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Is coriander the same as cilantro? Well yes, and no

Is coriander the same as cilantro? Well yes, and no

  • Let’s settle it once and for all—and save each other the trouble of getting the wrong herb at the market

If there’s any herb that’s most polarizing among the food-loving population (which is short of saying everyone), it’s got to be cilantro. Either you love it or you hate it. Most people who hate it might say it smells weird or compare its taste to soap or even metal. 

I personally love it and would be so happy if I could add it to all my meals. My best friends hate it, which works to my advantage, because they can give me all the cilantro they pick out of their food and I’d happily consume them (we don’t like food waste here).

My family enjoys eating cilantro, too, but the trouble comes when it’s grocery time and sometimes… we make a wrong judgment call over the bundle of greens we’ve picked up, believing it to be cilantro when it’s actually parsley. 

So to settle it once and for all, here’s the difference between parsley, cilantro, and another herb often confused into this mix—coriander.


Photo courtesy of Brett Hondow on Pixabay

Cilantro actually comes from the Spanish word for coriander leaves and is also sometimes called Chinese or Mexican parsley. It also looks very similar to flat leaf parsley, hence the great confusion. So technically, cilantro only refers to leaves of the coriander plant (Coriandum sativum).


coriander seeds
Photo courtesy of PDPics on Pixabay

While coriander refers to the whole Coriandum sativum plant, it also usually refers to the dried seed of this plant, which is used as a spice. The seed, whole or ground, is often used as flavoring or seasoning in dishes like curries, soups and stews.

According to Masterclass, “although coriander can refer to either the herb or spice from seeds, cilantro only refers to the leaves of the plant.”


Photo courtesy of monicore on Pixabay

And then there’s parsley—an entirely different herb, but from the same Apiaceae family. Unlike coriander, only the leaves can be used in parsley. Parsley also has a milder flavor than cilantro/coriander. 

There are two types of parsley: curly leaf, which is often used as a garnish; and Italian flat leaf, which has more flavor. © 2020. Hinge Inquirer Publications, Inc.