Cilantro and coriander come from the plant species — Coriandrum sativum (1).
However, they are named differently in different parts of the world.
In North America, cilantro refers to the leaves and stalks of the plant. The word “cilantro” is the Spanish name for coriander leaves. Meanwhile, the dried seeds of the plant are called coriander.
Internationally, it’s a different story. Coriander is the name for the leaves and stalks of the plant, while the dried seeds are called coriander seeds.
To avoid confusion, the rest of this article refers to the leaves and stalks of the Coriandrum sativum plant as cilantro and the dried seeds as coriander.
Despite coming from the same plant, cilantro and coriander have significantly different nutrient profiles, tastes and uses.
This article will help you understand the differences between cilantro and coriander.
When it comes to nutrition, cilantro and coriander are quite distinct.
|Cilantro (% RDI)||Coriander (% RDI)|
It’s worth noting that fresh cilantro is 92.2% water. Meanwhile, coriander seeds are only 8.9% water. This is a major reason why cilantro has lower levels of minerals by weight, as the water in cilantro contains no minerals or calories (2, 3, 4).
Summary Though they come from the same plant, cilantro and coriander have different nutrient profiles. Cilantro has higher levels of vitamins, such as vitamins A, K and E, while coriander is more abundant in minerals like manganese, iron, magnesium and calcium.
Interestingly, cilantro and coriander have different tastes and aromas.
Cilantro is an herb with a fragrant, citrusy flavor. Many people enjoy its refreshing taste and aroma, but others can’t stand it. Interestingly, people that find cilantro repulsive tend to have a genetic trait that makes them perceive cilantro as “foul” or “soapy” (5).
One study looked at the proportion of people from different ethnicities that dislike cilantro.
They found 21% of East Asians, 17% of Caucasians, 14% of people of African descent, 7% of South Asians, 4% of Hispanics and 3% of Middle Eastern participants disliked cilantro (5).
On the other hand, coriander appears to have a less polarizing taste and smell. Its aroma is best described as warm, spicy and nutty, with a hint of citrus. The spice is commonly paired with cumin and cinnamon because they share similar flavor traits.
Summary Cilantro has a fragrant, refreshing and citrusy taste and aroma, while coriander has a warmer, spicy and nutty taste and aroma. Interestingly, some people may have a specific genetic trait that makes them perceive cilantro differently.
The different properties of cilantro and coriander have led people to use them differently in recipes.
The refreshing, citrusy taste of cilantro leaves has made them a common garnish in South American, Mexican, South Asian, Chinese and Thai dishes.
Fresh cilantro is typically added just before serving, since heat can quickly reduce its flavor.
Here are some dishes that contain cilantro:
- Salsa: A Mexican side dish
- Guacamole: An avocado-based dip
- Chutney: A sauce of Indian origin
- Acorda: A Portuguese bread soup
- Soups: Some may call for cilantro as a garnish to enhance their flavor
Conversely, coriander seeds have a warmer and spicier taste and are commonly used in dishes that have a spicy kick.
Here are some dishes that contain coriander:
- Rice dishes
- Soups and stews
- Meat rubs
- Pickled vegetables
- Borodinsky bread: A sourdough rye bread of Russian origin
- Dhana dal: Roasted and crushed coriander seeds, a popular Indian snack
Dry roasting or heating coriander seeds can enhance their taste and aroma. However, ground or powdered seeds lose their flavor quickly, so they’re best enjoyed fresh.
Can You Substitute Coriander for Cilantro?
Due to their different taste profiles, cilantro and coriander cannot be used interchangeably.
In addition, because the word “coriander” can refer to the seeds or the leaves, you may have to do some detective work when you’re following a new recipe that calls for it.
If you find a recipe that calls for “coriander,” make sure to check how the ingredient is used to find out whether the recipe is talking about the leaves and stalks, or the seeds of the plant.
