Updated: Jul 17
What's the difference between cilantro and coriander? In this blog you will learn the difference, plus applications, health benefits, and recipes, and why some people think cilantro tastes like soap. Enjoy!
I don’t know about you, but I love cilantro! Everything about it – the smell, the taste, and for some reason it just makes me really happy. I could eat piles of cilantro, but give me parsley and I won’t touch it. Some people actually feel that way about cilantro.
Before we get into that, let’s get clear up what cilantro is, which can be confusing.
Cilantro or fresh coriander is the fresh leaves from the plant and is an herb. While coriander is the dried seeds from the plant and is a spice.
The seeds are also ground into a powder and used as a spice. They both taste and smell differently, have different uses in cooking, and even share different health benefits.
The word “cilantro” comes from Spanish and is used in the US to refer to the fresh leaves, while “coriander” is used in the rest of the world for both the fresh leaves and seeds. For the purposes of this blog, I will use “cilantro” to refer to the fresh leaves and “coriander” to refer to the seeds.
Why does Cilantro Taste like Soap to some?
Many people actually don’t like cilantro. For some it is just a preference, but for 4-14% of the world’s population cilantro or fresh coriander tastes like soap. These people actually have a gene that allows them to detect aldehyde, which is a natural chemical found in soap. This genetic quirk causes people to recognize the taste of cilantro as soap-like due to an alteration in their olfactory-receptor gene. You can learn a little more about this gene in this YouTube video.
People who have a cilantro aversion can actually train themselves to like it better. When the fresh leaves are chopped or blended it disperses the soap-like taste. So if you’re someone who doesn’t like cilantro, but doesn’t mind it in salsa for example, this is because it’s been chopped up and the intensity of the taste isn’t as strong.
A Little History About Cilantro
What’s interesting is that in places around the world where cilantro is used more in the cuisine, people have a smaller percentage of the population who carry this gene. And get this! Coriander is one of the oldest spices on the planet, and is even mentioned in the Bible. Coriander seeds have been found in ruins that date back to 5000 B.C.
Last cilantro fun fact: The word “coriander” comes from the Greek word “koris”, which means “stink bug,” and could likely refer to the potent smell that the cilantro leaves release when they are bruised. So this also might influence why people don’t like the taste.
So now that you know all about cilantro’s history, what about the health benefits?
According to Ayurveda, both cilantro and coriander have many healing and health benefits, while balancing vata, pitta, and kapha, and supporting to cool and soothe pitta. You can learn more about what this means in my Introduction to Ayurveda blog.
Both Cilantro and coriander can be used internally and externally to support health and healing in different ways.
The Benefits of Coriander (dried seeds):
It’s a thirst quencher
It cools you down That’s right! Coriander seeds can soothe hot flashes, remove excess heat in the body, and aid in digestion.
Boost digestive system Coriander is specifically good to use in the summer when digestion is weaker. In the summer nature takes care of us by turning down the digestive fire in our system so that we don’t internally overheat. And the longer sun exposure in summer helps to heat the fruit and vegetables we eat, so that our bodies don’t need to work as hard to digest.
Supports healthy blood sugar levels and cardiovascular health
Antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory
Strengthens the overall urinary system Coriander acts as a mild diuretic that does not overwork the kidneys and helps with urinary tract problems .
Carminative (helps prevent gas)
The Benefits of Cilantro (fresh leaves):
Blood purifier and detoxing agent
Contains vitamins A, K, and C, copper, manganese, iron, magnesium, and calcium
Natural antihistamine This means that it calms the immune system. Pulp and juice from leaves can help cure rashes and sunburns, while also aiding the digestive system and reducing toxins in the body.
Cooling and cleansing The cooling properties of cilantro helps to reduce the effects of spicy and heavy dishes, while aiding in digestion, preventing gas, and cleanses ama (toxins) from your body.
How to Incorporate Cilantro & Coriander into Your Diet
There are many difference ways you can add both the herb and spice into your daily consumption. An easy and quick way is to sprinkle cilantro or coriander powder on top of a dish or make a cooling drink with the leaves or seeds.
Cooling Drink with Coriander & Cilantro
This makes a great summer drink, and can also be used all year round to support your health in many ways. It’s easy, quick, and simple to make.
Benefits of Drinking Coriander or Cilantro Water
Drinking coriander or cilantro water boosts the immune system, removes excess heat in the body, calms hot flashes (good from perimenopause and menopause), strengthens hair, reduces acne, removes toxins, is a natural antioxidant, improves digestion, and supports the urinary tract system by clearing inflammation from urinary tract.
How to Make Coriander and Cilantro Water
Traditionally coriander water is made by taking 1 teaspoon of coriander seeds or a handful of cilantro leaves and adding them in 8 oz of room temperature water, and letting it sit overnight. In the morning before breakfast you can drink the water.
Another way to make the water (which is more immediate) is to steep 2 teaspoons of coriander seeds or a handful of cilantro leaves in hot water and drink it like a tea or leave it to cool down to room temperature.
You can increase the quantities respectively to make larger quantities and enjoy the water throughout the day. If you want to make it a little sweeter you can add a small amount of raw honey to taste. For a fully refreshing drink add a squeeze of lemon or lime.
Just add Cilantro or Coriander to it!
Add color, taste, and healthy benefits to your meal by adding cilantro leaves, or coriander seeds or powder to any dish.
Chop up Cilantro Leaves or use Them Whole
You can sprinkle cilantro on top of any dish. It also tastes great if you add the leaves at the end of cooking when you turn off the heat. The food gets infused with a nice and refreshing flavor.
Coriander Seeds or Powder
Season your roasted veggies by tossing them with coriander powder, olive oil, salt and pepper, then spread the veggies on a tray and roast at 425ºF.
Toast coriander seeds in your pan or pot with or without other spices before adding your liquid, veggies, meat, or fish to the dish. When you toast seeds first it releases the flavor more and adds an extra nice flavor to the dish.
Rachael's Yummy Cilantro Chutney Recipe
1/2 bunch of fresh cilantro/coriander (with stems)
1/2 inch of fresh ginger peeled and finely chopped*
1/2 – 1 small clove of finely chopped garlic*
1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon of cumin powder (to taste)
1 – 3 tablespoons of nuts or seeds of choice (pistachios are my favorite)
1/8 – 1/4 cup Water (or more - start with less)
1-2 Fresh Lime Juice (sometimes more needs to be added)
1 Medjool Date (alternatives: maple syrup or honey)
1 – 2 Scallions chopped*
1 – 2 tablespoons of shredded coconut
Black pepper to taste
Salt to taste
*If you have a good food processor you do not need to chop the ginger, garlic, and scallions.
Combine all ingredients together in a Cuisinart, blender, hand emulsifier (or whatever you have)
Blend everything together adding small amounts of water at a time to get it to blend to a texture that is not too smooth or not too chunky
If the chutney is too sour add a little bit of a date, honey, or maple syrup
If the chutney is too sweet add more lime
You can also add small qualities of cumin, salt, and/or pepper until you find the right balance of taste
Serve and enjoy!
Uses for Cilantro Chutney
Use it as a condiment with any dish (pairs well with curry, daal, veggie grain bowls, etc.)
Spread it on a cracker or piece of toast as a snack
Roast, steam, or sauté veggies, then toss them in the chutney
Add it to your avocado toast with an egg or on your sandwich
I hope you enjoyed learning about cilantro and coriander, and even more enjoy these recipes. You can book a 15-minute FREE session with me to learn ways to incorporate a healthy daily lifestyle for you and your family.
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