Coriander, or cilantro, is a divisive ingredient in the culinary world. Some absolutely love it, while others are repulsed by it and insist that it tastes like soap! Well, it turns out that there’s an interesting bit of biology that explains why that is. The 4-14% of the population that detest the taste actually have a genetic reason to do so – they’re not just being picky!
For this segment of the population, they’re genetically predisposed to be super sensitive towards the taste of aldehydes, which are present in coriander. Apparently, these aldehydes taste exactly like soap. So, if you’re unlucky enough to be counted in this minority, coriander simply isn’t going to be a desirable ingredient for you. A substitute needs to be found!
We invite you to review the following question and answer section for some additional information that could be helpful to you.
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Is coriander the same as cilantro?
For most of the world, coriander and cilantro are the same thing. Latin American countries prefer to use the term cilantro whereas much of the rest of the world refers to the plant as coriander. Curiously however, in the US, this is not the case. Americans refer to the leaves of the plant as cilantro and refer to the seeds as coriander.
What else is coriander used for?
Coriander, aside from being a culinary spice, has a lot of uses that one wouldn’t expect. For example, it can be used to prevent food poisoning. It is also widely used in the manufacture of medicines, tobacco, and cosmetics as an aromatic agent.
Substitutes for Coriander
For most, coriander is a welcome and excellent addition to a range of dishes. It is ubiquitous within the Asian cooking tradition and also quite popular as a garnish for Mexican food. Unfortunately, it is not for everyone, and the very nature of cooking for groups of people requires compromise.
Thankfully, there are some viable substitutes that can replicate the flavour of coriander without potentially leaving someone in the corner politely struggling through what, to them, is effectively akin to a bar of Dove. So, in the name of diplomacy and well-rounded flavours, let’s delve into our comprehensive guide on substituting for coriander!
Frequently described as having an earthy yet slightly sweet flavour, the humble caraway fruit can make for an excellent stand-in for coriander in a pinch. It is a versatile ingredient, can be used in sweet and savoury foods alike, and isn’t all that difficult to come across.
The seeds, which can also be referred to as fruit, of this plant can be found in either whole, dried form, or ground up and in jars. Caraway contains quite a few of the same oils as coriander, which means that in terms of flavour there are some clear similarities. Naturally, the flavour notes won’t be exactly the same so we would recommend starting with a small amount and then adding more if you are pleased with the results.
For some, this will seem like an obvious choice – and you’re right, it is! For starters, parsley comes from the same family as coriander/cilantro. As a result, there are some clear similarities in what they can bring to a dish.
It is true to say that your standard parsley isn’t an exact replica of coriander – not by a distance. But, given the right strain of parsley, and the right treatment, you can get reasonably close. So, what we would recommend is that, if you can get your hands on it, opt for a Sicilian flat leaf parsley. This, you can add into a dish with some lemon juice – and the resulting flavour is surprisingly close, with none of the soapy taste! Hurrah!
In addition to being far better tasting than dried parsley, fresh parsley is also remarkably easy to grow on your windowsill. It is aromatic, and it is always nice to be able to pick your herbs directly from the plant.
Next up on the list of viable substitutes for coriander is the popular cumin. You may know this solely as an ingredient for cooking curries, but its usefulness runs much deeper than that. It has been commonly used in soups and stews and even as a condiment in Northern Africa. It’s a versatile ingredient which has a lot to offer – but how does it work as a substitute for coriander?
Though not as close a match to coriander as caraway and parsley, there are similarities in terms of its earthy tones. It is important to note that cumin has a stronger, more pungent flavour, so when you’re substituting make sure to use a lesser amount of it in your recipe.
As always, we recommend getting your hands on the whole seeds instead of the ground product. When ground at home, these seeds release a whole new wave of aroma and flavour.
4. Garam Masala
Finishing out our round-up of coriander substitutes is the humble but well regarded Garam Masala. Though you may recognise this as an ingredient in curry as opposed to a garnish, it still has its uses in this regard.
Garam Masala is a blend of several different herbs and spices which are subject to vary depending on the preferences of the manufacturer. Typically, it consists of turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, peppercorns, and… CORIANDER. So, this substitute isn’t one for those who seek to remove coriander from the recipe entirely due to their feelings on the flavour. Consider this suggestion as a substitute for coriander in the event that you have simply run out of it. To use: simply slowly add to your dish until the desired flavour is achieved.
Garam Masala is readily available pretty much everywhere these days, but there are some which are far superior to others.
We hope that you found this guide to substituting for coriander to be a valuable and informative resource when you need an alternative option. There are several viable options out there.