19 Great Cilantro (Coriander) Substitutes
Cilantro has a bright, zingy, fragrant burst of flavor. From curry to guacamole, cilantro brings a dish to life. Some find it bitter and tasting like soap! Well, genetics tells us that soapy thing is very real for some, but for the rest of us cilantro brings a burst of flavor to our dishes.
But what do you do when you have run out? We’ve put together a list of the best cilantro substitutes!
What’s the difference between coriander and cilantro?
None really. In Latin countries, the plant is simply called cilantro, while in the UK and other countries, it’s called coriander. In the US, the leaves and stem are cilantro, while the dried seeds are coriander – just to add to the confusion.
Usually the two names are used interchangeably, and chefs, home cooks, and foodies everywhere use their preferred one – just as we are here. The leaves are used as a garnish. The seeds, whole and ground, are used as spices. But there are alternatives for all of these!
Cilantro flavor profile
Before we dive into the amazing, flavorful world of cilantro substitutes, here are some of the characteristics you should look for in a replacement:
- Cilantro has a bright, intense, flavorsome bouquet.
- Cilantro is a blend of lemon flavors and peppery notes.
- Cilantro seeds have an earthy, nutty flavor.
- Cilantro seeds mix a slightly sweet and tart flavor, with a floral finish.
If you’re looking for a suitable cilantro substitute for a curry, cumin is the one for your dish. Cumin has a warming effect, with a nutty, earthy, and yet spicy, lemony aroma.
While it resembles cilantro seeds, cumin is more potent, and its pungent, somewhat bitter flavor can overwhelm the dish. Make sure to adjust the amount you use.
2. Caraway Seeds
Another cilantro seed substitute is caraway. Caraway mimics the earthy tones in cilantro. In addition, it brings a nutty, peppery vibe, much like cilantro. It also has an interesting mix of sweet, floral, and bitter aromas. Just as we suggested with cumin, start small with caraway and go from there.
3. Fennel Seeds
We couldn’t talk spices similar to cilantro without mentioning fennel seeds. Fennel has a rather sweet, lively flavor, resembling anise and licorice. It will make you think of cilantro, though it lacks the latter’s citrusy touch. In addition, fennel can be a little bitter, especially when used raw.
4. Whole Cloves
What to use instead of cilantro seeds? Well, for Indian food, sauces, stews, and marinades, cloves are the aromatic punch you need. Cloves have a warming effect with a citrusy touch. You will also love the fragrant aroma they bring to the table.
5. Curry Powder
If you’re looking for a cilantro powder substitute, curry could be a good choice. It provides both sweet and savory touches and it mimics the earthy, deep aroma of cilantro. But it does contain many condiments, turmeric being one of them, hence the taste and color of food will change.
6. Garam Masala
A mixture of spices, garam masala is one of the best cilantro substitutes. That’s because it contains cilantro, together with cumin, cloves, and other ingredients.
Make sure to start with a pinch and adjust the quantity, since garam masala can affect both the taste and appearance of the dish. The turmeric in garam masala could be the game-changer.
We often use this on pizzas, in soups and pasta sauces, but did you know you can replace cilantro with oregano? Dried oregano can be a good swap for ground cilantro due to its combination of minty and earthy tones. Though oregano doesn’t pack the fragrance of cilantro.
Is cardamom a good substitute for cilantro? Well, yes and no. If there’s no other replacement in sight, sure, cardamom can come to the rescue. With a mix of sweet and smoky notes, cardamom has a powerful spiciness and floral taste to it. It’s quite intense, though, so make sure to start small and taste the dish, so that you don’t overpower it.
- What can you replace the herb with?
While it would be bold to say we can capture the full flavors of this aromatic plant, there are some substitutes for fresh cilantro that just might do!
9. Parsley (Flat-Leaf)
With a crisp, fresh, sweet, flowery, and herby flavor, parsley is a good option when you have no cilantro. It can bring a certain bitterness and it will lack that zesty, citrusy flavor that cilantro has but it will work. A 1:1 ratio works.
Basil, the Italian one, comes quite close to cilantro. Sweet, aromatic, fragrant, flowery, basil lacks that lemony tang that cilantro has. But you can balance that with a couple of drops of lemon. Basil is a clean option for a 1:1 ratio.
11. Thai Basil
Another good cilantro replacement if you have it around: Thai basil. Thai basil is a little more bitter than the Italian version. It also brings a licorice sort of spiciness to the platter, but it can substitute cilantro nevertheless.
With a fresh, grassy, citrusy vibe to it, dill can be used as a cilantro replacement. It will not pack the same flavor as cilantro but it can do the trick in emergencies.
Chopping fresh mint all over your dish is a good option when you lack cilantro. It will bring freshness, but you’ll need to make peace with the lack of citrusy notes, sweetness, and pungency.
When it comes to fresh cilantro substitutes, tarragon can also save the day. Who would have thought, right? Tarragon has a citric taste, resembling lemon and licorice. It also brings a blend of peppery notes, mint flavors, vanilla hints, and a bitter tone. It’s important to start small with this one.
15. Vietnamese Cilantro (Rau Ram)
The two have similar tastes so you can easily use them interchangeably. Rau ram is more aromatic and peppery, but it will do, especially in salads and Asian dishes.
16. Celery Leaves
They have a similar texture and both bring green freshness to the dish. If fresh cilantro isn’t around and celery leaves are, you can add them as an alternative. With a peppery, intensely aromatic, piney flavor, celery lacks the lemony freshness and tartness cilantro has, but it can work short term!
What can you use instead of cilantro? Well, if you’re in the Caribbean (lucky you!) you may find culantro appealing. They are both similar in terms of aroma and taste. Still, culantro is more intense, so make sure to adjust the amount you use. 1/10 of the amount is a good place to start.
18. Chives or Scallions
Chives and scallions bring the bright green freshness a dish needs. Oniony or garlicky, chives and scallions can replace cilantro for garnishing dishes. They require some tartness so make sure to add a little citrus juice to them.
19. Herb Mixture
When looking for cilantro substitutes, herbal mixtures can bring an interesting blend of flavors. Parsley, chives, rosemary, oregano, tarragon, basil can be combined to bring the rich bouquet of cilantro to your dish. And if the recipe asks for ground cilantro, sprinkle some curry powder or garam masala, or any of the other spicy powders we mentioned above and you’ll get quite close to the desired taste.
So there you have it! While it might seem a struggle to replace the unique cilantro taste, there are plenty of options, home chefs! In sweet or savory dishes, if you happen to have any of the above alternatives, your recipe is saved!
How to substitute cilantro: the fresh herb, the seeds, and the ground spice
Can you substitute the seeds for the fresh herb? While you can, the flavors differ. The seeds, the fresh leaves, the seed powder, and the dried plant are all different in terms of taste and aroma.
- Fresh cilantro is bold and has a strong flavor, compared to the dry version – the opposite to other herbs. Dried cilantro and fresh cilantro aren’t perfect matches, since the dried version is rather mild.
- What about ground cilantro versus the seeds: if the recipe calls for the seeds and you only have the ground spice at hand, you can swap them. Use ¾ ground cilantro for the amount of seeds the recipe calls for. If the dish asks for ground and you have seeds, you can turn them into a powder and use them!
- Fresh and dry cilantro are no matches for a ground substitute. While you’d think you could get away with it since they belong to the same plant, their flavor profile differs. And speaking of flavor…