In order to determine the best substitutes for coriander, you have to understand what coriander is, which is actually a bit confusing. In the US, the fresh leaves of the coriander plant (Coriandrum sativum) are considered cilantro. However, the seeds of the coriander plant are “coriander seeds,” and when grounded, the spice is coriander, but they all stem from the same plant! In other countries, recipes may call for coriander, but mean the leafy herb cilantro. The leafy herb cilantro and the spice coriander have drastically different tastes. If you ask me, cilantro tastes like soap (unfortunately, I got the gene that makes it taste like soap), but most people would say it has a citrus/lemon flavor. Coriander has a nutty, toasty, almost sweet flavor. So when I talk about substitutes for coriander below, I am referring to the ground spice.
Keep in mind that coriander is used in many dishes- it is versatile. You can use it in pasta dishes, Indian dishes, desserts, etc. So make sure that you choose the right substitute for coriander based on the type of dish you are making.
Also, I will mention a few substitutes for cilantro in the comments in case that is what you were really wanting!
Substitute for Coriander #1: Coriander seeds
I am not trying to make this more confusing, but you can substitute the coriander seed for the spice. If you have a bit of extra time, you can grind the seeds in a coffee grinder or by hand until you have the ground spice. However, if you need an immediate substitute for coriander spice, you can use the seeds. The spice is a bit more potent so you will want to use a teaspoon of the seeds for every ¾ teaspoon called for of the spice. It can be better to keep the coriander seeds on hand rather than the spice because the ground spice will lose its flavor faster than the seeds.
SUBSTITUTE FOR CORIANDER #2: Caraway Seeds
Caraway seeds may be your best bet for a substitute for coriander because of the similar taste profile. Caraway seeds are peppery, nutty and a bit sweet because of the anise notes. However, it is hard to manually crush caraway seeds so using them as a coriander substitute may alter the texture of your recipe. You can substitute the caraway seeds in an equal amount as the coriander.
SUBSTITUTE FOR CORIANDER #3: Cumin
Cumin powder is a good coriander substitute because you probably have it in your cabinet. It is readily-available and has a fairly similar flavor. It is earthy, but lacks the citrus notes. It also has a more powerful flavor. Due to that, you will want to use ¾ teaspoon for every teaspoon of coriander called for in your recipe. There is also a spice called “black cumin”- not as readily available, but due to its sweeter taste, a better coriander substitute if you can find it. Again, still use the lesser amount.
SUBSTITUTE FOR CORIANDER #4: Garam Masala
The Garam Masala may work as a substitute depending on what you are making. If you are making an Indian dish or chutney, then it is a great option. Garam Masala has coriander in it, but also contains other spices like cinnamon, cumin, pepper, and cloves. You may use it as an equal substitution, but do a taste test because you want to be sure those other spices go with your dish. It is great for a curry!
SUBSTITUTE FOR CORIANDER #5: Cloves
As I mentioned in the introduction, the best substitute for coriander is going to depend on what you are making. Cloves can be a good substitute for a dessert dish. Cloves have the spicy, sweet flavor so you can use it in an apple cake or as an addition to a meat rub in place of coriander. Cloves have a strong distinct flavor so you are going to want to use less (about ¼ teaspoon less) ground cloves than coriander. Grind the cloves right before use so they keep their fresh flavor.
We just went through some good examples of coriander substitutes. As promised here are the substitutes for cilantro in case that is what you really needed: dill, fresh parsley, tarragon.Please leave us a comment and let us know what you have used as a substitute for coriander. You may also enjoy finding out substitutes for Cumin, Rosemary, and Tarragon.
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