriandrum Sativum plant as cilantro and the dried seeds as coriander.
What’s the Difference?
Despite coming from the same plant, cilantro and coriander have significantly different nutrient profiles, tastes and uses.
- Nutrient Profile
When it comes to nutrition, cilantro and coriander are quite distinct. Cilantro has higher levels of vitamins, such as vitamins A, K and E, while coriander is more abundant in minerals like manganese, iron, magnesium and calcium. Also fresh cilantro is 92.2% water while coriander seeds are only 8.9% water. This is a major reason why cilantro has lower levels of minerals by weight, as the water in cilantro contains no minerals or calories.
- Taste and Aroma
Cilantro and coriander have different tastes and aromas. Cilantro is an herb with a fragrant, citrusy flavor. Many people enjoy its refreshing taste and aroma, but others can’t stand it. Interestingly, people that find cilantro repulsive tend to have a genetic trait that makes them perceive cilantro as “foul” or “soapy”. Coriander, on the other hand, is much mellower. Its aroma is best described as warm, spicy and nutty. It still has a hint of citrus in there but also a slight curry flavour.
The different properties of cilantro and coriander have led people to use them differently in recipes. The refreshing, citrusy taste of cilantro leaves has made them a common garnish in South American, Mexican, South Asian, Chinese and Thai dishes. Fresh cilantro is typically added just before serving, since heat can quickly reduce its flavor. Some dishes that contain cilantro are salsa, guacamole, chutney, acorda and soups.
Conversely, coriander seeds have a warmer and spicier taste and are commonly used in dishes that have a spicy kick. For example, curries, rice dishes, meat rubs, pickled vegetables, borodinsky bread and dhana dal
Due to their different taste and nutrient profiles, cilantro and coriander cannot be used interchangeably. If you need a substitute for coriander, cumin, caraway, garam masala and curry powder will do in a pinch. And if your recipe calls for cilantro, try subbing it with parsley or basil.
So, now when you find a recipe that calls for “coriander”, do some research. Make sure to check how the ingredient is used to find out whether the recipe is talking about the leaves and stalks, or the seeds of the plant. And for more food related blogs, stay tuned to Eco Eats.
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