Cilantro is also known by many names like culantro, coriander and even Chinese parsley. Although it didn’t originate in Mexico, it has grown such strong roots in its cuisine, to the point that its hard to think about Mexican cooking without it.

It has delicate, paper thin leaves and tender stems. Its deep green color tends to be shinny too.

It is used for countless foods including being a key ingredients of many salsas, guacamoles and pico de gallo. It is used to flavor beans, rice, salads, stews amongst some dishes. It is even placed frequently on the table in a bowl, just as an optional garnish for tacos, antojos and soups. In the last couple decades it has even become quite popular for smoothies and juices.

Cilantro has a distinct, strong and pungent flavor. Most people tend to like it. However, the few that don’t, tend to feel so strongly about it: they can’t stand it. Those I have asked about their dislike, usually say that it was since they can remember. A couple have referred to a detergent taste (see I was listening to you Ceci…). But most people that like cilantro, don’t recognize those flavors…  So it just might be in the genes…

I am part of the group that really likes it. But I try to use it judiciously. A couple sprigs are usually all it takes to add what cilantro can bring.



42comments inCilantro

  1. Clare Gray-Bayne

    Jun 28

    This is the third time I have tried to comment on cilantro on this blog. So far, none of my comments have appeared. (Does the blog section fill up or something???) I have inherited the gene that makes cilantro taste nasty like soap. So many chefs/cookbook authors put cilantro in their recipes so it must taste good to you. Please describe what it tastes like so that I can understand why it is so popular, and I can figure out what to substitute for it to approximate its taste. I know that coriander seed is from the same plant, and I don’t have a problem with that item. Could using Italian flat leaf parsley and ground coriander together work? I know substituting flat-leaf parsley would be okay, but the flavor is clearly different. Any comments, suggestions?

    1. Pati Jinich

      Jun 30

      Thanks for your comment Clare. Cilantro has such a unique taste that is difficult to describe, is fresh but pungent at the same time, I don’t think there is any other herb quite like it. Parsley is a good substitute, some people also use Basil instead. I normally recommend that if you don’t like it, just leave it out. Good luck!

  2. Crusita A. M.

    Aug 24

    hello Pati,
    Ike trying to learn how to use this cilantro in homemade salsas to use for tacos. Do I only use the thin leaves and toss out the stems. Every time I make salsa and add cilantro it comes out with a bitter tase. Help!

    1. Pati Jinich

      Oct 03

      I’m so glad you enjoy learning how to use cilantro, Crusita! You can use the leaves, but I also love using the upper part of the stems.

  3. Meg McAlister

    Jul 29

    I love cilantro and have grown it in my backyard garden for so many years that it reseeds itself, like basil, without any work by me. The problem is that it all becomes ready for harvest at the same time, in late spring/early summer. Do you have any suggestions how I can preserve it when I have a ton of it? I can my own tomato salsa with it which uses up a good amount but is there an oil or pesto or something that I can make and preserve for long term use?

    Also, when is your new cookbook coming out? I can’t wait!

    1. Pati Jinich

      Aug 08

      Oh try my cilantro pesto: And hopefully my cookbook will be out next year, Meg!

  4. Maryeileen

    Oct 24

    I have to say that I’m not a fan of cilantro.

  5. Pam

    Oct 19

    Thank you Pati! I’ve actually seen this in my Asian market and had no idea what it was. I’ll be sure to pick some up on my next shopping trip.

  6. Kris

    Oct 19

    This is so interesting. I’m one of those who absolutely HATE cilantro…it tastes like industrial strength soap to me. I’ve tried to get over it by eating cilantro sprigs, but my throat actually closes up…it’s that strong to me! So, I avoid it like the plague!

    1. Pati

      Oct 19

      Have you tried substituting cilantro with epazote? You may like it!

  7. Janet

    Oct 19

    Apparently it’s a shared group of olfactory-receptor genes, called OR6A2, that pick up on the smell of aldehyde chemicals. Aldehyde chemicals are found in both cilantro and soap.

    1. Pati

      Oct 19

      Interesting!! Thanks for sharing!

  8. Pam

    Oct 17

    I have always loved Cilantro and put it on most everything I eat. My favorite beachside Mexican restaurant here in Fl even brings a bowl of chopped cilantro to my table automatically! My 22 year old son is one of those that says it tastes like soap. I just can’t imagine that! Poor thing.

    1. Pati

      Oct 19

      Try substituting cilantro with epazote for him if he doesn’t like cilantro! =)

  9. Aline

    Oct 17

    Hi Pati,

    Just wondering if you could provide a bit more background on where cilantro originated? Thanks.

    1. Pati

      Oct 19

      Hola! It originated in southern Europe, northern Africa, and southwest Asia. Here is a bit more information about cooking with this Mexican staple I love so much!!

  10. velia

    Oct 16

    Hey Virginia, tu viviste en Filipinas? Ya se me habia olvidado el chutney de cilantro que mi cocinera hacia. No recuerdo que haya usado albahaca, y usaba los chiles que aqui llamamos Vienamita. De la menta si me acuerdo claramente. Que bueno que me lo recordaste, pues ahora lo hare para los tacos de pescado. Mil gracias.

  11. Josiah Gagosian

    May 20

    Just a note…
    Cilantro is the herb Coriandrum sativum, brought over from Europe and eventually incorporated with Mexican cuisine.
    Culantro is the herb Eryngium foetidum which is actually native to Mexico and South America. It has a somewhat similar taste but is stronger. I imagine their similarity in flavor is what lead to the conflation of their common names. I grew some in my backyard here in New Orleans a few years ago along with epazote and cilantro.

