The coriander comes from the plant that most Americans know as cilantro. British people call the same plant coriander. Both the seed and the plant have the same name. An article about dried vs fresh coriander for an entirely British audience would be about dried vs. fresh cilantro. But what about the seeds? Most cooks know of the dried version of the coriander seeds. The fresh version — sometimes called green coriander — is relatively obscure but is growing in popularity. To sort the differences between these spices out, let’s look at the SPICEography Showdown below.
How does dried coriander differ from fresh coriander?
These spices differ considerably in their appearance. Dried coriander seeds are tan and about the same size as peppercorns. You grind them to get coriander, the dry spice that shows up in curry powder blends and in authentic Indian blends like garam masala. Coriander’s flavor is warm and nutty with a subtle hint of sweet citrus in its aroma. Fresh coriander seeds are slightly larger than the dried ones and have a bright green color, which makes them resemble peas.
Unlike dried coriander, you can eat fresh coriander seeds raw without grinding them. What is most interesting about the fresh seeds is their flavor. Fresh coriander seeds combine the very different flavors of the cilantro plant and the coriander seed. It could be considered a hybrid of a herb and a spice. Green coriander seeds have the herbaceous quality of cilantro along with the light nuttiness of the dried coriander seed.
Can you use dried coriander in place of fresh coriander and vice versa?
In most cases, you cannot simply swap dried and fresh coriander. Dried coriander’s texture, flavor, and appearance make it unsuitable for applications that need fresh coriander seed. Keep in mind that cooks usually use fresh coriander seeds raw and whole. Dried coriander would be too hard and too intensely flavorful to use as a substitute.
Similarly, you cannot grind fresh coriander seed and use it in a dry rub or to make curry powder. That said, you can use fresh in place of dried in pickles. The fresh coriander will give you similar flavor notes along with the herbaceous quality of fresh cilantro. You won’t get exactly the same result that you would get from using dried coriander but you should get something that is close to it. You may also be able to blend or crush fresh coriander seeds to replace the dried seed in a marinade.
When should you use dried coriander and when should you use fresh coriander?
Use dried coriander in dishes where it will be able to play a background role. The fact that dried coriander is light and relatively unobtrusive makes it perfect as an accent for other more assertive flavors. Since it is traditional to grind it, you can use it in a dry rub or other homemade spice blend. You can also use it in sweet applications including some British cakes and pastries.
Fresh coriander seeds are best when eaten raw. Add them to salads or sprinkle them into a stir-fried dish. Fresh coriander seeds make a great complement to some cocktails either by infusing them into a simple syrup or into vodka. You can ferment them in a brine to make them caper-like; you can use fermented fresh coriander seeds in the same ways that you would use capers.