Gordon has been cooking and experimenting with food since childhood. He loves coming up with new and tasty culinary creations.
Are Coriander and Cilantro Two Different Things?
What are coriander and cilantro? Are they the same or two totally different things?
The short answer is: It depends on where you are. They mean the same things in some countries, while others treat them as two completely different components.
It is quite amazing that although people in the UK and the USA allegedly speak the same language, there are a great many discrepancies to be found, whether this applies to the spelling of certain words and/or sometimes even in the specific words employed to convey a particular meaning. Consequently, confusion can often reign supreme and lead to damaging—or even downright offensive—misunderstandings.
We have here stumbled upon a prime example in the words coriander and cilantro.
Origins of the Words Coriander and Cilantro
Do you maybe even know it by another name altogether?
- The Latin name for the herb in question is Coriandrum sativum. So, as you can easily see, this is where the word "coriander" is derived from.
- In turn, the word "cilantro" is the Spanish translation of this word (coriander).
The Meaning of Coriander and Cilantro by Country
|In the United Kingdom||In the United States||In India|
Here, we would refer to the leaves and stalks of the plant as "coriander" while the the seeds are called "coriander seeds." Basically, the word "cilantro" does not exist in the UK.
In the US, the leaves and stalks of the plant are referred to as "cilantro," while the seeds are referred to as "coriander."
In India, where the herb is extremely popular in cooking, it is referred to as something different-sounding altogether—"dhania" (as if the issue needed further confusion!).
Confused? Hardly Surprising!
Just be careful the next time you follow a recipe that calls for coriander. You now know that some may be referring to the seed, while others may be calling for the green stalks and leaves of the plant. Determining the country origin of the recipe may help.
I must admit that the first time I came across the word "cilantro" was only around 2005, while watching an American program on a UK food channel. I recall thinking that it looked vaguely like coriander, but thought it must be a cousin of the plant instead. Or, perhaps it was something that was native only to the United States. Fortunately, I did have access to Google by that time!
I am certain, however, that there must be people on both sides of the Atlantic—particularly of more senior years—using cookbooks written by folks on the opposite side of "the pond," and scratching their heads in wonder. Britons may wonder what on Earth "cilantro" is, while Americans are sure to concern themselves with why "coriander" looks so strange in the photograph accompanying the text.
I sincerely hope that this article has helped achieve my goal in clearing up this mystery for you!
British and American English Food Terms
There are many foodstuffs known by different names on opposite sides of the pond. Similarly, the measurement systems employed in the UK and the US are different as well, which can cause all sorts of disasters when following a recipe written on the other side of the Atlantic.
Before taking the next step in an unfamiliar recipe, be sure you have your "translation" right!
Thank you for your visit to this site and your time spent looking through it. I very much hope that you can spare just another few moments to give me your overall impressions in the space below.
© 2008 Gordon N Hamilton
Did you already know about the coriander/cilantro discrepancy? Have you ever been confused by inconsistent references to the two? Let me know your thoughts!
Nikhil Chopra on August 15, 2020:
ha ha, thanks for clarifying. I wanted to comment that dhania is word in hindi. For English we call it coriander as well
Ann on June 22, 2020:
Thank you so much for clearing up all this confusion. My goodness! I had no Idea that coriander seeds came from the same plant we called cilantro here in the US. From now on its coriander for me because I am not Hispanic. This plant was widely used in Bible days.
KJV Exodus 16:
29 See, for that the LORD hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day.
30 So the people rested on the seventh day.
31 And the house of Israel called the name thereof Manna: and it was like coriander seed, white; and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey.
KJV Numbers 11
7 And the manna was as coriander seed, and the colour thereof as the colour of bdellium.
8 And the people went about, and gathered it, and ground it in mills, or beat it in a mortar, and baked it in pans, and made cakes of it: and the taste of it was as the taste of fresh oil.
