Cilantro vs Parsley: How to Tell the Difference and Use Them Wisely

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If you’ve ever confused cilantro vs parsley, you’re not alone. These two herbs are often mistaken for each other, especially when they’re chopped and mixed in salads, sauces, or soups. But while they may look similar, they have distinct flavors, aromas, and uses that set them apart.

In this article, you’ll discover everything you need to know about cilantro and parsley, including:

  • What are cilantro and parsley, and where do they come from?
  • How to tell cilantro and parsley apart by their appearance, smell, and taste
  • How to store and preserve cilantro and parsley for longer freshness
  • How to use cilantro and parsley in different cuisines and dishes
  • What are the health benefits and risks of cilantro and parsley
  • How to grow your own cilantro and parsley at home

By the end of this article, you’ll be able to confidently identify, choose, and use cilantro and parsley in your cooking. You’ll also learn some tips and tricks to make the most of these versatile herbs.

What are cilantro and parsley?

Cilantro and parsley are both leafy green herbs that belong to the same botanical family, Apiaceae. They are widely used in various cuisines around the world, especially in Asian, Latin American, Mediterranean, and Middle Eastern dishes.

  • Cilantro (Coriandrum sativum) is also known as coriander or Chinese parsley. It is native to southern Europe, northern Africa, and southwestern Asia. It has been cultivated for thousands of years and is one of the oldest spices in the world. Cilantro refers to the fresh leaves and stems of the plant, while coriander refers to the dried seeds that are used as a spice.
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  • Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) is native to the Mediterranean region and has been cultivated since ancient times. It was used by the Greeks and Romans as a medicinal plant, a garnish, and a symbol of victory. Parsley comes in two main varieties: curly leaf parsley, which has small, curly leaves and a mild flavor; and flat leaf parsley, which has larger, flat leaves and a stronger flavor.
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How to tell cilantro vs parsley apart

The easiest way to tell cilantro and parsley apart is by smelling them. Cilantro has a strong, citrusy aroma that some people love and some people hate. Parsley has a fresh, grassy scent that is more subtle and pleasant.

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  1. You can also look at their leaves to spot some differences. Cilantro leaves are more rounded and have jagged edges. Parsley leaves are more pointed and have smooth edges. Cilantro stems are thinner and softer than parsley stems, which are thicker and sturdier.
  1. Another way to tell cilantro and parsley apart is by tasting them. Cilantro has a distinctive flavor that is tangy, spicy, and slightly bitter. Some people describe it as soapy or metallic. Parsley has a milder flavor that is fresh, herbal, and slightly peppery.

Here’s a table that summarizes the main differences between cilantro and parsley:

Flavor ProfileZesty, citrusyMilder, slightly peppery
AppearanceDelicate, feathery, bright greenLush, deep green, flat leaves
Culinary UsesMexican, Indian, Thai cuisinesMediterranean, European cuisines
Nutritional ValueRich in vitamins A, C, KRich in vitamin K, vitamin C
Health BenefitsHeavy metal detoxification, antioxidant, digestive aidAnti-inflammatory, bone health, immune boost
Differences between cilantro and parsley

How to store cilantro and parsley

Cilantro and parsley are best used fresh, but they can also be stored for later use. Here are some tips on how to store cilantro and parsley:

  • To store them in the fridge, wash them well and pat them dry with paper towels. Trim off the bottom ends of the stems and place them in a glass jar with some water. Cover the jar loosely with a plastic bag or wrap. Change the water every few days and use them within a week or two.
  • To store them in the freezer, wash them well and pat them dry with paper towels. Chop them finely or coarsely depending on your preference. Place them in an ice cube tray or a freezer bag with some water or oil. Freeze them until solid and then transfer them to an airtight container or bag. Use them within six months.
  • To dry them for longer storage, wash them well and pat them dry with paper towels. Tie them in small bunches with twine or rubber bands. Hang them upside down in a warm, dry place away from direct sunlight until they are completely dry. You can also dry them in an oven at low temperature or in a dehydrator. Store them in an airtight container or bag away from heat and light. Use them within a year.

