What is the Difference Between Cilantro and Coriander?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Cilantro, coriander, and Chinese parsley are all exactly the same thing, which means that the simple answer to this question is that there is no difference between cilantro and coriander. These different terms are used in different regions of the world; in Latin America, for example, many people say “cilantro,” while in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, people say “coriander.” Incidentally, while most people think specifically of the leaves of cilantro as a seasoning, the root, seeds, and stalks can also be used.

Coriander seeds.
Coriander seeds.

This herb has been used for centuries in cuisines in many parts of the world, making it difficult to figure out where, exactly, it originated. The Greeks were certainly familiar with coriander, cultivating it and using it in a wide variety of dishes, and in India, coriander is used a an ayurvedic herb to aid digestion in addition to being used as a seasoning. In the Middle East, especially in Iran, coriander is believed to be helpful for people who are nervous or insomniac.

A bunch of coriander, also known as cilantro.
A bunch of coriander, also known as cilantro.

Fresh cilantro is bright green with feathery, branching leaves much like those of its relatives, which include carrots, fennel, and parsley. This culinary herb is more formally known as Coriandrum sativum, in a reference to the ancient Greek word for cilantro. The seeds and stalks have a very distinctive, piquant flavor which complements a wide range of foods, from burritos to Thai soups, and it often pairs very well with chilies and other spicy ingredients.

Coriander, rather than cilantro, is the term used in the Middle East to describe the herb.
Coriander, rather than cilantro, is the term used in the Middle East to describe the herb.

The ground herb sold in the market as coriander is actually made from the seeds of the coriander plant, so some people mistakenly believe that “coriander” refers only to the seed. Many Middle Eastern recipes call for ground coriander, and the seeds can also be used whole in pickling blends and other dishes, where they provide a tart, brisk flavor and a crunchy texture.

When looking for cilantro in stores, look for crisp bright green bunches which look generally healthy, with no signs of wilting, discolored leaves, or slime. You can also grow cilantro at home; the plant grows very well in containers or in the regular garden, and it tends to really take off. If you allow coriander to go to seed, it will also reseed itself, establishing fresh plants which you can periodically snip for fresh herbs. Growing it yourself also allows you to use the roots, which can sometimes be difficult to obtain.

In Iran, coriander is believed to be helpful for people who are nervous or insomniac.
In Iran, coriander is believed to be helpful for people who are nervous or insomniac.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Who cares that different countries use different names for the same thing - it's hardly likely to change the dish that the coriander/cilantro is being used for!


Mint leaves are mint. Mint seeds are mint seeds.

So why on earth distinguish between coriander and coriander seeds?

This is a US convention and it's inconsistent. There's not a name for parsley and parsley seeds. They are the same freaking thing.

For some reason, in the US, people have taken on the Spanish/Mexican name for coriander and called it cilantro and call it a different name in seed form. However the following are have only one name: thyme, rosemary, sage, etc.

But according to Americans. the British naming convention is wrong because for this one particular H-erb not "erb" there is a different name for the plant and seed form.

It's the yanks who are wrong!


@anon321754: "Cilantro" is the *Spanish* word for coriander. Nothing USA-American about it. That's what it's called in Latin America.

Incidentally, I can both spell and identify Australia and Austria on a map.

There are many differences in US and UK English, and for the most part, neither is more "correct" than the other. We say "truck." You say "lorry." Neither is wrong and neither is right. They are simply different words for the same vehicle.

Vive la difference!


Try this delicious recipe - cilantro-free zone

For fish cakes

500g white fish fillets

1/2 red capsicum, chopped

2 long red chillies, chopped (deseeded if desired)

2 tbsp fresh coriander leaves

3 spring onions, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 stalk lemongrass, tender part only, chopped

1 tbsp fish sauce, optional

1/4 cup coconut milk

1 egg

Vegetable oil for frying


Yep - even Asians call it coriander and they use it profusely in cooking.

It's called coriander in Australia and the UK. Trust Americans to call it something else, and then say "it's a better fit" to call it cilantro?

You call prawns "shrimps" (shrimps are small prawns) and you couldn't tell us where Austria or Australia are on a map (and you confuse the two countries) - yet they're so different.

I'd never heard of cilantro; that sounds much more stuffy than coriander.


There is no difference between the two names, be it Cilantro or Coriander -- whichever suits your tongue, best use that. Peace.


If we use the seeds, we say coriander seeds. There's no need to use two different words for the same plant. Common sense should prevail.


I personally am grateful that here in North America we use the word cilantro to refer to the leaves of the plant, and coriander to refer to its seeds. The difference in the taste of each part of the plant make it too simplistic to say that "there is no difference between cilantro and coriander," when the tongue will tell you there most certainly is one.

For people like myself, eating the smallest part of cilantro is (regrettably) nauseating, while coriander is harmless. Please do not call us backward for needing a way to distinguish the two distinct parts of Coriandrum sativum.


North Americans need everything spelled out to them. It's the same for 'chips' and 'fries'. The rest of the world uses context to establish the difference, whereas they needed another word for chips so as not to get confused. There are a million examples like this.


Cilantro just fits better. For the food we use it for, which is either Asian food or Mexican food. Coriander sounds too stuffy. Coriander seed is acceptable use for coriander.


So how is the root used?


Why does North America call Coriander; cilantro? It seems the rest of the English speaking world calls it otherwise (That includes the entire sub continent and Asia). We are not backward people and people might argue that our English is a purer and more natural. Why the American derivative? Cilantro has been out of my reach for sometime until recently when I realized that I had been using it for years! I do understand that the whole plant is used.

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