Coriander
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Coriander is a Spice made from the seeds /fruit of the Coriander Plant, which is also called the “Cilantro” plant.

Before we move on, we should discuss if Cilantro is the same thing as Coriander?  The answer is 97% “Yes!” The two come from one and the same plant but Coriander, the Spice, is made from the ground seeds/fruits of the coriander plant and the leafy Herb Cilantro is the leaves (and some stem) of growing plant itself. Going forward, Smart Kitchen™ will refer to the fresh greens as Cilantro and the ground seeds as Coriander. Just be aware that they may do it differently in another country or culture.

Because the two parts of the same plant are used so differently, the rest of this resource focuses on Coriander.  If you want to know more about Cilantro, navigate over to that Smart Kitchen™ Resource Page by following the link. By the way, what we usually see at the store as the spice Coriander are actually the dried, brown seeds of the plant which last longer in a bottle and on the shelf. You may also see “Ground Coriander” or “Coriander Powder” which are the same thing, namely a powder made from grinding down the brown, dried Coriander seeds.

The Coriander plant was disseminated thousands of years ago from the Middle East to China, India and Southeast Asia. In fact, Coriander may have been the first spice used by man. It is certainly one of our oldest known Spices. There is a record of it being harvested from the Hanging Gardens of Babylon and Coriander is talked about in the Bible. The Ancient Egyptians used Coriander in wine to increase the effects of intoxication and act as an aphrodisiac. They even placed Coriander Seeds, used for a love potion in “The 1001 Arabian Nights,” in Egyptian tombs, including King Tut’s.

Both the ancient Greeks and Romans used it extensively. In fact, the name Coriander is derived from the Greek word koris, which means bug. The plant was given the name either because it smelled like bed bugs (which goes to prove that its detractors have been around a long time), or because its dried seeds look a bit like small beetles. The Romans used it as both food and for medicine and brought it with them when they invaded Britain. One novel use that they had was combining Coriander with Vinegar and using the mixture as a meat preservative. In the Middle Ages Coriander was added to love potions.

Later, with the European explorers, the plant made its way to South America, where it began to be used in place of the indigenous South American plant Culantro.

Though Coriander was one of the first Herbs imported and cultivated in the US in Colonial times, it was not widely known or generally used here until the latter part of the 20th century. 

Season

Because Coriander is found at retail as a dried seed or ground powder, seasonality is not as important as freshness. Old, past its expiration date product will lose its potency.

Availability

Coriander, either as seeds or a ground powder, is available all year long.

Cultivation

Coriander is a fast growing annual Herb. It grows from seed to plant in about 40 to 60 days. Successive plantings, starting in early spring (weather permitting) through late fall provide North American markets with an abundance of fresh Coriander throughout most of the year.

Coriander can be easily grown from seed.  It is an annual plant that grows to about two feet tall.  It will grow anywhere in the world that has a growing season of 100 days or more and matures in approximately 40 to 45 days. 

True to its appearance, it is a little fragile and susceptible to frost, so wait a few weeks after the last frost before planting.  It likes full sun.   The seeds can be harvested two or three weeks after the plant sprouts its small, pretty, umbrella-shaped clusters of pink and white flowers. The blooms are nectar-and-pollen rich which attract tons of pollinators, especially honey bees and syrphid flies. As the flowers start to fade, you will see small, round, Green Coriander Seeds appear. They are the fresh seeds and hard to find at market, where the dried Brown Coriander Seeds predominate. Harvest them by cutting off the seed heads along with a few inches of the stalk. Pick the green seeds from the stalks.

If you prefer the Brown Coriander Seeds, just wait. With time, the majority of the seeds will dry out and turn brown. Cut the seed heads off of the plant along with a short bit of the stalk. Hang them, seed-down, in a brown paper bag. Eventually, as the pods dry out, the seeds will fall out of the heads and be collected in the bag. The seeds are tiny, light, and round.

Production

Coriander is grown throughout the world.

Varieties

There are no major varieties of Coriander plants, though breeders have developed specialty seeds to emphasize certain characteristics.  For example, specialty seeds have been developed to produce plants that bolt more slowly, making them better adapted to growing in hot climates.

Purchasing

At retail, in the spice aisle, you will most likely see Brown Coriander Seeds and Ground Coriander powder. The brown seeds themselves are tiny, light, and round and are usually sold in clear packaging. Look for Brown Coriander Seeds that have a perfectly sealed package, without any visible mold or moisture.

The Ground Coriander, sometimes also called Coriander Powder, is a dusky brown powder made by grinding Brown Coriander Seeds in a factory and bottling the results. The Ground Coriander will be older and less potent than the Brown Coriander Seeds often sold in the next slot over on the spice rack. It will last a long time in powdered form, but at the very least check the “Best if Used By” date on the packaging. Buy the newest container you can find on the shelf.

It is not very likely that you will ever find fresh Green Coriander Seeds at a grocery store or even at a Farmer’s Market. If you want them, you will probably have to grow your own.

