HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >


cilantro vs. coriander

  • r

Wassa diff?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Coriander is related to the parsley family. It's known for its seeds (the dried, ripe fruit of the plant) and its leaves (commonly known as cilantro and Chinese parsley). The seeds are used whole for pickling, and ground in baked goods and curry blends. The flavors of the seeds and leaves bear no resemblance to each other.

    3 Replies
    1. re: critter

      You lost me. So you mean that cilantro (leaves) is a subset of coriander (whole plant)? I guess that makes sense, but why are dictionaries listing cilantro (US) vs. coriander (UK)? Are the leaves themselves called coriander in the UK, while not in the States? Or...can "cilantro" represent the overall plant in the States, in addition to the seed-specific sense?

      1. re: Ruby Tuesday

        yes, the term "cilantro" refers to the leaves, and the term "coriander" often refers to the seed. Some people say "coriander seed" to avoid confusion. As I said in my other post, I have heard the term "Chinese Parsley" used most frequently in the UK.

        BTW, I think some of the confusion comes from the fact that the spice coriander (the seed) is rarely used in Mexico, whereas the leaf (cilantro in Spanish) is frequently used. I believe that the plant leaf was first introduced in the US by folks who wanted it for Mexican cooking, hence the name "cilantro" was used. Thirty-five years ago I lived in Mexico a short while, and when we came back cilantro was rarely available in US stores (and this was in the SF Bay Area). My mother figured out how to grow the leaf from coriander seeds.....and the leaf is what we called "cilantro."

        Too much information, huh?

        1. re: Janet

          A healthy shot of Herradura Reposado should help clarify this issue...or at least bring into focus that it isn't much of an issue.

    2. j
      Janet A. Zimmerman

      There's one plant, with two parts used -- the seeds and the leaves. Several names for the leaves: coriander leaves, cilantro, or chinese parsley. In the Western US, at least, you usually see the leaves called cilantro, which (I think) is the Spanish/Mexican name.

      The entire plant is called coriander (Coriandrum sativum, actually).

      20 Replies
      1. re: Janet A. Zimmerman

        Cilantro is cilantro is cilantro. I am stunned to hear that ANYONE (in the US, at least) is calling this coriander or anything else. That's like telling me that "lemongrass" is a regional term!

        1. re: Ruby Tuesday

          Why are you "stunned" to hear anyone using the traditional English word for the plant?

          1. re: ironmom

            Just the fact that this is such a common item, I buy it all the time, and I've never seen any variation in signage. Unlike, say, eggplant vs. aubergine or biscuits vs. cookies.

            Funny that cilantro came via Mexico; I associate it primarily with VIETNAMESE food!

            1. re: Ruby Tuesday

              The English name for the plant has always been coriander. Only in the past 20 years has the Spanish word displaced the English word for the leaves as Mexican cooking came to be mainstream.

              The standard Vietnamese cookbook, The Classic Cuisine of Vietnam (1979) uses the term coriander, with "Chinese parsley" in parentheses, and says in the ingredients description that it is also known as cilantro.

              1. re: Ruby Tuesday

                Mexican and Vietnamese food, oddly enough, share several ingredients. Where I live, many of the SE Asian grocery stores have a Mexican section--no other cuisines, just Mexican

                1. re: PAO

                  It might be interesting to note that, under the Spanish, commerce from its colonies in the Philippines was sent to Acapulco. By the early 17th century, there were whines sent to Spain about the Chinese becoming too dominant in the laundry industry in Mexico City....

            2. re: Ruby Tuesday

              I often call it Kothmir....the Hindi (or is it Gujarti) word my husband taught me. I make a mean chutney out of the stuff...but somehow "cilantro chutney" just doesn't cut it....

              BTW, the leaves are often called "Chinese Parsley", especially in Great Britain. None the less, the spice "coriander" refers to the seeds of the plant. The seeds and leaf taste nothing alike.

              1. re: Janet

                In Kenya, we called the leaves "dania".

