Have you just found yourself mid-recipe and suddenly realized you have no coriander to complete the dish? Don’t panic!
These six coriander substitutes will work in a pinch.
Plus, we’ll take a closer look at what coriander is, what forms it is commonly used in, and dive into its intricate flavor profile so you can find the right substitute for your particular needs.
What Is Coriander?
Coriander belongs to the Apiaceae family. This popular group of plants includes other edibles such as carrots, parsley, and celery. Many popular spices, like anise, dill, and cumin, also come from this family.
In most countries around the world, the entire plant is referred to as coriander, with the seeds called specifically “coriander seed.” But in North America, the edible leafy parts of the plant are more commonly referred to as cilantro. And the seeds are known simply as coriander.
This article will focus specifically on substituting coriander seed or spice in a dish (though, we will give a couple of quick tips for substituting cilantro as well). Coriander seed has an earthy, slightly tart, and slightly sweet taste that is finished by a notable floral aroma. It’s a complex flavor that is difficult to emulate, but it’s possible to get close.
The Best Substitutes for Coriander Seed
Are you in a pinch because you need a pinch of coriander and don’t have any on hand? Here are six of the best substitutes for this unique spice.
1. Best Choice: Caraway
Caraway seed, another member of the Apiaceae family, is as close to the true flavor of coriander that you can get. It’s more nutty than earthy and has a bit of bitterness mixed into its sweetness. And it doesn’t quite get that floral taste, but a mild anise flavor fills in that gap nicely in most dishes.
This spice is less common than the others on our list, but if you happen to have it on hand, it will be your best choice for capturing the unique flavor profile of coriander.
A much more popular spice, and one you likely do have in the cupboard, is cumin.
Cumin belongs to the same family as coriander and has a few of the same characteristics. It has an earthy, slightly sweet flavor, but is warmer and sharper than coriander and caraway. It does lack that floral thing and can taste a bit bitter, but it is still your second best option.
Oregano belongs to the mint family. These dried leaves have a very different flavor profile from coriander seed but do capture some elements missing in other substitutes. It has a taste that is simultaneously sweet and spicy with highly aromatic undertones.
By mixing equal parts of oregano and cumin, you can more closely capture the complex flavor of coriander seed.
Fennel is another member of the Apiaceae family, but one that more closely aligns with anise in terms of taste than the subtler coriander. These seeds have a lively, sweet, and licorice taste. But when mixed with the sharper flavors of cumin, fennel seed help add the missing floral characteristics of its distant cousin.
5. Garam Masala
Garam masala is a spice mix commonly used in Indian cooking. It contains a variety of whole, toasted spices that have been ground down. Most commonly, garam consists of cinnamon, peppercorns, mace, cardamom, cumin, and coriander.
Because this mix contains coriander, it can be a good place to start. But know that garam masala has a very distinct curry-like flavor and can easily take over a dish. So start with just a little and add to taste.
6. Curry Powder
Like garam, curry powder is a mix of spices and is very popular in Indian cooking. It has a spicier flavor than garam and is not as sweet. Typically, curry powders contain some combination of turmeric, chili powder, ginger, pepper, cumin, and coriander.
This would be a better replacement for less-sweet savory dishes. But like garam, use curry powder in small doses because it has a very distinct and powerful flavor.
The Best Substitutes for Cilantro (Coriander Leaf)
If it is a cilantro substitute you are after, you have a few choices.
Cilantro has a fresh, citrusy, slightly spicy flavor. A close relative and fresh herb with a similar flavor profile is parsley. Parsley has more of an earthy flavor and lacks the citrus splash of cilantro, but is still your best choice. Learn more about the differences between cilantro and parsley.
If you don’t have fresh herbs on hand, dried basil or an herb mix made for chicken or fish will stand in nicely.
You’ll never be able to fully capture the complex flavors of coriander seed with another spice. But by combining similar ingredients like caraway, cumin, basil, and fennel, you can come close. Or, if you don’t have these on hand, reach for a spice mix that contains coriander like garam masala or curry.