It is so interesting. The Lord used this simple ingredient to teach us about his true Sabbath which is Saturday the 7th day and not Sunday the 1st day. We must remember the Sabbath day to keep it and it will be well with us. No wonder the world is in turmoil. We have forgotten the Lord's TRUE SABBATH! He said "REMEMBER THE SABBATH DAY TO KEEP IT HOLY"! In Exodus 20:8 because He knows we will forget it. I hope the world will wake up before it is too late!!
KJV Mark 2:
27 And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath:
28 Therefore the Son of man is Lord also of the sabbath.
THE SABBATH WAS MADE FOR EVERY MAN, WOMAN, BOY AND GIRL. NOT ONLY FOR THE JEWS ONLY!
KJV James 2:
10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.
Gordon N Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on June 06, 2020:
Hi, Don. Thanks for visiting. I'm glad you're growing cilantro and hope you're enjoying using it in your cooking. I'm afraid that although I love using it in the kitchen, I'm not any sort of gardener or plant specialist. Perhaps you can find the answer to your queries on a gardening forum or similar? Good luck with your growing and in finding your answers.
Don Peshal on May 28, 2020:
I am growing cilantro. Why arw some leaves broad like celery and some are arrow like dill? Does this plant have male and female plants?
Carolyn on April 15, 2020:
I was aware of a difference but thought americans called everything seeds and all cilantro, thanks for the info.
Steve G on September 23, 2019:
I am from the US midwest, I only knew of coriander as a dry spice or seed in the grocery. Then I did a lot of traveling in Mexico in 80s thru 2000s, I quickly noticed a different flavor in things like salsa etc. I of course asked what is that different flavor they called it cilantro I grew to like it, grew it in my home garden, it looks all the world like parsley as it grows, but just pick a leaf and crush it and you know it is different. Now cilantro is every where even in my local small town grocery. But I never new that the ground dried spice or seeds were cilantro produced. Bonus knowlege.
\stanley McCully on September 07, 2019:
Thank you for educating me on this subject. I thought when I saw cooks using Cilantro it was a parsley. never heard of Chinese Parsley Now I know..
chris on July 02, 2019:
thank you! I was baffled and had never heard the term cilantro before!
Giash on June 12, 2019:
Thanks for Clarification of both word.
Gordon N Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on June 07, 2019:
Thank you, Sue. I'm glad the information was useful to you and hope it helps you get more out of this delicious herb.
Sue on June 04, 2019:
I learned something! Thank You for this helpful information. I never knew cilantro and coriander were the same.
Kt on April 22, 2019:
I’m for the US and we us cilantro to describe the herb and coriander to describe the seed or at least that’s what I have always done I’m beginning to wonder if I’ve messed up recipes using coriander seeds when they intended that I use cilantro!
email@example.com on April 11, 2019:
Thank you and congratulations on your most helpful, extensive and well-documented article and its accessible although beautifully written article.
Gordon N Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on February 20, 2019:
I hadn't personally come across that one, James - but more than happy for it to be added to the growing list. Thanks for the info!
James Momin on February 20, 2019:
You forgot Chinese parsley?
rahibkhan on February 13, 2019:
UK citizen here.
I only refer to coriander and coriander seeds. When the word cilantro came to me i thought it might be a papery herb. i did not realise that it would be US version of coriander.
A on January 13, 2019:
Thankyou for that.
Roger Alsford on January 02, 2019:
Thanks Gordon for clearing it up. I have friends from India, Spain and Europe as well as some distant family in the US. I also asked a local Chinese family but they ave the names they use and no alternate. I've asked all for a guide as I'm doing a heavy metals detox with Cilantro and Chlorella BUT your explanation has been the best. Thanks again and a Happy New Year to you and yours.
Gordon N Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on November 05, 2018:
Yes, they taste exactly the same Reyna because they are the same plant. Only the names used in different parts of the world are different.
Reyna Mandirigma on November 04, 2018:
Does the taste of both are different too? here in our country the philippines I wonder if it's the same because I only know Coriander
André on October 31, 2018:
Great answer. Thanks.
