Coriander is comprised of small leaves attached to long and slender green stems. The leaves vary in size, with the base leaves being larger, while the leaves at the top of the stems are smaller and more delicate. The dark green leaves are generally broad, flat, and deeply lobed with feathery, serrated edges and a smooth and crisp consistency. In addition to the leaves, the pale green stems are edible and provide a crunchy, succulent texture. Coriander has a sweet, vegetal, and pungent aroma and an earthy, herbaceous, and bright, grassy taste. The leaves often contain peppery, tangy, and citrus-like nuances, and to some palates, coriander bears an acrid, unpleasant, soapy taste. Coriander plants also produce edible light brown seeds, white flowers, and roots that are utilized in various culinary preparations.
Coriander is a good source of vitamin A to maintain healthy organ functioning; vitamin K to assist in faster wound healing; dietary fiber to regulate the digestive tract; and manganese. The leaves also contain vitamin C to strengthen the immune system and other antioxidants to reduce inflammation while protecting the cells against free radical damage. Coriander has a polarizing flavor due to a natural chemical known as an aldehyde. This chemical is perceived as having a "soapy" taste by some consumers. The strength with which the aldehyde is perceived and detected is unique to each individual, creating a wide range of opinions regarding coriander and its aroma and flavor.
Coriander is an aromatic herb well suited as an edible garnish or finishing flavor in savory dishes. The leaves can be lightly torn, chopped, or minced, and added at the end of cooking to retain the herb’s bright and fresh flavor. Coriander is widely incorporated in many cuisines, including Indian, North African, Mexican, Latin American, Middle Eastern, Caribbean, Greek, and Asian. The leaves can be sprinkled over soups, curries, and stews, tossed into stir-fries, cooked into omelets, or stirred into rice and noodle-based dishes. Coriander can also be blended into sauces such as pesto, hot sauce, chopped into salsa, folded into creamy dips, or used as a flavoring in marinades, brines, and salad dressings. The fragrant leaves are popularly used in Mexican cuisine as a topping over tacos, enchiladas, and bean dips, and in Vietnamese cuisine, the leaves are combined into fried egg rolls and tossed over pho. Indian cuisine also uses coriander in samosas, vegetable side dishes, and chana masala, a chickpea curry. Beyond using the fresh leaves, coriander can be chopped, mixed into salt, and served as a flavor enhancer. Cilantro pairs well with meats such as poultry, duck, lamb, beef, and fish; tofu; scallions, red bell peppers, corn; tomatoes, ginger, mushrooms, jicama, potatoes, other herbs including mint, parsley, and basil; legumes; and yogurt. Whole, unwashed coriander will keep 5 to 7 days when stored upright in a glass of water and covered loosely with a plastic bag in the refrigerator. The leaves have a delicate nature and are recommended for immediate use to capture the best texture and flavor.
Coriander is available year-round.