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What is Cilantro Herb?

cilantro whole leaves


Cilantro is a fresh leafy herb central to Indian and Latin American cuisine. 

What does cilantro taste like?

Cilantro has a light crisp citrus flavor that is warm and spicy with lemony, nutty, and floral undertones.

Where does cilantro come from?

Cilantro (also known as coriander leaf or Chinese parsley) comes from the coriander plant or coriandrum sativum and is in the same family as parsley and carrots. 

Due to its popularity in Mexican cuisine, many people believe that cilantro comes from Mexico, but cilantro was brought to Mexico during the 1500s by Chinese workers in the Spanish silver mines of southern Mexico and South America. 

The plant is native to the Mediterranean regions of southern Europe, northern Africa, and southwestern Asia.

Cilantro vs Coriander

Cilantro is the leaves and stems of the coriander plant, while the seeds of the same plant are used to make ground coriander.

Cilantro Uses

Equally popular in garnishing the national savory dishes of India and Mexico. Cilantro is best used fresh rather than heated to maintain flavor so it can be utilized in dishes such as vinaigrettes, curry garnish, soups, salads, pastes, and marinades. And is also very commonly used in Mexican dishes like tacos, salsas, molés, rice, and beans.

Cilantro Substitutes

  • Thai basil: spicy citrus and licorice flavoring which suits the fresh use of cilantro.
  • Papalo: a similar green herb common in South America with sharp and peppery citrus flavors. 
  • Parsley: if in need of an inoffensive green garnish then parsley can substitute but the two herbs do not share a similar flavor.

Cilantro Compliments and Pairings

This seasoning pairs well with similar fresh ingredients and brings vibrancy and contrast to many dishes. Most popularly paired with lime, cilantro also compliments garlic, ginger, parsley, chili, lemon, coconut, red onion, tomato, eggs, fish, shellfish, poultry, red meat, pulses, rice, potato, vegetables, and avocado.

Cilantro Expiration and Storage 

  • Fresh: wrap in a damp kitchen cloth and store in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.
  • Dried: much of the flavor of coriander is lost in the drying process so this product is only suitable when mixed with stronger flavors such as in salsa’s or dressings. Store in an airtight container away from direct light for 2-3 years.

Fun Facts About Cilantro

  • Due to a genetic variation, a small percentage of people taste the flavor of soap when eating coriander. 
  • All parts of the coriander plant are edible; leaf, seed and root.

Popular Cilantro Recipes

  • Guacamole
  • Beef tacos with lime and cilantro dressing
  • Watermelon, feta and cilantro salad
  • Thai noodle soup
  • Ceviche 
  • Charmoula
  • Cilantro rice
  • Cilantro chutney
  • Kuku sabzi
  • Chimichurri 

Chef Max

Michelin trained professional chef with a passion for recipe writing and all things food. I have worked for over five years at top restaurants across the UK and have gained an ability to create any recipe you desire, from comfort food recipes to fine dining recipes. My experience in food writing includes a placement at Delicious Magazine which involved feature writing, recipe testing, article research, and content creation.

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