How to use cilantro and parsley

Cilantro and parsley are both versatile herbs that can be used in a variety of dishes. Here are some ideas on how to use cilantro and parsley:

Use cilantro to add a burst of flavor to salads, salsas, dips, soups, curries, stir-fries, rice dishes, tacos, burritos, and more. Cilantro pairs well with lime, garlic, ginger, chili, cumin, coriander, and coconut.

Use parsley to add a touch of freshness and color to salads, dressings, sauces, soups, stews, roasts, meatballs, fish dishes, pasta dishes, and more. Parsley pairs well with lemon, garlic, onion, olive oil, vinegar, and cheese.

Make a delicious herb sauce with cilantro or parsley by blending them with garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper, and other spices or herbs of your choice. You can also add some nuts, cheese, yogurt, or sour cream for extra creaminess. Use the sauce as a dip, dressing, marinade, or topping for your favorite dishes.

Make a refreshing herb tea with cilantro or parsley by steeping them in hot water for about 10 minutes. You can also add some honey, lemon juice, ginger, or mint for extra flavor and health benefits. Drink the tea hot or cold to enjoy its soothing and cleansing effects.

What are the health benefits and risks of cilantro and parsley

Cilantro and parsley are not only tasty but also healthy. They are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals that can benefit your health in various ways. Here are some of the health benefits and risks of cilantro and parsley:

  • Cilantro may help lower blood sugar levels by stimulating insulin secretion and improving glucose metabolism. It may also help lower cholesterol levels by reducing the absorption of dietary fat and increasing the excretion of bile acids.
  • Parsley may help protect against kidney stones by increasing urine volume and preventing the formation of calcium oxalate crystals. It may also help prevent urinary tract infections by inhibiting the growth of bacteria that cause them.
  • Cilantro and parsley may help boost your immune system by providing vitamin C, which is essential for the production and function of white blood cells. They may also help fight inflammation and infection by providing antioxidants that scavenge free radicals and modulate inflammatory pathways.
  • Cilantro and parsley may help detoxify your body by stimulating the liver and kidneys to eliminate toxins and waste products. They may also help chelate heavy metals like mercury and lead from your tissues and blood.
  • Cilantro and parsley may help improve your digestion by stimulating the production of digestive enzymes and bile. They may also help relieve digestive problems like bloating, gas, nausea, indigestion, and constipation.

Potential Allergic Reactions to Cilantro and Parsley

  • Cilantro and parsley may have some risks for certain people. Some people may be allergic to cilantro or parsley or their components. Symptoms of an allergic reaction may include itching, swelling, hives, rash, difficulty breathing, or anaphylaxis. If you experience any of these symptoms after eating cilantro or parsley, seek medical attention immediately.
  • Some people may have a genetic variation that makes them perceive cilantro as soapy or unpleasant. This is due to a variation in a gene called OR6A2 that affects the olfactory receptors that detect aldehydes in cilantro. If you don’t like the taste or smell of cilantro, you can try substituting it with parsley or other herbs that have similar flavors.
  • Some people may need to limit their intake of cilantro or parsley if they have certain medical conditions or take certain medications. For example,
  1. People with kidney disease or gout should avoid eating too much cilantro or parsley because they contain oxalates that can worsen these conditions.
  2. People with bleeding disorders or who take blood thinners should avoid eating too much cilantro or parsley because they contain coumarins that can increase the risk of bleeding.
  3. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid eating too much cilantro or parsley because they contain compounds that can affect hormone levels or cause uterine contractions.

How to grow your own cilantro and parsley at home

Growing your own cilantro and parsley at home can be a fun and rewarding hobby. You can enjoy fresh herbs anytime you want without spending money or worrying about pesticides or additives. Here are some tips on how to grow your own cilantro and parsley at home:

Choose a sunny spot for your herb garden

Cilantro and parsley need at least six hours of direct sunlight per day to thrive. You can grow them indoors in pots near a window or outdoors in containers or raised beds.

Prepare the soil for your herb garden

Cilantro and parsley prefer well-drained soil that is rich in organic matter. You can improve the quality of your soil by adding compost or manure before planting. You can also use potting mix or soilless mix if you’re growing them in pots.

