The best substitutes for fresh cilantro are parsley, basil, dill, and celery leaves. Good alternatives to dried cilantro are cumin, coriander seeds, and curry powder.
Cilantro is known for its fresh and citrusy profile. It has a distinct place in many dishes, but not everyone is a huge fan of it.
Some people even think cilantro tastes like soap! Whether you’re a soap person looking for a swap or just want a different flavor, there are some great alternatives.
From fresh herbs to dried spices, each one of these substitutes for cilantro will make your recipe shine.
What Is Cilantro?
Cilantro is an herb commonly used in cooking and garnishing in various cuisines around the world.
Both its leaves and seeds are used in culinary applications. But the term “cilantro” usually refers specifically to the leaves. Cilantro has a distinct, pungent flavor. It’s described as a combination of citrusy and herbal notes.
It’s often used to add a fresh and aromatic element to dishes. It’s found in salads, salsas, curries, sauces, soups, and various other dishes.
The leaves are typically added towards the end of cooking or used as a garnish. This is the case because their flavor can diminish when exposed to high heat.
Cilantro also has potential health benefits. It contains antioxidants and is used for its supposed digestive and anti-inflammatory properties.
Cilantro is a popular ingredient in Mexican, Indian, Thai, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean cuisines, among others.
Why Do Some People Dislike Cilantro?
Some people dislike cilantro because of a genetic factor. It impacts their taste perception. A specific olfactory receptor gene, OR6A2, is responsible for this aversion.
If you have a variation of this gene, cilantro’s flavor profile can evoke interesting flavors. Many report it tastes like soap or metal. It has a strong pungency, which they find unpleasant.
This genetic difference in taste perception creates a divide in how cilantro is experienced.
Best Substitutes for Fresh Cilantro
Parsley is a good substitute for cilantro due to its fresh and slightly peppery flavor. While the two have similarities, they differ in certain aspects.
Both add a vibrant, green element to dishes. Parsley offers a mild, grassy taste with a hint of peppery spice. This echoes cilantro’s brightness. However, parsley lacks cilantro’s citrusy undertones.
Some find cilantro’s flavor more intense and aromatic compared to parsley. Substituting parsley for cilantro works well in dishes where the citrus notes are less crucial.
This helps maintain a pleasant herbal addition while avoiding potential cilantro aversion.
Substitution amount: Substitute fresh parsley and freshly chopped cilantro at a 1:1 ratio.
Both herbs are known for their fresh and bright flavor profiles. They add a pop of flavor to any recipe.
However, mint has a more pronounced sweetness, while cilantro has a slightly bitter and tangy taste.
One of the most significant differences between the two is mint’s cooling effect on the palate. It leaves a refreshing sensation in the mouth.
Cilantro has a more pungent and earthy flavor.
Regardless of the differences, both herbs are well-loved in a variety of culinary traditions.
Substitution amount: Use parsley in a 1:1 ratio for fresh mint and adjust according to taste.
3. Thai Basil
Thai basil is a perfect substitute for cilantro to add a touch of herbaceous flavor.
It has a slightly spicy taste with hints of anise and licorice. This can enhance the flavor profile of your meal.
It’s used widely in Thai and Southeast Asian cuisine. You typically find it in dishes like pho, curries, and salads.
Unlike cilantro, Thai basil can stand up to high-heat cooking. This makes it a versatile and lasting addition to your pantry.
With its unique flavor and resilience, Thai basil has proven itself to be a worthwhile alternative to cilantro in many dishes.
Substitution amount: Substitute fresh Thai basil and freshly chopped cilantro at a 1:1 ratio.
Papalo is a versatile plant growing mainly in South America. It has a similar flavor to cilantro with a hint of arugula and mint, which makes it a fantastic substitute.
It’s known for its nutritional value, especially in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Use it to garnish tacos, soups, and any other dishes you use cilantro for.
Swapping papalo for cilantro will keep you satisfied. Be sure to only use the leaves and not the stems.
Substitution amount: Use ⅓ of papalo leaves for each serving of fresh cilantro.
5. Fresh Dill
Fresh dill is an excellent option when you’re out of cilantro. It has a unique and delicious flavor, but it’s also packed with health benefits.
It’s high in antioxidants, which are beneficial for reducing inflammation and improving digestion. It’s also a good source of vitamin A and vitamin C.
