Ahhh, delicious cilantro. At least, it’s delicious to me. Cilantro is the single herb that causes debate and hatred that equals the political arena. Even the famous Julia Child, infallible in so many ways, hated it. It turns out some people might be actually genetically predisposed to hate cilantro!
It may be news to some people that ‘cilantro’ is actually known by the name ‘coriander’ throughout most of the world. It certainly was to me. I had no idea that the coriander seeds I use in “Apple Cider-Brined Turkey with Herb Butter” were related to cilantro. Let alone were the same plant!
Due to the complexity of this wonderful plant, I’ve done two posts on this topic: one on cilantro (below) and another on coriander.
All About Cilantro:
How to Choose Cilantro: Whenever possible, choose fresh cilantro. It’s in the fresh produce section of the grocery store. My husband has often brought home parsley instead of cilantro. Cilantro has curved leaves, while parsley has pointed. I don’t recommend dried cilantro and it’s hard to find, in addition. If you can’t get fresh cilantro on a regular basis, you can often find a pureed version sold in tubes in the produce section. It requires refrigeration, but stores very well and for much longer than the fresh leaves.
Uses of Cilantro:
Cilantro is used in dishes from around the world: European, South American, Mexican, even Asian.
White Chicken Enchiladas is one of my favorite dishes, and features cilantro.
Skinny Bell Pepper Nachos is one of the healthy dishes featured on this site.
Mexican Quinoa is one of my favorites and is a healthy one-pot meal.
Health Benefits: I’m going to be blunt: if an ingredient exists, there are people touting that it is a miracle cure for one thing for another. Cilantro contains a good amount of Vitamin K as well as small amounts of folate, potassium, and manganese.
How to Store Fresh Cilantro: Once washed, cilantro often turns to mush quickly in the refrigerator. Remove the plastic bag (if you’ve brought it home in one), wrap in paper towel, and store in the refrigerator.
Another method (I haven’t personally tested it, but it looks valid) is from TheKitchn. 1) Snip off the bottom of the stems. ; 2) Make sure the leaves are completely dry. Don’t rinse until use. ; 3) Fill a jar or a water glass partially with water and place the stem ends of the herbs into the water in the jar. ; 4) Cover loosely with a plastic bag. Store in refrigerator. ; 5) If needed, switch out water. Supposedly, herbs can last up to two weeks this way. I’ll be testing it in the future!
If fresh cilantro isn’t an option (and I know for many it isn’t…buying a bunch every two weeks or so can add up), I have actually found dried cilantro in some speciality stores. I’m not going to lie…I don’t recommend it. It loses a lot of flavor. However, in many produce sections you can find a pureed version of cilantro in a squeeze tube. It requires refrigeration, but works if you need it.
1 Tbsp. fresh cilantro = 1 Tbsp. fresh parsley (Italian) + 1/2 tsp. honey or sugar (honey/sugar balances bitterness parsley might provide)
Papalo- 1/3 of the amount of cilantro called for. This only works if you like the flavor of cilantro, but can’t find it for some reason. If the taste is the issue, papalo is more potent.
Substitute in European food:
Use a small amount of Italian parsley and basil.
Substitute in South American food:
Use a small amount of Italian parsley and oregano.
Substitute in Mexican food:
Mexican oregano (different from regular oregano)
Substitute in Asian food:
Use a small amount of Italian parsley and spicy Thai basil.
Lemon grass and parsley.
1/3 each ratio: basil, parsley, and lemon peel
Substitute for garnish:
Fresh parsley (if you like the flavor) is a good substitute for garnish. It gives the same eye-appeal and a lot of people discard the garnish for actually eating. I can attest from personal experience they work well…husband has an amazing habit of grabbing cilantro when parsley is specified on the grocery list. You might want to add a bit of honey or sugar to balance the slight bitterness.
I like sliced green onions (the green part) if the dish is flavorful.