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What is the Difference Between Cilantro and Culantro?

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Cilantro and culantro are two aromatic herbs often confused due to their similar names and general bright green. While they belong to the same botanical family and share some flavor profiles, they are distinct plants with their own unique characteristics.


Understanding the differences between cilantro and culantro can ultimately enhance the culinary experience in your kitchen and give you new ideas for flavorings. Here's a breakdown to help distinguish between the two:



APPEARANCE & TEXTURE

The first way to tell the difference is just by sight. While there may be some similarities across cilantro and culantro, appearance is not one of them.

  • Cilantro leaves are small and feathery, resembling flat-leaf parsley. They are delicate and and best used in fresh preperations like pico de gallo and guacamole which have little cooking to keep these soft leaves bright in color.

  • Culantro leaves on the other hand are elongated, lance-shaped with serrated edges and have a more robust texture. They feel more substantial and can standup to cooking.


FLAVOR PROFILE

  • Cilantro is famously loved or hated depending on whether you carry a certain gene. For some, cilantro tastes like soap, but for most, cilantro has a lovely citrusy, slightly peppery flavor with hints of parsley. It's a bright addition to a dish.

  • Culantro leaves offer a stronger, more pungent taste, often described as a blend of parsley, cilantro, and a hint of citrus.


CULTURAL USAGE

  • Cilantro is commonly used in various cuisines worldwide, including Mexican, Thai, Indian, and Middle Eastern dishes, adding freshness to salsas, curries, salads, and soups.

  • Culantro on the other hand is a wee less popular and more commonly found in Caribbean, Latin American, and Southeast Asian cuisines, where it's used in dishes like sauces and soups adding a nice intense flavor.



WAYS TO USE CILANTRO IN YOUR KITCHEN

  • Salsa and Guacamole: Cilantro adds a burst of freshness and herbaceous flavor to homemade salsas and guacamole, enhancing their taste and aroma.

  • Tacos and Burritos: Sprinkle chopped cilantro on tacos, burritos, or quesadillas for a pop of color and a refreshing herbal note that complements the savory fillings.

  • Soups and Stews: Whether it's a spicy chili, a fragrant Thai curry, or a comforting chicken soup, cilantro can be used as a garnish to brighten up the flavors and add a layer of complexity.

  • Salads: Toss a handful of cilantro leaves into salads for a fresh and zesty kick. It pairs particularly well with citrus-based dressings and crunchy vegetables like cucumber and bell peppers.

  • Rice and Grain Dishes: Garnish rice pilafs, quinoa salads, or grain bowls with chopped cilantro to add a pop of color and a burst of flavor, elevating the dish to new heights.

  • Marinades and Sauces: Blend cilantro into marinades, sauces, or pestos to infuse meats, seafood, or grilled vegetables with its bright and herbaceous flavor.

  • Asian Stir-Fries: Add chopped cilantro to stir-fries or noodle dishes for a refreshing contrast to the rich and savory flavors of soy sauce, garlic, and ginger.

  • Sandwiches and Wraps: Sprinkle cilantro leaves onto sandwiches, wraps, or burgers to add a refreshing herbal note that balances out the other ingredients.

  • Ceviche: Cilantro is a classic ingredient in ceviche, a Latin American dish of marinated raw fish or seafood, where its bright flavor complements the acidity of the citrus marinade.

  • Herbaceous Beverages: Blend cilantro into green smoothies or juices for a refreshing drink with a hit of of herbal complexity.


WAYS TO USE CULANTRO IN YOUR KITCHEN

  • Vietnamese Pho: Culantro is often used as a garnish for Vietnamese pho, a flavorful noodle soup featuring beef or chicken broth infused with spices like star anise, cinnamon, and cloves. Adding fresh culantro leaves to the soup enhances its aroma and adds a distinctive herbal note.

  • Thai Curries: Culantro leaves are sometimes used in Thai curries, such as Kaeng Ranjuan, a spicy and aromatic curry made with beef or pork. The robust flavor of culantro pairs well with the rich and complex flavors of Thai curry pastes, creating a harmonious balance in the dish.

  • Puerto Rican Pasteles: Culantro leaves are a key ingredient in the filling of Puerto Rican pasteles, which are similar to tamales. The culantro-infused filling, along with other ingredients like green olives, capers, and pork, gives pasteles their distinctive flavor and aroma.

  • Jamaican Jerk Chicken: In Jamaican cuisine, culantro is often used in jerk seasoning, a spicy and aromatic blend of herbs and spices used to marinate meats like chicken, pork, or fish. Culantro adds depth and complexity to the jerk marinade, contributing to the bold and fiery flavor of the dish.

  • Soups and Stews: Culantro leaves are frequently used to flavor soups and stews across the Caribbean and Latin America, imparting their intense herbal flavor to the broth while adding a pop of green color.

  • Rice and Beans: Culantro can be added to rice and bean dishes, such as arroz con gandules in Puerto Rican cuisine or moros y cristianos in Cuban cuisine, to enhance their flavor and aroma.

  • Fish and Seafood Dishes: Culantro pairs well with fish and seafood dishes, adding a burst of flavor and freshness. It can be used as a garnish for grilled fish, ceviche, or seafood soups and stews.

