If you often cook meals at home, you might find yourself in a pinch when you’ve run out of your favorite spice. The leaves and seeds of the coriander plant are traditional staples in cooking around the world. While it has a unique taste, coriander can be swapped for several other spices and herbs.
Here are the 7 best substitutes for coriander seeds and cilantro leaves. (Share on Pinterest)
What Are Coriander and Cilantro?
Both the coriander spice and cilantro leaves come from the same plant — Coriandrum sativum. Coriander is the name for the seeds and typically sold in ground or whole-seed form.
On the other hand, cilantro refers to the fresh leaves of the same plant, which are popular in Mexican and South Asian cuisine. The seeds have a spicy, warm, citrus-like flavor when crushed due to linalool and pinene, essential oils found in the coriander plant. Though all parts of the coriander plant are edible — including the roots — the seeds and leaves are most commonly used in cooking. Because ground coriander tends to lose its potency rather quickly when stored, quality is best when freshly ground from whole seeds.
Coriander is common in spice blends, such as garam masala and curry, and is often added to mixtures used in pickling vegetables and brewing beer.
SUMMARY: The coriander plant supplies both coriander spice (the dried seeds) and cilantro (the fresh leaves).
The Best Substitutes for Coriander Seeds
The following spices closely resemble the flavor of coriander and can replace it when you don’t have this spice on hand.
Cumin is a popular spice made from the dried, ground seed of the Cuminum cyminum plant. It’s included in a wide variety of dishes, such as chilis, curries, meat dishes, soups and stews. In countries like Morocco, cumin is used in the same way as pepper and is kept on the dining table to add flavor to dishes. Because cumin is so widely used, it’s usually found in most spice racks, making it an excellent stand-in for coriander. Though slightly different in taste, cumin has a warm, nutty, spicy flavor that resembles the earthy tones of coriander. Cumin can be used as a one-to-one substitute for coriander.
- Garam Masala
Garam masala is a spice blend made from a variety of different components. Though the blend of spices can vary, it typically consists of turmeric, peppercorn, cloves, cinnamon, mace, bay leaf, cumin and coriander. Because coriander is one of the ingredients in garam masala, this spice blend can fill in for plain coriander. However, be aware that since garam masala is a spice blend, it may change the flavor of your dish. Add garam masala in small amounts to your dish until the desired taste is achieved.
- Curry Powder
Like garam masala, curry powder contains a mix of spices and often includes coriander. Nearly all curry powders contain coriander, along with ginger, turmeric, chili, fenugreek and other spices. Curry powder brings depth to dishes and has both savory and sweet undertones due to its many different components. Like coriander, it brings a warm, interesting flavor to recipes like curries, marinades and roasted vegetables. Curry powder tends to have a powerful flavor even in small amounts, so start by adding half the amount when replacing coriander in recipes.
Perhaps the closest in taste to coriander, caraway is an herb that can be exchanged for coriander without drastically changing the flavor profile of your dish. Like coriander, caraway belongs to the Apiaceae plant family, which includes parsley, celery and fennel. Caraway contains the same aromatic oils as coriander, including linalool and pinene, which are responsible for its similar taste. Often described as having an earthy, slightly sweet flavor, caraway is used in desserts, casseroles, baked goods and vegetable dishes. he fruits — commonly called seeds — of the caraway plant are sold dried in either whole or ground form and can be equally substituted for coriander.
However, since caraway does have different flavor notes than coriander, it’s best to start with a small amount and add more as needed.
SUMMARY: The best substitutes for coriander seeds include cumin, garam masala, curry powder and caraway.
The Best Substitutes for Fresh Coriander Leaf (Cilantro)
Fresh coriander leaf — or cilantro — has a much different taste than coriander seeds. To most people, cilantro has a distinct, citrusy taste.
However, due to genetic variations, some people find that cilantro has an unpleasant, soapy taste. For those who love cilantro, having a suitable stand-in when this flavorful herb is unavailable is important. But for people who don’t like the taste of cilantro, finding a tasty alternative with a similar look is key. The following herbs make excellent substitutions for fresh coriander leaf.
Parsley is a bright green herb that happens to be in the same family as cilantro. It’s slightly more bitter but brings similar fresh, flavorful notes to your dishes — just like cilantro. Plus, its green color closely resembles the appearance of cilantro. Parsley lacks the citrusy undertones that flavor cilantro, but adding a bit of lemon juice or lemon peel to recipes when using parsley instead can help elevate your dish. Italian, flat-leaf and curly-leaf parsley varieties all work well as substitutes.
Though basil will change the flavor of some dishes, it works well when substituting cilantro in certain cases. There are many different types of basil to choose from when searching for a cilantro stand-in. Thai basil is a type of basil that has a distinct taste, often described as spicy and licorice-like. Adding Thai basil to certain dishes, such as curries, instead of cilantro will add a pleasant pop of flavor. If using as a garnish, chopped basil will provide a fresh, bright look without sacrificing flavor.
- Herb Mixtures
Using a blend of fresh herbs that have similar flavors to cilantro may be the best way to replicate its flavor in recipes. Mixing a blend of chopped herbs like dill, parsley, tarragon and oregano can add interesting notes to your dish. If you run out of cilantro and want to replicate the flavor, stick to herbs with similar taste profiles, such as parsley — and then add in others to complement the dish. However, if you don’t like the taste of fresh cilantro, the combinations of herbs that can serve as replacements are endless. Simply add in small amounts of herbs that taste pleasing to you and go well with your recipe.
SUMMARY: Due to genetic variations, many people don’t like the taste of cilantro. Some of the best substitutes for fresh cilantro include parsley, dill and various mixtures of different herbs.
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