HomeHerb SelectionCulantro vs Cilantro: How to Tell These Twin Herbs Apart

Culantro vs Cilantro: How to Tell These Twin Herbs Apart

Culantro vs Cilantro – they look almost identical but have some notable differences. Both pack a punch of flavor, yet each has its own unique taste and smell. In this Culantro vs Cilantro guide, we’ll break down exactly how to tell them apart, how to substitute one for the other, and how to use each herb in your cooking.

How to Tell Cilantro and Culantro Apart

At first glance, in the Culantro vs Cilantro debate, they look practically indistinguishable. They both have wide, green, serrated leaves that look like flattened parsley. But if you look closely, Culantro vs Cilantro have some subtle differences:

Leaves: Cilantro’s leaves are more delicate and feathery, while culantro has tougher and thicker leaves with a more solid appearance.

Scent: In the Culantro vs Cilantro comparison, crushing a leaf and smelling it reveals differences. Cilantro has a citrusy, bright scent. Culantro smells stronger, even pungent or soapy.

Flavor: When it comes to Culantro vs Cilantro, culantro is significantly more potent. It has a tough, herbaceous flavor compared to cilantro’s brightness.

Growing habit: In the Culantro vs Cilantro world, cilantro grows a coriander seed head that’s harvested for spice. Culantro is taller with spiny flower buds.

Origin: Culantro vs Cilantro also differ in origin. Cilantro is native to the Mediterranean and widely used in Mexican, Indian, and Asian cuisines. Culantro comes from tropical South America and is especially popular in Caribbean cooking.

Differences Between Culantro and Cilantro
Differences Between Culantro and Cilantro

Now that you know what to look for, telling these doppelganger herbs apart should be a breeze next time you spot them at the market. Keep their differences in mind when substituting one for the other in recipes too.

Can You Substitute Culantro for Cilantro?

Culantro and cilantro can be substituted for each other in cooking, but keep in mind their different flavor profiles.

Culantro is much more pungent than cilantro, so use less of it. Start by using half the amount of culantro in place of cilantro and adjust from there.

Cilantros brighter, citrusy flavor also won’t come through as much with the substitution. The end result will taste primarily of culantro’s earthy boldness.

Consider the other ingredients too. For dishes with bold flavors like curries and stews, either herb can stand up. But for more delicate recipes, culantro may overpower.

Here are some tips for successfully swapping the two herbs:

  • Use less culantro – start with half the amount of cilantro called for
  • Add culantro at the end of cooking for maximum flavor
  • Adjust other seasonings like lime juice to brighten the flavor
  • Stick to heartier dishes that can handle culantro’s intensity

With a little care, culantro can fill in for cilantro nicely and bring its own unique herby vibrancy.

Can You Eat Culantro Raw?

Culantro vs Cilantro: How to Tell These Twin Herbs Apart

Absolutely! In the Culantro vs Cilantro comparison, raw culantro brings a fresh, strong burst of flavor. Its tough leaves hold up well to chopping or tearing.

Using culantro raw allows its aroma and taste to really shine through. Cooking mellows out the intensity somewhat.

Here are some tasty ways to enjoy raw culantro:

  • Chop it into salsas, pico de gallo, and guacamole
  • Toss torn leaves into green salads or fruit salads
  • Add to Mexican dishes like ceviche, street corn, and fish tacos
  • Use like an herb and sprinkle on soups, noodles, and proteins
  • Juice it into smoothies, juices, and water for flavor
  • Mix into dressings, dips, and sauces

Start with small amounts of culantro at first – a little goes a long way! Let your tastebuds adjust to its potency.

The tough texture of raw culantro also makes it a sturdy garnish. Use whole leaves as edible decor on plates or bowls to impress dinner guests.

While raw culantro packs the biggest punch, cooking mellows out the flavor. Use both raw and cooked culantro to get the best of both worlds!

Is Coriander from Cilantro or Culantro?

Coriander leaves, commonly known as Cilantro, are the source of coriander seeds.
Coriander leaves, commonly known as Cilantro, are the source of coriander seeds.

Coriander comes from cilantro, not culantro.

Cilantro is also known as coriander because it produces the coriander seeds that are used as a popular spice. The leaves, stems, and seeds all come from the same cilantro plant.

As cilantro goes to flower and produces seeds, it takes on a more bitter taste. Once the plant bolts to seed, the leaves are no longer ideal for eating.

Culantro plants don’t produce seeds for culinary use. The entire culantro plant is harvested just for the leaves and stems.

While they look similar, coriander spice shares the flavor notes of cilantro while culantro tastes quite different.

So remember – cilantro gives us both coriander leaves and seeds, while culantro is grown just for its leaves!

What Does Culantro Taste Like?

In the Culantro vs Cilantro taste test, culantro has a tough, potent flavor that sets it apart from cilantro.

It often gets described as “spicy” or “soapy”, which sounds a bit odd. But don’t let that scare you away!

Here’s a breakdown of culantro’s flavor:

Earthy: Strong grassy, herbaceous notes

Pungent: Almost bitter, with an intensity that pops

Citrus: Faint fruity background notes

Peppery: Spicy warmth

Culantro is significantly bolder than cilantro. Even just a sprinkle can make its presence known.

The flavor profile works great in hearty Caribbean and Latin dishes that can stand up to its might. Culantro also pairs well with bold ingredients like peppers, citrus, garlic, coconut, and tropical fruits.

When using culantro raw, start with small amounts and work your way up. Its potency mellows out when exposed to heat, so use more culantro in cooked preparations.