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What is the Difference Between Cilantro and Culantro?

Updated: Jun 21



Cilantro and culantro are two aromatic herbs often confused due to their similar names and general bright green. While they belong to the same botanical family and share some flavor profiles, they are distinct plants with their own unique characteristics.


Understanding the differences between cilantro and culantro can ultimately enhance the culinary experience in your kitchen and give you new ideas for flavorings. Here's a breakdown to help distinguish between the two:



APPEARANCE & TEXTURE

The first way to tell the difference is just by sight. While there may be some similarities across cilantro and culantro, appearance is not one of them.

  • Cilantro leaves are small and feathery, resembling flat-leaf parsley. They are delicate and and best used in fresh preperations like pico de gallo and guacamole which have little cooking to keep these soft leaves bright in color.

  • Culantro leaves on the other hand are elongated, lance-shaped with serrated edges and have a more robust texture. They feel more substantial and can standup to cooking.


FLAVOR PROFILE

  • Cilantro is famously loved or hated depending on whether you carry a certain gene. For some, cilantro tastes like soap, but for most, cilantro has a lovely citrusy, slightly peppery flavor with hints of parsley. It's a bright addition to a dish.

  • Culantro leaves offer a stronger, more pungent taste, often described as a blend of parsley, cilantro, and a hint of citrus.


CULTURAL USAGE

  • Cilantro is commonly used in various cuisines worldwide, including Mexican, Thai, Indian, and Middle Eastern dishes, adding freshness to salsas, curries, salads, and soups.

  • Culantro on the other hand is a wee less popular and more commonly found in Caribbean, Latin American, and Southeast Asian cuisines, where it's used in dishes like sauces and soups adding a nice intense flavor.



WAYS TO USE CILANTRO IN YOUR KITCHEN

  • Salsa and Guacamole: Cilantro adds a burst of freshness and herbaceous flavor to homemade salsas and guacamole, enhancing their taste and aroma.

  • Tacos and Burritos: Sprinkle chopped cilantro on tacos, burritos, or quesadillas for a pop of color and a refreshing herbal note that complements the savory fillings.

  • Soups and Stews: Whether it's a spicy chili, a fragrant Thai curry, or a comforting chicken soup, cilantro can be used as a garnish to brighten up the flavors and add a layer of complexity.

  • Salads: Toss a handful of cilantro leaves into salads for a fresh and zesty kick. It pairs particularly well with citrus-based dressings and crunchy vegetables like cucumber and bell peppers.

  • Rice and Grain Dishes: Garnish rice pilafs, quinoa salads, or grain bowls with chopped cilantro to add a pop of color and a burst of flavor, elevating the dish to new heights.

  • Marinades and Sauces: Blend cilantro into marinades, sauces, or pestos to infuse meats, seafood, or grilled vegetables with its bright and herbaceous flavor.

  • Asian Stir-Fries: Add chopped cilantro to stir-fries or noodle dishes for a refreshing contrast to the rich and savory flavors of soy sauce, garlic, and ginger.

  • Sandwiches and Wraps: Sprinkle cilantro leaves onto sandwiches, wraps, or burgers to add a refreshing herbal note that balances out the other ingredients.

  • Ceviche: Cilantro is a classic ingredient in ceviche, a Latin American dish of marinated raw fish or seafood, where its bright flavor complements the acidity of the citrus marinade.

  • Herbaceous Beverages: Blend cilantro into green smoothies or juices for a refreshing drink with a hit of of herbal complexity.


WAYS TO USE CULANTRO IN YOUR KITCHEN

  • Vietnamese Pho: Culantro is often used as a garnish for Vietnamese pho, a flavorful noodle soup featuring beef or chicken broth infused with spices like star anise, cinnamon, and cloves. Adding fresh culantro leaves to the soup enhances its aroma and adds a distinctive herbal note.

  • Thai Curries: Culantro leaves are sometimes used in Thai curries, such as Kaeng Ranjuan, a spicy and aromatic curry made with beef or pork. The robust flavor of culantro pairs well with the rich and complex flavors of Thai curry pastes, creating a harmonious balance in the dish.

  • Puerto Rican Pasteles: Culantro leaves are a key ingredient in the filling of Puerto Rican pasteles, which are similar to tamales. The culantro-infused filling, along with other ingredients like green olives, capers, and pork, gives pasteles their distinctive flavor and aroma.

  • Jamaican Jerk Chicken: In Jamaican cuisine, culantro is often used in jerk seasoning, a spicy and aromatic blend of herbs and spices used to marinate meats like chicken, pork, or fish. Culantro adds depth and complexity to the jerk marinade, contributing to the bold and fiery flavor of the dish.

  • Soups and Stews: Culantro leaves are frequently used to flavor soups and stews across the Caribbean and Latin America, imparting their intense herbal flavor to the broth while adding a pop of green color.

  • Rice and Beans: Culantro can be added to rice and bean dishes, such as arroz con gandules in Puerto Rican cuisine or moros y cristianos in Cuban cuisine, to enhance their flavor and aroma.

  • Fish and Seafood Dishes: Culantro pairs well with fish and seafood dishes, adding a burst of flavor and freshness. It can be used as a garnish for grilled fish, ceviche, or seafood soups and stews.

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