The seeds and leaves of the coriander plant are used all around the world to enhance the overall flavor of various dishes. With a spicy, citrusy flavor, coriander is most commonly used in curry dishes, the pickling of vegetables, and even the brewing of beer.
While it may be a widely available spice, what are we supposed to do when we unexpectedly run out?
Despite having a unique mix of flavors, both coriander seeds and leaves can be substituted for a range of flavorful alternatives.
Today, we want to show you those alternatives.
In this post, we have put together a list of the best coriander substitutes. We’ll take you through each one, explaining what they are, how they can be used, and the flavors they provide.
If you’re left in a pickle without any coriander and are in need of a quick solution, be sure to stick around!
What Is Coriander?
Before we start looking at the best coriander substitutes, it’s a good idea to know exactly what coriander is. It is only by knowing what coriander is and what it offers that we can start to find suitable substitutes.
Also known by the scientific name Coriandrum sativum, coriander is an annual herb that belongs to the Apiaceae family. It is also regularly referred to as dhania, cilantro, or Chinese parsley.
You may have noticed that coriander is also known as cilantro. The reason for this is quite interesting. The coriander spice and cilantro leaf both come from the same plant.
Coriander refers to the seeds of the plant, while cilantro is the fresh leaves the plant has. Coriander is usually sold in whole-seed or ground form. Cilantro leaves are extremely popular in South Asian and Mexican cuisine.
The seeds of the coriander plant are warm and spicy, with a citrusy flavor once crushed. The leaves have a slightly stronger taste that is more pronounced and tangy.
Despite the whole plant being edible, only the seeds and leaves are commonly used in cooking. The seeds and leaves are usually blended with other spices to make tasty curries or to pickle vegetables.
Coriander Seed Substitutes
Now you know more about what coriander is and what it tastes like, we can start to look at its best substitutes. To do this, we have decided to split the substitutes into two different categories.
One category will look at coriander seed alternatives and the other will focus on coriander (cilantro) leaf substitutes.
This should help you better identify the substitute you need for a specific dish.
Below, you’ll find spices that aren’t too different from coriander in terms of flavor. They are all perfect for those times you’ve unexpectedly run out of your favorite spice.
The first substitute we’re going to look at is cumin. Cumin is another massively popular spice used all over the world in cooking.
It is made using the dried, ground seeds of the Cuminum cyminum plant and is most commonly used in stews, soups, chilis, curries, and meat dishes. In some African countries such as Morocco, cumin is actually used the same way we would use pepper.
Most families will even keep the spice on the dining table ready to be used.
Though it varies slightly in taste, cumin makes a very good coriander substitute. This spice has a warm, spicy, nutty flavor that doesn’t differ too much from coriander’s earthy flavors. It can also be used exactly the same way you would use coriander.
To make things even better, cumin is kept in most spice racks so you probably already have some. If not, you’ll easily find some in-store if they don’t have any coriander available.
Curry powder is a great coriander seed substitute for many reasons, but the main one has to be that most curry powders already contain coriander. Most curry powders consist of a unique blend of different spices. Most of the time, one of those spices is coriander.
Therefore, you could get away with using curry powder to give your dish that bit of coriander you desire. Other ingredients almost every curry powder contains are turmeric, chili, ginger, and fenugreek.
As well as giving your dish that dose of coriander flavor it needs, curry powder adds depth of flavors to a dish. Thanks to its variety of components, curry powder can provide dishes with both sweet and savory undertones.
Similar to coriander, curry powder offers warmth and flavor to marinades, roasted vegetables, and of course curries.
You only need to use small amounts of curry powder to replace coriander as it has a much stronger flavor. Add small amounts and taste your food before adding any more. This will stop you from overpowering the dish.
Next up, we have garam masala. Garam masala is another blend of spices that tends to contain coriander. Hugely popular in South East Asian and Indian food cultures, garam masala usually consists of coriander, peppercorn, turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, bay leaf, and mace.
As you can imagine, all of these spices together combine to create a powerful burst of flavor sure to liven up any curry or meat dish.
Thanks to coriander being one of the main ingredients in garam masala, we can easily use the blend of spices to control the flavors in our dishes.
