10 Best Coriander Substitutes (And How to Use Them)

Cooking healthy meals at home means working with what you have. Learn the best coriander substitute for whole or ground coriander or cilantro!

coriander dry seeds
by
Kelsey Kunik, RDN
— Signos
RDN
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Updated by

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Science-based and reviewed

Published:
April 23, 2024
April 1, 2024
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Table of Contents

Coriander, or Coriandrum sativum, is an annual plant that is both an herb and a spice. The dried seeds are used to season various dishes, especially Spanish, Latin, Indian, Middle Eastern, and Mexican cuisines, while the leaves are known as cilantro and are often used as a fresh herb. Whether a recipe calls for ground coriander and you’re fresh out, or you think cilantro tastes soapy and bitter and wants a more pleasant replacement, there are plenty of great substitutes you can use for both coriander seeds and cilantro.

In this article, we’ll cover the basics of coriander and cilantro, their health benefits, and what you can use to substitute both in recipes.

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Coriander and Cilantro: Are They the Same?

While coriander and cilantro come from the same plant, their flavors and uses couldn’t be more different. The seeds from the coriander plant are dried and used whole or ground to season various dishes, including curries, soups, stews, casseroles, meat marinades, and vegetable seasonings. The flavor is earthy and citrusy and becomes more floral as the seeds are roasted.

Cilantro refers to the fresh green coriander leaves, which have a bright, citrusy, peppery flavor with a bit of pungency. While most people find cilantro leaves to be a pleasant herb, some find it soapy, bitter, and foul. Research has found that the reason some people don’t like the taste of cilantro is actually genetic, resulting from a particular cluster of olfactory receptor genes.1

Cilantro is often used in dishes like salsas, stir-fries, salads, guacamole, and curries. It’s also the perfect fresh addition to avocado cilantro lime dressing, which adds incredible flavor to grilled vegetables and meats. 

What Are Coriander’s Health Benefits?

Like plenty of other spices, coriander has many potential health benefits, including anti-cancer, antimicrobial, pain, and inflammation-fighting effects. 

The anti-cancer effects of coriander have been studied for decades, mostly including in vitro and animal studies. A 2020 animal study found that rats who ate diets including coriander had fewer cancer metastases than rats fed a control diet.2 This suggests that coriander may play a role in reducing the migration and invasion of cancer cells in the body. 

Beyond its cancer-fighting properties, coriander extract has also been found to reduce Escherichia coli in the gut microflora without impacting beneficial bacteria like Lactobacillus strains.3 When it comes to pain control, one of the few human studies on the health benefits of coriander found that people who experience regular migraine attacks had fewer migraines and shorter migraines when taking 15 milliliters of coriander extract syrup three times a day over four weeks than the placebo group.4 These migraine-fighting effects are thought to be related to linalool, a terpene found in coriander.

<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Also Related: </strong><a href="artificial-sweeteners-and-sugar-substitutes">Sugar Substitutes and Artificial Sweeteners (Part 1)</a>.</p>

Best 10 Coriander and Cilantro Substitutes

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Whether you’re all out of coriander or cilantro or are looking for a spice or herb that has a more pleasant flavor for you, we have plenty of substitutes to choose from. The replacement herb or spice you use will depend on what type of dish and flavor profile you’re looking for. Here are some good substitutes you can use in place of coriander or cilantro. 

Cilantro Substitutes

1. Thai Basil or Regular Basil

With its sweet and slightly peppery taste, basil is an aromatic herb that can replace cilantro in many dishes but works especially well in Italian or Thai cuisines. 

2. Dill

The flavor of dill is definitely different from cilantro, but they tend to complement many of the same dishes. Dill is often used for pickling vegetables but can be found in many other dishes as well. Fish, salads, and dips are just some of the foods that pair well with the slightly tangy flavor of fresh dill. 

3. Parsley

It can be tough to tell parsley and cilantro apart by looks alone. Although the flavor is much milder, parsley adds a peppery, earthy taste to anything you add it to. You’ll often find parsley used as a garnish,  pesto, or salad. 

4. Tarragon

More potent than fresh cilantro, tarragon has a slightly sweet and anise flavor. This fresh herb can also be used dried and works well with creamy sauces and dressings. It’s often paired with chicken, fish, and other seafood. 

Coriander Substitutes

5. Garam Masala

Typically used in Indian cuisines, Garam Masala is a spice blend that includes coriander, cumin, cardamom, black pepper, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg for a warm, spicy, and earthy addition to your meal. 

