Cilantro vs. Coriander

Cilantro – What is Cilantro?

Photos from Iowa State University Extension.

Cilantro or coriander not only has two common names, but two entirely different identities and uses.  Cilantro, Coriandrum sativum, describes the first or vegetative stage of the plant’s life cycle.  After the plant flowers and develops seeds, it is referred to as coriander.


cilantroCilantro (sih-LAHN-troh)is the Spanish word for coriander leaves.  It is also sometimes called Chinese or Mexican parsley.  Technically, coriander refers to the entire plant.  It is a member of the carrot family.

Most people either LOVE IT or HATE IT.  Taste experts aren’t sure why, but for some

people the smell of fresh coriander is fetid and the taste soapy.  In other words, while most people love coriander, for some people, coriander just doesn’t taste good.

Chopped fresh cilantro leaves are widely used in Mexican and Tex-Mex cooking, where they are combined with chilies and added to salsas, guacamoles, and seasoned rice dishes.

When purchasing, look for leaves that are tender, aromatic, and very green.  If it has no aroma, it will have no flavor.  Avoid wilted bunches with yellowing leaves.  Fresh cilantro does not keep well, and the flavor of dried is not comparable.

To store fresh coriander, pick out any wilted leaves, and put it in a jar with water like a bunch of flowers.  Cover the leaves with a plastic bag and put the whole thing in the refrigerator.  Change the water every two days or so, picking out any wilted leaves when you do.


Coriander – what is Coriander?

Coriander is the dried seed of the cilantro.  The seeds are round like tiny balls.  They are used whole or ground as a flavoring for food and as a seasoning.  The seeds are used in curries, curry powder, pickles, sausages, soups, stews, and ratatouille.

The essential seed oil is used in various herbal remedies and dietary supplements, and to flavor gin, vermouth, liqueurs, tobacco and perfumery.



Technically, these two words describe different plants.  But since both plants taste really similar, it is hard to tell the difference; especially when the leaves have been chopped. In Mexico people i met always called the green chopped fresh spice “Cilantro.” – Greetings from Germany, Jan (8/9/16)


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Comments and Reviews

22 Responses to “Cilantro vs. Coriander”

  1. Grant

    Cilantro and Coriander are the same thing. Not even different parts of the life cycle. USA = cilantro, Australia = coriander.

  2. Joey

    You’ve got it wrong Grant. Cilantro is the leafy plant. Corainder is the seeds produced by the plant. They sort of look like greenish whole pepper.

    • Jimi

      Grant and Bruce are half-wrong. It changes with English variations. However, in America where both terms are used, the seeds are known as Coriander & the leaves and stalks are the cilantro.

    • Farhad

      I agree with you

  3. Bruce McLennan

    Grant has it completely correct. Coriander and Cilantro are the same plant, they do not refer to different parts of the plant’s life cycle. US and Canada call Coriander Cilantro, for some reason, while the rest of the world calls it Coriander.

    Mexican Coriander or Culantro is a totally different species (Eryngium foetidum) and not to be confused with Coriander or Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum).

    • eduo

      To be clear: Mexican Cilantro and Coriander are *exactly* the same plant. I was surprised to see Bruce’s mention about Eryngium foetidum as the source of the confusion since Culantro and Cilantro are unrelated.

      Mexican Cilantro, American Cilantro and Australian Coriander are the same plant. Mexico calls cilantro the plant and cilantro seeds the seeds. America calls cilantro the plant and coriander the seeds. Australia calls coriander the plant and coriander seeds the seeds.

      There isn’t a single proper response. Trying to correct instead of understanding just adds to the confusion. Using wikipedia is also a bad idea since it oversimplifies things even further.

      Culantro and Cilantro are words used for both plants (also “coriandro”) in spanish. The “rule” is not the same because the each country has settled on one word for one plant and another for the other. So it becomes necessary to either assume we’re always talking “american” or the actual source needs to be tacked on it:

      Mexican Culantro = Venezuelan Cilantro
      Spanish Cilantro = Australian Coriander
      American Coriander = English Coriander Seeds

  4. ethiopian porn

    I’m amazed, I must say. Seldom do I encounter a blog that’s both equally educative and entertaining, and let me tell you, you have hit the nail on the head. The issue is something that not enough people are speaking intelligently about. Now i’m very happy that I came across this in my search for something regarding this.

