Parsley vs cilantro: what’s the difference between these fresh herbs? Can you substitute one for the other? Here’s the breakdown.

Parsley vs cilantro

Parsley vs cilantro: what’s the difference? These two fresh herbs look very similar, but the flavors are very different! In fact, we admit: we’ve accidentally bought the wrong one at the store before. But pico de gallo doesn’t work with parsley, just as tabbouleh doesn’t work with cilantro! Here’s a break down on the differences between these herbs and when you can use them as substitutes.

Parsley vs cilantro: the differences

What’s the exact difference between the two? Here’s the difference between these similar looking herbs:

  • Parsley is an herb with a clean, peppery flavor and subtly bitter undertone. It’s often used in Mediterranean cuisine and has a vibrant green color. There are two types of parsley: curly parsley has curly leaves and Italian parsley has dark green, flat leaves. Italian parsley is the variety that’s most often confused with cilantro.
  • Cilantro, also known as coriander, is a fresh herb with a fresh, citrusy flavor. It’s often used in Latin American, North African, Caribbean, and Asian cuisine. It’s an herb that can be polarizing, though. Some people claim it tastes like soap (there’s even a genetic trait that causes an aversion).
How to cut cilantro

Parsley vs cilantro: how to tell them apart

When you’re at the store, it can be difficult to tell the difference between parsley vs cilantro. Here’s what to do:

  • Look at the leaf shape. Cilantro has a rounder leaf, with jagged edges (see the photo above). Parsley has a pointier leaf shape (see the first photo).
  • Smell them. Here’s the easier way to tell apart parsley vs cilantro when you’re at the grocery store: smell them! Cilantro has a very strong smell, with almost a metallic or soapy finish to it. It’s the easiest to recognize (it might smell like salsa!). The aroma of parsley is subtler and more grassy.

Can you substitute one for the other?

Not usually, but in some cases you can! Here’s the rule of thumb when using parsley vs cilantro:

  • Parsley is generally used in Mediterranean cuisine. You’ll want to use the real thing if you’re making a tabbouleh, garnishing garlic bread or potato salad, etc.
  • Cilantro is often used in Latin American, North African, and Southeast Asian cuisines. It’s often combined with lime like in Cilantro Lime Sauce and Cilantro Lime Shrimp, or in Salsa Fresca.
  • When can you substitute one for the other? You’ll have to make a judgement call. If it’s a baked fish or a fresh vegetable salad that’s garnished with parsley, you could likely use cilantro instead. But please don’t use parsley in salsa or to garnish your tacos!

What recipes can you make with parsley?

There are so many ways to use parsley in recipes! Try it in:

Plus, here’s what to substitute for parsley.

What recipes can you make with cilantro?

There are many ways to use cilantro in recipes as well. Some ideas:

Plus, here’s what to substitute for cilantro.

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Cilantro lime dressing

Creamy Cilantro Dressing


  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: ¾ cup 1x
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

This creamy cilantro dressing tastes incredible! It takes just 5 minutes and you’ll want to use it on everything: salads, tacos, fries, and more.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves and tender stems, lightly packed
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt*
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • ½ teaspoon maple syrup or honey
  • ½ teaspoon each garlic powder and onion powder
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Place all ingredients in a standard, small or immersion blender and blend for several minutes until pureed and creamy, stopping and scraping down the bowl as needed. (If using a standard blender, you’ll need to stop and scrape often.) Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 1 week. Bring to room temperature prior to serving.
  • Category: Sauce
  • Method: Blended
  • Cuisine: American

Keywords: Parsley vs cilantro

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you'll want to make again and again.

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