Summary Cilantro has a more refreshing and citrusy taste, which is why it’s commonly used as a garnish in many recipes. In contrast, coriander has a more warm and spicy taste, which is why it’s more commonly used in curries, rice dishes, soups and meat rubs.
Several studies have linked cilantro and coriander to some impressive health benefits.
However, most of these findings are from test-tube or animal-based studies. Although they are promising, more research in humans is needed.
Here are some possible health benefits that cilantro and coriander share.
May Reduce Inflammation
Both cilantro and coriander are packed with molecules called antioxidants.
Antioxidants are thought to help reduce inflammation in the body by binding to and suppressing inflammation-promoting molecules known as free radicals (6).
One animal study found that the antioxidants in a cilantro extract helped fight skin aging. Skin aging is often accelerated by free-radical damage (7).
Furthermore, a test-tube study found that the antioxidants in a coriander seed extract reduced inflammation and inhibited the growth of cancer cells from the stomach, prostate, colon, breast and lungs (8).
While these studies are promising, more human-based research on the antioxidant benefits of cilantro and coriander are needed.
May Reduce Risk Factors for Heart Disease
Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide (9).
One test-tube study found that cilantro extract may reduce the formation of blood clots. By reducing blood clotting, cilantro extract supplements may potentially reduce the risk of heart disease (10).
Moreover, one animal study found that a coriander seed extract significantly reduced blood pressure. In addition, it encouraged the animals to eliminate more water and salt through urine, which further helped reduce blood pressure (11).
May Lower Blood Sugar Levels
Having elevated blood sugar levels is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes (12).
In fact, in one animal study, scientists found that animals that received coriander seeds had significantly less sugar in their bloodstreams (13).
In another animal study, cilantro leaves were shown to be nearly as effective as a diabetes medication at reducing blood sugar levels (14).
While these results are promising, more human-based research is needed on how cilantro and coriander affect blood sugar levels.
May Help Fight Infections
Test-tube studies have shown that the antimicrobial and antibacterial properties of both cilantro and coriander may help them fight infections (15).
One test-tube study showed that compounds from fresh cilantro leaves helped fight foodborne infections by killing bacteria such as Salmonella enterica (16).
Another test-tube study showed that coriander seeds fight bacteria that commonly cause urinary tract infections (UTIs) (17).
However, there is currently no evidence that coriander or cilantro can help fight infections in humans, so more human-based research is needed.
Summary Both cilantro and coriander may deliver impressive health benefits. They may help reduce inflammation and blood sugar levels, lower the risk of heart disease and fight infections. However, more research on their effects in humans is needed.
When you shop for cilantro, it’s best to choose leaves that are green and aromatic. Avoid purchasing leaves that are yellow or wilted, as they are not as flavorful.
It’s best to purchase coriander as whole seeds, instead of ground or as a powder. Once coriander is ground, it loses its flavor quickly, so you’ll get the best results if you grind it right before you use it.
To store cilantro in the refrigerator, trim the bottom of the stems and place the bunch into a jar filled with a few inches of water. Make sure to regularly change the water and check for any yellow or wilted leaves.
Cilantro can also be dried to last longer, but this makes it lose a lot of its fresh, citrusy flavor.
Summary Choose cilantro that has very green and aromatic leaves, since these are more flavorful. Also, choose whole coriander seeds instead of ground or powdered forms, which can lose their flavor quickly.
Both cilantro and coriander come from the Coriandrum sativum plant.
In the US, cilantro is the name for the plant’s leaves and stem, while coriander is the name for its dried seeds.
Internationally, the leaves and stems are called coriander, while its dried seeds are called coriander seeds.
Despite their similar origins, coriander and cilantro have distinctly different tastes and aromas, so they cannot be used interchangeably in recipes.
If you find a recipe that calls for “coriander,” you’ll have to determine whether it’s referring to the leaves or seeds. To do this, check where the recipe is from and how coriander is used in it.
All told, both cilantro and coriander are excellent additions to your diet. Try adding cilantro for a more refreshing taste, or coriander to help spice up your recipes.