Ahhh, cilantro. I have found that this is one of the most absolutely divisive ingredients on the planet. You either love it like you love a family member or vehemently hate it with the heat of 1000 suns. I just so happen to fall into the former category.
Cilantro is an incredible herb that is used in cuisines and dishes the world over. It is particularly popular in Mexican cooking, Middle Eastern dishes as well as Asian and Indian food. It is the fresh leaves (and stems) of the coriander plant.
In other parts of the world, cilantro will be labeled as “coriander.”
Fun fact, the seeds of the cilantro plant are what you see when you buy whole coriander or, of course, ground coriander. That said the seeds have a much different and delicate flavor.
It can be used raw to create bright and beautiful salsas and garnishes or cooked into sauces and stews in other dishes for a more subtle and at the same time, robust flavor.
Fun fact: most people think of the leaves as the only useable part of cilantro, but this is far from the truth. The fact of the matter is the tender stems have just as much flavor if not more than the leaves themselves. If a recipe calls for chopped cilantro or cilantro being cooked, I make sure to use everything. Plus, you don’t have to spend time picking all those leaves!
The reason cilantro is so divisive is due to the unique flavor of it. This uniqueness is either glorious or downright awful depending on the person eating it. Interestingly enough, this comes down to genes. More on that later.
For those that enjoy cilantro, it tastes bright, lemony, and pepper all at the same time.
Like basil, this is a very finicky herb. If you are not lucky enough to have your own plant outside or on the windowsill, you will most likely be getting it from your farmers market or grocery store and therefore need to take some steps to keep it lasting.
Option 1: Wrap the cilantro in a damp paper towel and wrap that baby up in a zip-top bag. This will give it the moisture it needs to survive longer in the fridge.
Option 2: Cut the ¼ – ½ inch off the bottom of the bunch, fill a glass with a few inches of water and submerge them like an herbal flower arrangement. Place it in the fridge and use it when needed. This method also works to revive cilantro that looks a little sad and wilt-y.
What is a substitute for cilantro?
In truth, culantro (yes, it is a thing) is the best substitute for it. This herb has an even more intense cilantro-ness. If that isn’t available fresh flat-leaf parsley, dill, or even a bit of tarragon will do. If you are feeling sassy, you can combine the three.
What is the best way to clean cilantro?
Cilantro can feel gritty and this is a result of the sand or dirt it is pulled from when it is cultivated. And let me be the person to tell you, your guests don’t want a crunchy bite and neither does their dental work.
The best way to rid your cilantro of this is to get a bowl of cold water and submerge the herb in it. Give a few shakes and take a look to see what has come off. Continue this process with fresh cold water until no sediment is left at the bottom of the bowl. This means your cilantro is good to go.
Why does cilantro taste like soap?
This is the million-dollar question everyone wants to know. Ready for it? This flavor is due to something called “aldehyde” which is a natural chemical that occurs in the leaves. This chemical tastes of “soap.” A percentage of the population has the genes to detect that flavor which is why some people think it tastes like soap.