Substitutes for Cilantro

Cilantro, also known as coriander, is a popular herb used in various cuisines worldwide. However, some people might not enjoy its taste or could be allergic to it. If you find yourself in need of a cilantro substitute, worry not, as there are numerous alternatives that can provide a similar flavor profile or help you achieve the desired effect in your dish.

Different regions may call for diverse substitutes, and specific recipes might require unique alternatives. In addition, both fresh and dried cilantro have their own unique replacement options. Whether you’re looking for a spice to mimic the flavor of cilantro or considering incorporating fruits as a substitute, the possibilities are vast and can be adapted to your personal preferences and dietary needs.

Key Takeaways

  • Explore various cilantro substitutes for different recipes and regional cuisines
  • Consider both fresh and dried cilantro alternatives to find the perfect match
  • Experiment with spices and fruits as unique options for replacing cilantro

Understanding Cilantro

Cilantro is a popular herb in many Latin American and Asian cuisines. As you use this herb in your cooking, you’ll notice its distinct smell and taste, which comes from the aldehyde chemical present in its leaves and stems.

For some people, the taste of cilantro can be quite polarizing. It’s not unusual for individuals to either love or dislike the herb’s flavor intensely. This divide can be attributed to genetic factors that influence how one perceives the aldehyde chemicals in cilantro.

When cooking with cilantro, you can utilize the entire plant, including the leaves, stems, and even seeds (known as coriander). Fresh cilantro is often added to dishes at the end of cooking to preserve its delicate flavor and aroma. Be mindful of the amount you incorporate into your recipes, as cilantro can quickly overpower other flavors if used too generously.

Cilantro offers various health benefits, including its potential antioxidant properties and rich content of vitamin C, vitamin K, and potassium. Incorporating cilantro into your culinary creations can thus provide a tasty and nutritious element to your meals.

If for one reason or another, you prefer to avoid cilantro or need a substitute for it, consider experimenting with other herbs that can provide a similar effect in your dishes. Possible alternatives include parsley, Thai basil, or a combination of fresh mint and dill. Each of these substitutes can impart unique flavors, so feel free to adjust and personalize your dish as needed.

Why Some People Dislike Cilantro

Cilantro, also known as coriander, is a popular and versatile herb used in cuisines around the world. However, you may have noticed that some people have an aversion to this green herb. Let’s explore the reasons behind this dislike.

One of the main reasons people dislike cilantro is because of its taste. For some, it tastes like soap. This soapy flavor is attributed to certain genetic factors that are related to the way your taste buds perceive the molecules in cilantro. Specifically, some people have a variation in the OR6A2 gene, which makes it more sensitive to aldehyde chemicals found in cilantro, resulting in a soapy taste.

Apart from genetics, the way you perceive cilantro’s taste can also be influenced by the environment. Growing conditions, such as heat, can affect the flavor of cilantro. Higher temperatures can produce a more pronounced, pungent flavor. This can be off-putting for some individuals, especially if their taste buds are sensitive to the herb’s strong flavor profile.

Furthermore, cultural and personal preferences play a role in your perception of cilantro. Those who grew up consuming cilantro in various dishes may be more accustomed to its flavor and thus, appreciate it more. In contrast, if you were not exposed to cilantro in your early years, you might find its taste displeasing and unfamiliar.

In conclusion, the dislike for cilantro is a complex interplay of factors, including genetics, environmental influences, and personal preferences. It’s essential to consider these factors when using cilantro in your recipe or when dining with others who may not share the same fondness for this herb.

Cilantro in Different Cuisines

Cilantro, also known as coriander, is a popular herb used in various cuisines worldwide. In Mexican and Latin American dishes, cilantro is a key ingredient in creating flavorful staples like guacamole, salsa verde, and tacos. Its distinct, refreshing taste brings out the zest in each bite.

In South Asia, cilantro is frequently used to enhance various dishes. For example, in India, cilantro is often added to curry powder and used in many recipes to balance the heat and provide a fresh, cooling sensation in combination with the spices. Similar usage can also be traced in Middle Eastern and Caribbean cuisines.

When it comes to Chinese cooking, cilantro is a common garnish in multiple regional dishes, contributing to an unmistakable aroma and flavor. Though sometimes used in moderation, it can still make a significant impact on the overall taste profile.

As you can see, cilantro is a versatile herb that has earned its place in many different styles of cooking. By understanding the importance of cilantro in various cuisines, you can now begin to explore cilantro substitutes that might be suitable for your dish.

