My friend Leslie is the one who told me that coriander and cilantro come from the same plant, Coriandrum sativum. I had no idea, so I decided to research this, especially to see how they differ nutritionally. Cilantro is the green leafy part and the coriander is the seed. Cilantro is the spanish word for coriander (1). They taste very different and are used in different cuisines. Interestingly enough, some people have a genetic predisposition that makes them despise cilantro, claiming it has a very soapy taste. According to one study, Eastern Asians have the highest incidence of this genetic trait (3,1). Cilantro is fresh and citrusy and is commonly used in Mexican, Thai, and Chinese food, while coriander seeds are spicy, nutty and lemony and mainly used in Indian dishes. Cilantro is often added to soups, salsa, and guacamole, while coriander seeds add flavor to curries, stews, and meat seasonings. They are not often substitutes for one another in cooking.
Nutritionally speaking, because cilantro is leafy, it is higher in vitamins and coriander higher in minerals due to differences in water content. Cilantro leaf is an antioxidant and contains the bioflavonoid quercetin as well as various other phenolics. It also contains the minerals potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron and manganese and vitamins C, A, K, the B’s, and folic acid (2). Medicinally it can cause side effects such as rashes, swelling and photosensitivity in some people (3). Coriander seeds are high in various minerals such as manganese, magnesium, copper, and phosphorus. Coriander seeds can help with cardiovascular disease, namely blood pressure. Both the leaf and seed may help reduce inflammation because of their anti-oxidative nature, as well as help lower blood sugar which can contribute to Type II diabetes, and fight infection due to its antimicrobial properties (1). More research needs to be done in vivo.
When purchasing coriander, buy the whole seeds which are more flavorful than ground. Cilantro, should look green and healthy with no spots or discolorations. I keep dried cilantro in the pantry as well as coriander seed and frozen cilantro in the freezer as a back up when I don’t have fresh. Dried cilantro has a much milder taste. With fresh cilantro, cut off stems and place in water in the refrigerator and change water frequently.
Although I infrequently use coriander seeds, I love the pungent flavor and freshness of cilantro and it reminds me of summer, when my daughter makes the family homemade salsa from our garden and guacamole al fresco.
- Raman, Ryan. Cilantro vs Coriander: What’s the Difference? 2018. Healthline 22 February 2018. <https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/cilantro-vs-coriander.
2. Rudrappa, Umesh. Cilantro (Coriander leaves) nutrition facts. 2018. Nutrition And You.com. <https://www.nutriotion-and-you.com/cilantro.html.>
3. Mercola, Joseph. Cilantro: Why You Should Choose This Unique, Pungent Herb. <https://articles.mercola.com/herbs-spices/cilantro.aspx