D on October 08, 2018:
Thanks, that was helpful. :-)
Joanne on September 08, 2018:
I was confused yes but I found the answer thru your website. Thank you so much for sharing this information.
Gordon N Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on August 20, 2018:
Hi, Karen. Thank you for your extensive comment and I'm glad the information helped you out. With regard to the ancient Roman herb, I'm afraid it's not something with which I'm familiar. Perhaps you could search online for a food historian who may provide the answer? Good luck in finding out the further information you require.
Karen Blackburn on August 19, 2018:
Many thanks for explaining coriander and cilantro but this has left me more confused in one regard. I have read of a cooking herb common in early Roman times called cilantro. It originated in the Sumerian region and was thought to be extinct by the first century AD. Is this the same as modern coriander, and if so why the different name, or was it truly a different plant altogether. Certainly there is no mention of the seeds and it was the bulb that was eaten, the few mentions I have found leave wondering if it was similar to maybe garlic or scallions. I was honestly wondering if this is what the US recipes meant when they called for cilantro but your description makes things so much easier. Many thanks.
Gordon N Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on July 30, 2018:
Thank you for further clarification on this issue, Rajan. You are absolutely correct - what's in a name?
Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on July 23, 2018:
Just to add and make it clearer: In India, we call dhania, known as coriander in UK and the cilantro in the US, as hara dhania, when talking about the green stem and leaves but call it sabut dhania (sabut means whole), which is coriander seeds in the UK and coriander in the US.
Like a rose by any name will smell just as sweet, call it what you may, hara dhania, coriander or cilantro, they are, one and the same ingredient.
brenda Johannes on July 19, 2018:
Thanking you kindly
Michael Stapley on June 19, 2018:
I just want to know if the flowers are edible
Patricia Uzezi Omadhebo on June 18, 2018:
Thanks for your explanation; is interesting.
Gordon N Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on April 28, 2018:
I'm glad the information was useful to you Oystein and thanks for taking the time to let me know.
Oystein Brondbo on April 26, 2018:
I was curious about this two words, so I googled the net and here I am.
Thank you for a very complementary and explanatory article.
Gordon N Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on March 25, 2018:
Hi , Caroline. I'm glad this page helped clear the matter up for you and thanks for letting me know. Yes, there are a great many discrepancies in regional English, just with food descriptions alone. It definitely can prove confusing.
Caroline on March 24, 2018:
I didn't know about the two different names for coriander. I was watching an American health DVD about cleansing, and they were raving on about 'cilantro' which I'd never heard of. I googled, "what is cilantro?" and found your site. I'm so glad to know that cilantro is really coriander - I love it and have it growing in my garden.
There are plenty of things in American websites and books that confuse me and I have to check them out - like cantaloupe instead of rockmelon; bell pepper instead of capsicum and others that I can't recall right now. It's hard to realise they supposedly speak the same language as we in Australia speak!
Sandy Schwartz on March 19, 2018:
Helpful information… Thank you!
Kath bonnington on February 07, 2018:
Thank you very much for the straight forward information I have just read
Valerie on January 29, 2018:
I did not know the two plants were one and the same.
This article was most helpful in helping me clear that up.
Caroline Fortin on January 24, 2018:
No Jeannine Davis, persil (parsley) is not the same as cilantro/coriander. They are two very different plants that have a *very* different taste.
Jeannine Davis on January 20, 2018:
Thank you for your very informative comments on Cilentro/Coriander, persil in french.
SunnyJ on January 13, 2018:
Amazing how most folks from the USA think the only Anglo speaking people on either side of the Atlantic are UK or of course themselves Americans. Long Live Canada! And yes we speak, pronounce and spell things in proper English.
Marise Australia on November 30, 2017:
No I did not ever hear of Cilantro but I am pleased to know it is Coriander as we know it in Sydney Australia. We grow it in our community garden.
Daria, Berlin on October 15, 2017:
Thank you, Gordon! So nicely explaned!
