Looking for a substitute for cilantro?
It is a common ingredient in so many recipes, however, you may find that you have all the ingredients you need except for cilantro. Alternatively, you might not like the taste of cilantro and need a good alternative.
You're in luck! There are plenty of options that can add similar flavor to your dish.
Below you will find the best cilantro substitutes. In order to find the best replacement, you must understand what cilantro tastes like as well as how and why it is used in various recipes in order to find something that works.
What Is Cilantro?
Cilantro is an annual herb in the Apiacae family, which also includes celery, carrot, and parsley.
Also known as coriander or Chinese parsley, cilantro is native to regions of southern Europe and northwestern Africa. The plant grows to a height of about two feet and has small, white flowers.
Cilantro leaves and thin tender stems are used as an herb in cooking, and the plant's seeds are used as a spice.
Understanding Cilantro’s Flavor
Both the leaves and stems have a strong, distinctive flavor that has been described as fresh-tasting as well as tart. That citrusy flavor is very unique and the peppery taste is unmistakable.
The seeds of the coriander plant have a somewhat nutty and spicy taste.
However, one in four people actually thinks cilantro tastes like dish soap! It is understood that this is linked to a gene that detects certain organic compounds found in cilantro that are also used in detergents and soaps.
How Cilantro Is Used in Various Cuisines
Cilantro is commonly used in many different types of cuisine. It is often used as a garnish or added to salads, salsas, noodle dishes, curries, stews, and soups.
Because of its strong flavor, cilantro is often used sparingly. When cooked, cilantro loses much of its flavor and aroma, so it is usually added near the end of the cooking process.
Cilantro is a popular ingredient in Asian dishes, adding a fresh and herbal flavor to dishes.
It is commonly used in Thai and Vietnamese recipes, such as salads, soups, noodle dishes and stir-fries.
In China, cilantro is often used as a garnish or added to dipping sauces. In Indian cuisine, cilantro is used in curries and yogurt-based raitas.
Cilantro can even be used in sweet dishes, such as the Filipino dessert lumpia.
No matter how it is used, cilantro is an essential ingredient in many Asian cuisines.
Middle Eastern Cuisine
Middle Eastern cuisine frequently features cilantro in both cooked and raw dishes.
This versatile herb can be used to add flavor to a number of different recipes, from stews and sauces to salads and garnishes.
Cilantro is particularly common in Iranian, Iraqi, and Syrian cooking, where it is often used to add a bright, fresh flavor to richly-spiced dishes. In Lebanon, meanwhile, cilantro is a key ingredient in the national dish of tabbouleh, a refreshing salad made with tomatoes, parsley, mint, bulgur wheat, and olive oil.
No matter how it is used, cilantro is an essential part of Middle Eastern cuisine.
Mexican and Latin American Cuisine
Cilantro is a popular ingredient in Latin American and Mexican cuisine.
It is used in a variety of recipes, including salsa, sauces, soups, guacamole, chimichurri, and ceviche. Cilantro has a distinct flavor as well as a fresh, citrusy taste that pairs well with other bold ingredients like chili peppers and onions.
While cilantro and coriander seeds are not used in traditional Italian recipes, it is possible to see certain recipes that use it simply because the cultivation of cilantro is so widespread.
Though cilantro is often thought of as a key ingredient in Latin American cuisine, it is also widely used in the United States. In fact, cilantro is one of the most popular herbs in the country. It is commonly used in salsa and guacamole, and it can also be added to rice, beans, and salads.
As a result, it has become a staple in many American kitchens. Whether you're making a simple dish or something more elaborate, cilantro can add a delicious touch of flavor.
Best Substitutes for Fresh Cilantro
There are some fresh herbs that can offer a similar taste in place of cilantro. Some are very common and can easily be found at any grocery store while some are much more unique and may only be found at specialty stores.
If you're a fan of cilantro, but find yourself without any on hand, Thai basil is a great substitute. It has a similar flavor to cilantro, but with a hint of anise and licorice. It's also a little sweeter than cilantro.
When substituting Thai basil for cilantro, use about half as much, since the flavor is more concentrated. Thai basil works well in most recipes that call for cilantro, including Asian stir-fries, curries, and salads. Just be sure to add it at the end of cooking so that the flavor doesn't become too muted.
