What’s the Difference Between Coriander and Cilantro?

Ashlee Redger
Test Kitchen Chef
Savory Spice Shop

Print Facebook Twitter Google Plus Pinterest Email
What’s the Difference Between Coriander and Cilantro?

African, Central & South American, Caribbean, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and of course Asian cuisines from North to South: what ties all of these together? It’s the near-global use of the Coriandrum sativum, the plant that produces, you guessed it, both coriander and cilantro.

Across the world, these two ingredients are often referred to singularly as coriander but in North America, we distinguish the fresh, flat-leafed herb of the plant by calling it cilantro (which is actually just the Spanish translation of coriander). If a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, then does the same go for coriander? As it turns out, the seeds and leaves of C. sativum have vastly different flavor profiles and culinary uses.

Dried cilantro is best for infusing dishes
during the cooking process while
fresh is best as a garnish or finisher.


Let’s start at the top… of the stem, that is. Cilantro (in case you skipped the intro: the leaves of the coriander plant) has a flavor that’s reminiscent of lemony citrus and pepper… unless you’re one of those people who think cilantro tastes like soap, that is. It’s not your fault—it’s genetics. If you do suffer from cilantro-hate, I recommend skipping to the coriander section of this post. This part is all about that cilantro love.

Cilantro Flavor

The herb has the cooling power of mint and the aromaticity of basil. Cilantro is almost exclusively used in savory dishes and shines the brightest when used fresh as opposed to being added at the beginning of the stewing, baking, or grilling process. Fresh cilantro adds brightness and fresh flavor, as well as a pop of color, to a finished dish when used as a garnish. It can also be blended into a finishing condiment, like a cilantro pesto. Try making your favorite pesto recipe but replace basil with cilantro and substitute walnuts or cashews in place of pine nuts for a sauce to spoon over dishes from any of the cuisines listed off in the intro. Want something a little spicier? Yemeni Zhoug (also spelled zhug) is similar to a cilantro pesto sans nuts and cheese but with the addition of spicy peppers (like jalapenos) and spices like cumin, cardamom, and caraway.

Cooking with Cilantro

You might be thinking: “I love cilantro; I want to infuse it in my dish from the start!” I’m with you, fellow cilantro fan. That’s where dried cilantro comes in. Yes, during the drying process, it does lose some of it’s bite. It all has to do with volatility. Chemically speaking, volatile flavor compounds are molecules that are itching to escape their liquid or solid structures and vaporize into the atmosphere. When most herbs are dried (or cooked for long periods), the flavorful molecules in charge of the bright, sharp flavors evaporate, which allow the pepperiness or vegetal earthiness to concentrate in the final product. For this reason, dried cilantro is best added to long simmers, marinades, or into rice while it’s cooking where it has the chance to infuse its more subtle flavors over time.

Whole coriander seeds make a great addition to
pickling liquids, marinades, and meat brines.


Most people are oh-so-familiar with cilantro from a lifetime of seeing it’s bright green color sprinkled on tacos and chili or stirred into salsa, but coriander can sometimes be passed over as just another spice in a blend. I used to be one of those people, but I’ve come to adore coriander as I’ve incorporated it more into my cooking. My love toward the seeds might be recent, but that doesn’t mean it runs any less deep.

Coriander Flavor

Ground Coriander can be compared to ground ginger because of its intense bright citrus flavor with more developed undertones of fragrant pepperiness. It pairs well with sweet-warm spices like the aforementioned ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom, and cloves, which means it’s a great addition to sweet (or savory!) baked goods for a little extra oomph. Coriander is a common component of curry powders of all types, from red and green Thai curries to African Zanzibar Curry Powder to Indian Tandoori Seasoning. It stars in the classic Punjabi Garam Masala and in Caribbean Curry Powder. I could go on, but here’s the deal: if it’s curry, it probably has coriander.

Cooking with Coriander

Coriander seeds play a supporting role in Spanish spices, Chilean seasonings, and even Tex-Mex sprinkles. The bright flavor means whole seeds are great additions to pickling liquids, marinades, and meat brines. Remember volatility? Dried seeds hold their flavor extremely well compared to delicate leaves (whole seeds especially so), which means they should be added at the beginning of cooking. If you have the time, toasting seeds gently and grinding right before you use them will yield maximum tastiness. And trust me, you want all the coriander flavor you can get.

