First of all, if you’re cooking a new recipe and your ingredient list calls for coriander, it’s important to know what that means. Believe it or not, it could mean different things depending on where the recipe author is from. Coriander seed or ground coriander comes from the coriander plant which is in the parsley plant family. The fresh leaves of the plant itself are called cilantro, an herb many people are probably most familiar with. Coriander is very often used in Mexican food and in Indian cuisine. Before you can choose the best coriander substitutes for cooking, it’s critical to know exactly what your recipe calls for.
If your original recipe is a U.S. recipe and it calls for coriander, you need coriander seed or ground coriander. But if you happen to be using a U.K. recipe that calls for coriander, it is actually referring to the fresh leaves or cilantro. The tastes are similar of course, but there is a subtle difference and it will make a difference in the taste of your final dish.
The Coriander Flavor
The secret to knowing the best coriander substitutes for cooking is in understanding what it is about the flavor of coriander that works for each specific recipe. Coriander has a complicated taste which has been described as a little bit of the following flavors:
- Hints of lemon zest
So, if you’re in the midst of making one of your favorite dishes for guests or a brand-new recipe to try out on your family and find that your panty is completely devoid of coriander, don’t panic. The first thing to do is to assess what flavors in coriander are the highlights of your recipe. It can sometimes be the earthy yet spicy taste that is critical for your dish and other times the emphasis of the recipe might be on the sharp citrusy flavor.
Once you determine which of these flavors is the focus of your recipe, then you are ready to look at some of the best coriander substitutes for cooking to determine which alternative to choose.
Most people have cumin in their pantry. It is one of the recommended spices on most pantry stockpile checklists. For those that cook frequently, it’s a commonly used spice. If you don’t have it, it’s relatively easy to find on the spice rack at the grocery or perhaps the Mexican aisle of your local grocery.
Cumin has a similar warm, spicy, and earthy flavor to it, but it lacks the lemony zest taste of coriander. For some dishes, however, this will work just fine without the citrusy highlight. Keep in mind cumin is a more pungent spice than coriander. Use ¾ teaspoon of cumin to 1 teaspoon coriander in the original recipe.
Parsley is closer to the taste of fresh cilantro leaves than it is to coriander. But if your original recipe calls for the fresh citrus highlights of coriander, you can substitute it easily enough. Use an equal amount of parsley as the coriander listed in the recipe. To get closer to the full flavor of coriander, mix parsley with equal amounts of dill and tarragon.
The licorice-like taste and aroma of tarragon can be one of the best coriander substitutes for cooking. Keep in mind tarragon can have different origins, Russian tarragon has no use in cooking. French tarragon works great as a coriander substitute for omelets, béarnaise sauce, and fish or chicken dishes. It can be grown easily in any sunny window or you can purchase seed and grow in pots or in your herb garden.
When used as a fresh spice, the light brown oval shaped dill seeds can be a tad bitter in taste, but they do provide that subtle sweet citrus flavor that is similar to coriander. Dill is also one of the easiest herbs to grow. Even those without the proverbial green thumb could have fresh dill on hand with very little effort. Thus, when in a jam, dill is one of the best substitutes for coriander.
A close cousin to coriander, fresh cilantro makes one of the best coriander substitutes for cooking. The seeds of the cilantro plant are what get ground and become coriander. If your recipe calls for coriander and the highlight of the dish is a cool sharp taste rather than a peppery earthy taste, go for fresh cilantro. The fresh leaves will be more pungent and concentrated than ground coriander so use less cilantro than what is called for in the recipe.
Caraway Seeds, Fennel, and Cumin
When you are out of coriander and making a recipe that calls for it to be used, you can substitute equal amounts of cumin, caraway seeds, and fennel as a good alternative. Caraway seeds are in the same family and have a similar earthy flavor as coriander.
For Mexican food that calls for more of the pine flavored lemon zing of coriander, go for oregano. It has that citrus zing that is often the highlight of many southwestern dishes. For sauces and poultry that won’t work well with oregano, try the more subdued taste of Thyme. This works well in seafood, chicken, and tropical dishes.
There are several seasonings that are made up of a mix of spices which can provide a similar flavor to coriander. If you have any of these combination spices in your pantry and you are out of coriander, one of these can save the day. Again, the best coriander substitutes for cooking will depend largely on the final dish and the flavors you want to emphasize.
- Curry Powder
Regardless which of the best coriander substitutes for cooking you ultimately decide to use, chances are most of your guests will not notice the switch. To make sure you get it right, simply consider the flavors you want to highlight in the dish and then choose your coriander substitute accordingly.