Rau Ram, also known as Vietnamese coriander, or Cambodian Mint, is a popular herb in Vietnamese cooking. It has a similar flavor to cilantro, but with a slightly spicy kick.
It can be used as a substitute for cilantro in any recipe. Rau Ram goes especially well in soups and salads. When substituting Rau Ram for cilantro, use about half as much, since the flavor is more concentrated.
Rau Ram is also a good choice for dishes where you want a little more heat, such as curries or stir-fries.
Whatever dish you're making, Rau Ram will add an extra zing that your taste buds will love.
Italian parsley is a common herb that is often used as a substitute for cilantro because it comes from the same plant family. While the two herbs have different flavors, flat-leaf parsley can be used in many of the same recipes as cilantro.
This leafy green herb has a milder peppery flavor than cilantro, so it may not be suitable for all dishes. However, it can be a good choice for recipes where you want a subtle herby flavor.
Italian parsley can be used in soups, stews, sauces, and salads.
If you are looking for a cilantro substitute, Italian parsley is a good option to consider.
Also from the same plant family as cilantro, celery leaves have a light, fresh flavor that are similar in flavor. However, they are not as pungent and have a slightly sweeter taste.
While the fresh leaves can be used in many of the same dishes as cilantro, they are best suited for dishes where a milder flavor is desired. For example, they make a great addition to salads or soups. They can also be used as a garnish for grilled meats or vegetables.
If you're looking for a substitute for cilantro, celery leaves are a good option.
If you're looking for a cilantro substitute, mint leaves are a great option. Mint has a refreshing, herbaceous flavor that is similar to cilantro. It can be used in many of the same recipes, such as salsa, guacamole, and pesto.
When substituting mint for cilantro, use a 1:1 ratio. Keep in mind that mint is more potent than cilantro, so you may want to use less mint if you're not a fan of strong flavors. Mint also pairs well with other fresh herbs, such as basil and oregano.
So if you're out of cilantro and mint, simply use a combination of these other herbs in your recipe.
Regular basil, often referred to as sweet basil, can also be used as a cilantro replacement. Compared to Thai basil that is a bit spicy with a hint of anise flavoring, standard basil is much more mild with only a subtle peppery and sweet taste.
Due to the availability of fresh basil, it is often used as a substitute simply because it can introduce a similar freshness to the recipe.
Dill is a popular herb that is used in a variety of cuisines. It has a delicate, slightly sweet flavor with a hint of licorice.
When used fresh, dill can be a great substitute for cilantro. The flavors are similar, but dill is more subtle and won't overpower other ingredients.
Dill can be used in many of the same recipes as cilantro and can give surprisingly pleasing results.
Known as a heat-loving cilantro alternative, this semi-wild green is rich in nutrients and grows in central and South America. It actually has a very strong cilantro flavor, which would put it near the top of this list, but because it is not commonly found in the US, it falls at the bottom.
Because of the concentrated flavor, be sure to use a small amount when using it as a replacement for cilantro. For example, one teaspoon of minced papalo would equate to one tablespoon of cilantro.
Best Dried Cilantro Substitutes
In addition to dried versions of any of the fresh herbs listed above, the following spices can create a similar flavor profile to what you may be looking for in your recipe.
If you've ever eaten a curry, there's a good chance you've tasted coriander. These small, green seeds come from the cilantro plant, and they have a fresh, lemony flavor that goes well with spicy dishes.
Coriander seeds can be used whole or ground, and they're often added to curries, rice dishes, and soups. You can also toast them in a dry pan to release their flavor, or grind them into a powder to use as a spice rub.
Whether you're using them in a recipe or simply sprinkling them on top of your food, coriander seeds are a delicious way to add flavor to your meal.
Coriander powder is simply coriander seeds that have been ground into a fine powder. Of course, for the best flavor, it is recommended you make your own ground coriander using a mortar and pestle, but it is commonly sold as a spice at the store.
It is used in the same way the seeds are used.
This common spice blend is actually a mixture of spices that often contains coriander. Thus, using it as a substitute may work for your recipe.
Since they belong to the same plant family, caraway seeds actually have a very similar flavor profile to coriander. Therefore, they make a great option!
Considering a good substitute for garam masala is a spice blend of coriander, cumin, cinnamon and black peppercorns, it only makes sense that it can be a substitute for coriander.
Do you have any other tried and true substitution recommendations? Please let me know in the comments!