Dick de Ruiter, France on October 01, 2017:
Anthony' William's book MEDICAL MEDIUM mentions the herb Coriander or Cilantro a lot, as part of his cleansing program, but never explains the differences as you do. So now I am confused what he means, or if he actually is aware of these differences...
Just curious what your opinion is about this.
Gordon N Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on August 25, 2017:
In the case of ground coriander, that refers to the ground seeds.
staggerlee on August 25, 2017:
ok, so when recipe says ground coriander, is it the seeds or leaves that are to be ground?
BJB on August 22, 2017:
Is Celantro spicey?
Bhojram R Lichade on August 20, 2017:
I'm getting better informed and increase my knowledge Thanks
Papalote on August 17, 2017:
To Nelson of Costa Rica: Culantro (Eryngium foetidum) is a totally different plant than Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) of the same [Apiaceae] family. The Culantro leaf is long with (pot leaf like ridges) [Got your attention huh?] that we use in the Caribbean as well as cilantro. Another name for Culantro is "recao" or "recaito". Also not to be confused with "Cilantrillo"!
But that is in the next article that our friend Gordon will be
writing about! Lol
maryloucarruthers on July 30, 2017:
I hate the taste of it. people have put it in food and I know right away.
cez on July 26, 2017:
and to add to the confusion, in the Philippines it has 2 names, wansoy for coriander and kinchay for cilantro, allegedly wansoy is more pungent than kinchay. for me both are one and the same and i just call them cilantro or coriander
Gordon N Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on July 16, 2017:
Hello, Rita. I'm afraid I personally wouldn't compare the taste of either the leaves or the seeds of coriander to aniseed. I believe you must be thinking of some other herb.
Anna Padovani on July 05, 2017:
Also called kosbor in Maltese
Rita Jones on July 02, 2017:
Whichever part it is that tastes like 'Aniseed' PLEASE tell me!!!!? I cannot stand that flavour at all..help!
Ali Jini on June 25, 2017:
Chinese parsley, coriander and cilantro. Are these 3 the same or totally different and I understood for writing above coriander and cilantro are of no difference. What about if compare with Chinese parsley?
Mark on May 17, 2017:
You have just cleared up a debate and we had to laugh at the outcome. I work with two Spaniards, two Americans, one French, one Canadian, two Dutch and me British. We had a long debate about the name and you have solved it for us. Thanks to Google we can across your page and we have all agreed it tastes the same by whatever name you choose to give it.
Marg on May 07, 2017:
Jamie Oliver uses cilantro in his recipes so I was confused as we refer to it as coriander in Australia.
Joe. Brampton Ontario on May 06, 2017:
Thanks for making things clear, even though I don't like cilentro and I always said .... I WOULD NEVER HAVE CILENTRO IN MY HOUSE,
Now I really feel dumb, cause I have been cooking with coriander for years lolololol
sha McAlister on April 05, 2017:
Reading US book confused about cilantro! Thanks for your article
Ali on March 13, 2017:
The indian appellation is not at all confusing because no ine cares whats indians call it
rita on March 10, 2017:
your page is very interesting and explained in every way that I could understand the meaning of the different things I asked about
Cristina Guerreiro on March 04, 2017:
Thank you so much! Excelent explanation!
Nelson on February 21, 2017:
Eventhough Cilantro is the Spanish translation of Coriander in some coutries (such as Mexico) in some other countries (like Costa Rica) the herb is called Culantro.
Robid on February 14, 2017:
Thank you for the post! I feel much more informed and will take this into account when there is confusion about the subject matter! Also, there seem to be a few varieties of these plants. I have seen some that have very purple stems that are extremely pungent and flavorful, some that are bright green all over and have huge leaves but are very mild and some (Mexican variety) that are very dark green but have small leaflets as opposed to real leaves. I really like the purplish stuff but i have only seen it at a vietnamese restaraunt in Houston. It reminded me of holy basil as opposed to the garden variety i find in most stores. It must take diligence to grow the quality of basil and cilantro/coriander that turns purple and obviously seems to be more nutritious and flavorful!!!
graziella cruz on February 05, 2017:
i was told that coriander is kinchay and cilantro is wansuy. now i'm more confused than ever
David Smith on January 29, 2017:
A very interesting article which once and for all confirmed my thoughts that 'cilantro' was indeed coriander, though I wasn't aware this was the Spanish spelling of coriander.