                1. re: Janet

                  dhaniya is kothmeer, just different words for the same thing. Dania (stressed is different and all the vowels are long) came to Swahili from Hindustani.

                2. re: Ruby Tuesday

                  Here are some other examples

                  lady's finger = okra
                  brinjal = eggplant
                  capsicum = green peppers
                  yam = taro

                  1. re: SG

                    Yam is by no means taro, but that is a common misconception.

                    And lady's finger = okra? Some kind of vanilla eclairs perhaps, but...okra?

                    1. re: Ruby Tuesday

                      "Yam is by no means taro, but that is a common misconception.

                      And lady's finger = okra? Some kind of vanilla eclairs perhaps, but...okra?"

                      All depends on where you are...

                      prawn = shrimp
                      torchlight = flashlight
                      lorry = truck
                      boot = trunk
                      queue = line
                      etc etc..

                      Link: http://www.sanjeevkapoor.com/nutritio...

                      1. re: SG

                        OK, apparently there is some special regional use of "lady's finger" to mean okra, but are y'all implying that you don't also the meaning which I thought was universal - marscapone cheese between vanilla wafers? (or something like that)

                        Much as I like okra, I would be aghast if the corner bakery handed me a piece when I ordered a "lady's finger".

                        1. re: Ruby Tuesday

                          Ah-ha, but it's all in the semantics. The bakery item to which you refer are "lady fingers". Okra (as far as i have heard, anyway), are "lady's finger".

                          That's kind of like my parents calling "Trader Joe's", "Trader's Joe".

                        2. re: SG

                          yep, and i have a friend from the south who insists on calling avocado a mango... go figure.

                        3. re: Ruby Tuesday

                          The botanical name of the plant is coriandrum sativum -cilantro is simply its name in spanish - in other languages it has other names - before it became ubiquitous in the US and was still a bit mysterious I called it green coriander.

                          I imagine we started calling it cilantro because hispanic grocers were the most reliable source in many areas (its not called cilantro in chinese, arabic, vietnamese or hindi...)

                          bty my first Indian Cookbook, from the Foods of the World Series (pre-1970), refers to this item as "fresh coriander" --Madhur Jaffrey, writing a few years later, refers to it as "fresh chinese parsley (coriander greens or cilantro)".

                          1. re: Ruby Tuesday

                            I agree with yam vs taro, separate beasts, and an even more common misconception is yam vs sweet potato; but my mother always called okra "lady's fingers." I assumed it was her way of sneaking what I then considered nasty, slimy, hairy things past us, but I have heard it elsewhere, too.

                            1. re: Ruby Tuesday

                              There are other terms for Okra which are much more descriptive of its appearance, and either more offensive or more entertaining, depending on what you prefer.

                          2. re: Ruby Tuesday

                            Well, the proper English name is coriander, and ever shall be.

                            However, in my house, we call the leaves green soap, and as a result, they don't feel terribly welcome, and we are happy with that result....

                            1. re: Ruby Tuesday

                              You may be stunned, but you are simply sheltered from the longer usage. Coriander is the traditional term, Chinese parsley the next most traditional term, and cilantro is the latecomer to the party.

                          3. s
                            Stanley Stephan

                            Everything you want to know about Coriandrum sativum L. Scroll past name in 52 languages (including Esperanto) for some great info and pictures.

                            Link: http://www-ang.kfunigraz.ac.at/~katze...

                            Image: http://www-ang.kfunigraz.ac.at/~katze...

                            1. In American recipe writing, coriander usually refers to the seeds of the coriander plant, a "sweet" spice available whole or ground and often used in pickling and baked goods. Cilantro refers to the leaves of the same coriander plant, often used in Latin American, Mexican and Asian cooking -- it is also called coriander leaf or Chinese parsley.

                              13 Replies
                              1. re: Nancy Berry

                                Just to clarify a bit more:

                                If your recipe says "coriander" with no other qualification, then it undoubtedly refers to the seed of the plant. If it says "coriander leaves," "fresh coriander," etc. then it refers to the herb more commonly know in the US by the Spanish name, "cilantro."

