Some flavors simply are not for everyone, therefore often cooks find themselves looking for a suitable coriander substitute when preparing dishes that call for that rather distinctive herb. Fortunately there are alternatives available.
Coriander is native to the Mediterranean and the Orient, and it is actually a member of the parsley family. The dark green, lacy leaves are commonly known as cilantro, and the small round “seeds” are, in reality, the dried, ripe fruit of the plant.
Interestingly the seeds and leaves do not taste anything alike, so finding the right coriander substitute depends on which variety your particular recipe calls for as well as your individual taste preferences. The seeds are mildly fragrant and have an aromatic flavor somewhat like a combination of lemon, caraway and sage. The whole seeds are used in pickling and mulled wine, while the ground seeds are popular in some kinds of baked goods, curries and soups. Both forms are readily available in most supermarkets and specialty groceries.
It seems odd that the same herb would be used in baked goods like cakes and cookies, and also in highly spiced foods like curries, but that is the case with ground coriander seeds. The taste has a hint of cloves as well as pepper, so it lends itself well to both kinds of recipes in terms of flavor and aroma.
Cilantro, also known as Chinese parsley, has an extremely pungent odor and flavor that lends itself well to highly seasoned foods. The leaves are widely used in the cuisines of India, Mexico, Asia and the Caribbean but their distinct flavor proves to be an acquired taste for many Americans.
Since coriander is closely related to parsley, many cooks find that flat leaf parsley is a good coriander substitute because its flavor is considerably milder. Try it in salads as well as salsa and other Latin American dishes. If you are making a soup or stew that calls for cilantro, try using celery leaves as a coriander substitute, particularly in Asian dishes that pack a lot of flavor.
Some lovers of Indian food enjoy a sprinkling of cilantro on top of certain breads. If that is not your cup of tea, a good coriander substitute might be fenugreek or mint. You will get a somewhat different flavor, but you also avoid the coriander taste that many find too strong for their liking.
While many people look for a coriander substitute because they find the flavor too strong or even unpleasant, some hardy souls look for something even stronger. For them, sawtooth coriander might do the trick. This plant has long, dark green leaves with sharply serrated edges and the prickly sharpness of the leaves somewhat resembles a row of teeth, thus giving it the name sawtooth coriander. It is a good coriander substitute for highly flavorful Thai and Indian dishes.
Because coriander seeds have a lemony flavor, other lemon-based herbs make good a coriander substitute; try adding lemongrass to your vegetable, fish or meat recipes or just a bit of fresh lemon juice to pick up the slightly citrus flavor of coriander. Since there is a hint of both sage and caraway flavors in coriander seeds, either of those spices make a good coriander substitute, keeping the basic flavors intact without the pungent taste.