Mimo on January 12, 2017:
Hey, thanks for the information. I'm an Indian and I find Americans very confusing in general. By the way, in my homeland, we use "coriander" to refer the leaves and "coriander seed" to refer the seeds just like the British.
Chinara Sharshenova on December 29, 2016:
Thank you Gordon!
Finally a proper answer! No more confusion!
tommo on December 18, 2016:
Work of art-icle!
loes on December 12, 2016:
In my language (Dutch) coriander (koriander to be precise) is the word used for both the leaves and the seeds. Also the Indonesian word ketumbar is often used for ground koriander seeds. Confusing? Only if you don't know.
Wendy Watson on December 09, 2016:
I think the leaves and stalks taste like soap; and the seeds have a lovely sweet aromatic flavor. My 2 cents!
Gordon N Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on November 26, 2016:
Thank you, Thomas. It is a fact that some people don't read a whole piece or have a different understanding of it. One of the risks you take by writing and inviting comments :)
Gordon N Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on November 26, 2016:
Thank you very much for the in depth comment Cedric and I'm glad you think the article helps clear up the confusion. I agree with you that while very different, coriander seeds and leaves have equal places in cooking.
Thomas on November 21, 2016:
Wow, all these people commenting that clearly haven't read your article or are too stupid to understand must be annoying...
Cedric Hansen on November 19, 2016:
Thanks for clearing the confusion surrounding an excellent plant used so much in cooking the world over. I hail from South Africa and was quite familiar with the term, "coriander seeds" and "coriander leaves" the former a spice and the latter a herb. Because there is quite a large Indian community in our country we are also familiar with the term, "dhania" which is commonly sold in local Indian spice shops and explained by them as coriander leaves to anyone unfamiliar with the term. Some previous comments seem to indicate that the coriander seeds have less flavour than the leaves of the the same plant however, if the seeds are roasted and dehusked, well, the amazing flavour and aroma is through the roof!!
Gary Peterson on November 12, 2016:
Gordon N Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on September 27, 2016:
Sorry, Bobby - it is exactly the same thing, I can assure you. You must be buying it when it's passed its best. Try shopping elsewhere or growing it at home :)
Bobby Hartfield on September 13, 2016:
No offense to you Brits, but coriander and cilantro are not the same thing. Here in the UK, fresh coriander is dull with no aroma when you smell it. In Mexico and the US, cilantro has an absolutely mesmerizing aroma. When you chop fresh cilantro, the kitchen smells wonderful. When you bring the tortilla chip loaded with pico to your mouth, your nose wants to jump in. Coriander is so boring you might as well use lawn clippings.
Bakul on August 19, 2016:
No need to confuse with the Indian name 'dhaniya' because it's a word from Hindi language. It's used both for the seeds and the leaves. But if you are an English speaker in India, ask for coriander in a shop if you need any of these two! :)
Gordon N Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on June 30, 2016:
There's definitely a lot of confusion caused by this discrepancy, Steph. At least you can now go ahead and prepare your recipe :)
Steph on June 27, 2016:
wow I wish I knew this before going to the grocery store & searching forever for "coriander leaves" even the employees didnt know what it is, now I can't make the one recipe that calls for it until I can go back to the store ugh
Fain on June 19, 2016:
I have found a very big difference between the two. What is called in Texas cilantro is a dark green leaf that looks a bit like parsley and has a very strong taste - it is used extensively in salsa, guacamole and salads. But the brown herb powder called coriander and coriander seeds is really quite mild in flavor.
