Cilantro: Important Facts, Health Benefits, and Recipes

Cilantro, also known as coriander, is a fragrant herb commonly used in international cuisine, prized for its unique citrusy and slightly sweet flavor profile.

What Is Cilantro?

Cilantro is a plant from the Apiaceae family (and the Coriandrum sativum plant), which carrots, celery, and parsley also come from. The entire cilantro plant is edible: the leaves as we know them in the U.S. as cilantro and the seeds as we know them as coriander. Some cultures call the leaves coriander. The tannish-brown seeds have a sweetly aromatic flavor which is slightly lemony.

Is Cilantro Good For You?

Yes! There are many benefits to adding cilantro to your diet. One benefit is that it is so flavorful that typically people consume less salt when eating cilantro which is better for blood pressure and heart health.

11 Health Benefits Of Cilantro

  1. Cilantro has been found to be an anti-inflammatory
  2. Cilantro and coriander seeds may help boost heart health
  3. Cilantro has been found to help people who get migraine headaches
    1. A study of people with migraines: half the group took migraine medication and coriander fruit syrup and the other half took just the migraine medication. 
    2. Result: the group who took the coriander fruit syrup and medication had reduced severity, duration, and frequency of migraines 
  4. Coriander seeds may help lower blood sugar
  5. Coriander seeds are high in antioxidants
  6. Cilantro may help lower blood pressure, partly because of its diuretic components
  7. Coriander seeds may help lower cholesterol
  8. Cilantro protect brain health and improve memory
  9. May help digestion and gut health
    1. There was a study of people with IBS. Some people took a supplement with coriander extract and some people took a placebo. After 8 weeks, the coriander group had reduced severity and frequency of IBS symptoms.
  10. It is a natural preservative for food because it is antimicrobial and may help fight foodborne illnesses caused from bacteria like Salmonella.
  11. Coriander extract may help prevent damage from UV rays to the skin.

History, Background, and General Facts About Cilantro

  • Also known as Chinese parsley, Mexican parsley, or dhania
  • Some cultures call the leaves coriander
  • Most people experience cilantro as a refreshing lemony and peppery flavor, but a certain percentage of people think the leaves taste like dish soap, which some say is genetic.
  • Cilantro is native to regions spanning from Southern Europe and Northern Africa to Southwestern Asia
  • Talk of cilantro began in ancient texts from India, Egypt, Rome, and China
  • Folklore says it was grown in Persia 3,000 years ago and used to fragrance the hanging gardens of Babylon. 
  • It is still used in tonics and cough medicines in India.

What Are The Cuisines That Regularly Include Cilantro?

  • Portuguese - bread and cilantro soup
  • Indian - cilantro to garnish many dishes and cilantro-mint sauce for samosas and coriander ground as a spice in blends
  • Mexican - garnish for tacos and salads and an addition to guacamole
  • Argentinian - chimichurri
  • Thai - garnish and in salads and Thai chicken
  • Middle Eastern - zhoug (a spicy cilantro sauce made with jalapeno peppers)
  • Moraccan - chermoula (a cilantro sauce made with spices and lemon)
  • Puerto Rican - sofrito

What Is The Best Way To Store Cilantro?

The best way to store cilantro is to snip the bottoms of each stem and place the entire bunch in a glass of water and refrigerate. This keeps the leaves for 1 to 2 weeks.

For the dried seeds, store in a cool dry place (like a pantry) away from heat and light.

What Are The Different Types Of Cilantro?

  1. Leaf cilantro is the main variety we see in the groceries in the US. There are different kinds of leaf parsley (Long Standing, Leisure, and Jantar). 
  2. Coriander, the seeds of cilantro, come from the leaf cilantro.

Toxicity and Side Effects Of Cilantro

Consuming the leaves, stems, and seeds of cilantro is considered safe to consume unless you have an allergy to the plant. Consult your physician if you want to take cilantro (coriander) supplements.

What Is The Best Substitute For Cilantro If I Don't Have Any?

If you don't have cilantro available or need a substitute for it in a recipe, there are a few alternatives you can consider. Keep in mind that cilantro has a distinct flavor, so finding an exact replacement can be challenging. However, here are some options that you can try:

  1. Parsley: Flat-leaf parsley is the most commonly suggested substitute for cilantro. While it has a different flavor profile, it can provide a similar fresh and slightly herbaceous taste. Flat-leaf parsley is milder and less pungent than cilantro, but it can still add brightness to dishes like salsas, salads, and soups.

  2. Basil: Fresh basil can be used as a substitute for cilantro, particularly in dishes that benefit from its aromatic and slightly sweet flavor. It pairs well with Mediterranean and Italian cuisine and works as a replacement in certain sauces, pesto, and salads.

  3. Mint: Mint leaves can provide a refreshing and vibrant flavor that can work as a substitute for cilantro in certain dishes. It adds a hint of coolness and a slightly sweet taste. Mint can be used in salads, dressings, and even in some ethnic dishes.

  4. Dill: Dill leaves can be used as an alternative to cilantro, especially in dishes that can benefit from its distinctive flavor. Dill has a unique taste with hints of anise and parsley-like notes. It works well in salads, dips, and sauces.

  5. Green Onions (Scallions): While not an exact substitute in terms of flavor, green onions can provide a mild onion-like taste and a touch of freshness similar to cilantro. They can be used as a garnish or added to dishes like stir-fries, soups, or rice-based dishes.

Best Cilantro Recipes