However, like curry powder, garam masala is also much stronger than coriander. Therefore, we have to be careful when using the spice mix as it can be easy to overpower food otherwise.
To ensure you don’t overpower your food, add the garam masala in small amounts, tasting before adding any more.
The final coriander seed substitute we have for you is caraway. Caraway is probably the closest tasting substitute you will find to coriander seeds so if possible, this is the one you should try and use first.
Caraway is a type of herb that can be used to drastically change the flavor profile of a dish. Like the coriander plant, caraway belongs to the Apiaceae family. This family of plants also includes celery, fennel, and parsley.
This herb also contains the same oils as coriander. These are pinene and linalool. It is these two oils that make caraway and coriander taste so similar.
Even though caraway has an earthy, sweet flavor similar to coriander, it is typically used in casseroles, desserts, and baked goods.
The seeds of the caraway plant can be bought dry or grounded and can be substituted for coriander on a 1:1 basis. Having said that, we recommend adding caraway in small amounts as the taste does differ slightly.
Fresh Coriander (Cilantro) Leaf Substitutes
Now that we’ve been through the best coriander seed substitutes, we can start to look at the best alternatives to coriander leaves. Fresh cilantro has a more distinctive, citrusy taste than coriander seeds so we will need to find more suitable substitutes.
The substitutes we look at next are the closest thing you will find to fresh cilantro, so if you run out, why not give one of them a try.
These alternatives can also be good for those of you that don’t like cilantro. Cilantro has been known to have a soap-like taste, putting many people off it. If you’re one of those people, our substitutes could help.
The first fresh herb substitute we recommend using if you don’t have any cilantro is basil. Although the tastes between the two vary significantly, in certain scenarios basil is a quick and easy alternative.
There is a wide range of different types of basil to choose from when picking one to be a cilantro alternative, so you’ll want to choose the best one. From experience, one of the best is Thai basil.
Thai basil has a distinctive spicy taste and a small hint of licorice. Adding this herb to a curry will help elevate the dish, giving it an extra explosion flavor. The flavors might differ slightly but both give dishes a subtle, yet noticeable kick of spice.
You can also use basil as a garnish. Simply chop it up and sprinkle it over your food to add vibrancy as well as flavor to a dish.
In our opinion, if you’re looking for the best fresh herb to use as a substitute for coriander, you should use parsley.
Parsley is a vibrant green herb that coincidentally belongs to the same family as coriander. In terms of flavor, the two taste a little different, but if you want a splash of fresh tangy, bitter flavor, parsley is perfect. In fact, its tanginess is arguably the closest match you could find to that of cilantro.
Parsley’s green color is also a nice touch because it mimics the color of cilantro, giving your dish that same vibrant appeal.
Because cilantro has more citrusy tones than parsley, you might decide to make some changes to your dish in order to make the two herbs taste more alike. To better match the two herbs, you could add a dash of lemon juice or peel to recipes that use parsley.
The two best types of fresh parsley to use are Italian, curly-leaf, and flat-leaf.
Finally, we have herb mixtures. By herb mixtures, we simply refer to a blend of different fresh herbs that combine beautifully to produce a similar taste to cilantro.
The beauty of this substitute is that you can make use of all the leftover herbs you have left in your kitchen to create something that looks and tastes so much better. Herbs that work well together to create the perfect cilantro alternative include oregano, dill, parsley, and tarragon.
If you want to be successful in replicating cilantro flavors, your best bet is to use herbs that taste similar. That is why we recommend using parsley in your herb mixture.
However, if you don’t like the taste of cilantro, you could always mix and match different herbs to create something different. In truth, there are endless combinations you can put together in order to create a mixture that perfectly complements your dish.
Coriander seeds and fresh cilantro leaves are popular cooking ingredients, used by people all over the world.
While it is readily available and kept in most kitchens, there are plenty of useful substitutes that can be made if you unexpectedly run out of coriander. There are even a number of substitutions that better suit those who don’t like the taste of coriander.
In this post, we have shown you the best coriander seed and coriander leaf substitutes. They all vary in what they offer, but all make a good alternative at short notice.
All you need to do now is decide which substitute you want to try.