Indian Essentials: Green Coriander (Cilantro) and Coriander Seeds

Coriander Herb and Coriander Spice

Green Coriander | Coriandrum | Chinese parsley | Cilantro

Green Coriander is the “parsley” of India and SE Asia — it is used ubiquitously in the way that parsley is used in European food. It is ground into fresh chutneys, mixed in with vegetables, featured in soups, cooked in dishes and used as a garnish. In fact it is related to both parsley and carrot. The leaves, stalks and roots are the herb, and the seeds of the plant are the spice; each smells and tastes completely different to the other parts. The leaves have been described as lemon scented, which is kind, and also as smelling like insects or cat pee, which is unkind. They smell of lemon peel and sage. The leaves lose their fresh flavour when cooked and so are most often used fresh. The root is widely used in Thai dishes, and are crushed with garlic and black pepper to make a marinade. Stalks and roots are also treasured throughout India and SE Asia.  Both roots and stalks can be frozen successfully, and make a great addition to stock.

In India, just the delicate, fragrant green leaves are used to make the most wonderful fresh chutneys, and  it is added to dhals for extra flavour. Coriander paste can be made to keep the flavour of coriander in the kitchen when fresh leaves are not available. No South Indian coconut chutney or spicy rice dish is complete without a garnish of fresh coriander leaves. It has a cooling effect and it is said to mend disorders due to an overstimulated digestive fire.

Green Coriander is called Cilantro in some parts of the world (primarily the US).

Coriander Paste

Coriander Seeds

Small straw-coloured ridged seeds with a faint orange or lemony flavour are sweetly spicy and cheap. They have a sweet, woody and peppery aroma that is enhanced by dry roasting and grinding. They are used widely in Indian cookery, and are often the major part of many spice mixtures.

The best way to buy coriander seeds is as whole seeds, and crush these before using. You can purchase coriander powder and if you buy in small quantities or use a lot, this is a convenient way to use it. If you grow coriander you can let it go to seed and harvest the seeds yourself.

home Grown Coriander Seed

Native to the Mediterranean region, the seeds are used in many countries – in India, the Middle East and Malaysia they are very common.

In Western India the seeds are combined with cumin, shredded coconut and other spices to make a “black masala”. In Kerala in the South, they are combined with fenugreek seeds, black peppercorns and red chillies, dry roasted and used to flavour dishes.

In the North, coriander, cumin and turmeric are a common trinity used in hundreds of dishes.

Coriander Seeds also make a handsome addition to herbal infusions/teas.

Coriander Seeds

In Ayurveda, coriander is considered a universal balancer of the doshas. Its taste is bitter and pungent. It helps to calm overstimulated digestion and aids in the absorption of herbs and food. It is used to heal skin rashes, inflammations a range of other ailments.

Feel free to browse recipes from our Retro Recipes series. You might also like our Spice information here. Or you might like to browse our Indian Essentials series here. Check out our easy  Coriander recipes here and here.

Coriander Seed