Inside the Spice Cabinet: Cilantro

Inside the Spice Cabinet: Cilantro

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Kelli Foster
Oct 1, 2016
(Image credit: Africa Studio/Shutterstock)

It's hard to imagine a lot of Asian or Mexican dishes without a sprinkle of fresh cilantro on top, but there are many out there who hate the taste of it so much that they would never cook with it. What's up with this common yet divisive herb?

What Is Cilantro?

Taste: Sweet, sour
Most Popular Use: Salsa, meat, poultry, fish, vegetables

Cilantro is a bright green herb with soft leaves and stems from the coriander plant. In fact, left untended, cilantro eventually grows to seeds, which is where coriander seeds come from.

It has a strong, pungent herbaceous flavor, which can prove quite polarizing for some. Many people really dislike the taste of cilantro and can detect even small amounts of it in food. To them, it's bitter and soapy-tasting. Research has even suggested that the dislike of cilantro may in fact be genetic.

When buying cilantro, look for bright color and vibrant, unwilted leaves. It's easy to confuse cilantro and flat-leaf Italian parsley. Cilantro has curlier leaves and can be more light green in color, whereas parsley has flat, dark green leaves that aren't as ruffled. If you're still not sure, give it a taste.

How To Use Cilantro

Cilantro is widely used in Asian, Latin American, and Caribbean cuisines, and can be eaten raw or cooked. And unlike other herbs like parsley which have bitter stems, you can chop up and use the stems and leaves of cilantro.

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