Cilantro is a divisive herb, which is adored by some and detested by others. While with most other herbs and ingredients, this depends on personal taste and preferences, there is an actual biological reason why some people, like the famous Julia Child, absolutely hate it.
The reason lies in the genetic code of some humans. This specific gene, known as the OR6A2 gene, causes the person’s taste receptors to pick up the particular scent of a chemical present in soaps and cilantro. This is why you may have heard some people claiming that cilantro tastes like soap.
So, if you are one of these people, or you simply have run out of cilantro, you may be wondering what to use as a replacement for it when preparing fresh and vibrant salsa or other dishes.
Luckily, there are some very suitable substitutes for cilantro in salsa and other recipes which you can use.
Read on to find out more about these alternatives for cilantro and how to use each of them in recipes that call for its use.
What Exactly is Cilantro?
Cilantro is the name of the leaves of the Coriandrum Sativum plant. This herb is named differently in different countries.
In Spanish, cilantro is the name of coriander leaves. In the USA, it is the name of the leaves and the stalks of the coriander plant.
Coriander is the name used for the dried seeds from the same plant.
Fresh coriander is another name for cilantro. It is often used for adding flavor and for spicing salsa and many other dishes.
It is viral in Latin American and South Asian cuisine and is an essential ingredient for making guacamole, salsa, or as a garnish for salads and other foods.
Coriander is used in South Asian and Indian cuisine to make curries, meat rubs, stews, etc. The ground coriander seeds are also included in various other recipes worldwide.
The main difference between coriander and cilantro is that the former is commonly used for flavoring warm and cooked dishes. In contrast, coriander is more suitable for spicing and garnishing fresh foods.
There is a difference in the nutrient profiles of the two as well.
Cilantro is richer in vitamins, while coriander is an excellent source of minerals.
Here are the top best replacements for cilantro for making salsa or for preparing other dishes.
The Top Best Substitutes for Cilantro for Salsa
If you don’t like cilantro or don’t have any left, then parsley is an excellent alternative product to use instead. This is particularly true if you are making salsa, guacamole, or other fresh foods and dips.
Parsley is readily available and looks very similar to cilantro. It also tastes a bit like it but is slightly bitterer and has a peppery hint.
On the other hand, parsley is not as citrusy as cilantro, but you can easily compensate and achieve that zesty taste of the salsa by adding some lemon or lime juice.
While parsley can taste relatively flat on its own, once added to a fresh or cooked dish, it will help boost its flavor.
Adding some fresh mint to the salsa will add even more freshness to it.
Mint is a pretty good replacement for cilantro, especially when making salsa which is traditionally quite spicy. The reason is that the menthol in the mint will help cool down the heat when you are eating the spicy salsa.
It is sweeter than cilantro and is a great substitute option when making mango-based salsa.
You can add some ground coriander to the salsa if you want to replicate the citrusy and warm flavor of cilantro as well. And finish it up with some lime juice.
While basil is the key ingredient for pesto sauce, it can work well as a cilantro replacement for salsa too.
Fresh basil is fresh like mint and has a peppery aftertaste like parsley. Plus, it also adds some sweetness and a hint of citruses to the salsa too.
Basil is especially suitable as an alternative to cilantro when making mango or other fruit salsas.
While chives taste quite different than cilantro, they are an excellent alternative to use when preparing salsa. This is due to their freshness and their mildly hot onion and garlic-like flavor.
Since salsa already contains both onions and garlic, the chives will help boost their flavor further. You can add some avocado for a nice smooth balance.
Plus, their fresh green color will make the salsa look even more beautiful and delicious.
5. Green Onions
Green onions are another great substitute for cilantro when making salsa for the same reasons as fresh chives are.
You can use the greens and add the bulb of the green onions to your salsa because the greens themselves are much milder in taste than chives.
For the best results, put a dab of sour cream in the salsa. The two go well together, and the tart sour cream will help balance out the stronger flavor of the onions.
This feathery green herb is yet another excellent substitute for cilantro when preparing salsa.
You can use it instead of cilantro, both for sour and spicy and for sweet and spicy salsas. Remember to add some apple cider vinegar to the salsa when using dill instead of cilantro for the best results.
Dill also goes well with mustard seeds or mustard powder so that you can add a pinch or two to your salsa too.
7. Carrot Greens
The green tops of carrots are usually thrown away, which is a shame. They are actually edible and healthy and resemble parsley in taste.
The difference is that the carrot greens also have a carroty and grassy taste to them.
If you are using the underutilized veggies as a replacement for cilantro, keep in mind that they are bitterer, so it is better to serve the salsa with chicken, roast potatoes, corn on a cob, or other starchy, sweet, or simple foods.
Summary for the Best Substitutes for Cilantro When Making Salsa
Here is a summary of all top 7 alternatives for cilantro in salsa, as well as their primary flavors and the ingredients to use alongside them when making salsa:
Overview of the Cilantro Substitutes
Parsley – slightly peppery and bitter, grassy and fresh. Pairs well with some freshly squeezed lemon juice and with the other herbs on our list
Mint – sweet with a long-lasting coolness. Works well with some ground coriander and with a squeeze of lime juice
Basil – sweet, citrusy with a hint of mint. Pairs well with fruits such as mango, peaches, pineapple, kiwi, oranges, or strawberries
Chives – garlic and onion flavor. Combines well with some avocado
Green onions – a mild garlic and onion flavor. Add some sour cream for added tanginess. Don’t have green onion on hand? Check our list of the best green onion substitutes.
Guide For Saving Food: How To Store Green Onions
Dill – grassy and bright with a citrusy undertone. Excellent when combined with apple cider vinegar or ground mustard
Carrot greens – grassy, earthy, carrot, and parsley-like. Add roast potatoes, corn on the cob, or other sweet, starchy ingredients
Is coriander the same as cilantro?
In some parts of the world, cilantro is better known as fresh coriander. The two come from the same plant.
In North America, cilantro is the name for the stems and leaves of the plant, which grows from the coriander seeds.
Coriander is the name of the seeds of the same plant.
Does Cilantro Taste like Coriander?
While the two come from the same coriander plant and have similarities, there are some differences in the flavors of the two.
Cilantro is green, fresh with a citrusy taste and a mildly bitter undertone. It is a very fragrant herb.
Coriander is used more often for cooked dishes and adds nuttiness and warmth to the flavors. They, too, provide a hint of citrus to the food.
If you are one of the many humans who have a special gene making cilantro taste soap-like, then you may or may not hate coriander too.
In fact, some people with this genetic trait actually love the taste of coriander and detest the flavor of cilantro.
What Is a Suitable Replacement for Ground Coriander?
Even though they come from the same plant, cilantro is not a suitable alternative to coriander.
In fact, the two are used in very different types of dishes.
Cumin is a better substitute for coriander and will add some smokiness to the dish.
Related: Cumin Substitute: The 6 Alternatives Worth Giving A Try
Fennel, too, is an excellent replacement for ground coriander but is a tad sweeter than it.