Inside the Spice Cabinet: Coriander

updated May 2, 2019
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(Image credit: Michelle Peters-Jones)

Coriander isn’t going to hit you over the head like cayenne, or woo you like nutmeg. Half the time, you might not even realize it’s there. We think of coriander as a background spice, adding that little je ne sais quoi to many of our favorite dishes.

What Is Coriander?

Taste: Sour
Most Popular Use: Pickling, curries, spice blends

Coriander comes from the seeds of the cilantro plant, but you’d never know it. Where fresh cilantro is bold and assertive (and polarizing), coriander is mellow and subtle. It has an earthy, lemony flavor that works well in combination with other spices, particularly cumin.

You can buy coriander as whole seeds or ground into a powder. The seeds are tiny, light, and round, and they make a dusky brown powder. If you buy seeds, try toasting them lightly before grinding them to bring out the oil aromas and flavors.

How To Use Coriander

Coriander is used extensively in Latin-American and Mexican cooking. Try adding a teaspoon next time you make posole, enchiladas, or even just a pot of beans. You’ll also find coriander in a lot of Indian cooking, where it’s used as one of the spices in many curry dishes. It makes a great component in spice rubs for fish and chicken, and adds a nice bright flavor when making homemade pickles.

Recipes for Cooking with Coriander