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.


40 comments on “Cilantro

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  1. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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!

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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. 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.

  11. 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!

  12. 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.

  13. 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. 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.

  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!!!

  15. 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. 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.

  16. 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. 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

    1. 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!!