Cilantro vs Parsley: What’s the Difference
Except if you are a seasoned chef, spotting the subtle difference between parsley and cilantro/coriander can be a real struggle. The reason is that the two herbs are nearly identical, and picking one off the shelf with the intention of purchasing the other is a common mistake. Even online images are confusing, as both look almost exactly the same. This similarity has prompted valid questions from culinary experts who wish to know if a difference really exists between the two, and whether the flavor of a dish will be drastically affected for omitting either of them. That is why making the fine distinction between the two herbs is essential to create a genuine chimichurri or chutney, and we are yet to factor in all other dishes that benefit from these herbs. No doubt, both parsley and cilantro come with their own distinctive taste, and thus, it is not right to use cilantro as a parsley substitute or vice versa. With just a pinch of these two herbal powerhouses, any recipe will turn out differently. Now let’s proceed to further help identify the differences between the two.
Meaning Of Each Herb
The formal name for parsley is Petroselinum crispum, and its botanical family is known as Apiaceae. The herb is biannual in season, and is commonly seen in the Central Mediterranean area of Europe, and also widespread in the Mid East.
The second herb, cilantro, also belongs to the Apiaceae family with Coriandrum sativum as its botanical name. Cilantro sprouts annually and is found in Southern Europe, Northern Africa, as well as Southwestern Asia. Though they might look very much alike, these two herbs come with some subtle differences; it is not in doubt that the unique tang, as well as health benefit for both leaves, juggle up in a meal.
When it comes to physical appearance, parsley is thicker and curlier, and the leaves are small and pointed. But then, the herb also has another variety that is deceivingly closer in similarity to cilantro with leaves that are flat. However, nature will always leave a difference no matter how small; this is evident in the pronounced pointed serrations found in parsley leaves. Again, the parsley leaves that are flat come in bright green-yellow or chartreuse color.
Conversely, cilantro appear less ruffled than parsley; the leaf is flat with a three-lobed-leaf-like structure. The appearance evident in the tips of the leaves is best described as saw-toothed, and they appear more rounded and not as pointed as the parsley with flat leaves. In terms of color, it comes with a deeper shade of green, unlike parsley.
The distinctive taste of parsley completely differentiates it from cilantro. When you whiff or rub a parsley leaf, it oozes out a soft grassy aroma, and the taste is about the same. The smell in parsley comes on more pungent than those with flat leaves that comes with a strong (pepper-like) tang, but not stronger than cilantro. The parsley with curly leaves is quite bland and are mostly used for decorative purposes.
On the other hand, cilantro is well known for its soap-like smell and taste, people either love it or they can’t stand it. What’s more, the aldehyde chemicals in the cilantro give it a citrusy undertone, coupled with a blatant ting of soap-like or lotion-like scent.
When a recipe requires a garnish, then the thick, curly, ruffled parsley is what you need, but for a palpable, strong, robust, and perceptible flavor, the flat-leafed parsley will suffice. Also called Italian parsley, the flat-leafed parsley is mostly used in pasta preparation as it is known to alleviate the natural creaminess of pasta. The Italian parsley is found in other places like North America, Europe, and the Mid East, and is commonly used for dishes like stew, stock, soup, egg recipe, sauces, bouquet garni, and salad.
On the contrary, cilantro is called Chinese parsley, which makes it even more confusing. The herb is mainly used in recipes from India, Latin America, and the Middle East. Those of us that are used to the herb love its strong aroma and flavor. What’s more, Cilantro can come in handy in dished like; salsas, chutneys, soups, pickles, South African boerewors, curries, and many more. It also suffices for garnishing, thanks to the leaf’s bright emerald color.
Parsley leaf is suffused with a huge quantity of vitamin C and beta carotene that protects the body against damaging free radicals and keeps the immune system functional and strong. The B vitamins are also present and guard against cardiovascular diseases. Another vital nutritional content of parsley is a volatile oil known as myristicin, which prevents the formation of cancer-causing cells that leads to tumor formation. The leaf is also a known chemoprotective food, preventing anti-cancer drugs from touching the body’s healthy tissues. The herb is rich in oxalates reducing the risk of developing gall blabber or kidney diseases.
On its own part, cilantro comes equipped with a plethora of health benefits ranging from antiseptic, analgesic, digestive aid, to a natural stimulant. It is completely devoid of cholesterol and contains very little calories. Thus, people who consume a lot of the herb do so without entertaining any health scare. Cilantro is rich in vital minerals such as calcium – meant for the formation as well as maintenance of strong and healthy bones, potassium that works to maintain a healthy heart and blood pressure rate, iron that functions to produce the all-important RBCs, and many more.
Cilantro also aids in treating several eye problems, and promoting perfect eyesight, thanks to its high content of beta carotene and antioxidants. The herb is also a known metal detoxifier which rids the human body of heavy metals that causes health problems like cancer, heart disease, lung disease, as well as stress.
Can I Use Parsley Instead Of Cilantro?
The obvious answer to this question is a no-no since both leaves have their distinctive uses and benefit, and now, we hope that you will be able to differentiate one from the other.