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Jun 5, 2006 11:49 AM

Sub for cilantro?

  • c

I just went to a NY Times lecture yesterday that featured Rachel Ray, Dave Lieberan and Daisy Martinez. I bought both Daisy's and Dave's books and am anxious to start making some items from both.
Here's my issue: Me and cilantro DO NOT get along. Bad things happen when I eat it. Most of Daisy's recipes call for it. Anybody know of a good sub?

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  1. I use flat-leaf parsley. It is not the same but I am one of those to whom cilantro tastes like soap, so really anything would be preferable. At least parsley is fresh and green and tasty. Not authentic perhaps but who wants to avoid a whole cuisine because of one ingredient?

    5 Replies
    1. re: GretchenS

      I'm with you, Ladies. I HATE cilantro. No reaction issues, just don't like the taste of it -- at all!! Will anxiously await answers from other 'Hounds as to a good substitute.

      1. re: pilotgirl210

        The Cook's Thesaurus has lots of suggestsion:

        "Substitutes: Italian parsley (If you like, add some mint or lemon juice or a dash of ground coriander.) OR equal parts parsley and mint OR parsley + dash lemon juice OR papalo (similar flavor, but more pungent) OR parsley + dash ground coriander OR celery leaves OR dill (especially in Thai seafood dishes) OR basil"

        I lucked out and am one of those people who went from hating cilantro to tolerating it to loving it so that I can chew on it plain.

        However, out of all the above suggestions, IMO, the celery leaves sound brilliant since that seems to be the closest taste to me.

        The dill sounds weird, but I guess they just mean that while the taste is different, it works for those particualar recipes ... hmmm ... Banh mi with dill? Salsa with dill ... ewww, no ... NOT in salsa.


        1. re: rworange

          A sincere thank you for all the suggestions. I will definitely give them a try....sans the mint, which I don't like either.....tee hee. When I was in high school, we girls made big bucks ($10 an hour, which was a lot in those days) hoeing mint fields in Central Oregon. We'd start at 4 a.m. and end by 11, when it became too hot to work. I'd go home to an empty house and strip at the washing machine, tennis shoes and all. But no matter how many times I'd wash them, my work clothes always reeked of mint. Can't stand it to this day!! :--)

          1. re: pilotgirl210

            Can someone say food issues? :-) Just kidding.

            Flat leaf (or Italian) parsley is going to be the closest substitute in terms of strength of flavor and quantity. So if a dish calls for a 1/2 of cilantro, then 1/2 cup of Italian parsely will have a equally strong flavor and water content. That makes it an easy sub.

            To me the issue is that the flavor may not mix very well with many of the dishes. I doubt it would clash, but its not distinctive enough to be front and center the way cilantro commands.

            Thyme is an herb that is very versital and common in many of the regions where cilantro is served. I would try to build around that instead.

            Cilantro is generally asian or hispanic (not quite the right term). Parsley is distinctively european. Thyme can ride the fence a bit more.

            Subbing thyme will be a bit more complicated, but I think will yield better results.

            1. re: shameless

              Well, I'm specifically thinking about what to use instead of cilantro in her sofrito and recaito recipes. Maybe I'll play around with parsley, celery leaves and oregano and see what happens.

    2. The standard answer is flat leaf parsley, but that doesn't work for me. Cilantro is often used raw in Asian and Latino foods and I don't think parsley mixes well with those flavors. Depending on the recipe, I would suggest mint or basil.

      1 Reply
      1. re: amp156

        I also agree that basil could sometimes work. Mint (which you don't seem to like anyway) is great, but using it to me is a slipery slope. It is so simply to make your dish taste like an ice cream cone. You have to be careful.

      2. I agree that celery leaves can be a much better match than flat-leaf parsley for the flavor of cilantro without the soapy note.

        4 Replies
        1. re: Karl S

          Thanks to you and to rworange for this suggestion. I'd never thought of it and will try it next time.

          1. re: GretchenS

            Kudos go to rworange: it had not occurred to me, but when I read the suggestion all the bells went off in my taste association memory bank!

            1. re: Karl S

              I agree, celery leaves are a great idea.

              1. re: Karl S

                Well, I'd like to take credit ... if it works ... but that was from Cook's Thesaurus. I had the same reaction though. It just sort of clicked that it might be the perfect substitute, at least for those dishes that use uncooked cilantro.

                The Cook's Thesaurus website is one of my favorites for getting information about ingrediants with pictures, substitutions and alternate names ... it is a thesauraus after all.


          2. Thanks to all for the responses. I think for the recipes in Dasiy's cookbook, I'll give the celery leaves a try, and maybe use parsley for some of the other dishes.

            1. I think the best part of this thread is that CeeBee didn't buy a Rachel Ray book. :)

              2 Replies
              1. re: Darren

                I was thinking the same thing ;-)

                1. re: shameless

                  The line for her signing books was SOOOO long. People were swooning over her! I think there was only a handful of us that didn't buy any of the books they had on sale for her.
                  The handlers came out and said, "Anyone for just Dave or Daisy?" ("just? I thought? their books are SO much better than hers!) Dave was super-cool, came out onto the line (instead of sitting up at the table) and was chatting with everyone. His mom, dad and (I think) brother were there, too. Daisy stayed behind the table, but had a much shorter line than RR.