Storage

Store brown Coriander Seeds and Coriander Powder in a lidded glass jar in a cool, dry location like a pantry, spice cabinet or kitchen shelf. They will last longer refrigerated, or even frozen, but they do pretty well at room temperature and we don’t like to waste space in our cold storage on items that do well at room temperature, such as Coriander.

If you are lucky enough to find, or enterprising enough to grow, Green Coriander Seeds, treat them more like the fresh green product that they are. Fresh Green Coriander Seeds will keep in the refrigerator for a few weeks if stored in a sealed glass container. They freeze well too. 

Culinary Uses

We don’t mean to be unkind to Coriander, but we think of it as a bit of a subtle wallflower of a Spice. It is a pleasantly sweet Spice, not as bold and assertive as Cilantro but instead mellow and subtle. It has an earthy, lemony, nutty flavor and a mild, sweet, citrusy, aroma that doesn’t come right out and punch you in the Palate.  

We tend to think of Brown Coriander Seeds as a team player in our overall lineup, and not the celebrity star of a dish. Coriander works well with other members of the team (like Cumin) to impart an extra layer of flavor. An example might be using Coriander as a component in a spice rub, or as one of the flavorings in Chili or other Stews/Soups/Broths. Another example would be adding Coriander to the Poaching Liquid while Poaching delicate foods like Chicken Breast or Fish. Salad Dressings and Salads are another area where Coriander can shine.

Green Coriander Seeds, if you can find them, have a sharper and more pronounced flavor and a softer bite. If you happen to find any Green Coriander Seeds, they might do well in a salad dressing. 

Coriander is also used in baking to flavor sweeter breads and some confections. Borodinsky Bread, a Russian bread, uses Coriander Seeds for flavoring.

Around the world various cuisines have come up with their own take on Coriander. It is used extensively in Latin American Cuisine and Mexican Cuisine where you might find a pinch added to Posole, Enchiladas, or Frijoles (beans).

Coriander is also a staple in the kitchen of Indian Cuisine where it is used in conjunction with other Spices to flavor Curry, Marinades, Pickles, Sausages, etc. By the way, they make a South African Sausage called Boerewors which also features Coriander.  

Vietnamese Cuisine uses Coriander in dishes such as Dhania, Chutney, Pho, and more.

Portion Size

Allow 1-2 t of Coriander per person.

Pairings

Anise, Allspice, Basil, Cardamom, Cayenne, Cilantro, Cinnamon, Cloves, Cumin, Curry Powder, Fennel Seeds, Garam Marsala, Mace, Mint, Nutmeg, Saffron, Sesame Seeds, Sugar, Pepper, Turmeric, Carrots, Peppers, Coconuts, Coconut Milk, Corn, Fennel, Garlic, Ginger, Onions, Mushrooms, Pickles, Potatoes, Spinach, Tomatoes, Tomato Sauces, Apples, Lemons, Limes, Grapefruit, Oranges, Plums, Meat, Beef, Chicken, Crab, Eggs, Fish, Ham, Pork, Poultry, Salmon, Shellfish, Turkey, Soups, Stewing, Stocks, Rice, Beans

Substitutes

Cumin

Nutritional Value USDA
CORIANDER (CILANTRO) LEAVES,RAW
Amount Per 100g
Calories 23
%Daily Value*
 
0%
Total Fat 0g
0%
Saturated Fat 0g
Polyunsaturated Fat 0g
Monounsaturated Fat 0g
0%
Cholesterol 0mg
2%
Sodium 46mg
11%
Potassium 521mg
1%
Total Carbohydrate 3g
8%
Dietary Fiber 2g
Sugars 0g
Protein 2g
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your Daily Values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Nutrition

Because Coriander has been used by humans for so long, it has a reputation for being useful for fixing just about everything under the sun in folk medicine, Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine, etc.

Broadly the health claims tend to fall into the following categories: Digestion (nausea, upset stomach, bad breath, loss of appetite, gripe, diarrhea, gas), Inflammation (hemorrhoids, toothaches, joint pain, aches), Infections (Salmonella, infections, ), Hypertension, Hyperglycemia, Mood Disorders (depression, anxiety, insomnia), Anti-Allergic (Hay Fever, other allergic reactions), Eye Care and Menstruation.

Smart Kitchen is a cooking site and vetting many of the medical claims go beyond the scope of our mission. If you are interested in the claims, we found the scientific survey of the current literature “Coriander (Coriandrum sativum L.): A Potential Source of High-Value Components for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals- A Review” dense but helpful.

Coriander is typically used in folk medicine as either a topical oil or a hot tea. Different parts of the Coriander plant (Cilantro plant) have different component parts and different benefits. The exciting bioactive ingredients are not (generally) present in significant quantities in a Pinch of Coriander or a sprig of Cilantro though a pinch or sprig can’t hurt.

Coriander Oil is also used in cosmetics and soaps.

Gluten Free

Yes

Low Fat

Yes

Low Calorie

Yes