Coriander and its use in cooking

Coriander and its use in cooking

What is Coriander?

Coriander is an annual herb in the family Apiaceae. It is also known as Chinese parsley.All parts of the plant are edible but the fresh leaves and the dried seeds are the parts most traditionally used in cooking.

In the United States the stems and leaves of the Coriander herb, are usually called cilantro. The flavor of cilantro is vastly different from that of coriander seeds.Cilantro has a complex but delicate flavor with a hint of pepper, mint and lemon.

Coriander seeds is the dried seed or fruit of the Coriandrum sativum plant, which belongs to the parsley family.Coriander seed has a sweet, aromatic taste with a touch of citrus.

What is the difference between coriander and parsley?

In terms of flavor and aroma, coriander, which is also known as Cilantro, is stronger than parsley and celery. 

Coriander leaves are light green and round, with the stems having more flavor & can be used in cooking. Parsley leaves are dark green in color and have sharper pointy leaves with a stem that tastes bitter( hence not included in cooking).

Parsley, however is more delicate and carries a mild flavor and aroma compared to coriander.

Coriander(Cilantro) vs Parsley

Where does the coriander seed come from?

Coriander is a spice produced from the round, tan-colored seeds of the coriander plant (Coriandrum sativum), which is a member of the parsley family.

Coriander seeds are native to Southern Europe and the Mediterranean region.

Is there a difference between coriander and coriander seed?

In the US, cilantro is the name for the plant’s leaves and stem, while coriander is the name for its dried seeds. Internationally, the leaves and stems are called coriander, while its dried seeds are called coriander seeds. … Try adding cilantro for a more refreshing taste, or coriander to help spice up your recipes.


What does coriander seed taste like?

Coriander seeds are the plant’s dried fruit, which can be used whole or ground. This seed is sweet and aromatic with citrus notes and pairs well with allspice, cinnamon, cumin, garlic, and nutmeg.

Its flavor is earthy, tart, and sweet with a floral aroma that releases when toasted.

How is coriander used?

Coriander leaves and stem

Coriander leaves & Stem
Coriander leaves & Stem

The fresh leaves of the Coriander plant/herb have a citrusy taste.They are used raw or added to garnish the dish before serving.Heat diminishes their flavor, hence used sparing in select Indian dishes, where their flavor is infused in the entire dish while cooking .

  • The fresh leaves of the coriander herb is an ingredient in many South Asian foods (Indian, Chinese, Thai & Burmese dishes).
  • In India, chopped coriander leaves are used for garnishing dishes and in chutney’s .The stems of the herb are used in South Indian rasams to flavor the dish.
  • In Mexican cooking, the fresh coriander leaves are used in salsa, guacamole and in garnishing dishes.
  • In Russia, they are used in salads.
  • In Portugal, chopped coriander is used in the bread soup Açorda or used as a topping for fish and meat.

Note : It’s important to remember that the leaves spoil quickly when removed from the plant, and loose their aroma when dried or frozen.

Coriander seeds

Coriander seeds
Coriander seeds

The dry fruits are known as coriander seeds. In food preparations the word, “coriander” might solely represent only to these seeds which are used as a spice, rather than to the herb/plant.

The coriander seeds have a warm, spicy, nutty and citrusy flavor.

  • There are two kinds of coriander seeds – small which are used mainly for making essential oils, while the larger fruit types like the ones produced in tropical countries like India, Morocco &Australia are used extensively for grinding and blending purposes in the spice trade.
  • Coriander seeds are commonly found both as whole dried seeds and in ground form. While the texture of whole or gently cracked seeds complements meat rubs or condiments like chutney, the powder works best for incorporating flavor seamlessly into doughs and batters.
  • Roasting or heating the seeds in a dry pan heightens the flavor, aroma, and pungency. They are the main ingredients in two South Indian dishes sambar and rasam.
  • Ground coriander seed loses flavor quickly in storage and is best ground fresh. Indian spice blends like “garam masala” use ground coriander seeds to enrich the flavor in Indian curries, along with other spices like cumin, cloves, cinnamon etc.
  • Outside of Asia, coriander seed is used widely in the process for pickling vegetables.
  • In Germany and South Africa (see boerewors), the seeds are used while making sausages.
  • In Russia and Central Europe, coriander seed is an occasional ingredient in rye bread (e.g. Borodinsky bread), as an alternative to caraway.
  • The Zuni people of North America have adapted it into their cuisine, mixing the powdered seeds ground with chili and using it as a condiment with meat, and eating leaves as a salad.
  • Coriander seeds are used in brewing certain styles of beer, particularly some Belgian wheat beers.

Coriander Roots

Coriander Root
Coriander Root

Coriander roots have a deeper, more intense flavor than the leaves, and are used in a variety of Asian cuisines, especially in Thai dishes such as soups or curry pastes.

How is coriander used in Indian cooking?

  • To flavor sweet and savory dishes
  • To season vegetables
  • To make spicy flavorful rasam
  • To flavor chicken and meat dishes
  • For marinades
  • For masalas/spice powder blends
  • For garnishing dishes and festive rice preparations
  • In cookies
  • In cakes
  • For making tea
  • Added in pickling brines
  • In compotes
  • In chutneys.

How to dry roast or toast coriander seeds?

Clean coriander seeds and take the coriander seeds in a pan. Dry roast the coriander seeds till they change color slightly and give a good aroma.As with all seeds, toasting them will bring out more of the aromatic flavor.

Remove from heat and grind to a fine powder consistency. Cool and store homemade coriander powder in air-tight containers.

How do you crack/grind coriander seeds at home?

It is best to use cracked or crushed coriander seeds made fresh in your kitchen, before using it in a recipe. Store bought ones loose their flavor when made to sit for long periods in the spice aisle.

Whole coriander seeds can be cracked or crushed by using a spice grinder or manually with a mortar and pestle or simple placing them in a sealable bag and cracking them with a hammer.

This will produce the best, freshest taste in your recipes. 

What are the health benefits of coriander seeds?

  • Improves digestion
  • Improves heart health by reducing bad cholesterol
  • Helps regulate blood glucose levels
  • Aids in weight loss (think coriander tea each morning!)
  • Slows the ageing process by restoring skin health (antioxidant properties)
  • Promotes hair growth & delays premature greying of hair

What can I substitute for Coriander in cooking?

You may substitute one tablespoon of coriander seeds with one teaspoon each of caraway, fennel, and cumin seeds. You may use cilantro as coriander seeds substitute as it gives almost similar taste to the foods.

Fun Facts -Did you know?

  • Coriander was not a widely used spice in ancient times, yet it is mentioned in ancient texts of India, written in Sanskrit. There it is refereed to as “kusthumbari” or “dhanayaka”.
  • In 1983 the oldest known coriander fruits were discovered in an archaeological dig in the Nahal Hemar cave in Israel which dates back to approximately 7600-6000 BC.
  • During festivals, Romans would throw sweetened balls of coriander. Many times the balls would break apart and rain seeds upon the crowd, thus the origin of confetti!
  • The British are responsible for introducing coriander to the American colonies in 1670, and it was one of the first spices grown here. During WWII when resources were scarce, coriander seed would be coated in white or pink sugar and tossed out from carnival wagons for children. These confections were called “confetti” for short, and eventually the small treats were replaced with scraps of paper.
  • Coriander is listed as one of the original ingredients in the secret formula for Coca-Cola

Now that you know about the many culinary uses of Coriander leaves /Cilantro and the Coriander seeds, how are you planning to use it in your cooking? Share in your comments below.

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