Home Lifestyle Don’t mistake cilantro for culantro! Here is how to spot the difference…

Don’t mistake cilantro for culantro! Here is how to spot the difference…

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These aromatic greens have similar names and flavours but feature key differences.

While both cilantro and culantro belong to the Apiaceae family of aromatic, flowering plants, they have several dissimilarities. Picture: Pexels/Nadin Sh

IN THE realm of herbs and spices, names can sometimes be misleading. Take, for instance, cilantro and culantro. Despite their similar names and related flavour profiles, these two plants are quite different.

For those unfamiliar with the specifics, it is easy to confuse the two or assume they are the same.

Below we will delve into the similarities and differences between culantro and cilantro, demystifying any confusion surrounding these two aromatic herbs.

What’s the difference between the two herbs?

Culantro is a herb native to Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and Latin America but is cultivated worldwide, mainly in the tropics.

It is also known as Mexican coriander. Culantro is a versatile herb of unique flavour and aroma that adds depth and complexity to many dishes.

Cilantro, on the other hand, is thought to have originated in the Mediterranean and Asia and is popular in Indian and Arabic cooking. ​​

While both belong to the Apiaceae family of aromatic, flowering plants, which also include carrots, parsley, dill, celery, chervil, lovage, and fennel, they have several dissimilarities.

While both cilantro and culantro belong to the Apiaceae family of aromatic, flowering plants, they have several dissimilarities. Picture: Pexels/Nadin Sh

The most obvious difference between cilantro and culantro lies in their appearance. Cilantro has rounded, feather-like leaves that are soft and scalloped, while culantro’s long leaves are thick, tough, and serrated around the edges.

Culantro is also darker and glossier than cilantro and grows on plants that can reach up to two feet tall, larger than those of cilantro. They also differ in their respective flavours and aromas.

Cilantro offers a unique flavour profile, often described as bright and citrusy, with a touch of sweetness. Its aroma is a delicate mix of lemony and slightly peppery. Cilantro’s subtle undertones can be described as earthy and somewhat soapy, a quality attributed to the aldehyde compounds present in the herb.

When processing, the fresh leaves provide the most vibrant flavour and aroma, while the dried version tends to lose some intensity.

In contrast, culantro boasts a more robust flavour, often characterised as a heartier, more intense version of cilantro. Its taste is a complex blend of savoury, slightly bitter, and spicy.

Culantro’s aroma is a rich and fragrant combination of herbal and earthy notes. The herb’s flavour and aroma remain potent in various forms, whether fresh, dried, or powdered, making it incredibly versatile.

For inspiration on how to use one of these herbs, below is a quick and easy sorghum salad with cucumber, cilantro and cumin seed recipe by Ellie Krieger, a dietitian and nutritionist, that you can try at home.

Sorghum salad with cucumber, cilantro, and cumin seed. Picture: Supplied

Sorghum salad with cucumber, cilantro, and cumin seed

Serves: 4 to 6

Ingredients

2 tsp cumin seed

2 cups cooked sorghum, chilled or at room temperature

1 medium English cucumber, diced (about 1½ cups; peeled or unpeeled)

½ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

1 scallion (trimmed), white and light-green parts thinly sliced

3 tbsp canola or other neutral-tasting oil

½ tsp finely grated lime zest

1½ tbs lime juice (from 2 limes)

2 tsp honey

¼ tsp salt

⅛ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Method

Toast the cumin seed in a small skillet over medium heat for about 2 minutes, shaking the pan to avoid scorching, until they are fragrant and a shade darker.

Transfer the seeds to a cutting board; use the flat edge of a large knife to crush the seeds a bit.

Combine the cooked sorghum, cucumber, cilantro, scallion, and the toasted, crushed cumin seed in a mixing bowl.

Whisk together the oil, lime zest juice, honey, salt, and pepper in a liquid measuring cup to form an emulsified dressing.

Pour over the salad mixture and toss to coat evenly.

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