                                I agree the use of the term "cilantro" for the fresh leaves is fairly recent in the US. I have older cookbooks and books about herbs that refer to it either as "coriander leaves" or "Chinese parsley." It's actually quite funny to read books about herbs on the subject of "coriander": many of them are quite adamant that the leaves are too strongly flavored to use and have an offensive odor!

                                1. re: Ruth Lafler

                                  ok, i get that cilantro is called coriander in england. i'm visiting england from california right now. i've been to several supermarkets and have looked at dozens of bunches of coriander. before i knew it was called coriander i suspected it was cilantro but it was so different than the cilantro in the states i wasn't sure. first of all the smell was not as robust or smelled very little like the cilantro i knew in the states. also, the leaves did not look the same. the cilantro in the states was more solid with less breaks or lines in the leaves. does the cilantro here come from a different strain? if so can one find what is available in the states?

                                  1. re: sammyxlr8r

                                    Sammy, it's all the same stuff basically, just different quality. The coriander leaves sold in English supermarkets are often a bit pale and weedy - I suspect they probably pick it too young. You'll be more likely to find the robust, stronger smelling leaves that you're more familiar with if you look in local greengrocers or, better still, Indian or Asian grocers.

                                    The other thing with the weedy supermarket variety is that it's usually cut off close to the leaf, with no stalks. The Indian shop bunches will be more likely to have full, long stalks, sometimes all the way down to the root, which are indispensible if you want a very strong flavour of coriander in, say, a soup or if you're making Thai green curry sauce.

                                    1. re: paddydubai

                                      There is another one to add to your list. It took me forever to find out that what the English call "Rocket" is Arugala (I think)

                                      1. re: billieboy

                                        yes, Rocket is Arugula. It was known as Rocket (under various spellings) in the US too before it became better known under the Italian name.

                                        1. re: Karl S

                                          No, they're quite different. Rocket is a free food that grows near irrigation ditches and is often served with ham hocks. Arugula is an expensive green frequently found in the company of extra-virgin olive oil, Meyer lemon juice, and aged Parmesan cheese. ;-)

                                          1. re: alanbarnes

                                            Reminds me of "chicory". There's the greens that my Italian neighbor (and others like her) foraged from lawns at first sight in the spring, and the greens sold in the market....

                                            1. re: alanbarnes

                                              How would you explain this?

                                              I can't count the number of references to "Rocket" in British-filmed cooking shows. But I HAVE seen reference to 'rocket' in hamhock preparations, so is there a difference not apparent?

                                            2. re: Karl S

                                              "Arugula" must come from some dialect of Italy, but it is not the Italian name.

                                              1. re: DeppityDawg

                                                Rughetta is Italian for arugula/rocket/fancy-pants lettuce. I've seen it called rucola, also.

                                            3. re: billieboy

                                              well, in French arugula is "Roquette"... so it may be where that comes from...?

                                              1. re: billieboy

                                                And here's another, the English call Zucchini squash marrow, as in bones.

                                                1. re: chilihead

                                                  and eggplant, aubergine
                                                  bell pepper, capsicum

                                      2. Coriander seed and cilantro leaf, from the same plant, might as well be salt and pepper. Zero similarity.

                                        1. Just to compound the confusion, one of my Thai cookbooks states that the coriander's ROOTS are used as well! No further developments on that theme elsewhere in the book, however.

                                          For the record, I hated my first taste of the leaf, but couldn't stop eating the enchilada anyway. Now I'm an addict.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Will Owen

                                            Yes, corriander roots are used a LOT in authentic Thai dooking. When I lived in the D.C. area it was easy to get them. Even the local supermarkets sold their cilantro with the roots still on. But here in western NC no one has them, not even the hispanic food stores. Your best bet to find them are Asian food supply stores. Fallback on that it is grow your own. Cilantro is quite easy to grow so we have it in the garden and window boxes all growing season and freeze any unused roots.