Fresh Cilantro Substitutes

When you’re looking for a fresh cilantro substitute, there are several options you can consider. Keep in mind that each substitute will impart its own unique flavor to your dish, and might not perfectly match cilantro’s distinct taste.

Parsley is a common substitute because both herbs have a similar appearance and texture. Italian parsley, also known as flat-leaf parsley, is the best variety to use in place of cilantro. It possesses a milder flavor compared to cilantro and can be used in equal amounts as the recipe calls for cilantro.

Basil, particularly Thai basil, is another popular choice for replacing cilantro. Thai basil has a slightly sweet and anise-like flavor that works well in dishes like curries, stir-fries, and salads. Use basil sparingly, as its taste can easily overpower other flavors in your dish.

Coriander seeds or ground coriander can serve as a cilantro substitute, especially when the recipe requires cilantro for its flavor rather than texture. Since coriander comes from the same plant as cilantro, it offers a hint of the familiar cilantro taste. However, because it’s in seed form, use a smaller amount to avoid overwhelming the dish.

To add a bright, citrusy flavor in place of cilantro, try using a combination of lemon zest and dill. Lemon zest provides the desired fresh quality, while dill offers a similar herbaceous taste. This combination pairs well with fish and seafood dishes.

For a slightly different taste profile, you can use oregano or chives in place of cilantro. Both herbs have unique flavors but can still complement a variety of dishes. Oregano imparts an earthy, peppery taste, while chives add a mild onion-like taste.

Finally, celery leaves and mint are potential alternatives to cilantro. Celery leaves have a subtle, grassy taste and a similar texture to cilantro. They can be easily incorporated into salads, soups, and casseroles. Mint, on the other hand, is much more assertive in flavor, so use it sparingly to avoid overpowering the dish. It works particularly well in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes.

Experiment with these substitutes to find the one that best fits your taste and the specific recipe at hand. By trying different fresh cilantro substitutes, you can still create delicious dishes even when cilantro is not available or not to your liking.

Dried Cilantro Substitutes

When you’re out of fresh cilantro or simply want a different take on the taste, dried cilantro substitutes can come in handy. Here are some alternatives that you can consider in your cooking.

Dried Cilantro: Using dried cilantro is a practical option when fresh cilantro is unavailable. Keep in mind that the flavor will be slightly milder, so you may need to adjust the quantity to achieve the desired taste. To substitute, use about one-third of the fresh cilantro amount called for in the recipe.

Cumin: Cumin makes a promising substitute for cilantro, giving a warm, earthy flavor to your dishes. As with dried cilantro, you might need to adjust the amount of cumin depending on the intensity of the flavor you want. Start with half the quantity of cilantro and adjust according to taste.

Caraway: Caraway seeds can also be used in place of cilantro when you want a subtle, earthy aroma. Their flavor is a bit different, but they can still add a pleasant taste to your dish. Use caraway seeds sparingly, as their taste can be overpowering when used in large amounts.

Coriander Seed: Since cilantro and coriander come from the same plant, using coriander seeds as a substitute makes sense. While they provide a distinctly different flavor profile – warm, sweet, and spicy – they can still be an effective replacement. To use coriander seeds as a substitute, use them ground or crushed, and start with half the amount of cilantro called for in the recipe.

Dried Herbs: If you’d like to take a different route, using a combination of dried herbs can mimic the taste of cilantro. Oregano, parsley, and basil can be blended in equal parts to create a flavorful mix. Use the same amount of the dried herb mixture as you would fresh cilantro and adjust to your preference.

In conclusion, while there is no perfect substitute for the unique flavor of cilantro, these dried cilantro substitutes can offer a variety of options for your cooking. Experiment with different combinations and quantities to find the right flavor balance for your dishes.

Incredible Spices That Can Work as Cilantro Substitutes

When you need a substitute for cilantro, fret not, as there are several incredible spices that can come to your rescue. Each provides unique flavors and aromas, making them suitable alternatives depending on the dish you’re preparing.

Garam masala is an excellent choice when cooking Indian or Middle Eastern cuisine. This aromatic spice blend typically contains ground coriander, cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, and other spices, offering a complex and warm flavor profile. Although it doesn’t have cilantro’s distinct taste, garam masala imparts depth to your dishes while filling in the missing herbal touch. Simply add a pinch or two to the recipe for desired results.

Chili, whether fresh or powdered, can impart a tantalizing kick to your meals while adding a hint of freshness that mimics cilantro. Additionally, chili complements various cuisines, from Mexican to Asian, just as cilantro does. Use chili in moderation, adjusting the amount based on your heat tolerance.