If you find the flavor too aggressive at first, try culantro in small doses mixed with milder herbs like cilantro, parsley or mint. Over time, your taste buds will start to crave culantro’s unique bite!

How to Buy and Store Culantro

Now that you’re ready to work some culantro into your cooking, let’s go over choosing and storing it in the context of Culantro vs Cilantro.

Always look for fresh, perky leaves without any yellowing or wilting. Damaged leaves with cracks or spots won’t have as much flavor.

Smaller leaves are more tender while larger leaves can be tough. Pick a size appropriate to how you want to use them.

Culantro is highly perishable and loses potency quickly after harvest. Use within a few days for best quality.

To store culantro:

  • Keep it dry by wrapping in paper towels
  • Place it in an airtight container or plastic bag
  • Refrigerate for up to 1 week
  • Chopped culantro can be frozen for several months

Proper storage keeps culantro’s flavor at its peak. Discoloring and sliminess means it’s past its prime.

Grow your own culantro for the freshest flavor possible. The fast-growing herb can be planted in garden beds or containers.

5 Culantro Recipe Ideas

Looking to cook with culantro for the first time? Here are some delicious recipes to try. If you’re also interested in making your herb garden visually appealing, our Tips for Designing an Elegant Herb and Ornamental Garden can offer some great ideas.

Culantro Coconut Rice: Add chopped culantro and coconut milk to rice with garlic and onions for a flavorful Caribbean-inspired side dish.

Culantro Pesto: Process culantro, olive oil, garlic, and nuts into a zesty pesto to toss with pasta or smear on bread.

Culantro Shrimp Ceviche: Marinate raw shrimp in lime juice with jalapeno, tomatoes, onions, and lots of chopped culantro.

Culantro Plantain Salad: Toss boiled plantain chunks with torn culantro, diced avocado, beans, lime, and olive oil.

Culantro Beef Stew: Simmer chunks of beef and potatoes in a thick stew flavored with culantro, bell peppers, and habanero chili peppers.

Start with small amounts of culantro at first, then increase to your taste. Its flavor stands up well to long cooking times too.

The next time a recipe calls for cilantro, give culantro a try instead. Or explore new culantro combinations in Caribbean, Latin, and Asian cuisines.

Culantro vs Cilantro: How They Enhance Your Health

Beyond flavor, both culantro and cilantro offer nutritional benefits. Here’s a quick look at some of the top nutrients and plant compounds in each, adding to the Culantro vs Cilantro conversation.


  • Vitamin C – Immune booster
  • Vitamin A – Supports eye health
  • Phytonutrients – Antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits


  • Vitamin C – Immune booster
  • Vitamin A – Supports eye health
  • Calcium – Builds strong bones
  • B vitamins – Converts food into energy

Herbs like culantro and cilantro are low in calories, high in nutrients, and provide antioxidants. Integrating them into your diet can enhance your overall health and well-being.

Culantro has been used traditionally to support cardiovascular health, lower blood sugar, aid digestion, and relieve nausea. More research is still needed on these potential benefits though.

Both pack a nutritional punch, so swap them freely based on your taste preferences and what a recipe calls for.

Time to Give Culantro a Try!

Hopefully, you now feel like a Culantro vs Cilantro expert!

While these two herbs may look nearly identical at first glance, they have distinct differences in scent, taste and use.

Culantro has a uniquely strong, earthy flavor that can stand up to bold Caribbean and Latin American dishes. Start with small amounts and work your way up as your pique your palate.

Now that you know how to spot culantro at the store, add it to salsas, ceviches, stews, and anywhere else you want a kick of herbaceous flavor.

Once you get accustomed to its intensity, you may even start preferring it over cilantro in some recipes!

Culantro vs Cilantro: Key Takeaways

  • Cilantro has delicate, feathery leaves and a bright, citrusy flavor. Culantro has tougher leaves and an earthy, potent flavor.
  • Though they look very similar, cilantro and culantro have different origins and uses in cooking.
  • Cilantro produces the coriander spice, while culantro is grown just for its leaves.
  • Culantro can substitute for cilantro in recipes, but use smaller amounts due to its bold potency.
  • Both herbs can be used raw or cooked to provide flavor as well as nutrients like vitamins A and C.
  • Adjust other seasonings like lime juice to balance out culantro’s strong flavor when substituting it for cilantro.
  • Start with culantro in small doses if you’re new to its intensity. It pairs well with spicy, robust ingredients.
  • Proper storage keeps culantro fresh and flavorful. Refrigerate leaves and use within a week.

Now that you know how to tell cilantro and culantro apart, it’s time to start cooking with culantro’s unique flavor, further exploring the Culantro vs Cilantro dynamic!


Is culantro spicier than cilantro?

Culantro is not spicy or hot like a chili pepper, but it has a significantly bolder, more potent flavor than cilantro. It’s sometimes described as “spicy” due to its intensity.

Why does culantro taste soapy?

The herbaceous, almost bitter taste of culantro can seem soap-like, especially when raw. Cooking can mellow out this flavor. Start with small amounts and work up to the flavor.

Can I grow culantro and cilantro together?

Yes, you can grow both culantro and cilantro together in one garden since they have similar growth habits. Just be sure to label each one!

Does culantro go bad faster than cilantro?

Culantro is more perishable than cilantro, losing flavor and quality within just a few days. Store culantro properly and use within 3-5 days for best freshness.

What dishes use a lot of culantro?

Culantro is popular in Caribbean and Latin cuisine. Try it in dishes like salsa verde, moles, rice dishes, ceviche, stews, and cured meats. Start with small amounts at first.



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