When using dill as a substitute for cilantro, keep in mind the taste is different. Therefore, it won’t work well in all recipes. However, if you’re in a pinch, dill is a great option.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with it in your cooking.
Substitution amount: Use ½ amount of fresh chopped dill instead of the cilantro.
6. Rau Rum
Rau ram is also known as Vietnamese coriander or laksa leaf. It has a similar citrusy and slightly peppery flavor profile to cilantro. It works well in dishes where cilantro is used for its fresh and aromatic qualities.
However, keep in mind rau ram has its own distinct taste. So while it’s a suitable replacement, it will alter the flavor of the dish slightly.
It’s a great option if you’re looking for an alternative to cilantro due to personal preference or allergies.
Substitution amount: Substitute rau rum and freshly chopped cilantro.at a 1:1 ratio.
7. Celery Leaves
Celery leaves are another great backup option for cilantro. They’re milder and less pungent. And they provide a fresh and slightly herbaceous element.
They won’t fully replicate the distinctive citrusy and peppery notes cilantro is known for.
If you’re using celery leaves as a substitute, add more to compensate for the milder flavor. Keep in mind the taste of the dish will be different.
But they can still add a pleasant touch to your recipes.
Substitution amount: Substitute celery leaves and freshly chopped cilantro at a 1:1 ratio.
Best Substitutes for Dried Cilantro
Cumin is not typically considered a direct substitute for fresh cilantro. The flavor profiles between the two are quite different.
Cumin has a warm, earthy, and slightly nutty flavor with a hint of citrus. Cilantro is known for its fresh, citrusy, and slightly peppery taste.
However, in some dishes, cumin can complement the flavors cilantro brings to the table. It adds a different layer of flavor and works well alongside other spices and ingredients.
It won’t replicate the exact taste of cilantro, but it can still add complexity to meals.
Using cumin as a substitute for cilantro adds a new flavor dimension. It’s not about trying to mimic cilantro’s taste.
Substitution amount: Add an extra ¼ teaspoon of cumin for each teaspoon of dried cilantro.
9. Coriander Seeds
Coriander seeds are often considered a good substitute for fresh cilantro.
Both of them come from the same plant, coriandrum sativum. This plant produces both the herb cilantro (the leaves) and coriander seeds (the dried seeds of the plant).
This similarity in flavor profile can make coriander seeds a suitable choice. However, the flavor of coriander seeds is generally more subdued. It doesn’t pack the same punch as cilantro.
Consider toasting and grinding the seeds before use. This can help intensify and unlock their full flavor potential.
Substitution amount: Substitute coriander and dried cilantro at a 1:1 ratio.
10. Caraway Seeds
Caraway seeds possess a warm and earthy flavor with subtle hints of citrus and anise-like notes. This complex taste profile shares some slight similarities with cilantro.
In most dishes, cilantro is used to impart a refreshing and herbal element. Caraway seeds can offer a complementary layer of flavor that enhances the overall dish.
Substitution amount: Substitute caraway seeds and dried cilantro at a 1:1 ratio.
11. Dried Parsley
Dried parsley carries a subtle herbal flavor with mild grassy undertones. This makes it a viable option in recipes where dried cilantro is used to enhance the overall flavor.
Another advantage of using dried parsley is its widespread availability and common use in many kitchens. It can seamlessly blend into various recipes without overpowering other flavors.
Substitution amount: Use 1 teaspoon of dried parsley for 1 tablespoon of freshly chopped cilantro.
12. Curry Powder
Curry powder is a versatile spice blend. It adds depth and complexity to any dish. It’s also a great substitute for dried cilantro if you’re out of it.
While cilantro is often prized for its vibrant flavor, curry powder can offer a similar depth. It’s also a convenient pantry staple. It’ll save the day when you’re in a recipe pinch.
So if you’re out of dried cilantro, don’t fret. Reach for the curry powder instead and get ready to be pleasantly surprised!
Substitution amount: Add half the amount of curry powder when replacing cilantro in recipes.
13. Dried Dill
Dried dill is a fantastic alternative to dried cilantro. It has a comparable zest and flavor profile.
It’s richer in antioxidants and has anti-inflammatory properties, making it a healthier choice overall.
This combination works best when creating yogurt-based sauces for salads and side dishes. Adding a couple of drops of lemon can add the peppery element of cilantro.
Substitution amount: Use 1 teaspoon of dried dill in place of 1 tablespoon of freshly chopped cilantro.
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