When people hear the word “cilantro,” most picture the bright green leaves that we see chopped up in salsa or guacamole and that provide the distinctive citrus-like flavor common throughout Latin American cuisine. For many, cilantro adds a crisp brightness to a dish; however, others think it tastes unpleasantly soapy. One fact that both groups often overlook is that it can be used in both fresh and dried forms. Oregano and basil are both widely known as herbs that can be flavorful whether they are taken from the garden or from the spice cabinet but cilantro is equally versatile.
In this SPICEography showdown, we will look at both forms of this herb and consider their similarities and differences. Does dried cilantro taste the same as fresh cilantro? Can you use dried and fresh cilantro in the same types of dishes? The answers to those questions and more below.
Does dried cilantro have the flavor as fresh cilantro?
Many herbs retain much of their flavor even after being dried. In some cases, the drying process actually makes the herb more palatable. Is this the case for cilantro? Unfortunately, no. Fresh cilantro is known for its pungent aroma and while the flavor of its dried form is similar in some ways, the pungency is considerably muted. While this may be disappointing for cilantro-lovers, the mild flavor of dried cilantro might actually be a pro for those who do not find the herb enjoyable. Dried cilantro’s flavor can add a subtle herbaceous quality to some dishes without the sharper notes that some people dislike.
Can you use dried cilantro in place of fresh cilantro or vice versa?
As noted above, the dried form of this herb can be appealing to those who do not really like cilantro. The flavor that dried cilantro imparts is subtle but present enough that you will be able to identify it. In other words, it is better than omitting the herb entirely but not by much.
Dried cilantro will not be an effective substitute for fresh if you are cooking for true cilantro lovers. If you need a substitute for fresh cilantro that actually tastes like cilantro, you would be better off looking at our cilantro substitutes page rather than using dried cilantro.
Fresh cilantro can be used in place of the dried form in longer cooking dishes as long as you add it towards the end of the cooking time.
Are fresh and dried cilantro used in the same types of cuisine?
As you may already have guessed, fresh cilantro and dried do not really lend themselves the same cooking styles or dishes. Dried cilantro is best used in longer cooking dishes like arroz con pollo or in marinades where the pungency of the fresh herb may not be as crucial. These dishes involve cooking the cilantro, which means that much of the fresh herb’s flavor would be lost anyway. When using dried cilantro in cooked dishes, you should add it earlier in the cooking process so that there is sufficient time for its subtle flavors to infuse into the dish. Dried cilantro is not suitable for dishes like chimichurri sauces or banh mi sandwiches where the flavors of fresh cilantro should feature prominently.