Cilantro is an annual herb of the Apiaceae family, which also includes celery, fennel, and parsley. Also known as “coriander” or “Chinese parsley,” cilantro has an enormous significance in traditional Indian, Chinese, and Mexican cuisine. It gives color, warmth, and a fragrant aroma to recipes. Its bright peppery taste with a delicate citrus explosion catches you on the finish.
So, running out of cilantro can be jarring because it’s pretty much an irreplaceable ingredient. But, if you need a quick fix and want a good substitute for cilantro, here’s a curated list of the top 10 alternatives that can mimic its effect.
A flowering plant from the same family as cilantro, cumin is a popular ingredient in Asian, Latin American, and Middle Eastern cuisine.
Cumin has a warmer and darker flavor than cilantro. When added to a cooked recipe like curry or pesto sauce, it gives delicious ground notes of nutmeg. In Moroccan cuisines, cumin is often used like pepper and is added to intensify every dish.
Though slightly different in taste, cumin perfectly matches the warmth, vibrancy, and aroma of cilantro, making it a good substitute. You can swap them evenly in any recipe as a garnish or a cooking spice.
1 Tbsp. Fresh Cilantro = 1 Tbsp. Fresh Cumin or ½ Tbsp. Dried Cumin.
1 Tbsp. Dried Cilantro = 2 Tbsp. Fresh Cumin or 1 Tbsp. Dried Cumin.
Basil is another excellent choice when looking for an alternative to cilantro. It has a sweet, peppery taste with warm undertones that gives more depth to recipes. There are also many types of basil to choose from, but Thai basil would be an ideal choice as it’s less sweet and brings more spice, which is closer to cilantro.
Another important thing to note when using basil is that adding it before cooking changes the flavor. Dried basil has a less sweet and more earthy flavor, like cumin seed.
1 Tbsp. Fresh Cilantro = 1 Tbsp. Fresh Basil or ½ Tbsp. Dried Basil.
1 Tbsp. Dried Cilantro = 2 Tbsp. Fresh Basil or 1 Tbsp. Dried Basil.
#3. Garam Masala
Garam masala is a spicy mix that’s mainly used in traditional Indian cuisine to make curries and biryani. It’s a spice blend that’s made from a variety of different spices like turmeric, cloves, cinnamon, peppercorn, mace, bay leaf, cumin, and cilantro.
Since garam masala contains more than just cilantro, you can expect it to bring a richer flavor out of dishes. However, as it’s a herb made from dried grounded spices, it won’t make the best substitute for fresh cilantro, but you can get some of the flavor. You’ll want to substitute less at first and add more if needed as per taste.
1 Tbsp. Fresh Cilantro = ¼ Tbsp. Garam Masala.
1 Tbsp. Dried Cilantro = ½ Tbsp. Garam Masala.
Parsley is a nutrient-rich and healthy substitute for cilantro. While it gives the same color and texture to a dish as cilantro, it does have a slightly different taste. Unlike cilantro’s hints of citrus, parsley is more muted, earthy, and grassy.
Parsley can be used as a garnish, a condiment, and as a main salad ingredient. It’s a pretty versatile herb that owes its compatibility with almost every dish in the world to its flavor neutrality.
If you’re looking for a substitute for cilantro that adds depth and herbaceousness without altering the taste too much, parsley is a good choice.
1 Tbsp. Fresh Cilantro = 1 Tbsp. Fresh Parsley or ½ Tbsp. Dried Parsley.
1 Tbsp. Dried Cilantro = 2 Tbsp. Fresh Parsley or 1 Tbsp. Dried Parsley.
#5. Curry Powder
Curry powder, like garam masala, also contains a blend of varied spices that typically includes coriander. It’s used to give traditional Asian curries the intense flavors and warmth they’re known for. It contains both savory and sweet spices, so you can expect a slightly different final taste compared to cilantro.
Curry powder is also quite strong, so remember to use it with a light hand. Apart from curries, it can also be used to spice or garnish dishes like marinades, roasted vegetables, and meats.
1 Tbsp. Fresh Cilantro = ¼ Tbsp. Curry Powder.
1 Tbsp. Dried Cilantro = ½ Tbsp. Curry Powder.
Even though they may not look or taste very similar, dill makes for a good substitute for cilantro because it gives the same citrusy grass smell and adds some green to your meal. Dill has a subtly sweet, grassy and lemony flavor and is most commonly used in European and Asian cuisines.
Another reason dill is a great substitute for cilantro is that it works as both spice and herb to elevate dishes. It has a similar intensity as cilantro, so you can swap them evenly.
1 Tbsp. Fresh Cilantro = 1 Tbsp. Fresh Dill or ½ Tbsp. Dried Dill.
1 Tbsp. Dried Cilantro = 2 Tbsp. Fresh Dill or 1 Tbsp. Dried Dill.
Papalo is a broadleaf herb commonly used in Mexican cuisine for the same reasons as cilantro. It’s added to give dishes a grassy, savory finish.
Papalo tastes somewhere between cucumber and cilantro and is composed of sharp, vegetal, and piquant flavors and a hint of mint.
The only downside to papalo is that it can be tricky to find. But if you do, it’s a great substitute for cilantro, especially in spicy dishes.
1 Tbsp. Fresh Cilantro = 1 Tbsp. Fresh Papalo or ½ Tbsp. Dried Papalo.
1 Tbsp. Dried Cilantro = 2 Tbsp. Fresh Papalo or 1 Tbsp. Dried Papalo.
Caraway, also known as Mediterranean fennel, is a biennial plant in the same family as cilantro. It has a nutty, bittersweet sharpness accentuated by notes of citrus, pepper, and licorice.
Caraway has a pretty unique flavor profile but tastes very close to cilantro, so you can use equal amounts when swapping.
1 Tbsp. Fresh Cilantro = 1 Tbsp. Fresh Caraway or ½ Tbsp. Dried Caraway.
1 Tbsp. Dried Cilantro = 2 Tbsp. Fresh Caraway or 1 Tbsp. Dried Caraway.
Tarragon is a species of herb in the sunflower family. It has a slightly anise-like flavor and warmth along with a minty aroma that makes it a decent replacement for cilantro, even though you don’t get the same taste.
Tarragon is most commonly used in classic French recipes and pairs brilliantly with meats like fish and chicken.
1 Tbsp. Fresh Cilantro = 1 Tbsp. Fresh Tarragon or ½ Tbsp. Dried Tarragon.
1 Tbsp. Dried Cilantro = 2 Tbsp. Fresh Tarragon or 1 Tbsp. Dried Tarragon.
#10. Lemon or Lime
If you’re only looking to replace the flavor of cilantro in your recipe and don’t mind the absence of texture, a splash of lemon juice or lime juice will also do.
It adds some of the savoriness and sourness from cilantro, although it’s much stronger. So, be careful when substituting it.
1 Tbsp. Fresh Cilantro = ½ Tbsp. Lemon or Lime Juice.
1 Tbsp. Dried Cilantro = ¼ Tbsp. Lemon or Lime Juice.