Last Updated on February 2, 2024 by Toya
Are you not a fan of cilantro or don’t have it on hand? Don’t worry; there are plenty of alternatives to cilantro that can add flavor to your dishes. In this article, I’ll share 15 easy and tasty substitutes for cilantro that you can use in your cooking.
Whether it’s parsley, basil, dill, mint, or tarragon, these substitutes offer different flavors and can be used in a wide range of recipes.
Why Substitute Cilantro?
As much as cilantro is a staple herb in many dishes, some individuals may want to consider substituting it for various reasons.
Believe it or not, some people have a genetic predisposition that makes cilantro taste soapy or unpleasant to them. It is estimated that up to 14% of people have this peculiar aversion to cilantro’s distinct taste.
While cilantro is a year-round herb, it may not always be readily available, especially during certain seasons or in certain regions. This is especially true if you’re looking to buy fresh cilantro.
Fortunately, there are various substitutes that you can use in place of fresh cilantro to ensure that your dish gets the same flavorful punch.
Easy substitutes for cilantro
A suitable substitute for cilantro is culantro. Culantro is popular in the West Indies, Latin America, and Asia. and is an herb that has a similar flavor and smell to cilantro but is more robust.
Culantro has long, serrated leaves and is often used in stews, marinades, soups, rice and beans, salsas, and more.
Because culantro has a more robust flavor and aroma, and it has tougher leaves, it isn’t usually eaten raw and is often used in cooking rather than as a last-minute garnish.
Use half as much culantro in a recipe that calls for cilantro. For example, use 1/2 a tablespoon of culantro to replace 1 tablespoon of cilantro in a dish.
Dried cilantro or dried cilantro leaves is another easy-to-find replacement for cilantro. Dried cilantro can be used in almost all recipes that call for cilantro.
This substitute is perfect for when it is difficult to find fresh cilantro.
Please note that not all dried cilantro leaves are made the same. In fact, some are quite flavorless, so make sure to purchase from brands with good reviews, such as the dried cilantro from 1400S SPICES Store.
Vietnamese coriander (or Rau Ram or Cambodian mint)
Another awesome cilantro substitute is Vietnamese coriander. Vietnamese coriander is an herb that is commonly used in South Asian cooking.
Vietnamese coriander, also called rau ram or Cambodian mint, is a member of the knotweed family and has a flavor that is somewhat similar to cilantro in that it is lemony and citrusy, but it is also peppery and herbal.
Rau ram can be a good stand-in for cilantro in both cooked and raw recipes that have strong flavors and require that balance.
So, think of using rau ram as a substitute for cilantro in soups, salads, stir-fries, rice dishes, chicken dishes, curries, stews, and even for adding to meats like fish, shellfish, pork, lamb, and beef.
Substitute in a 1:1 ratio. For example, for every 1 tablespoon of cilantro needed, use 1 tablespoon of Vietnamese coriander.
Another easy herb to substitute for cilantro is thyme. This herb has a flavor that is minty and mildly lemony, which will work in some recipes that call for cilantro.
I’ve used this herb as a substitute for cilantro in marinades before, with good results.
Papalo (Summer cilantro or Broadleaf)
Papalo is a cilantro-like Mexican herb used to season food. Its flavor is a cross between cilantro mixed with citrus and cucumber.
Papalo, like cilantro, is often added to food at the last minute for flavor enhancement because overcooking it could reduce its flavor in a dish.
Many people add the Papalo leaves to their dish whole, but they release more of their essence once chopped.
Papalo can be used as a substitute for cilantro in salsas, tacos, sandwiches, sauces, guacamole, and salads.
Use less Papalo in any recipe that calls for cilantro, as its flavor is more robust than that of cilantro.
Parsley (for garnish)
Parsley is an herb that looks very similar to cilantro. It is vibrant green and is used as a garnish and a flavor enhancer in many recipes.
While cilantro has a flavor that is strong, pungent, and citrusy, parsley has a fresh, mild, peppery, herbal scent. Some people even say that parsley tastes like nothing.