                                          2. OP asks "wassa diff". In the UK, both seed and leaf are coriander. I associate cilantro as American usage.

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: Harters

                                              That's my understanding as well - Americans call the leaf cilantro, the seed coriander.

                                              1. re: MMRuth

                                                Ah. Interesting you have different words. We tend just to just use the name of the plant. I grow foeniculum vulgare (just outside the back door,so we brush past it) and use the leaves and seeds - but they are both just "fennel". Coriander's the same.


                                                1. re: Harters

                                                  As has been mentioned, we used to call them both coriander too, but as Mexican food gained in popularity, we adopted their name (cilantro) for the leaves. I recall when I started cooking seriously some 35 years ago seeing coriander leaf called for more often than cilantro. Somewhere along the way this changed.

                                              2. re: Harters

                                                According to the Wiki article on coriander, the leaves used to be common in European cooking. The UK terminology may reflect a stronger memory of that earlier use. I don't think there is any collective memory in the US of that earlier use, hence the adoption of the borrowed 'cilantro', or Chinese parsley (in older cookbooks).

                                                My earlier edition of Joy of Cooking, under corriander says: 'But few of us know the fresh leaves of this plant as Chinese parsley, as the Cilantro of the Caribbean, the Kothamille of Mexico, or the Dhuma of India ...'

                                              3. Coriander seed is a marvelously warm spice. Cilantro is the herb from hell.

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: mcsheridan

                                                  Unless you like it. Or, in my case, adore it.

                                                  About a teaspoon of coriander seeds, crushed and put into the brewing basket, makes a nice addition to a pot of coffee.

                                                2. I know this is bringing up an old topic, but if we cant to be precise...
                                                  The Spanish term cilantro refers to the plant as a whole and not only to the leaves. For instance, you would write "semilla de cilantro" to refer to a seed from the plant and you would write "hoja de cilantro" to refer to a leaf from it. Although, there is confusion that another Spanish term for the same plant is "coriandro."

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: slycordinator

                                                    Could you link us to some Spanish language recipes that make the distinction? What if you want more than one leaf?

                                                    1. re: paulj

                                                      1)To change it to coriander leaves, it would be "hojas de cilantro."

                                                      Here's a recipe that calls for the seeds as "semillas de cilantro." It's a lentil soup, I think.

                                                      And here's a recipe that specifically calls for the leaves in the as "hojas de cilantro." From the few ingredients I could translate, this sounds disgusting to me, but YMMV lol.

                                                      1. re: slycordinator

                                                        "4 cdas semillas de cilantro"
                                                        4 Tbls of cilantro seeds
                                                        That's used with 1/4 t cumin, 1/2 t turmeric, 1/4 t smoke paprika. These presumably are ground. But when and where is the cilantro ground. And why such a difference in quantity? And why is the cilantro at the end?

                                                        "3 tazas de hojas de cilantro fresco picado"
                                                        3 cups of fresh cilantro leaves minced

                                                        A quick glance at some recipes suggests that 'cilantro' by itself (without 'semillas') means the herb, especially if the quantity or preparation fits (cups, minced etc). 'fresco' would also denote the herb. 'rama de cilantro' = branch of cilantro. 'manojo de cilantro' = bunch of cilantro.

                                                        Canarian mojo verde de cilantro (green sauce with cilantro)
                                                        calls for similar quantities (bunch) of cilantro and perejil (parsley)

                                                        1. re: paulj

                                                          "But when and where is the cilantro ground."
                                                          Nowhere and never, from what I see. The recipe calls for cilantro seeds rather than ground cilantro seeds. And for what it's worth, I've eaten some dishes that used the whole seeds here and there.

                                                          "And why such a difference in quantity?"
                                                          It's in a large quantity because it's being used as a main ingredient and presumably because the person who made it liked the taste of the seeds. The dish was called "Lentil Soup with Cilantro Seeds" after all.

                                                          "And why is the cilantro at the end?"
                                                          I'm not sure what you're referring to, since the seeds are added at the beginning not the end in that recipe. Although, I think either way would taste good (adding some at the end would give it a different slightly crunchy texture).