Cilantro is a common ingredient in Mexican, Asian, and Indian cuisine. Those outside the USA know this plant as coriander. In the USA, cilantro represents the leaves and stem of the plant, while the dried seeds are called coriander. In most of the world, the plant and its leaves are known as coriander and the seeds are coriander seeds.
The plant is sometimes also called Chinese Parsley and Mexican Parsley. The seeds (coriander) and the plant itself (cilantro) are important to several cuisines. But it might not always be available. So what can you use as a cilantro substitute?
Thankfully, there are several convenient options available. Let’s take a look.
Top Substitutes For Cilantro And Coriander Substitutes
1. Italian Parsley
Here’s something that looks stunningly like cilantro and can do as good a job at garnishing. Italian parsley is sometimes also called flat-leaved parsley. The reason for this name is obvious – the leaves for this plant are flat. This contrasts to conventional parsley, which has curly leaves.
Italian parsley is slightly more bitter than cilantro. That might not be too much of a problem if it’s only used as a garnish. In other cases, you can offset the bitterness by adding some sugar or honey.
2. Thai Basil
Thai Basil is amongst the most suitable options to replace cilantro. It’s sweeter than cilantro and brings along a nice aroma. This could be the option to choose if you don’t particularly prefer the taste of cilantro.
The broader and longer leaves of Thai Basil look different from cilantro, but that won’t really be a problem even when using it as a garnish. If it’s important to manage the appearance, chopping the leaves should get you close enough.
Parsley, or conventional parsley looks similar enough to cilantro that people sometimes get confused between the two. Of course, this isn’t a problem for someone who recognizes the plants, but it does speak to the similarity of the two.
As already noted, conventional parsley has curly leaves, which differentiate it from Italian parsley as well as cilantro. Still, it is a viable alternative, especially as a garnish.
Dill looks somewhat different from cilantro, yet this herb can fill its place quite easily. The citrus and grassy taste sits quite well with most palates and it’s versatile enough to be used in several recipes. Use it as a garnish or for cooking and it will happily fulfill that role.
Squeezing a lemon into the recipe can bring a bright flavor to the recipe that closely aligns with cilantro. It will bring a change to the flavor of the recipe, but it’s unlikely to be a big problem.
The bigger change, however, will be in the appearance of the dish. The lack of bright green leaves will be apparent. If you’re not a fan of cilantro in the first place (and many people aren’t) that’s more a positive rather than a negative.
This herb is quite common in Mexico and does an excellent job as a garnish. It will add the same bright green color to the recipe, without making a significant departure from the flavor. Papalo is quite a useful replacement, especially as a garnish.
The green mint leaves along with their signature flavor and aroma could be a welcome addition to a recipe. It’s popular in Indian and Asian cuisine and can work with several recipes.
You might want to match it with specific recipes or use only a small amount to garnish. The distinct flavor and aroma of mint may feel out of place in some dishes. Adding some balsamic vinegar can help with reducing the minty smell and perhaps even manage the taste.
8. Rau Ram
Rau Ram is closely related to cilantro and is also known as Vietnamese cilantro. The appearance and flavor of both these herbs are quite similar. Well, Rau Ram tends to have a stronger peppery flavor and aroma, but it matches well with savory foods and similar recipes.
Cumin or cumin seed(s) work well as a replacement for coriander (aka coriander seeds). It is often used with coriander in several recipes, especially in Indian cuisine. Yet, it is very much capable of carrying a recipe as a coriander substitute. Cumin has a warmer, darker, and more pungent flavor, so avoid overusing it.
10. Garam Masala
If a garnish is what you desire, the Indian garam masala will suitably substitute for coriander as well as cilantro. It is a rather famous ingredient for Indian cuisine and adds a warming feel to the food without pushing on the hot and spicy factor.
This masala is a mix of several spices and ingredients, including coriander. Using it adds a hint of the coriander flavor, along with the effect of several other spices. When employed as a garnish, this spice mix/masala is brownish, so you will miss those bright green touches of cilantro. Although it will usually replace coriander without a hitch.
Caraway seeds will replace coriander in most recipes. These seeds have a flavor profile and color similar to coriander, making them useful for our purpose. They look much like the cumin seeds but have a different flavor.
As we know, cumin and caraway will both replace coriander. However, if your recipe calls for both cumin and coriander, prefer replacing the latter with caraway. This can add a good mix of flavors to the dish.
The bright green tarragon can provide a suitable replacement. While it has the color, it lacks the flavor. A good way to get around that is to use a mix of various herbs. Adding chopped bits of tarragon, dill, and parsley can add a nice touch to the recipe while also bringing in some depth of flavor.
FAQs And More
What is a good cilantro substitute in salsa?
Parsley is your best bet for replacing cilantro in salsa. If that doesn’t work out (or isn’t available) you can try Thai basil, Mexican Oregano, and Italian parsley. Using these can be helpful if you find the cilantro flavor in salsa to be too overpowering.
Can I substitute dried cilantro for coriander?
Generally, the answer is no, but there might be some special cases. The doubt usually comes from the different nomenclature followed in various regions, even within the USA.
For most of the world, the stem and leaves are part of the coriander plant, while the seeds are coriander seeds. In the USA, the stem and leaves are cilantro, while the seeds are coriander. To complicate matters, some people consider coriander to include the leaves of the plant.
So, some detective work might be necessary to understand what your recipe means. If by dried cilantro it means the stem and leaves (dried) of the plant and coriander as the seeds, it will not work as a substitute. The seed and the herb have different flavors and are not interchangeable.
What can I use instead of cilantro in guacamole?
When replacing cilantro in guacamole, using a mix of herbs and spices can elevate the taste of this wonderful dish. When you choose to skip cilantro, use some parsley along with cumin, coriander, and lime.
Parsley ensures the presence of that classic green color, while cumin and coriander (seeds) bring a more savory flavor. Lime can add the bright citrusy flavor often expected from cilantro.
Picking The Best Replacement And Maintaining Flavor
Thankfully, there are very competitive and useful cilantro substitutes available. Many of the options listed here provide a good match for the color and the flavor inherent to cilantro. The herb itself is an excellent addition to several recipes and has a range of very competitive substitutes available as well.