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Coriander vs Parsley: 10 Differences You Should Know

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Although Coriander and Parsley look quite similar, key distinctions set them apart. Learn ten differences that will help you to differentiate Coriander vs Parsley, their best uses, and their substitutes. 

If you like to use herbs daily in cooking and garnishing, you are familiar with Coriander and Parsley. They are two common herbs that people like to grow and use daily. However, they look like twins, so one can easily mistake one for another.

Can you use them interchangeably? This tutorial explains the difference between parsley and cilantro, so you can decide when to use them.

Despite their similarities, there are notable differences between the two that are worth exploring. 

Let’s dive deep and clarify.

comparison-parsley-vs-cilantro

1. Plant type: Coriander vs Parsley

Coriander (Coriandrum sativum), or cilantro or Chinese parsley, is a bright green aromatic herb that grows on long stems. It is native to southern Europe and western Asia. 

In other parts of the world, such as India and Southeast Asia, coriander refers to the seeds of the cilantro plant, which are used as a spice in cooking. 

Regular Parsley (Petroselinum crispum), also called Italian parsley, is an aromatic herb with bright green leaves and stems native to the Mediterranean region. There are different types of parsley, but two are the most commonly known: curly parsley (Petroselinum crispum var. crispum) and Italian flat-leaf parsley (Petroselinum crispum var. neapolitanum).

coriander-leaf
coriander leaf

Both coriander and parsley come from the same botanical family, Apiaceae, like other aromatic herbs such as carrot or fennel.

While cilantro is an annual herb, parsley is a biennial. Thus it grows leaves in its first year, then flowers and sets seed in its second. But it’s usually treated as an annual, discarded after its first year, and resown each spring.

parsley-leaf
parsley leaf

2. Appearance: Cilantro or Parsley? Tell the difference.

Leaves:

Common parsley and coriander look like at first sight, but you can tell them apart by examining their leaves. While the leaves of both herbs are flat, feathery, and bright green, their shape is slightly different. For example, cilantro leaves are more rounded, whereas parsley leaves are pointed.

Curled-leaf parsley, on the other hand, has curled leaves that are prettier than regular parsley leaves but are considered tasteless and usually used as a garnish.

comparison-curl-leaf-vs-flat-parsley-leaf
comparison – curl leaf vs flat parsley leaf

Stems

The stems of parsley tend to be thicker and longer than the thinner stems of coriander. 

3. Scent: Coriander leaves or use parsley instead?

By smelling, you can easily distinguish between parsley and coriander, even if their appearance may appear similar at first glance. 

Crushing or rubbing parsley leaves between your fingers emits a mild, fresh, herbal scent reminiscent of grass or mild celery.

Similarly, crushing coriander leaves releases a strong, citrusy aroma with hints of earthiness and spice.

parsley-or-cilantro

4. Flavor: Use Cilantro or Flat-leaf Parsley to garnish.

Parsley and coriander have different flavors that set them apart from each other:

Parsley has a milder flavor, slightly peppery, with hints of freshness and a subtle bitterness. It adds a crisp and clean flavor to dishes without overpowering other ingredients. The taste of parsley is often described as grassy or herbaceous.

Cilantro has a much stronger, citrusy, and slightly spicy flavor. In addition, it offers a vibrant and aromatic cilantro flavor with notes of lemon and hints of sweetness. There are two groups of people on this planet. While the first group loves cilantro, others may perceive it as having a slightly soapy taste. It is due to specific aldehyde compounds and genetic predisposition in their olfactory receptors(1).

cilantro leaves
cilantro leaves

5. Culinary uses of Cilantro and Parsley.

While both green herbs add brightness to dishes, leaf parsley has a milder and more versatile taste that complements a wide range of flavors, making it a popular choice for garnishing and enhancing various dishes. 

Flat-leaf Parsley adds a fresh touch to sauteed vegetables like Green Beans and Asparagus, soups, stews, Fish or Macho Peas. It is also a key ingredient in herb blends like bouquet garni. In addition, you can find it in traditional Middle Eastern dishes like tabbouleh and in spice mixes, marinades, and dressings.

Fresh Coriander finds its place in Asian (Thai, Indian, Vietnamese) and Latin American cuisines, adding a citrusy and slightly spicy flavor. You can find chopped coriander in salsas, chutneys, Thai inspired salads, sauces and dips like this Elote dip. In Mexican cuisine, like guacamole, Mondongo soup, tacos, and ceviche. Coriander also enhances rice dishes, stir-fries, and noodles to infuse them with a fresh and aromatic element. I use ground coriander when making this low-sodium taco seasoning or this aubergine curry.

cutting parsley

6. Nutritional value: Parsley vs cilantro

Both are very low in calories, protein, carbs, and fat. However, both are rich source of several vitamins.