As cilantro leaves come from the same plant as ground coriander and coriander seed, these spices provide a natural alternative while retaining a familiar flavor profile. Ground coriander offers a mild, citrusy and earthy taste, making it ideal for dressings, stews, and sauces. Coriander seeds, on the other hand, can be toasted and crushed for a more robust dimension in rice dishes, meat rubs, and pickling.

If warmth and depth of flavor are what you seek, curry powder may be your trusted ally. Typically a blend of turmeric, ground coriander, cumin, and chili, this versatile spice mix pairs well with many dishes, spanning from Southeast Asian curries to marinades and rubs. The mild and sweet notes in curry powder provide a harmonious balance resembling cilantro’s essence.

Last but not least, caraway seeds can be considered for their earthy, sweet, and anise-like flavor. While not an exact match to cilantro’s flavor, caraway seeds lend an interesting and pleasant twist to dishes like soups, stews, and salads. Simply crush or toast them to release their aromatic oils before incorporating them into your recipes.

Remember, each of these spices possesses unique characteristics, meaning they won’t perfectly replicate cilantro’s taste. However, they will undoubtedly add delightful dimensions to your dishes, making them enjoyable even in the absence of cilantro.

Cilantro Substitutes in Specific Recipes

When you need to substitute cilantro in your recipes, consider the dish’s flavor profile and the role cilantro plays in it. Here are some substitutes for specific recipes:

Guacamole: For guacamole, replace cilantro with an equal amount of fresh parsley leaves or a mix of parsley and mint. They provide a bright, herbaceous flavor without a strong cilantro taste. If you desire more tang, add a squeeze of lime juice to balance the flavor.

Tacos: In your tacos, swap out cilantro for a combination of chopped green onions and fresh parsley. This will give a similar color and mild herbaceous taste without the distinct cilantro flavor. You can also add a dash of ground cumin or a squeeze of lime juice to enhance the tacos’ zestiness.

Pesto: Replace cilantro in your pesto recipe with fresh basil. Basil’s sweet and aromatic flavor is a suitable substitute that will maintain the traditional pesto taste. You can also blend equal parts flat-leaf parsley and mint for a unique twist on pesto.

Chimichurri: In a chimichurri sauce, you can easily replace cilantro with an equal amount of fresh flat-leaf parsley. Parsley carries a similar robust flavor without overpowering the sauce. If you like a zesty touch, splash in some red wine vinegar or lemon juice.

Salsa Verde: To substitute cilantro in salsa verde, opt for a mixture of fresh Italian parsley and mint leaves. These ingredients provide a vibrant color and taste that pairs well with the tomatillos. You can also experiment with a dash of cumin and lime juice for a tangy twist.

By selecting the appropriate cilantro substitutes for your recipes, you’ll be able to create flavorful dishes that satisfy your taste buds while maintaining the dish’s visual appeal.

Substitutes for Cilantro Based on Regions

In Middle Eastern cuisine, fresh parsley is often a good substitute for cilantro. Parsley shares some of cilantro’s herbaceous and citrusy flavors, allowing it to blend seamlessly with the ingredients commonly used in the region.

For Asian cuisine, particularly in Southeast Asia, Thai basil and Vietnamese coriander could be your go-to cilantro substitutes. Thai basil offers a hint of anise and licorice aroma, while Vietnamese coriander has a peppery taste that pairs well with dishes like pho and summer rolls.

In Latin America, Epazote and Papalo are two herbs commonly used as cilantro substitutes. Epazote, known for its strong flavor and pungent aroma, is used in Mexican dishes like salsa, guacamole, and black beans. Papalo, another Mexican herb, has a unique taste with hints of citrus, mint, and arugula.

Moving to South Asia, Curry leaves can replace cilantro in some dishes. These leaves have a warm, aromatic flavor that complements Indian curries, dals, and chutneys. Keep in mind, though, that curry leaves have a distinct taste on their own, so use them sparingly to replace cilantro.

Lastly, in the Caribbean region, culantro (not to be confused with cilantro) is an ideal alternative. Despite having a stronger flavor, culantro shares many of the same characteristics as cilantro and is used extensively in dishes like sofrito, stews, and marinades.

Remember to keep the flavors of your chosen substitute and dish in mind, and don’t hesitate to experiment with these options in your cooking journey.

Incorporating Fruits as Cilantro Substitutes

When searching for a cilantro substitute, fruits like lime and lemon can provide a refreshing alternative. Specifically, these citrus fruits impart a tangy taste and aroma, which can enhance your dish in a distinctive way.

To mimic cilantro’s flavor, consider using lime juice in place of cilantro in your recipes. Lime juice offers a citrusy flavor and aroma similar to the herb. Introduce the lime juice gradually, adjusting the quantity based on your taste preferences.

