Cilantro vs. Coriander

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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)


Comments and Reviews

11 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.

  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).

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  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.


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