Here you will find the easy substitute for cilantro, tips & tricks, how and when to use them. It is the most common herb used for culinary purposes and has a very strong flavor. Cilantro is an annual herb and is also known as Chinese parsley, dhania, and coriander leaves.
What if you are running out of cilantro or just hate to use it? Or if you are allergic to it? There are many herbs that make good substitutes for cilantro in garnishing as well as in cooking so that you do not miss out on the flavors.
Let's see these 14 best cilantro substitutes, how, and when to use them.
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What Is Cilantro & A Fun Fact
Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) is a herb with a lemony/citrusy taste and is mostly used in Indian, Mediterranean, Latin American, and Mexican cuisine. It is an annual herb from the Apiaceae family. Seeds from this plant are known as coriander and leaves as cilantro. In general, all the parts (leaf, stem, seed) of this herb are edible but mostly leaves and seeds are widely used in various ways.
Many places refer to coriander for both parts, seeds as well as leafy parts. Cilantro has had a love or hate relationship so far. Many people do not like its smell while others simply love the aroma and freshness coming from it. You will be amazed to know that it is all linked to genes that detect a specific substance used in soaps and detergents. Due to which people find cilantro to smell like soap.
Having said that it is still the most commonly used herb in garnishing salsa, soups, stews, stir-fries, and curries. Check here about coriander seeds.
Fresh vs Dried
Fresh cilantro has a strong aroma and flavors as compared to a dry one. Most often when you dry a herb they offer more potent flavors. It is not true in cilantro's case. When you dry this herb, the flavors become milder. This is the reason fresh and dry cilantro is not interchangeable.
Fresh cilantro tastes lemony/citrusy with a soapy aroma whereas dry cilantro is weaker on these. This is the reason if you are looking for fresh cilantro-like flavors, go for parsley, basil, dill, culantro, or any other herb. Do not use dry cilantro in this case.
Culantro vs Cilantro
Culantro (Eryngium foetidum) is a tropical perennial herb from the Apiaceae family that includes parsley, carrot, and celery. It is widely used in garnishing, marinating, and seasoning. Apart from cooking, it has many medicinal properties and is widely used in Caribbean countries.
Cilantro and Culantro both are similar in taste, great in flavors, and aroma. However, culantro is significantly stronger in flavors. Some people claim that it is 10 times stronger than cilantro.
Best Cilantro Substitutes
Some recipes definitely call for cilantro or coriander leaves like green chutney, salsa, and dressings, for cooking or garnishing.
Substitution depends on the use, so choose wisely as per requirement. I am here to list down 14 of the BEST substitutions for cilantro.
The golden rule is since cilantro has a fresh lemony/citrusy flavor with bright green color, any herb with the same flavors and color will go well for finishing the dish. So, to replicate a similar flavor, stick to bright and citrusy herbs.
Few more options included that works well in a pinch if cilantro flavor is not of concern.
1. Parsley (Italian or Flat-leaf parsley)
Parsley has a peppery taste and is used in Middle Eastern, American, and European dishes as garnishing. There are two types of parsley, flat-leaf, and curly parsley. Both are a good alternative for cilantro but it is Italian parsley that is commonly used as a cilantro substitute.
It is a good alternative to use in soups, stews, and dips. It doesn't have a lemony flavor, but adding a few drops of lemon/lime along with parsley works well to elevate the overall flavor profile. In case you do not like parsley, move on to the next substitute from the list but it is the best substitute for cilantro.
Replace 1 tablespoon cilantro with 1 tablespoon parsley.
It is an integral part of Italian and Asian cooking. It comes in different types, for example, sweet basil, holy basil, Thai basil, and lemon basil. Sweet basil is used in Italian cooking whereas other versions go well with Asian cuisine. Basil goes well for garnishing fries, soups, roasted vegetables, and pasta. It also works in making dips, sauces, and pesto. Basil is a bit sweeter but add flavors to the dish. It is a good substitute for cilantro in Italian and Asian recipes.
Replace 1 tablespoon cilantro with an equal amount of basil (1 tbsp).
3. Dill Leaves
Dill and fresh coriander/cilantro leave both have very distinct flavors and aromas. Though dill is different in looks and taste, it makes a good alternative to cilantro in garnishing and cooking. Dill creates wonderful flavors and its bright green color makes it a surprising substitute for cilantro. Start by adding it in small quantity and adjust as per taste. It substitutes cilantro in salad dressings, cream sauces, casseroles, and dips.