Gordon N Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on June 14, 2016:
Well, while it is often used as a garnish, it is a very tasty addition to many meals, especially spicy dishes or curries. Hope you can find it in yourself to give it a try!
grumpy-old-meat-and-3veg on June 06, 2016:
watching tv cooking shows, the werd cilantro is used every second dish? i had to find out what it was?
looked like one of them green garnish things you throw off the plate?
i was right :D
Gordon N Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on June 04, 2016:
Thank you, Janet. I hope you are inspired to use this delicious herb in some tasty recipes soon.
janet on June 03, 2016:
looking for something inspiring to cook??? what is cilantro...will you have certainly increase my vocab! excellent
Gordon N Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on May 21, 2016:
Thank you Earth Citizen for your comments. I'm glad you found the page informative. I agree with you in that I like to add it a little bit earlier with some more to garnish.
Earth Citizen on May 17, 2016:
Never heard of Cilantro until today, Googled it and came to this informative page. Kudos to the author. It is Dhania as it is used extensively on the Indian Subcontinent. All three terms refer to all parts of the plant. Both the seed and leaves are used extensively in Indian cooking. Personally I prefer the leaves, but will also use the stem, in the interests of not wasting the plant. Will only use crushed seed as a last resort if the fresh plant is not available.
As to its use, my other half and I disagree. She thinks it should be added to dish at the very end, while I prefer to add it a little while earlier so it can release its aroma into the food, and then add a little at the end for that fresh look.
Sue from SC on April 27, 2016:
I did not know the difference until now. Thank You very much for the information. My favorite thing in the world is fresh Salsa w/ Cilantro! ( not coriander seed ) :)
Avonov on February 21, 2016:
I learned a great deal from this discussion. Thanks to everyone.
There is one additional factor that I don't believe was addressed. I just finished a week-long course in Thai cooking. They use coriander seeds and cilantro. But... there's more.
At least in my class, one of the most frequent ingredients was known as the coriander root. If you google it, you will find a ton of pictures. They actually use the root and an inch or so of the green stalk.
HB on January 26, 2016:
Thanks for that. Loved the taste of cilantro when in California, but didn't know why I couldn't find when I got home. Now I know! Good old google!
armeniancook on January 14, 2016:
No difference! It's the same ... use the name you like most!
Gordon N Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on November 20, 2015:
Glad it's useful for you, dandelionweeds but coriander and cumin are very different.
dandelionweeds from Canada on November 19, 2015:
Great info! I use this coriander that I got from an Indian store. I think coriander and cumin are the same.
armeniancook on October 24, 2015:
Coriander is also added to Egyptian 'felafel', which consists of coarsely ground fava beans (to maintain the crunchiness) mixed with coarsely chopped herbs (dill, parsley, etc.) shaped like small patties and lightly fried in oil. Delicious!
Dor on October 22, 2015:
Thank for letting me know the difference between the language of this wonderful herb, so if i'm in england i would call it ''coriander''which is the Latin word, and if i'm in USA it is'' cilantro ''/ coriander thank so much.
Gordon N Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on September 25, 2015:
Thank you, Heather. Glad the article was useful to you. Your recipe sounds absolutely delicious and is definitely something I would enjoy.
Heather on September 24, 2015:
Thank you for your interesting article. I was looking for a different guacamole recipe, as I was tired of same old same old. The recipe I liked has "cilantro" in it and I was back footed. Now up with the play.
As an aside; I added the guacamole to some diced lobster meat, mixed together, then used as a topping on small crostini for pre dinner nibbles - very tasty (and easy).
Gordon N Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on September 19, 2015:
Maybe you're adding to much, Giorgio? Yes, it has a pretty powerful taste but maybe if you reduced the quantities of cilantro/coriander and cumin in your dishes, you could discover a whole new world of food? :)
Giorgio on September 17, 2015:
Cilantro or coriander...it just tastes like SOAP in my mouth!
And I dislike cumin, too...
now you know why I don't really like Indian cuisine! LOL
Gordon N Hamilton (author) from Wishaw, Lanarkshire, United Kingdom on September 10, 2015:
I'll take your word for it armenian cook - thanks for the info!