Are Cilantro and Parsley Interchangeable? A Detailed Guide for Home Cooks

Hey there! As a passionate home cook and renovator myself, I know how frustrating it can be when you realize you‘re missing an ingredient called for in a recipe. You peer into your fridge or herb garden and think, "Hmm, could I use parsley instead of cilantro? They look so similar!"

While it‘s an easy mistake to make, I‘m here to clear up the differences between these two green herbs for you. After years of cooking and experimenting in my own kitchen, I‘ve got the inside scoop on when and how you can – or can‘t – swap cilantro and parsley.

Below I‘ll explain:

  • The totally different flavors of each herb
  • How to substitute them (or not) in your cooking
  • What dishes use cilantro vs. parsley best
  • Pro tips for storing and prepping them
  • Recipes to highlight each one
  • Let‘s dig in! Grab an apron and a paring knife, and come cook alongside me.

    Cilantro vs. Parsley: Their Flavors Are Nothing Alike

    I‘m sure we can agree that cilantro and parsley look similar at a glance. But tasting them is a whole different story!

    Cilantro has a strong, cool flavor that reminds me of citrus, sage and lime. Some say it‘s soapy, but I find it bright and aromatic. Cilantro adds an almost tangy punch to dishes.

    Parsley‘s taste is much more mellow, akin to fresh cut grass or green tea. It‘s earthy yet refreshing, without the bold spice that cilantro has.

    To give you a sense of how big this flavor difference is, here‘s a substitution ratio to try:

    • If a salsa recipe calls for 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, use just 1/2 tablespoon of parsley instead.

    And for parsley:

    • If a recipe wants 1/4 cup of chopped parsley, use only 1-2 tablespoons of cilantro.

    You‘ll need to adjust the amounts because the intensity isn‘t the same. Start small, then add more to suit your tastebuds.

    Now let‘s explore why cilantro and parsley shine in different cuisines and dishes…

    Cilantro Loves Mexican, Thai, Indian Cuisine

    Over the years, I‘ve learned which herbs just "go" with certain cuisines. And cilantro is a star in Mexican, Thai and Indian cooking.

    A few cilantro-based dishes I love are:

    • Pico de gallo – The cilantro lifts up the tomatoes for a killer salsa
    • Green curry – It adds brightness to rich coconut milk
    • Chimichurri sauce – Cilantro‘s punch balances the garlic and vinegar
    • Chutneys – It flavors them without overpowering spices

    Cilantro‘s strong personality is the perfect complement. You‘ll often see it used in:

    • Salsas and guacamoles
    • Curries, stir fries and noodle dishes
    • Marinades for grilled meats
    • Chutneys and raitas (yogurt dips)

    So whenever I‘m cooking Mexican, Thai or Indian food, I reach for cilantro to amplify the flavors.

    Parsley Shines in European, American Cuisine

    If I had to pick an ideal home for parsley, it would be in Mediterranean and European cooking. The herb‘s mild grassiness lets other ingredients shine while still providing freshness.

    Some classic parsley dishes are:

    • Tabbouleh – It balances the bulgur wheat and tomatoes
    • Pesto – It cools down the garlic and Parmesan
    • Chicken soup – It adds lightness without overpowering the broth
    • Roasted potatoes – It complements the garlic seasoning

    Parsley shows up often in:

    • Italian sauces, risottos and roasted meats
    • French stews, compound butters, and vinaigrettes
    • Middle Eastern salads like fattoush
    • American and European soups, stocks, gravies

    So whenever I‘m prepping these cuisines, parsley is my go-to herb for its mellowness.

    How to Store and Prep Them for Max Freshness

    To keep parsley and cilantro fresh as long as possible:

    • Store them in loose plastic bags in the fridge with a paper towel to soak up moisture. The paper towel prevents sogginess!

    • Wash the herbs right before using them. Don‘t pre-wash and let them sit.

    • Remove any thick stems before chopping – they can be tough.

    • Chop the leaves and tender stems finely. The more surface area, the more flavor!

    • Add them raw within the last 5-10 minutes of cooking. Their aroma fades with long cooking times.

    • If using as a garnish, sprinkle on the very end for a burst of color and flavor.

    Follow these steps, and you‘ll be rewarded with the most aromatic parsley and cilantro around!

    Recipe Examples Starring Each Herb

    Want to see firsthand how parsley and cilantro shine? Here are some tasty recipes where each herb is the star:

    Cilantro Recipes

    • Pico de Gallo – Dice tomatoes, onion, jalapeño and load up on the cilantro!

    • Thai Coconut Curry – Simmer chicken in coconut milk with garlic, ginger and cilantro.

    • Chimichurri Steak – Whip up a sauce of olive oil, vinegar, garlic and cilantro to top grilled steak.

    • Cilantro Chutney – Blend cilantro, garlic, spices and yogurt into a zesty dip or sandwich spread.

    Parsley Recipes

    • Tabbouleh – Toss bulgur wheat with tomato, onion, lemon juice and lots of parsley.

    • Green Goddess Salad – Make a dressing with parsley, anchovies, garlic, lemon and olive oil to top greens.

    • Parsley Compound Butter – Blend parsley, butter and lemon zest and spread over fish or steak.

    • Potatoes Au Gratin – Sprinkle parsley between layers of cheesy potatoes for freshness.

    Cook some of these and experience each herb‘s flavor in all its glory!

    The Takeaway: Cilantro and Parsley Have Different Culinary Uses

    After years of cooking, I like to think of cilantro and parsley as special tools in my kitchen toolbelt – useful for different situations, but not the same.

    Cilantro packs a citrusy punch that enhances Mexican, Thai and Indian dishes beautifully. Meanwhile, parsley has a mild grassiness perfect for Mediterranean and European cuisine. Their flavors just aren‘t interchangeable.

    However, in a pinch, small substitutions are possible. Just start with less of the swap-in herb, and adjust amounts as needed.

    The most important thing is learning when each herb shines through experience and experimentation. With the proper storage and prep, cilantro and parsley can both make your cooking burst with flavor.

    Now that you know their unique qualities inside and out, get cooking! And if you have any other kitchen substitution questions, I‘m always happy to help out.

    How useful was this post?

    Click on a star to rate it!

    Average rating 0 / 5. Vote count: 0

    No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.