Coriander is a real love-it-or-hate-it herb. For some people, coriander is a deliciously peppery and fresh herb that adds great flavor to a dish. Whereas others think the taste is more reminiscent of soap.
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These are two very different opinions. If you are in the latter group and want to make a recipe that calls for coriander, don’t worry.
There are plenty of options available. None of which will make you feel as though you have accidentally taken a bite out of a bar of hand soap.
We have also included some substitutes for coriander seeds. These are less commonly used in cooking. But they do pop up sometimes. So it’s worth remembering these alternatives.
(N.B. You will often see “coriander” and “cilantro” used interchangeably. This will depend on where the recipe originates from.
In some countries, coriander is used to refer to both the seeds and the plant itself. In others, cilantro is used to refer to the plant.
Whereas coriander is used to refer to the seeds. For simplicity, we will be referring to both the leaves and the seeds as coriander.)
Best Substitutes for Coriander Leaves
Parsley is a great substitute for coriander leaves. It is similar in shape and leafy-ness to the coriander plant. So it won’t interfere with the consistency or texture of the dish you’re making.
The flavor of parsley is slightly different from coriander. Parsley still has the freshness of coriander. But without the soapy or pepper taste. This is a much milder and gentler flavor. It is also less overpowering.
Parsley is still very flavorful. But it won’t be the primary flavor of the recipe. This means that it also won’t interfere with the flavor of the dish.
Dill is a great substitute for both coriander leaves and coriander seeds. Dill has a very fresh but slightly peppery flavor. This is ideal if you enjoy the peppery and bitter of coriander, but not the slightly soapy flavor.
Dill is different in texture and shape than parsley and coriander seeds. It is a very long and soft herb. It has very fluffy leaves. This will change the texture of the dish slightly. But only because the leaves won’t soften in the same way as coriander and parsley leaves.
Instead, dill leaves will soften but will not wilt. This is because, although they are smaller, their thinness stops them from wilting in the same way as the wide and flat coriander and parsley leaves.
But this won’t make a huge difference. Especially if you’re using dried herbs instead of fresh. Dried herbs won’t have quite the same fresh flavor as fresh herbs.
But the texture and consistency of dried dill is almost identical to that of dried coriander.
Again, basil doesn’t have exactly the same flavor as coriander leaves. But it does have a more peppery flavor than parsley. Basil is one of the most commonly used herbs. It is aromatic but slightly less so than coriander.
In terms of texture, basil leaves are thicker than coriander leaves. But basil leaves can be easily cut or torn up. Basil leaves are slightly chewier than coriander when raw. When cooked, basil leaves will wilt and become soft like coriander.
If you’re using dried basil leaves, the texture and consistency will be almost identical to dried coriander leaves.
If you prefer using dried herbs, then check the ingredients of that jar of mixed herbs you likely have in your cupboard.
There’s a good chance that there will be coriander in there. If there isn’t, then there will still likely be a combination of most of the herbs listed above.
This is a great option if you’re not following a recipe and are unsure of which herbs go well with each other. Mixed herbs can be used for most dishes. Especially tomato-based dishes such as bolognese and ratatouille.
If you have Italian mixed herbs, then there is less of a chance this will contain coriander. But, it will still likely include some of the herbs listed above. So it’s worth trying out.
This is a great substitute if you want something very aromatic and peppery. But don’t want something that tastes particularly similar to coriander leaves.
Fennel is a vegetable, rather than a herb. It has leaves that look like dill. But must not be mistaken for it as the flavors are very different.
The leaves can be used to season food. They have a similar taste to the vegetable itself. But it is much milder.
Fennel has a very strong flavor. It is very close to that of aniseed. It is incredibly aromatic and has a slightly spicy and bitter taste. This is similar to coriander leaves.
Fennel can be eaten in two ways. This is the plant itself or its seeds. Both of these options taste like aniseed. Fennel seeds are dried and often sold in a similar way to most herbs. But they are large and crunchy. They won’t combine and blend in with the texture of the dish like most other dried herbs.
