You will definitely need a cilantro substitute at some point when cooking Mexican, Indian, and Southeast Asian dishes, especially f you are one of those people who can’t stand the taste of cilantro. Luckily, there are some great cilantro alternatives to use to achieve a tasty end result.
What is Cilantro?
Cilantro, also known as coriander, is a herb with delicate leaves that resemble parsley. It has a citrusy, slightly sweet flavor and a pungent, earthy aroma. The herb is used in a variety of cuisines worldwide, including Mexican, Indian, and Southeast Asian cuisine.
Why Many People Don’t Like Cilantro
Many people dislike cilantro because it has a soapy or metallic taste. In fact, a study conducted by researchers at the University of Toronto discovered that many people have a genetic variation that makes cilantro taste unpleasant.
6 Common Uses for Cilantro
- Salsa – fresh cilantro is often added to salsas for a fresh and herby note.
- Guacamole – many authentic guacamole recipes require cilantro to be added.
- Curries – cilantro or coriander seeds are very commonly added to curries.
- Soup – cilantro is often used as a garnish for soups.
- Salads and dressings – cilantro is often added fresh to chopped salads or used in dressings.
- Rice dishes – cilantro is added to plain rice to be served or used in a burrito for an extra added flavor.
Why You May Need a Cilantro Alternative
- You dislike the taste of cilantro
- You can’t find fresh cilantro at the store
- You don’t want to buy a large bunch of cilantro for a recipe that only requires a small amount
- You’re allergic to cilantro
- You want to experiment with different flavors in your cooking
13 Best Cilantro Substitute Options
Dried Cilantro Substitutes
1. Coriander Seed
Ground coriander seeds are an excellent substitute for dried cilantro. The seeds have a similar flavor profile and are commonly used in Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine.
In addition, coriander seeds also work well for those who dislike fresh cilantro’s flavor. Masterclass explains the differences and uses between the two parts of the herb.
2. Caraway Seeds
Caraway has a very close flavor profile to cilantro, making it the ideal substitute to use. However, caraway is slightly sweeter with a less peppery taste than cilantro. The Spruce Eats explains how to use this versatile spice.
If you are cooking any Mexican dish and need an alternative to cilantro, cumin is an earthy and warm spice to add to your dish. Daring Kitchen compares cumin to coriander seeds and how to use it.
4. Dried Parsley
There are similarities and differences between parsley and cilantro. But dried parsley is an excellent substitute for dried cilantro because it has a comparable appearance and flavor profile. It has a milder flavor than cilantro, making it an excellent choice for those who dislike cilantro’s strong taste.
5. Dried Dill
Dried dill works well in yogurt-based dressings and sauces, just as cilantro would. Add a splash of lime or lemon juice to make the dressing even better and closer to cilantro’s lemony flavor. Lively Table has a tzatziki sauce where you could use dried or fresh dill.
6. Mexican Oregano
Mexican oregano is a popular herb used in Mexican cuisine. It has a flavor profile similar to cilantro and can be used in the same quantities in recipes. Bon Appetit explains that Mexican oregano is slightly more flavor and brighter in flavor than true oregano.
Fresh Cilantro Substitutes
Flat-leaf parsley has a similar appearance to cilantro, and people often confuse the two. It does not have the same citrus notes cilantro has but works well in salsas or salads. Replace the cilantro in Lively Table’s recipe for salsa verde for a delicious dip.
8. Thai Basil
Cilantro pesto is incredible to use in a dressing, and normal basil pesto might be too sweet or peppery to use as a direct replacement, but if you use Thai basil, you might be surprised at the outcome. All Recipes compares the flavor of Thai basil to sweet basil for a better idea of how you can use it.
Although mint has a very distinct flavor, you might be surprised at how well it can work to replace cilantro. Food and Wine has a great recipe using mint and parsley together to make a salsa verde.
Papalo might be a bit difficult to get a hold of, depending on where you live, but it is known to be used in Mexican cooking and has a similar flavor profile to cilantro. Savvy Gardening notes it works well with roasted tomatoes and gives you a complete overview of the herb.
11. Rau Rum
Also known as Vietnamese coriander or hot mint, rau rum has a stronger aroma than cilantro and works well to replace cilantro in almost any dish. Sunset teaches you how to cook with this herb.
12. Celery Leaves
Although celery leaves are not as strong in flavor as cilantro, it still makes for a convincing replacement. It is best used as a garnish or tossed in a salad due to its mild taste. Times of India compares celery, cilantro, and parsley for a thorough overview.
13. Fresh Dill
Fresh dill does not taste quite like cilantro, but it works well with most ingredients you would pair cilantro with. It is best used in cold dishes such as potato salad. Healthline gives you a complete overview of dill’s health benefits and uses.
Tips for Cilantro Substitution
- Consider the recipe – Some recipes call for cilantro because of its unique flavor profile. Before substituting, consider whether the substitute you have in mind will work well with the other ingredients in the recipe.
- Use herbs with similar flavor profiles -If you’re looking for a substitute that has a similar flavor profile to cilantro, try using parsley, basil, or even caraway seeds. These herbs have similar flavors and can be used in equal amounts as a substitute.
- Dried herbs – if you use dried herbs to replace fresh cilantro, start off with small quantities as dried herbs are, in general, three times stronger than their fresh counterparts.
- Adjust the amount – if you’re using a substitute for cilantro, adjust the amount based on the strength of the herb. Some herbs, like mint and celery leaves, have different strengths of flavors.
- Garnish – if you are only using cilantro as garnish, you can use herbs that are milder in flavor but similar in appearance such as parsley or celery leaves.
Cilantro Substitute in Salsa
If you’re making salsa, try using parsley, Mexican oregano, or rau rum. Parsley has a similar flavor profile to cilantro and can be used in equal amounts as a substitute. You can also try using Thai basil, which has a sweet and slightly minty flavor.
Cilantro Substitute in Guacamole
If you’re making guacamole, try using fresh parsley, papalo, ground coriander seeds, or cumin to add some depth to your guacamole. You might need to add more lime juice to balance out the earthy notes of the substitutes.