Cooking Tips · Ingredients

Coriander & Cilantro – are they the same thing?

Last week’s Cooking Tip was about the wonderful spice, Cumin. Coriander is another spice that is often used in combination with cumin. That is why I decided to make it the subject of this Cooking Tip.

Just as with cumin, coriander is an ancient spice. Seeds have been found in the tombs of Pharaohs and history says that the Roman legions carried it as they progressed through Europe, using it to flavor their breads. Coriander also has its own mention in the Bible, comparing the taste of manna to that of coriander. (Exodus 16:31 & Numbers 11:7)

Coriander is part of the parsley and carrot family and is native to the Mediterranean and the Middle East. It is now grown in Brazil, Canada, Eastern Europe, Holland, India, North Africa, Russia, South America, South Asia and the US.

There are two varieties – Indian and Moroccan. Indian coriander seeds are larger and more golden as compared to the smaller, darker brown Moroccan variety. India tends to consume what it grows and so, what we have in the stores is usually Moroccan or European.

Coriander is one of the few spices that is completely edible from its roots to its leaves to its seeds. The seeds are small, about the size of peppercorns with a pale, creamy brown color. The herby leaves are green and have an appearance similar to Italian parsley.

In the UK and other European countries, coriander refers to both the herb and the spice whereas in the US, we use the word coriander for the spice and cilantro for the herb.

Besides being found in whole and ground form, coriander is also found in many spice mixtures such as curry powders and garam masala. As I mentioned above, coriander is often combined with cumin.

Many say the flavor differences between Moroccan and Indian coriander are minimal at most. Others feel that the Moroccan variety has a sweet, woodsy, spicy fragrance with a warm flavor whereas the Indian coriander has a sweeter and stronger aroma with more nuttiness and citrus notes.

On their own, the seeds are highly aromatic, warm and nutty with a hint of citrus. When left whole, the flavor is floral, citrusy and sweet. When ground, the roasted nuttiness comes out.

The flavor of the leaves is fresh, clean and bright unless you are one of those people who think it tastes like soap.

Coriander and/or cilantro is used in many cuisines such as Egyptian, Latin American, Mexican, Indian, Middle Eastern and Asian. The leaves/roots are especially used in Thai curries, Vietnamese pho, and Chinese stir fries as well as in dips, sauces, dressings, salsas and chutneys.

So, there you are. Coriander is another one of those spices that certainly deserves a place in your pantry, alongside cumin. Is it in yours?