This Is The Difference Between Cilantro and Coriander Leaves

This is a basic mistake many new cooks make.

IMAGE Pixabay

Do you use cilantro in your cooking? If you do, you are probably familiar with the feathery-looking light green leaves of the herb. It's the herb that's used in salsa, tops your tacos, and makes your braised lime chicken even more delicious. 

However, if have ever dropped by the market looking for cilantro leaves and only find "coriander" and "parsley", you are probably making a basic mistake many cooks make: coriander leaves are cilantro.

Confused? There's no need to be because these two terms actually refer to the same plant

If you're wondering about why the same herb would have different names, it's all about location. Those in the West, particularly in the United States, know the herb's leaves are "cilantro" but those who live in Asia and the East use "coriander". Those in the United Kingdom know the herb more commonly as "coriander", too. This is most likely adapted from its spice trade with India where Indians use the seeds, not the herb, more commonly than they use the coriander leaves in their cuisine and recipes. 

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Even more confusing is the seeds are universally known as "coriander seeds". There is no such things as "cilantro seeds". The seeds meanwhile have a totally different taste, flavor, and even usage in cooking compared to its leaves.

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Why does it have two different names for the same plant? 

Illustrator Jon Tolentino
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The scientific name of the plant in Latin is "coriandrum sativum" so it's easy to see where "coriander" came from. So, where did "cilantro" come from? Apparently, the herb is frequently used in many Mexican and Latin American cooking. In Spanish, the word "coriander" translates to roughly "cilantro" hence the adaptation of "cilantro" into the American English language. Others assume it's because it's similar to but not the same as "culantro" which is another herb altogether. 

Not to confuse you even further but the Chinese have their own word for the coriander herb that's neither "coriander" nor "cilantro". You might know it as "wansoy". 

Still confused? Don't be. Just remember that cilantro is coriander and coriander is cilantro. So, the next time you need "coriander leaves" or "cilantro" your dish, you won't be confused anymore and you will know which herb to look for when at the market. 

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