How to Use Cilantro

by Helen Sterling ; Updated September 28, 2017

Cilantro makes a vibrant addition to many dishes.

Chicken Tacos image by JJAVA from

Cilantro is a culinary herb, and the leaves of the coriander plant Coriandrum Sativum, are sometimes referred to as Chinese or Mexican parsley. Cilantro is a popular ingredient in Mexican and Asian dishes, used for its fresh, distinctive taste.

Cilantro elicits strong reactions to its flavor; people love it or they hate it. There is a genetic reason for this intense dislike, according to the University of Illinois at Chicago. For people with this genetic polymorphism, cilantro tastes like soap. Savvy cooks may want to ask their guests their cilantro preference before adding too much of this pungent herb to their dishes.

Use fresh cilantro when possible, as dried cilantro loses much of its flavor. Fresh cilantro is available in the produce section of many grocery stores. Wash under running water and dry with a paper towel before chopping to keep the tender leaves from sticking to the knife.

Chop fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems with a sharp knife to add raw to salads and salsas. Bunch the cilantro tightly and chop from the leaves toward the stems. Cilantro is a tender herb so it's all right to include a few stems. Avoid the ends of the stems, which may be tough. Test the tenderness of a stem by taking a bite; if it's tender when you bite it, it's tender enough to add to your dish.

Add cilantro at the last minute to cooked dishes. Because cilantro is a tender herb, it changes flavor when heated, so sprinkle it over the top of a cooked chicken or fish dish, or stir it into stews or soups to keep the flavor fresh and vibrant.


  • Keep cilantro fresh by putting the stems in a glass of water and keep them in the refrigerator, loosely covered with plastic wrap. Change the water frequently and use the cilantro as soon as possible.

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About the Author

Located in south-central Wisconsin, Helen Sterling is a freelance writer who has been writing online since 2004. Sterling's background is in human resources where she has written and edited numerous policy and procedure manuals for both corporate and manufacturing companies. She publishes articles on crafts for various websites and enjoys making complex projects easy to understand. Sterling also owns a jewelry-design business.