Coriander Vs. Cilantro: SPICEography Showdown

Cilantro is a popular herb that is best known for its use in Mexican cooking. “Cilantro” is the Spanish word for coriander and that name has been adopted in the US largely due to the popularity of Mexican cuisine. In the US, “coriander” is used specifically for the seed of the plant, which are dried and used as a spice.

In the UK, “coriander” may refer to either the seed or the leaves; however, many people say “coriander seed” or “coriander leaves” to avoid confusion.

Since cilantro and coriander seeds are from the same plant, you may be wondering how similar they are. For example, do they share the same taste? Do they provide the same health benefits? We answer these questions and more below in another SPICEography Showdown. 

Do cilantro and coriander taste the same?

Cilantro has what is often described as a bright, citrus flavor. It is controversial in that some people love it while others find it unpleasant and reminiscent of soap. The flavor of coriander has been described as “earthy” and “nutty” but with a citrus note. It is considerably more mellow and low-key when compared to cilantro. The flavor of coriander is more likely to linger in the background when compared to that of cilantro, which is bolder and more assertive.

Do cilantro and coriander look the same?

As one is an herb and the other a seed, they are quite different in appearance. Cilantro is a relative of flat-leaf Italian parsley and those two herbs are similar in appearance. Both are bright green with feathery leaves and are typically sold in bunches. On the other hand, the whole seeds have an oval shape and are light yellowish brown in color. Ground coriander is a similar light brown.

Do cilantro and coriander provide the same health benefits?

Both the seeds and the herb provide some of the same benefits but each provides its own distinct set of benefits as well. Both the herb and the seeds contain essential volatile oils like linaool and terpineol. The herb is especially rich in minerals like potassium, calcium and iron. The herb is also a good source of vitamin A and riboflavin. Cilantro is also one of the best herbal sources of vitamin K and provides more than 250 percent of the dietary reference intake. The seeds are rich in dietary fiber with 100 g of seeds proving over 41 g of fiber. Coriander seeds are also rich in vitamin C unlike other dry spices.

Are cilantro and coriander used in the same types of cuisine?

Cilantro’s starring role in Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine is well known and it most evident in dishes like guacamole and salsa. While those two applications will be the most familiar to Americans, cilantro is used in numerous other Mexican and Latin American dishes. It is also a popular herb in Southeast Asian dishes and in Middle Eastern cooking.

Along with playing a pivotal role in curry powder blends, coriander seed is also a key ingredient in many barbecue rubs. Like the herb, it is popular in Mexican cooking and is used in posole and in enchiladas. Its use is not limited to savory foods and it is an ingredient in Danish pastries and butter cookies as well as in apple pies and in breads. There are even beers such as Germany’s Witbier that are flavored with coriander seed.