Nonetheless, parsley is good as a stand-in for cilantro in soups, stews, sauces, dips, and garnishments.
Use a 1:1 ratio of parsley to cilantro in most recipes.
Basil is a versatile herb belonging to the mint family and is popular in Mediterranean and Italian cuisines. Basil’s sweet and aromatic taste makes it an excellent option as a substitute for cilantro in certain dishes. The fresh and vibrant flavor of basil adds a unique twist to recipes and can enhance the overall flavor profile of a dish.
When substituting cilantro with basil, keep in mind that basil has a slightly different flavor profile. While it can be used in many of the same dishes, it may not be the best choice in all cases.
Dill is a popular herb that can be used as a substitute for cilantro in many recipes. It has a slightly tangy and earthy taste that complements a variety of dishes.
Some dishes that can be enhanced with dill include potato salads, fish dishes, dips, and dressings. Additionally, dill can be used as a garnish to add a pop of color and flavor to your plate.
When using dill as a substitute for cilantro, it is important to note that the flavors are not identical. Dill has a milder taste compared to cilantro, so you may need to use a bit more to achieve the desired flavor profile in your dish.
Mint leaves can be a refreshing substitute for cilantro. Their cool and bright flavor profile adds a burst of freshness to salads, drinks, and certain cuisines. Mint has a natural affinity for lamb, making it an excellent choice for any Mediterranean or Middle Eastern dishes that call for cilantro. It pairs well with lemon and lime, adding a zesty tang to your creations.
To use mint as a substitute for cilantro, chop the leaves finely and sprinkle them over the dish just before serving. Alternatively, blend the leaves with some lemon juice or olive oil to create a paste that can be used as a marinade or dressing.
Mint is also a great addition to drinks and cocktails. Mojitos, for example, traditionally use fresh mint leaves as a key ingredient. You can use mint to add flavor to your water, tea, or lemonade, too.
If you’re looking for a unique flavor to replace cilantro, consider giving tarragon a try. The anise-like taste of tarragon can add a distinctive twist to your dishes and works particularly well in recipes that call for cilantro.
One great advantage of tarragon as a cilantro substitute is its versatility. It pairs well with various ingredients, such as chicken, fish, and creamy sauces. You can use it in marinades, dressings, and even in a classic Béarnaise sauce.
To use tarragon in place of cilantro, start with a small amount and adjust the quantity to taste. If you’re substituting fresh cilantro, use fresh tarragon as well. Avoid using dried tarragon as a substitute since the flavor is not as potent as the fresh herb.
For those who prefer a milder flavor, green onions or scallions can be a perfect substitute for cilantro. These onions have a subtle onion flavor that adds a nice touch to many dishes, without overpowering the other flavors. Additionally, green onions are often used as a garnish, adding a pop of color to the dish.
To use green onions as a cilantro substitute, finely chop the white and green parts of the onion and sprinkle them on top of your dish. This substitute works well in soups, stews, and salads.
If you have fresh chives on hand, those can also be a great alternative to cilantro. Like green onions, chives have a delicate onion flavor that won’t overpower the other ingredients in your dish. However, chives are best used as a garnish or added as a finishing touch to your dish since their delicate flavor can easily be lost during cooking.
Lemon balm is a herb from the mint family that is another substitute for fresh cilantro because it has a citrusy tone with subtle hints of mint. It is also green, fresh, and bright which means it has some more similarities to cilantro.
Using lemon balm as a replacement for cilantro is best done for recipes that call for smaller quantities of cilantro rather than recipes where the cilantro herb is the main ingredient in the recipe.
Lime is another good alternative to cilantro in soups, salsas, dips, and stews. It provides some of that citrusy fragrance that is known about cilantro. If you can, use a few splashes of lime juice together with some fresh minced parsley for a great alternative.
Use lemon in the same way that you would lime. With some fresh minced parsley.
This list has many substitutes for cilantro in a pinch. Which is your favorite?