Ground Coriander and Potential Substitutes
Ground coriander, or what some cooks better recognize as “cilantro” is a native plant to many regions—from Europe to Southwest Asia. Its history shows it was one of the first herbs introduced to the British Colonies in the 1600’s, and has quite a distinct history. It is believed to initially have been cultivated in Greece for perfume manufacturing. In this article we offer 5 substitute options for ground coriander.
Our top coriander substitution options include:
- caraway seeds
- garam masala
- curry powder
What is Ground Coriander
Coriander seeds and leaves served two purposes. The seeds were used as a spice and the leaves as an herb. In fact, poultices were actually made using this herb to treat wounds and other ailments. So, there is certainly a level of diversity. Several other cultures name the plant differently. In China, the leaves are called “Chinese parsley,” but of course, the leaves still taste the same, and can be used to season foods the same way!
In Spain, ground coriander is called “cilantro” simply because that is the Spanish word for the plant. Further, the flavor is quite striking, but the seeds and the leaves taste very different. Coriander, whether ground, or intact in seed form, offers a balmy citrus flavor and is commonly used in curries, soups, salads and hearty sauces for pasta dishes. It is also used in stir fries. And unlike some herbs, this plant is totally edible, but the seeds and the leaves themselves are most often used in many culinary dishes.
Popular Cilantro Dishes
Cilantro, or the leaves of coriander are more common in Asian cuisine, though some traditional English and American dishes do utilize them. Cilantro is featured in dishes like: ramen, chutney, Thai salads. Regarding how these are used in other cultures, in Mexico salsa verde and guacamole would be sorely lacking without cilantro. And in Portugal, the popular bread soup Acorda wouldn’t be the same without the addition of cilantro!
Popular Coriander Dishes
Just remember the coriander seeds are where the spiciness comes from and therefore are almost always used in dessert dishes. When the seeds are pulverized they take on a zesty, citrus quality with a mix of nuttiness. Edibles like Moravian cookies, spice cake, gingerbread cookies, and dry meat rubs all need this prime spice ingredient to make them complete. Would there be some good substitutions to replace coriander?
Choosing the Best Herbal & Spice Substitutes for Ground Coriander
There might be some different spice substitutions for coriander, depending on whether your recipe calls for ground or seed. Many salads and baked breads will call for the seed form of coriander, but here we are going to focus on the ground choices.
Cumin is one of the closest substitutions for dry coriander when it comes down to similar qualities. Cumin gives some warmth and spiciness, so while it isn’t identical to coriander it will work well in pesto sauces and many pasta dishes.
When it comes to cilantro, a cook can use an Italian parsley or perhaps even bay leaves would be good for the replacement of the leaves, if that is necessary. But, for the ground seeds, cumin powder is good. You wouldn’t want to use this for a dessert dish, but any main course should work out just fine. Cumin represents a good substitute in the following dishes:
- Pesto sauces
An equal amount of caraway seeds can replace coriander seeds. These are in the same family as coriander so they mesh well. Both hold nutty, earthy tones with zest so it would be hard to tell them apart in a main dish. Also, caraway does have some characteristics of anise too, and there is your spice addition. Caraway seeds represent great options for the following dishes:
- German potato salad
- Homemade Rye bread
- Minestrone soup
Garam Masala has earthy tones, much like coriander, but most importantly it has some zing. Once again, garam masalai represents an ideal choice in more ethnic style dishes, such as Portuguese style cuisine and Thai dishes. Since there are multiple spices within this seasoning mix, you can pull off a substitution. However, as with some of the other alternatives, this can’t be used for dessert dishes. Salads, rice base side dishes and many main course meals can have garam masala in place of coriander. Potential substitute options include:
- Vegetable masala
- Afghani Chili
- Baingan Barta
Cloves might not carry that same citrus zest that coriander does, but it still holds great spice flavor and can be the perfect substitute for coriander in those wondrous, seasonal dessert dishes! The seasonal ham calls for coriander, but cloves can definitely work miracles here if a cook is out of this!
When you mix spices with: cinnamon, anise, and nutmeg, you’ll really not miss coriander at all. So, when it comes to meat rubs that call for coriander, you now have an alternative that is absolutely perfect. Also, many Indonesian dishes call for coriander and seasonings like it, so if you are substituting and using cloves you have the perfect alternative to create meals like:
- Bechamel sauce
No, these spices are very different, but when in main dishes it is once again hard to pinpoint a distinct taste difference. Curry powder would be an alternative to go with when you are down to the wire and absolutely have to use a substitute.
Is it because it’s a bad option? No, but it isn’t the first choice either. You don’t want to use the same amount of curry as you would coriander, since curry powder is more profound. Also, you must be careful because curry powder can change the color of your food dramatically. If you’re making any kind of Indian dish, curry powder will be a safe option. Consider curry powder with food like:
- Curried chicken
- Thai peanut chicken
- Lo Mein
- Mongolian beef (but go light)
Each one of these alternatives won’t take away from the amazing dishes you might choose to prepare. In fact, sometimes alternative seasonings and spices add new texture and balance that wouldn’t have been achieved otherwise. Cooking is all about adventure. It’s about trying new flavors and creating new dishes, or putting a spin on something traditional. Hopefully, with the variety of options you have to replace coriander you can create something spectacular.