Are cilantro and coriander the same thing?  

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While leafy cilantro (also called "Chinese parsley" and sometimes "coriander leaves") and coriander seeds come from the same plant, you'd never know it from their aromas and flavors. They are entirely different. The herb, cilantro, is often used in Asian and Latin Americancooking and has a lively citrusy and, to some, a slightly soapy flavor. The seed, coriander, is sweet and toasty with a warm aroma and flavor. It is often paired with cumin and cinnamon, which share some of those traits.

There are some people who seem to perceive only the "soapiness" of cilantro, and can't stand it. In my experience, when the cilantro is cooked or pureed (or even chopped very finely) the perception of its soapiness is often diminished. Also, the more a "cilantrophobe" is exposed to cilantro the less likely he or she is to perceive it as unpleasant. If you love cilantro and regularly cook for someone who doesn't, try adding it in small, well-chopped or cooked amounts to your food, and see if the perception changes.

For more information on cooking with fresh herbs, see 11 Herbs Every Cook Should Use.

Marge Perry
Nov, 2010

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