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What is Cilantro and how is it Used?

Aug 12, 2008
You might wonder why some recipes call for cilantro and others call for coriander. Maybe you have seen the two labels in the supermarket and are wondering what the difference is between these herbs. Cilantro and coriander actually come from the same plant. So, what is cilantro exactly and what is coriander?

To begin with, cilantro is a herb, which is part of the carrot family. It is tasty and very versatile for cooking. It comes fresh or dried and tastes a bit like citrus. Coriander is a spice, which comes from the coriander plant. It is harvested and then dried. The leaves and stems of the coriander plant are known as cilantro. Cilantro leaves look a little like flat Italian parsley and in fact, the two herbs are related.

For many years, cilantro has been used for cooking and baking; in fact, even the ancient Egyptians used it. There are Egyptian writings that mention coriander seeds and the seeds have also been found in ancient Egyptian tombs as well.

Some stores sell Mexican parsley and this looks like cilantro. In fact, it is the same herb and coriander, Mexican parsley, and cilantro all come from the same plant. Cilantro is very versatile in Mexican cooking and Caribbean cooking, the same way as parsley is used in many American recipes.

You can find cilantro in almost any supermarket, located in the produce section. Cilantro is sold in a bunch and is tied up similar to the way that parsley is. Of course, it is fairly easy to differentiate between parsley and cilantro by smelling them or by taking a close look at the leaves. Cilantro has wider leaves than parsley does and it also has a more distinct scent as well.

Cilantro can be used in dips, dressings, salsas, and sauces. Some Chinese recipes use Chinese parsley, which is actually another name for cilantro. Coriander features in many Asian recipes and also everything from hearty stews to curries. It also complements many different meat and fish recipes.

If you have brought a bunch of cilantro home, you need to rinse it and then shake off the excess water. Place it in a glass of water so only the stem is below the water level. Cover the leaves with a plastic bag to keep the tasty flavor. This is much better than drying the cilantro.

When you are ready to use the cilantro in a recipe, you can crush it with a pestle and mortar to release the flavor and aroma. Alternative you can use the leaves whole or roughly torn in salads. If you are cooking with cilantro, add it to the recipe near the end of the cooking time because its delicate nature does not do well when heated. Coriander and cilantro are versatile ingredients and if you are experimenting with flavorsome stews, curries, or other dishes, try adding a little to perk up the flavor of the dish.
About the Author
Mexican food recipes loved by one and all. Discover why everyone is finding the joys of authentic Mexican recipes and find out just how simple they can be to make for your family.
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