Cooking is an art; it’s more than just following recipes. The best recipe and dishes aren’t made by following recipes; they are achieved by following your taste buds, gut feel and experience. Good cooks have a knack of substituting their ingredients to make the best foods. They don’t let their recipes suffer when they don’t have their favorite ingredient or spice to hand.
Coriander is known in the US as Cilantro. Its leaves and seeds are one of the necessary steps of cooking a number of dishes. It’s unique and flavourful taste is known to bring a savoury touch to your meal. However, 1 in 10 of us, have a gene that causes Coriander to taste like soap! So, what do you do if you have a guest who falls into this category, or you simply don’t have the necessary Coriander to hand for your recipe? Most people would change recipes and cook something else, but we have the best alternatives for Coriander that you can use to add that traditional taste to your food.
Check out these spices and herbs that you can use instead of coriander seeds and leaves to make your dish without compromising the taste or appearance. But first, let’s understand Coriander.
Coriander comes from the plant known as the Coriandrum Sativum.
For the purpose of cooking, Coriander for cooking comes in two forms: seeds (whole or ground) and leaves (also known as Cilantro in parts of the world).
Coriander is popular in South Asian cuisine as well as Mexican cuisines. The flavor of Coriander is warm, spicy and citrus-like. Amazingly, the whole of the Coriander plant is edible, even the roots. However, the most common parts that are used in all sorts of cooking are the leaves and seeds.
In Asian and Mexican cuisine, Coriander is added to curry powder, Garam Masala and other spices to give it a warm and spicy flavor. Interestingly, Coriander is also added while brewing beer as well as when making pickles.
While Coriander seeds are delicious and versatile, there are alternatives:
Cumin is one of the most popular spices of South-Asia; it’s extracted from dried, ground seeds of the Cuminum Cyminum plant. Cumin is added to a number of dishes such as chillis, various curries, meat dishes, as well as soups, stocks and stews. In South Arabia, as well as countries like Morocco, Cumin is extremely popular, and they use it like pepper. You will be surprised to know that most dining tables have Cumin shakers to add flavor to dishes.
Why is Cumin a great substitute for Coriander? Well, because of its widespread use, it’s always available in your spice rack. Moreover, Cumin has a warm, spicy and nutty flavour that is pretty close to the warm and spicy flavor of Coriander. The earthy tones of Cumin and Coriander Seeds are pretty much the same, making it the perfect substitute for Coriander.
Several spices are blended together to make the Garam Masala powder. Most of the time, it contains Turmeric, Cloves, Cinnamon, Mace, Coriander, Bay Leaves, and Peppercorn. Since Coriander is one of the main ingredients of Garam Masala, it can easily be used instead of Coriander.
The spice will not compromise the taste of the food; in fact, it will enhance it. There is a chance that Garam Masala will even make the taste of your food more exotic and spicier.
However, you should always take caution while adding Garam Masala; add pinch by pinch till the desired taste is achieved.
Curry powder is similar to Garam Masala, as it also has Turmeric, Cumin, Coriander as well as other spices blended into it. Because it has Coriander, you can always use this as a substitute. However, Curry Powder also contains Chilli and Fenugreek, so be very careful as more than the desired amount can change the whole flavor of your food.
You can add depth and texture to your food by adding Curry Powder as the sweet and savory undertone of the blend has many different flavors. Add Curry Powder to soups, salads as well as vegetables and get a burst of warm yet tangy flavors.
If you’re not comfortable adding either Curry Powder or Garam Masala because of other spices that come with it, you can always use Caraway. Caraway is a herb just like Coriander, and it’s perhaps the most similar to Coriander in taste. Caraway is the best substitute as you can add this without the fear of changing the taste or look of the food. Caraway comes from the Apiaceae plant family, Coriander also comes from the same family, hence the same flavour profile. Other herbs like Parsley, Celery and Fennel also come from the same plant family.
The flavor profile of Caraway is earthy like Coriander, but it also has a slightly sweet flavor. Having Caraway in your kitchen is ideal, as it is also used in many desserts, casseroles, baked goods and a variety of vegetable dishes.
Caraway might be a lot like Coriander, but let’s not get carried away; always add a small amount first, taste and then add as needed. Caraway does have different notes than Coriander, hence you should always add it with caution, or you will end up making your meal sweet.
So, now you know what you need when you don’t have Coriander seeds to hand. Now let’s look at alternatives to Coriander leaves:
Known for its pleasant fragrance, Parsley is an ideal substitute for Coriander. It’s bright green in color and comes from the same plant family as Coriander.
However, Parsley is more bitter than Coriander, but when added to any food, it brings out a burst of flavour in the dish. As Parsley is as green as Coriander, it looks more or less the same, making it a good visual substitute. If you feel that adding Parsley doesn’t bring out the citrus flavor, add a bit of lemon.
Even the most novice cook is aware of the famous herb Basil. Basil has a firm flavor profile, but it’s a decent substitute for Coriander. However, you can’t just choose any Basil; you will need Thai Basil to substitute the Coriander taste in your food. Thai Basil is spicy as well as licorice-like in taste. You can easily add it to curries instead of Coriander.
As Coriander is also used a lot for garnishing, Basil is a great visual substitute too.
Like Garam Masala, a blend of fresh herbs can also be used instead of Coriander. You can easily replicate the taste of Coriander with a pinch of mixed herbs; in fact, adding mixed herbs will also elevate the taste of your food.
Keep a blend of Dill, Parsley, Tarragon, as well as Oregano and Basil at hand to add to any curry or gravy instead of Coriander.
There you are, keep a couple of these at hand, so when you run out of Coriander or simply don’t like it and see it in a recipe you’d like to try, you will have the perfect substitute.