What Is a Substitution for Cilantro?

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Fresh cilantro leaves.
Fresh cilantro leaves. (Image: daoleduc/iStock/Getty Images)

Substituting for cilantro can be a tricky business. You can find alternatives for those who hate the taste of this mainstay herb of Mexican, Indian and Southeast Asian cooking and find it soapy. If, though, you’ve run out of fresh cilantro and need its unique flavor, your options are limited.

Substitutes for Those Who Dislike Cilantro

If you have a cilantro hater to feed, you can try Italian parsley, basil or chives, or a combination, in your recipe. This switch can work acceptably for tomato soup, for example, but not so much for a Mexican or Thai recipe that depends on cilantro’s distinctive flavor.

Substitutes If You’ve Run Out

Dried or frozen cilantro is not a workable substitute, as neither conveys the flavor of fresh. Once cilantro’s essential oils become exposed to the air, they fade, writes Rosalind Creasy in “The Edible Herb Garden.” Parsley is not an acceptable substitute for an authentic dish that relies heavily on cilantro, such as guacamole, salsa, tacos, burritos or stir-fries. Fresh or dried epazote can work for Mexican bean and rice recipes, or use the fresh Mexican herbs papalo or pipicha. If cilantro is peripheral to the flavor, you can work with oregano for Latin dishes and Thai basil for Asian preparations.

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