Another option for a cilantro substitute is lemon juice. Just like lime juice, it carries a tangy, citrusy profile that can elevate various dishes. Exercise caution with the amount used, as lemon juice can overpower the dish. Experiment with the ratio to find your desired intensity.

Combining these fruits with others can also create unique flavor combinations. For example, you may want to try mixing them with grapefruit or orange to give your dish a fresh twist. Remember to use these fruits in moderation and adjust according to your palate.

Using fruits like lime and lemon help you achieve the desired flavor profile, while catering to cilantro-sensitive individuals. These versatile options can take your dishes to new heights, without sacrificing the vibrant zestiness that cilantro provides.

Unique Cilantro Substitutes


Papalo is a fantastic alternative to cilantro. This herb has a similar flavor but is slightly stronger, so you should use it sparingly in your recipes. Native to Mexico, papalo is often used in traditional dishes like tacos, salsas, and guacamole. To use papalo as a cilantro substitute:

  1. Start by using about half the amount of papalo that the recipe calls for cilantro.
  2. Taste your dish and adjust the amount of papalo according to your preference.

Remember, the flavor of papalo can be quite intense, so adjust the quantity with caution.

Cilantro Bugs

Cilantro bugs, also known as hawkmoth caterpillars, are another unique alternative to cilantro. Although this might seem like an unconventional choice, these bugs are often used as a sustainable protein source and can provide a similar flavor to cilantro when cooked properly. To use cilantro bugs as a substitute:

  1. Ensure that your source of cilantro bugs is safe and responsibly harvested.
  2. Clean the bugs thoroughly, removing any debris or silk.
  3. Blanche the bugs in boiling water for a few minutes.
  4. Drain the bugs and use them in your recipe as you would fresh cilantro.

Keep in mind, cilantro bugs come with ethical and dietary considerations, so be sure this substitute suits your personal choices and preferences.

When it comes to finding unique and exciting substitutes for cilantro, experiment with papalo and cilantro bugs. Both of these options can offer a distinct flavor that can enhance your dishes and provide a whole new culinary experience. Happy cooking!

Frequently Asked Questions

What can replace cilantro in Mexican dishes?

In Mexican dishes, you can substitute cilantro with fresh epazote or Mexican oregano. Both of these herbs offer strong flavors that complement traditional Mexican cuisine. However, they bring slightly different flavors than cilantro, so you may need to adjust the quantity to your taste.

Is parsley a good alternative for cilantro in salsa?

Yes, parsley is a viable alternative for cilantro in salsa. It can provide a fresh, green taste to salsa without the pungent cilantro flavor that some people find unpleasant. However, parsley has a milder flavor, so you might need to experiment a bit to find the right balance for your taste preferences.

What substitution options are available for cilantro in soup?

For soups, you can replace cilantro with herbs like parsley, chervil, or Thai basil. While parsley and chervil both offer milder flavors, Thai basil brings a slightly spicy and sweet taste to the dish. Whichever herb you choose, ensure you adjust the amounts to find the right flavor profile for your soup.

Which herb can be used instead of cilantro in rice?

When substituting cilantro in rice, consider using fresh basil or parsley. These herbs will add a hint of freshness and flavor to your rice without overpowering the dish. You can also try a mix of both herbs to create a unique taste suited to your palate.

What is a suitable substitute for cilantro in chili?

For chili, a suitable cilantro substitute would be oregano or a combination of oregano and cumin. These herbs provide robust and earthy flavors that complement the other spices in chili. Adjust the amount as per your taste preference, and remember that dried herbs are more potent than their fresh counterparts.

Can any other herb replace cilantro in pico de gallo?

In pico de gallo, you can replace cilantro with chopped parsley or even a combination of parsley and mint. These herbs provide freshness and brightness to the dish, although their flavors differ from cilantro. Experiment with proportions to find your preferred taste, and be prepared for slightly different flavors in the final dish.

Substitutes For Cilantro

Our Best Substitutes For Cilantro

These options are sure to be a hit. So, gather your family and friends and enjoy. Let us know your thoughts!
5 from 6 votes
Total Time 8 minutes
Course Seasoning, Substitute
Cuisine American
Servings 4
Calories 144 kcal


  • Parsley
  • Dill
  • Basil
  • A Mix of Different Herbs
  • Caraway
  • Cumin
  • Curry Powder


  • Try our kitchen tested cilantro substitutes.


Select your option.
Use in or with your favorite recipe.


Calories: 144kcal
Keyword cilantro substitutes
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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
Cassie Marshall
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