    1. Pati

      May 22

      Thank you for sharing!

  12. Kathy Fehr

    Nov 14

    I found the infiormation about the like/dislike of cilantro very interesting. I am one of those who hate cilamtro. I find it very bitter and taste it any recipe. I would love to know if there is something else that could be used in it’s place. I love Mexican food but have stopped eating it because of that reason.

    1. Pati

      Nov 14

      Hola Kathy, You can substitute any other fresh green herb that you like for cilantro, i.e. chives, parsley, etc.

      1. Bonita

        Oct 29

        I know this is an old post but will write anyway. I am one who does not like Cilantro. I also can’t eat parsley. I substitute green onion tops and chives as you suggested. I can, however, use dried cilantro and some pico de gallo in Mexican restaurants I can eat it because it has sat for quite a while with lime juice. Must be the oils in the fresh that get to me.
        Loving your series on Baja.

        1. Pati Jinich

          Oct 30

          Thanks for sharing, Bonita! And I’m glad you are enjoying the Baja episodes.

  13. Bella

    Sep 29

    Personally, I love cilantro! I think that it is always adding that extra flavor to a dish. I also really like your site and I am always interested to learn and discover food in a different way. You have inspired me to go out and look for foods that challenge me as an eater and a person. I think you have great ideas and perspectives!

    1. Pati

      Sep 30

      Gracias, Bella!

  14. Cita Evans

    Jun 16

    Our Biology teacher at our school was telling us that the like/dislike of cilantro is actually genetic.
    Would interesting to take a poll.

    1. Pati

      Jun 16


      1. Eileen

        Apr 30

        At a family reunion dinner where siblings, cousins, kids, kid’s kids were enjoying Mexican food I asked everybody who hated cilantro to raise their hands. My brother, sister and I had the only raised hands. Seems like genetics to me!

        1. Pati Jinich

          May 10


  15. Brian Meagher

    Jun 15

    Fresh cilantro is a must in our fire roasted tomato and chipotle salsa, and it really brightens up a simple pineapple salsa with jerk pork.

    I feel sorry for those that think it tastes “soapy”. Oh, the wonders of our taste buds.

  16. Virginia Valencia

    Jun 14

    I love cilantro…in salads, salsas, pesto, etc. One of my favorite ways to use it is by making a mango, swiss cheese and cilantro quesadilla it’s delish….

    1. Pati

      Jun 15

      Oooooooh, I’ve never tried that, sounds interesting Virginia!

      1. Virginia

        May 22

        I recently came across a cilantro pesto recipe…I haven’t tried it, but it sound great. It can be used on meats, seafood, vegetables, etc.
        1 jalapeno pepper, halved (seeded, if desired)
        1 large bunch fresh cilantro leaves, stems removed (about 2 cups)
        1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil
        1/4 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
        2 large cloves garlic
        1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
        1/4 cup water
        1 to 2 tablespoons lime juice
        1/2 teaspoon sea salt


        In a food processor bowl, place the jalapeno, cilantro, basil, mint, and garlic. Cover and pulse until finely chopped. With processor running, gradually add oil and water. Stir in lime juice and salt. Makes 1 Cup or 16 tablespoons. I tablespoon = 1 serving.

        1. Pati

          May 26

          Yum! Thank you for sharing. Will have to try.

  17. Sherry

    Jun 14

    I love, love, love cilantro! As a child I always thought it was parsley, like that green stuff that decorated lunch plates at Howard Johnson’s until I tasted it and announced to my mother that it was not the green stuff I loved; so as of age 7 I learned the difference between cilantro and parsley 😉 I’d like to know if you could recommend another herb that comes close to cilantro that I can try on my friends who also fiercely cannot stand the taste of cilantro? I guess you’re right, it must be the genes that causes a person’s taste buds to not like cilantro. Pati, I love all your recipes, your cooking shows and your website. Thanks for all of it!!!

    1. Pati

      Jun 15

      Thanks Sherry! One herb that you may want to try is epazote. You can now find it here in Latin stores and you can also grow it on your own back yard or indoor pot

  18. laura montalvo

    Jul 18

    I recently visited Pubela, we went to a wonderful outdoor restaurant and they served a wonderful crema de cilantro soup. this was the best soup I have ever had, do you have any receipes for cream of cilantro soup, thanking you in advance, Laura Montalvo,
    P.S. I love all your shows

    1. Pati Jinich

      Jul 21

      Hola Laura, I also tried this soup when I visited and thought it was scrumptious! I will try to post a recipe as soon as the heat subsides. I hope you keep enjoying the show.

  19. Monica

    Mar 06

    Cilantro is one of my favorite herbs, if not my ultimate favorite. I love it not only in our Mexican dishes, but in Thai ones and in my grandma’s Peruvian seco de cordero. Great, now I’m homesick. 🙂

    1. Pati Jinich

      Mar 07

      Just reading about your comments on cilantro made me reflect on what interesting twists the same herb can have in different cuisines. Fascinating!! How different cilantro tastes in a Thai soup, from a Mexican stew… not even to get into a Peruvian seco (!) YUM

  20. Kristin

    Mar 06

    I’m one of those who love cilantro. Cilantro chutney rocks!

    1. Pati Jinich

      Mar 06

      Hi Kristin,
      I love cilantro too, and haven’t tried a cilantro chutney at home. If you have a recipe you would like to share, jump in and add it on!!

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