Sow the seeds of cilantro and parsley

in your herb garden. Cilantro and parsley are both easy to grow from seeds. You can sow them directly in the soil or start them indoors and transplant them later. Sow the seeds about 1/4 inch deep and 2 inches apart. Keep the soil moist but not soggy until the seeds germinate, which may take up to three weeks.

Thin out the seedlings of cilantro and parsley

Once the seedlings have sprouted, you can thin them out to give them more space to grow. Leave about 6 inches between each plant. You can use the thinned-out seedlings as microgreens or add them to salads or soups.

Water and fertilize your cilantro and parsley

Cilantro and parsley need regular watering to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. Water them deeply once or twice a week, depending on the weather and the type of soil. You can also fertilize them once a month with a balanced organic fertilizer or compost tea to boost their growth and flavor.

Harvest and enjoy your cilantro and parsley

You can start harvesting cilantro and parsley leaves when they are about 4 inches tall. Cut off the outer leaves first and leave the inner ones to grow. You can harvest cilantro and parsley throughout the growing season, but be aware that cilantro tends to bolt (flower and produce seeds) quickly in hot weather, which makes the leaves bitter.

You can prevent bolting by pinching off the flower buds or planting new seeds every few weeks. You can also harvest the coriander seeds when they turn brown and dry.

Store your cilantro and parsley

You can store fresh cilantro and parsley leaves in the fridge, freezer, or dryer, as explained earlier in this article. You can also make herb sauces, teas, or pestos with them and store them in jars or containers.


In the cilantro vs parsley debate, both herbs bring unique flavors and benefits to your table. Cilantro’s zesty and citrusy notes elevate dishes like salsas and curries, while parsley’s mild, peppery taste complements Mediterranean and European cuisine. Moreover, these herbs offer various health advantages, making them valuable additions to your diet. So, whether you’re cooking up a storm in the kitchen or simply garnishing your favorite dishes, cilantro and parsley are here to add a burst of flavor and a dash of health to your culinary adventures.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the main difference between cilantro and parsley?

Cilantro has a zesty, citrusy flavor, while parsley offers a milder, slightly peppery taste with earthy undertones.

Can I use cilantro and parsley interchangeably in recipes?

While they have different flavor profiles, you can substitute one for the other in a pinch, but be prepared for a slight change in taste.

Are there any potential health risks associated with cilantro or parsley consumption?

Both herbs are generally safe when consumed in moderation. However, some individuals may be allergic to cilantro, experiencing symptoms like itching or rashes. Parsley may interact with certain medications, so consult with a healthcare professional if you have concerns.

How should I store cilantro and parsley to keep them fresh?

To prolong their freshness, store cilantro and parsley in the refrigerator. Place them in a glass of water, cover with a plastic bag, and change the water every few days.

Can pregnant women consume cilantro and parsley?

Pregnant women should consume these herbs in moderation. Cilantro and parsley are nutritious but should be part of a balanced diet during pregnancy.

Which herb should I choose for garnishing my dishes?

If you prefer a bold and zesty flavor, opt for cilantro. For a milder touch, parsley is the way to go.

I hope this article has helped you learn more about cilantro and parsley and how to grow them at home. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to leave them below.

Message: Thank you for reading this article on cilantro vs parsley. I hope you found it informative and useful. If you liked it, please share it with your friends and family who might also be interested in this topic. And don’t forget to check out my other articles on various topics related to herbs, spices, cooking, gardening, health, and more. Happy growing!

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Yaseen Zaman

Yaseen Zaman

A dedicated enthusiast and expert in the art of Bonsai. My journey with these miniature wonders of nature began many years ago, and it has since transformed into a profound passion that I wish to share with others. Throughout my blog, you will discover the depth of my knowledge and my unique insights into the cultivation and care of Bonsai trees. From shaping techniques to watering tips, expect a treasure trove of Bonsai wisdom that I've gathered over the years. Join me as we delve into the intricate world of Bonsai, celebrating both their aesthetic beauty and the peace they bring to our lives.

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