Whether You Hate It or Don’t Have It, Here Are the Best Cilantro Substitutes

updated May 11, 2020
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Credit: Joe Lingeman

Cilantro’s bright, citrusy flavor is an important component in everything from guacamole to Thai curry. Of all the fresh herbs out there, it’s easily the most divisive. Some people find it tastes soapy and bitter, while others always need to have a bunch in their refrigerator to sprinkle on everything and anything.

If you’re in the first camp, maybe you’d like a substitution for cilantro so you don’t have to avoid every recipe that calls for it. If you’re in the latter bunch, there are times when you might be out of the fresh herb and need to make a quick swap-in. Whatever the reason, you have options. Here are the three best substitutions for cilantro and how to use them.

Credit: Leela Cyd

The Best Substitutes for Cilantro

Cilantro’s flavor is unique, so it’s important to know there isn’t an exact replacement for the herb. For those who dislike cilantro’s taste, this is a good thing. For those who don’t have an issue with cilantro and just don’t have it available, these substitutes will still lend vibrant green color and bright, fresh flavor to your food — just in a slightly different way. You can use these substitutions separately or together to replicate cilantro’s bright, grassy flavor.

1. Flat-Leaf Parsley

Cilantro and flat-leaf parsley look vaguely similar at first glance, which means it can be easy to confuse them when shopping for bunches. Parsley’s leaves are a bit sturdier than cilantro’s extra-soft leaves, but they make for a great substitute. You’ll miss out on cilantro’s citrusy, tangy notes, but you’ll still get that fresh, grassy flavor.

2. Thai Basil

Thai basil is a variety of basil that’s used most commonly in Asian cuisine. It’s less sweet than the basil you make pesto with or sprinkle on caprese salads and actually has a subtle hint of spice to it. It’s also bright and a bit citrusy, so it’s a great swap-in for cilantro. Traditional basil can also be used a substitute for cilantro — just know it will lend a sweeter, less tangy note.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

3. Lemon or Lime

Besides adding a pop of green to your food, what cilantro does is add citrus-like flavor to it. So if you’d rather not use it or don’t have it, try adding a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice instead. You’ll miss out on the splash of color, but it will still provide welcomed brightness. Of course, this won’t work well if you’re trying to substitute cilantro in a recipe that calls for a lot of it, like salsa verde or pesto, but it’s a good choice if it’s simply a finishing touch or garnish.

Do you have a favorite substitute for fresh cilantro?