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.
Cilantro (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)
Categories:Herbs, Spices and Seasoning Hints & Tips
35 Responses to “Cilantro vs. Coriander”
Cilantro and Coriander are the same thing. Not even different parts of the life cycle. USA = cilantro, Australia = coriander.
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.
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.
I agree with you
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).
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
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.
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.
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”.
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.
It is easy to confuse parsley and coriander by the look of the leaves. The sellers should know the difference and label them correctly. As your husband says Beverly, they smell and taste very different and if you really look at them they are not identical and the stalks are quite different.
I thought the coriander was the stage of the cilantro where it hade leaves and flowers. Cilantro was the stage before that
Bob van der Berg
where can I purchase Cilantro?
At your local grocery store in the produce section.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
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?
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.”
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.
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.
I was born, raised, and still reside in Western Canada.
All the people I know cilantro as the green leafy herb that is used in Mexican dishes(for the most part) and I hadn’t heard of coriander until I was in my mid 30’s, which I had to find out, what this was…shocked, I started using coriander about 15 years ago, which to me are dried, ground seeds from the cilantro plant.
Funny thing, to me, cilantro tastes like soap. Like, grate a bar of Dial into my food, why don’t you? Yet, I can eat food with coriander in it. That doesn’t taste like soap. Expected? Or….?
I love how you read the information then post a reply saying you know better. You don’t. The info provided is correct. Move on.
The blog is correct, but only goes so far. Coriander is the plant and in most English speaking countries, in all it’s forms (the fresh or dried leaves, seeds and ground seeds) are referred to as coriander (from the original Latin). The Spanish name is cilantro. In North America the two words are mixed, with cilantro used for the leaves and coriander used for the seeds.
William A. Townsend
Why not just call it Parsley and be done with it. That is what it really is. I had never heard of Cilantro until I was grown. I have heard of Parsley and Coriander all my life. As far as I am concerned it is Parsley no matter how you slice it, grind it, smoke it, or cook it!!!!! Thats the end of it PERIOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It’s not parsley. Cilantro is the same thing as Coriander, it’s just a different name for it. If you substituted parsley in when cilantro (coriander) is called for in a recipe you would get the wrong flavor. Cilantro isn’t interchangeable with parsley by any means, it’s only interchangeable with coriander leaves.
I don’t know why this is so hard for people to understand. It’s just like how the USA has eggplant while the UK/AUS call it aubergine. it’s the same thing.
I’m from California, about 2 1/2 hours from the Mexican border, and I can confirm the only thing people here ever call the leafy plant is cilantro. If you go to the store and ask for coriander, you will probably be directed to the seeds in the spice section because I have never heard anyone here refer to the plant as coriander. I guess when following a recipe, it would help to know the writer’s country of origin to determine if he or she means the leafy part or the seeds.
Well, this has been very entertaining, and fun.. Canadian here, and I’ve cooked with Coriander for many years. It wasn’t until I took a 2 year Culinary Arts program (in my later years), that I came to understand the awesome potential of Cilantro. It’s a taste sensation. Culantro/Cilantro translates to Coriander or Cilantro/Culantro in Spanish, depending on which Translation software you use. It’s a conundrum.. I guess the best way to get to the bottom of it, is go to your local grocery store or Mercado, and buy both. Try it and cook with it. Problem solved. William, don’t smoke it. It is Coriandrum Sativum, not Cannabis Sativa…:)
Having beat this to death, here is a new twist…what about the areas that call green bell peppers and their plants “coriander”? I have never grown them to know if you could eat the leaves as “Cilantro”. Anyone know?
I think Brian is correct. This is just an added piece of info. Not all Spanish Countries call it Cilantro. For example, in Dominican Republic the plant is called VERDURA, and the seeds, SEMILLA de Verdura. The term verdura, is also use with an S to refer generally to legumes which in Spanish, is also called legumbres. If you hear someone buying “verdura” without the S, it simply refer to what some Spanish cultures in the USA call it “Cilantro”. Some Spanish cultures from the USA, also call it “RECAO”, or a diminutive, RECAITO”. Hope this help to continue enriching our knowledge.
Leaves are considered herbs. Seeds are considered spices. It is possible to have each from many different plants.