6. Caraway

Caraway seeds have a distinct, earthy flavor with a slight hint of citrus and pepper. They add a complex, warm, and slightly bitter flavor to dishes. They’re perfect for replacing coriander in breads, soups, and dishes like roasted potatoes or braised pork loin. 

7. Curry Powder

Curry powder isn’t just one spice but a mixture of several, including ginger, turmeric, fenugreek, chili powder, and coriander. Using curry powder in place of coriander will add other flavors as well, but still give your dish a hint of citrus and earthiness from the coriander that’s included. 

8. Cumin 

Cumin has a warm and nutty flavor profile that differs from coriander's but is a good substitute when you want earthiness. You’ll find these two paired together in many dishes, especially curries, chili, and meat marinades. Try replacing a small amount of ground coriander with ground cumin in these types of dishes. 

9. Fennel

This spice has sweet undertones similar to coriander but also includes hints of anise or licorice flavor. Fennel seeds can be eaten whole or ground and go well with salads, root veggies, breads, and soups.

10. Cardamom

Cardamom may not work as well as a coriander substitute for savory dishes, but for baked goods and desserts can add a sweet, spicy, and floral flavor that can work in a pinch. 

Pro Tips for Using Coriander Substitutes

Cooking is an art, and deviating from a tried and true recipe can create a dish that either pleasantly surprises you or leaves you feeling underwhelmed. Keep these tips in mind to successfully use coriander substitutes in your cooking and baking. 

  • Manage Your Expectations: Remember, substitutes can bring your dish close to the original flavor profile, but they might not exactly hit the mark. Each substitute has its own unique taste, so the end result might be slightly different from what coriander would offer. 
  • Base Your Substitute on the Dish: Think about the main flavors of your dish and choose a substitute that complements those flavors. For savory dishes, ground cumin or caraway seeds might be your best bet, but a sweeter dish or dessert may taste better with fennel or cardamom. 
  • Start Small: When using a substitute, the best option is to start with less than the recipe calls for and taste as you go. The strength and flavor profiles of different spices can vary widely, and you can always add more if needed.
  • Keep Texture in Mind: If your recipe calls for whole seeds and you're using a ground substitute, remember that this will change the texture of your dish and how evenly dispersed the flavor is. Ground spices blend into dishes, offering a uniform flavor throughout, while whole spices add bursts of flavor and a bit of crunch. 

Learn More About How to Improve Blood Sugar Health With Signos’ Expert Advice

Cooking at home gives you the most control over your nutrition, and learning how to use and substitute spices is part of being a home cook. Herbs and spices add plenty of fresh flavor to your cooking, and some herbs may even help with diabetes. You can learn more about various ingredients and how they impact your blood sugar on Signos’ blog and find out how Signos can help you improve your health and reach your wellness goals by taking our free and quick quiz!

<p class="pro-tip"><strong>Learn More: </strong><a href="best-supplement-for-diabetes">10 Best Herbs and Supplements for Diabetes That May Help</a>.</p>

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References

  1. Wu, S., Do, C. B., Kiefer, A. K., Tung, J. Y., Mountain, J. L., Hinds, D. A., & Francke, U. (2012). A genetic variant near olfactory receptor genes influences cilantro preference. Flavour, 1(22). https://flavourjournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/2044-7248-1-22 
  2. Huang, H., Nakamura, T., Yasuzawa, T., & Ueshima, S. (2020). Effects of Coriandrum sativum on Migration and Invasion Abilities of Cancer Cells. Journal of nutritional science and vitaminology, 66(5), 468–477. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33132351/ 
  3. Singletary, K. (2016). Coriander: Overview of potential health benefits. Nutrition Today, 51(3), 151-161. https://journals.lww.com/nutritiontodayonline/fulltext/2016/05000/coriander__overview_of_potential_health_benefits.8.aspx 
  4. Mansouri, S., Kazemi, I., Baghestani, A. R., Zayeri, F., & Ghorbanifar, Z. (2020). Evaluating the effect of Coriandrum sativum syrup on being migraine-free using mixture models. Medical journal of the Islamic Republic of Iran, 34, 44. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7456435/

About the author

Kelsey Kunik is a registered dietitian, health and wellness writer, and nutrition consultant

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Please note: The Signos team is committed to sharing insightful and actionable health articles that are backed by scientific research, supported by expert reviews, and vetted by experienced health editors. The Signos blog is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your professional healthcare provider. Read more about our editorial process and content philosophy here.

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