By Matt Gibson
No matter what you call it, cilantro and coriander are the same thing. Some find the herb to be citrusy, aromatic, and pleasant, while others find the taste soapy or metallic and are put off by its pungent smell. There seems to be a great deal of confusion when it comes to discerning the difference between cilantro and coriander, and where there is confusion, there is also a good chance of misinformation. To clear things up a bit, this article will attempt to settle the mystery surrounding cilantro and coriander.
In short, these are just two common words for the same exact plant, Coriandrum savitum. That’s right, cilantro and coriander are just different names for the flavorful herb that is a staple of many cuisines around the globe. In the US, we call the fresh leaves we use to flavor guacamole cilantro and we call the spice made from the ground or whole seeds of the same plant coriander. In most places around the world, however, they do not have different words to distinguish the fresh herb from the seeds. The fresh leaves of the plant are called coriander, while the seeds are simply referred to as coriander seeds.
You usually hear the word cilantro associated with mexican foods, like tacos and guacamole, and a number of other latin dishes, as cilantro is the Spanish word for the plant. The word coriander, first introduced in Europe, comes from the French word coriandre. In Europe, the word coriander is used to describe both the whole or ground seeds, as well as the fresh leaves of the herb which are commonly used in Indian and Asian dishes. Though fresh coriander seeds have a similar flavor to fresh coriander, once the seeds are dried, they lose the pungent citrusy bite in exchange for a warmer, more subtle flavor that is a nice addition to winter meals, like curries, rice dishes, and soups.
To avoid confusion, many people in North America use the word cilantro to refer to the fresh leaves and stems of the plant, and coriander to refer to the fresh or dried, whole or ground seeds of the plant. Despite being from the same plant, fresh cilantro, and coriander seeds have distinctly different tastes, smells, uses, and even nutritional values. Cilantro has a high vitamin content, whereas coriander seeds are rich in mineral values.
The fresh herb and the seeds of the coriander plant have a distinctly different taste and smell. The herb is bright and citrusy, while the seeds are warm, spicy, and nutty by comparison. Because the word coriander can be used for both the herb and the seeds, it can be confusing when a recipe calls for its use. Cilantro is commonly used in salsas, guacamole, chutneys, and various soup dishes. Coriander is commonly used in a wide range of rice dishes, curries, soups and stews, meat rubs and bread recipes.
When a recipe calls for coriander, you may have to do a bit of detective work to find out exactly what the recipe is asking you to add. To determine what the recipe is calling for, look for clues to figure out exactly what to add. Where is the recipe from? How is the ingredient being incorporated into the dish? The answers to these questions should be able to help you to determine what the recipe is calling for.
In summary, cilantro and coriander are simply two words that describe the same plant, but the two words are used to distinguish the two separate ways in which the plant can be used in the kitchen, and to highlight the difference between the fresh leaves and the seeds of the same plant.