Cooking With Coriander: The Dos and Don’ts

Coriander is a name for the seeds of the cilantro plant, which is itself called coriander in many parts of the world. Coriander seeds are especially well-known for their use in Indian and Latin American foods, but they can also be found in various Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines. Ground coriander seed sometimes shows up as one of the spices in popular American dry rub mixes. In order to get the best results from coriander your dishes, you will want to observe the following tips for using it.

Do toast or fry the seeds before using them.

Heat is helpful for drawing out the volatile oils that are responsible for the flavor of coriander seeds. Toasting or frying in oil helps to make the flavor more pungent. To toast coriander seeds, simply heat them in a dry skillet prior to grinding them. Your other option involves frying the seeds in oil so that their flavor infuses into the oil. That oil can then be used in your dish. Note that both methods of preparing coriander seeds are common in Indian cooking and are usually also applied to other whole spices like cinnamon and cumin. Simply toast or fry any other whole spices that your recipe requires alongside the coriander seeds. When cooking Indian food, you will want to toast or fry the coriander seeds until they are very dark.

Do store coriander properly.

Like other spices, coriander is sensitive to certain aspects of its storage environment. To maximize the usable life of this spice, you will want to keep it away from light and moisture. The best way to do this is by keeping it in an airtight container in a dark cupboard. When are stored correctly, ground coriander seeds can last for a year or longer. Whole coriander seeds can last for several years.

Do buy coriander seeds whole.

Ideally, all spices should be purchased whole rather than ground. You should grind them yourself just before adding them to your dish. This ensures that you get the full flavor of that spice while also lengthening the shelf life. The same goes for coriander, which can lose its volatile oils and much of its pungency when ground. If your only option is to buy ground seeds, buy only as much as you need for your dish. Because ground seeds lose their pungency quickly, you do not want to keep them around in your spice cabinet indefinitely.

Do pair coriander seeds with the right spices.

Coriander is not typically used on its own. In most cases, it is paired with any of a variety of other spices. In both Indian and Latin American cuisines, the other spices can vary but in almost every case, cumin will be among them. Coriander and cumin are paired in garam masala as well as in Latin American chorizo. Both spices are often characterized as warm and cumin’s nutty earthiness pairs very well with coriander’s citrus-scented sweetness.

Don’t grind coriander seeds if you are using them in a pickle recipe.

This is one of the very few instances when the seeds are left whole.

Don’t be afraid to use a lot of coriander.

This spice has a relatively mild taste, which means that you can use a lot of it before it starts to be overpowering.