What’s your favorite way to use cilantro and coriander? Show off your favorite recipes by tagging @savoryspiceshop on Instagram!


Comments on this Article

No comments on this article. Be the first!

Add a comment:


Email Address: (will not be made public)

To help us reduce spam please click on the symbols in the image below
Captcha Button - Yes Captcha Button - No Captcha Button - No Captcha Button - Yes Captcha Button - No Captcha Button - Yes Captcha Button - No Captcha Button - No


5280 Magazine adobo Alabama All Natural allspice Ashlee Redger autumn Back to School Bacon baking bananas barbacoa Barbecue barbeque BBQ BBQ Recipes BBQ Sauce BBQ Spices beans beef Behind the Product Behind the Scenes bison Black Dip Blackening bloody mary bouillon bread Breakfast brine brining buffalo sauce buffalo wings burger Burgers cajun Cajun Blackening california paprika Caramel Caribbean Carolina BBQ Carolina Reaper Cedar Plank chai chasing bbq Chicharron Salt chicken chile Chile Flakes chiles chili chimichurri chinese new year chocolate cinnamon Cobbler cocoa coconut coffee Columbian Columbus Day comfort food condiments cookbook cookies cooking with seeds corned beef creole Cuban Cue Glue curry dairy free dairy-free Denver dessert Desserts dinner dip dip recipes dips DIY DIY Recipe Kits dressing dressings dried herbs Dry Brine Easter Easy Dinner Easy Meals Eggs extract extract recipes extracts fall Fall Recipes Family-Friendly Father's Day fish flavored drinks fresh herbs fudge game day Gardening garlic Georgia Georgia Peach Spice gift gift guide gift ideas gift packs gift sets gifts gluten gluten free gluten-free gluten-free menus gluten-free recipes gluten-free spices Grill grilling Growing From Seed guacamole Ham harissa harvest hatch green chile healthy Healthy cooking healthy eating healthy recipes herb recipes herbs holiday holiday brunch holiday cocktail party Holiday Cookies Holiday Gifts Holiday Meal Holiday Meals holiday menu holiday open house Holiday Traditions hot hot sauce hungarian paprika ice cream Illinois Irish jalapeno Jamaican Jamaican Jerk jerk Kansas City KC Barbecue Kebab Kentucky ketchup lamb Latin Lemon Lemon Bars Lemon Pepper lime Liquid Brine makrut mardi gras marinade Marinades Marinate Marinating marninate mayonnaise Meal Planning meatball Meatless Monday Mediterranean Memphis Memphis BBQ menus Mexican Meyer Lemon Middle Eastern MM Local mustard mustard seeds Mutton New Year's North Carolina onion organic paleo paprika Peach Peaches pepper peppercorns pickles popcorn pork Pork Chops Potluck pumpkin Pumpkin Pie Pumpkin Spice Pyramid Peak Quiche Quick and Easy recipes resolutions ribs Rudspice salad Salad Dressing salads Salmon salsa salt Salt Block Cooking salt free salt-free salt-free recipes salt-free seasonings salty Sauce savory savory spice Scallops seafood seed to seed seeds Shrimp Side Dishes sides Skewers Slow Cooker Smoke Cans smoked paprika Smoothie snacks sofrito soup South Carolina southwestern Spanish spanish paprika spice Spice 'n Easy Spice Club Spice it Forward spice to plate spicy spring Sriracha St Louis St. Louis St. Patrick's Day Steak Stocking Stuffer stocking stuffers sugar sugar free sugar free seasonings sugar-free summer summer recipes super bowl sweet Test Kitchen Texas Texas Barbecue Texas BBQ Texas Spices Thanksgiving Toast toasting seeds tomato Top Chef traditions turkey Valentine's Day vanilla Vanilla Beans Vegetarian vindaloo Weeknight Meals Whole Hog whole seeds wings winter Women's Bean Project