The vegetable can be cooked in different ways. The best way is roasting. Simply roast the fennel as you would any other vegetable. (Although, do not boil it beforehand). Then season it. This is a great way of adding lots of flavors to a dish in one go.
As a vegetable, fennel requires more consideration when added to a dish. Unlike some of the herbs listed above, fennel cannot simply be sprinkled in. Fennel is shaped like a bulb but has a texture like bok choy, leek, or cabbage (incidentally, these are all also great substitutes for fennel).
This means that you will have to chop the fennel up in order to include it in the dish. If you are following a recipe that calls for coriander leaves, you cannot simply add in fennel.
You can chop fennel up very finely. But it is a tough vegetable and can take quite a while to cook and soften. Even when finely sliced. So it might not cook at the same rate as the other ingredients.
But, if you are simply making your own dish, then adding in some fennel shouldn’t be a problem. Simply cook it however you like and add it in.
This will provide your dishes with a very strong and aromatic flavor. (That should really be noted. Fennel has a very strong and overpowering flavor.)
Best Substitutes for Coriander Seeds
If you’re looking for a substitute for coriander seeds, then cumin is the way to go. Of course, cumin and coriander don’t have the exact same flavor.
Cumin is more bitter and less sweet than coriander. But it will still provide an aromatic flavor. It will still hold the kind of bitterness that the recipe calls for.
To balance out the bitterness and add in more freshness, you can always combine the cumin with parsley leaves.
Garam masala is a popular ingredient used in a lot of different dishes, especially curries. Garam marsala is not a spice in itself. But instead a range of spices. (This is different from “mixed spice”.)
The spices usually included in garam masala are:
- Bay leaves
If you can find garam masala with coriander already included, then this is great if you need an almost identical substitute. Plus, you can easily add in a few shakes of garam masala and not have to worry about other spices.
If you are looking for a spicy replacement that doesn’t include coriander at all, then it might be a good idea to steer clear of garam masala entirely.
You might be able to find some garam masala without coriander. But this is very unlikely and will take a while. It will usually be easier to buy all the other spices individually.
Caraway is a green herb that is similar in appearance to the substitutes listed for coriander leaves. But, its flavor is closer to that of coriander seeds than coriander leaves.
Caraway is most commonly sold dried. Similarly to most of the herbs listed in the section above. But, even when dried, it will not have the same flavor as dried coriander leaves.
Caraway belongs to the same family as coriander, fennel, and parsley. This is the Apiaceae family. Plants in this family contain the same oils. These oils are incredibly aromatic.
So, if you’re looking for an intense flavor, then caraway is a perfect substitute.
In a pinch, curry powder can also be used as a substitute for coriander seeds. This, of course, depends on the type of curry powder you have. But most will contain spices that are similarly aromatic to coriander seeds.
The spices most commonly used in curry powder are fenugreek, turmeric, ginger, and chili. Some will even contain coriander, similarly to garam masala.
The spices included in curry powders will often be similar to those in garam masala. This is because they are spices that are the most basic and used in many curries. This isn’t because they are mild or lacking in flavor. They are simply the essential spices.
Coriander seeds are often used in curry powders. But this isn’t always the case. If you’re looking for an aromatic flavor that is similar to coriander seeds, but without the exact flavor, curry powders are still a good option. Even those that contain coriander seeds.
This is because the other spices will work with the coriander seeds to provide a more balanced flavor. They won’t overpower it entirely. But they will tone down the flavor. This will provide your dish with a spicy and aromatic flavor. Without the overwhelming bitterness often provided by coriander seeds.
As you can see, there are many different options when it comes to substituting both coriander seeds and coriander leaves.
But, these substitutions need to be used carefully. Some herbs, such as basil, parsley, and dill, can all be used in the same amounts.
But others will work differently within the dish. So they cannot be used interchangeably. Make sure to research the flavors in more detail if you’re not 100% sure that they will work in your dish.