Cilantro, otherwise known as coriander, is a very popular and versatile herb used around the world but especially in Mexican, Asian, and Middle Eastern cuisines. Coriander is loaded with health benefits and it is a pungent herb that is part of the parsley family. Coriander is more than likely always used fresh – it doesn’t dry very well and it loses flavor when it’s either cooked or dried.
Cilantro, or coriander, are the fresh leaves from the coriander plant and in the UK it’s known as coriander leaves – most other places it’s known as cilantro, and it’s sometimes called Mexican parsley or Asian parsley. The leaves grow on flat and tender stems and the seeds from the plant are used to make coriander spice, which has a completely different flavor than coriander.
Fresh cilantro has a pungent taste that many people describe as zesty, lemony, and slightly peppery. However, a small percentage of people actually can’t stand cilantro and avoid it completely because it tastes soapy. If you are one of these people who taste a soapy flavor, it’s because of the natural aldehyde chemical in the leaves, a chemical that is also produced in soap making! However, most people love adding cilantro to their cuisines.
If you are cooking with cilantro, remove the leaves and chop or dice them to your desired size. Add the chopped leaves in after you cook or as a garnish, or add the leaves to your meat marinade. If you cook cilantro it looses most of its flavor and will have a dull taste. If you are making a sauce or pesto, you can use the stems as well for extra coriander flavor.
Cilantro has many health benefits. It’s a natural and powerful anti-inflammatory – used for centuries in traditional medicinal healing. It has plenty of other benefits including its ability to help lower cholesterol, lowering blood sugar levels, preventing urinary tract infections, settling an upset stomach, and it is loaded with antioxidant that fight free radicals.
Coriander, or cilantro, is widely known for it’s use in Mexican cuisine. Try making carne asada, your own home made salsa or pico de gallo, or use it as a garnish on top of street tacos.