Cilantro Seed

A bowl of cilantro seeds.

Cilantro is a spice that is harvested from the Coriandrum sativum plant. The small spherical seeds look like a Chinese lantern, with their longitudinal lines. There are two varieties: the European which produces fruits that are higher in essential oils; and the Indian which has larger fruit that is harder to find in stores. Although product labels refer to the spice as “coriander seed”, it is actually the fruit that gets used as a spice. The leaves of the plant are used as a herb in many cooking applications.

Flavor

Cilantro seeds have a bittersweet, citrusy flavor with a spicy, warm undertone. European seeds are more citrusy while the Indian variety has a sweeter taste. Cilantro has a herbaceous, sweet aroma that is enhanced when toasted. Once crushed, the seeds will lose their flavor much more quickly in storage.

Cilantro is a powerful spice that can overwhelm food if it is used with a heavy hand. Although it can be used to flavor dishes on its own, it usually teams up with cumin to form the building blocks for many popular spice blends.

Pairs with

Proteins

  • beef
  • tofu
  • chicken
  • shellfish
  • pork
  • game

Vegetables

  • potato
  • onion
  • bell pepper
  • tomatoes
  • celery
  • cabbage

Spices

  • cumin
  • cinnamon
  • chili
  • cardamom
  • allspice
  • caraway

Spice blends: curry, pumpkin pie spice, ras el hanout, baharat, harissa paste, dukkah, chimichurri.

Culinary uses

Coriander seeds are one of the most versatile, useful ingredients in the spice rack. They are a fantastic amalgamating spice, working well with a wide range of other flavors, in both sweet and savory recipes.

The coriander seed makes an excellent rub or marinade, applied to game, chicken, tuna steaks, and pork. Although the spice can be ground before use, it can also be used whole.

Sweet desserts like muffins and sponge cakes benefit from a small sprinkle of ground coriander seed. When combined with berries or citrus, it makes an excellent pie filling ingredient. Preserves and relishes also get lifted by ground coriander.

Coriander has a dominant linalool flavor compound which combines especially well with nutmeg or cardamom.

How much? Use roughly four teaspoons for baking, desserts, vegetables, and white meat. Add one extra teaspoon when cooking with red meat.

Substitutes

To replace cilantro seeds in a recipe use half the amount of cumin to mimic the earthy flavor in a dish. Another option is orange zest if you’re trying to replace the citrusy taste. Use one teaspoon of whole cilantro seeds to replace ¾ teaspoon of ground seeds.

Storage

Store cilantro seeds in an airtight container or jar in a dark, dry place for up to two years. Ground seeds will last up to one year before losing their quality.

Quick Facts

NameDescription
FamilyApiaceae
Flavor compoundCymene,limonene, linalool, pinene, terpinene
Botanical nameCoriandrum sativum
Parts usedSeeds
Other namesCoriander

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