  5. Brian

    It’s not really that complicated. They are two different words in two different languages for the same plant. Americans have adopted the spanish word for the leaf and the english word for the seed. I believe spanish speaking folks would not call the seed coriander. They’d probably call it semilla de cilantro or something like that. UK and Australian english speakers probably use coriander to mean the leaf and use “coriander seed” when specifying the seed.

  6. Adey

    Semantics. In the UK, it is always “Coriander”, regardless of whether it is young and fresh leaves/stalks, seeds, or dried. I think North Americans call the young plant leaves “Cilantro”, using the Latino translation as explained in the article, whilst the rest of us call it “Coriander”.

  7. Beverly

    My husband (Panamanian) begs to differ with you. We live in the UAE where they swear coriander is the same thing. My husband says the leaves are not the same and it doesn’t smell the same. He refuses to buy it. What they label as coriander he called parsley.

  8. A person

    I thought the coriander was the stage of the cilantro where it hade leaves and flowers. Cilantro was the stage before that

  9. Bob van der Berg

    where can I purchase Cilantro?

  10. Leanne

    I had a herb expert tell me that the reason you either love or hate it is because of a gene. We are genetically predisposed to loving or hating this herb.

    • Naomi

      Interesting thing that gene gives the predisposition to love or hate the herb. If this is true my genes must have changed, because I did hate coriander and now I love it.

  11. Xerxes Setna

    I’ve always used the term coriander. I had never heard of Cilantro until I set up a cooking blog this year and started reading other people’s comments. Perhaps that’s because I’m English and other comments were coming from different countries like the US, UAE and India. The question I have is – what difference does it make to the recipe/flavour if using fresh the seeds or the fresh plant?

    • NonSequitron

      Really it depends on the country of origin and the intended country of export. For instance any product intended for sale in America that is marked “Coriander” is the ground seed of the Coriander plant (Coriandrum sativum). That is the exclusive meaning of “coriander” in America. However, in England, “coriander” refers to the leaves of the same plant. In America, the leaves are called Cilantro probably due to its use as a substitute for Culantro (Eryngium foetidum)–an herb common in Latin American and Caribbean cooking–and to differentiate it from the ground seeds. You can also purchase Coriander Seeds in American which are whole, dried seeds of the Coriander plant (Coriandrum sativum)

      If you’re working from a recipe you should check the vernacular of the people in the country of origin. However, once you get familiar with them, common sense will usually dictate.

  12. Ashley

    I am glad I saw this post. I am in Cambodia right now and have been confused by this. I love cilantro. I hate coriander. I was so baffled when I was told its the same thing. Just now I tasted some coriander salt, hoping it would taste like cilantro, and it was definitely the other kind that I do not like one bit- its very pungent. Semantics aside, its obviously two different parts of the same plant and I am happy to have that distinction. Thank you!

  13. pearl watts

    I get it with the difference between coriander and cilantro. My cilantro has gone to seed and I am wondering how to take advantage of the “coriander”. Let it dry on the stem? Cut it and let it dry? Use it in cooking green? Or dry?

  14. Rod

    Cilantro and Culantro are different (except in countries where Culantro is not common.) Culantro (Eryngium Foetidum) has long, spikey leaves, and has an earthy flavor. Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) has small leaves and is very common. This can be confusing for many reasons. But in Caribbean cuisine, which I specialize in, we use BOTH together for a staple paste we use for cooking called “sofrito.”

  15. CB

    I found this blog while trying to work out if the difference between the two myself, so it has been educational.
    I will clarify for you all that here in Australia, we refer to it as Coriander Root (obviously for the root), Coriander (the stems and leaves) and Coriander Seed (for the seeds).
    Thank you all for clarifying the Cilantro thing for me though, I have been wondering about it for a while now.

  16. Sandra Brown

    The reason we tend to use each term separately in America is because “American” cuisine rarely uses the leaves. traditional “American” cuisine in America refers to older recipes used in or coming from the eastern states, particularly the Northeast and the “Deep” South, both of which reflect a primarily western European, and particularly English, heritage, with a strong West African influence on the Southern cuisine. The leaves are, however, copiously used in Mexican, as well as Asian, cooking, and, therefore, in many dishes of the Southwestern US.
    Thus the difference in terms: seeds, English, coriander; leaves, Spanish, cilantro.


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