But parsley is particularly notable for its high vitamin K content. A small amount of parsley can provide almost 6 times the recommended daily dose of vitamin K, which is essential for blood clotting and bone health. Both herbs also contain phenolic compounds that help protect cells and DNA from damage.

7. Health benefits difference between cilantro and parsley

Like various herbs and spices, cilantro and parsley have been used in traditional medicine for centuries. Animal studies have found that these herbs may offer various health benefits, including:

  • reducing blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol
  • helping prevent blood clots
  • inhibiting the growth of some types of bacteria and fungi
  • reducing kidney stones by acting as a diuretic
  • pain relief

When using these herbs in cooking, the way you cook them and the other ingredients you use can affect their nutrient content.

For example, cooking parsley and cilantro can reduce certain antioxidants but increase others. When researchers studied different cooking methods, they found that simmering increased the antioxidants in herbs while stir-frying and grilling decreased them.(2)

The amount of vitamin K you absorb from both herbs can also vary based on your consumption. Eating them with some fat, like olive oil, avocado, or coconut milk, helps your body absorb more vitamin K. (3)

bunch of parsley
bunch of parsley

8. Coriander and parsley Seed Usage.

Coriander seeds, derived from the plant, have a unique flavor and are used as a spice in various cuisines. In contrast, parsley seeds for seedlings.

Ground coriander seeds add a warm, aromatic, and slightly citrusy taste to curry powders and Corned beef Spices or are used for pickling and preserving. Additionally, crushed or ground coriander seeds add a unique flavor to baked goods.

Unlike coriander, parsley seeds are primarily used for growing parsley plants in herb gardens or pots. They are sown and nurtured to produce fresh parsley leaves for culinary use. Parsley seeds can also be sprouted and added to dishes for fresh greens or brew them into tea.

CORIANDER-SEEDS
Coriander seeds

9. Cilantro vs Parsley Root uses.

Coriander roots have a strong, aromatic flavor, while parsley roots are root vegetables with a similar taste to carrots.

Coriander roots have a strong and aromatic flavor, which closely resembles the taste of the coriander leaves and seeds. After finely chopped and pounded into paste, they add depth and fragrance to Thai and Vietnamese dishes such as curry pastes, marinades, and soups. Coriander roots are also popular in pickling recipes to infuse a distinct taste.

On the other hand, root parsley is considered a type of root vegetable with its white, carrot-like appearance and a slightly sweeter parsley flavor. You can cook it in soups, stews, roasted vegetable preparations, and purees. Or as a substitute for parsnips (the root of Hamburg parsley (Petroselinum crispum var. tuberosum), due to their similar taste and texture.

parsley-root.

10. Are parsley and cilantro easy-to-grow herbs?

Parsley is considered easier to grow than coriander plants due to its adaptability, higher germination rate, longer lifespan, and resilience to varying conditions.

Flat-leaf parsley is versatile and can adapt to different growing conditions. It can grow in full sun or partial shade.

When it comes to sprouting, parsley seeds have a higher success rate and are easier to get started.

CROWING-CILANTRO
Growing cilantro

In addition, it has a longer lifespan, so you can enjoy harvesting parsley for a longer period.

In terms of resilience, parsley is more forgiving. It can handle minor watering or care mistakes and bounce back from occasional neglect or mild stress more easily than coriander.

Can You Substitute Parsley for Cilantro in a Recipe (And Vice Versa)?

You can use coriander in place of parsley in Mexican and Asian dishes without any problem. However, in other types of cuisine, cilantro may not work as a substitute for parsley. To find out, you can do a taste test or choose to leave it out. Another option is to try a milder substitute for parsley, such as finely chopped carrot greens.

If you want to use parsley instead of cilantro, keep in mind that the flavor will be very different. Parsley has a much milder taste compared to cilantro, so the result will have less flavors.

In some cases, you can use both parsley and cilantro together. They complement each other well in grain salads, herb mixes, and chimichurri. If a recipe calls for a combination of herbs, including parsley, cilantro, basil, and mint, they work nicely together.

While some may suggest using parsley and cilantro as interchangeable substitutes, I recommend doing a taste test first. The flavors are different and won’t work well in every dish.

Can you use dried parsley and coriander?

They are both available in dried forms and can add flavor to your dishes. However, their overall flavor will be much duller. Crumble the dried herbs between your fingers to release their flavor and sprinkle them over soups, stews, roasted vegetables, or pasta dishes during cooking. You can also rehydrate them by soaking them in a small amount of warm water for a few minutes before adding them to your recipes.

10 differences cilantro vs parsley
Vladka Merva on May 16th, 2023

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