Where you live may determine whether you say coriander or cilantro (or Chinese parsley or dhania), when referring to this popular herb and spice.
Internationally, coriander is the name for the leaves and stalks (the herb) of the plant as well as the seeds (the spice); but in the U.S., the leaves are called cilantro, the Spanish name for coriander, and the seeds are known as coriander.
Coriander dates back thousands of years and was used by ancient Greek and Roman physicians to treat digestive issues and cramping and in China and India for medicinal and culinary purposes. Both coriander and cilantro pack unique flavor and a nutrient punch that we enjoy today in traditional as well as trending dishes with international flair, from curries and salsas to pickles and pesto.
Coriander and cilantro, both from the Coriandrum sativum plant, are members of the Apiaceae family, along with parsley and fennel. The herb and the spice are distinctly different in flavor — the leaves are bold and citrusy, the seeds warm and nutty — so the two cannot be used interchangeably in recipes.
It contains a host of powerful plant compounds, as well as trace amounts of iron, vitamin A and vitamin C. A quarter-cup serving of cilantro delivers 16% DV (DV=Daily Value, based on 2,000 calories/day) of vitamin K, important for bone health and wound healing.
Historically, coriander has been used as a medicine. According to a study published in a 2018 issue of the journal Food Research International, compounds in coriander have health-promoting and protecting activities, including antioxidant, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory. The major compound, linalool (responsible for its aroma and taste) shows antibacterial potential.
Fresh cilantro leaves are available year-round. Choose those that are deep green, perky and aromatic. Refrigerate upright in a container filled with a couple inches of water, leaves covered with a plastic bag where it can last up to a month.
Coriander seeds are best when ground at home, as the ground spice loses flavor quickly. Store at room temperature up to a year. Toss loosely chopped cilantro leaves into rice dishes, slaws, pasta salads, eggs — anything that needs a fun boost of bold, fresh flavor. Utilize coriander seeds in dry rubs, hummus, curries, stews and pickling.
Environmental Nutrition is written by nutrition experts dedicated to providing readers up-to-date, accurate information about health and nutrition.