Papalo (Porophyllum ruderale) is a herbaceous annual plant that grows in Mexico and South America. Its taste is in between arugula and cilantro. Papalo leaves are used in seasoning, especially in Mexican cuisine. It is added to the dishes at the end of the cooking process and makes a great garnish over salads, sandwiches, and guacamole. It makes a good substitute for cilantro in Mexican dishes.
Replace 1 tablespoon cilantro with ⅓ or ⅔ tablespoon papalo.
5. Celery Leaves
They provide a similar texture and a good substitution for cilantro without altering the overall flavor profile and appearance. It is a good alternative when fresh coriander is not available. Celery goes well in cooking dishes like soups, stews, casseroles, and meat dishes.
Celery has a peppery taste whereas cilantro is fresh and lemony. Simply use an equal amount of celery for the amount of cilantro a recipe calls for.
6. Mint Leaves
It is an alternative to cilantro as the last option. Mint is a herb with a fresh smell and is good to use in garnishing. If you want to dilute the minty aroma, add a few drops of balsamic vinegar. Use half the quantity of mint for the amount of cilantro.
Tarragon is a mild herb with bright green color. Mixing with fennel, garlic or basil mimics the flavors similar to cilantro. A good substitute for cilantro in roasting vegetables, chicken, and salmon recipes.
8. Vietnamese Coriander (Rau Ram)
Also known as Rau Ram is a perennial plant that grows fast in the tropical zone. Its botanical name is Persicaria odorata and is also known as Rau Ram, Vietnamese cilantro, phak phai, hot mint, and Cambodian mint. It is nowhere related to the mint family but its appearance slightly resembles mint. Rau ram's leaves (slightly peppery & minty) taste similar to cilantro and are used in Southeast Asian and Northeast Indian cooking. It goes well as a substitute for cilantro in cooking and garnishing.
Replace 1 tablespoon cilantro with ¾ tablespoon Vietnamese coriander
Culantro is 10 times stronger than cilantro in terms of aroma and flavors. It is often added halfway in cooking and can handle high heat, while cilantro is added at the end of cooking. Culantro is best used in soups and stews as a substitute for cilantro.
Use 1/10 of culantro for the quantity of cilantro required.
10. Mixtures of herbs
Mixed herbs are best when you want to replicate cilantro flavors without adding actual cilantro. Use any herbs mixture of similar taste profile such as parsley, tarragon, dill, and chop them finely to use. It is one of the best cilantro substitutes for all, whether you love cilantro or hate it.
11. Lemon or Lime
In case you don't have access to any herb, the addition of a few drops of lemon or lime will give you the kick of lemony freshness. You may miss the brightly green color but still, get the feel of freshness coming from lemon/lime similar to cilantro. In a pinch, both make a good cilantro substitute in soups, stews, dips, and salsas.
Chives add bright green color with a grassy flavor while garnishing a dish. It does not replicate the cilantro flavors but adding lemon/lime to it somewhat makes it work as an alternative.
Scallions or green onions are strong in onion-garlic flavors. Their green part works well for garnishing. For cooking soups, stews, and casseroles you can use a bulb as well as the green part.
14. Dried Cilantro
Dried coriander leaves are another good substitute for fresh cilantro. You may need to double the quantity of this dried version.
Finding alternatives to any fresh herbs is not only informative but also provides some new ways to use other herbs. You will be amazed to realize that how a small change in herbs selection can make a difference to the dish.
Cilantro works great in garnishing and cooking wonderfully but you can substitute cilantro with parsley, dill, Thai basil, Culantro, and Papalo. In a pinch, lemon/ lime also works well to mimic the lemony flavor profile of cilantro.
Must-Try Cilantro Recipes
What to do when you have an abundance of cilantro? You can store it, freeze it, make herb bombs, and can try the below cilantro recipes. The best use of this fresh herb is to make green chutney, add into salsa, and make pesto. Do check a few recipes for reference:
Frequently Asked Questions
Coriander seeds and cilantro both belong to the same plant "Coriandrum sativum", just different parts of it with different flavor profiles. Seeds are used in making curries and spice blends whereas fresh cilantro is added after the cooking process or in garnishing. If you need to choose fresh cilantro substitutes then better use fresh parsley, basil, or dill.
When you substitute dried herb for fresh, use a 2:1 ratio. That is twice the dried herb for a fresh one.
Dried parsley is the best herb to use as an alternative to fresh cilantro.
First and foremost if you do not like cilantro in Mexican dishes then just leave it out completely. But if you are looking for similar flavors then parsley and papalo are the best substitutes in Mexican cuisine to make guacamole, salsa, tacos, carnitas.
Let me know in the comments if I missed any other good substitutes for cilantro. Will add to the list. Thank You.