Cooking with Cilantro

No dish would be complete without a dash of this or a sprig of that. Herbs and spices are what give food its zest and flavor and can transform a simple dish into a culinary delight. An Instacart study based on 2022 data ranked cilantro as the top herbed purchased in America. Other top contenders were dried garlic, flat leaf parsley, dried onion, cinnamon, thyme, dried basil and paprika. 

Cilantro, a staple in dishes across the country and throughout the world, is extremely versatile and can be used in so many ways. Cilantro adds excellent flavor to salads, salsa, chutney, pesto, sauces, dips, and dressings. Cilantro pairs well with a wide variety of foods. For example, this easy to prepare peach and mango salsa transforms a simple grilled chicken breast, offering a burst of flavor in each and every bite.

Cilantro comes from the same plant as coriander and the entire plant is edible. The herb resembles flat leaf parsley with delicate, lacy green leaves. Cilantro has a pungent taste with a mix of citrusy and pepper flavor. For some individuals, the popular herb tastes like soap. This is due to a genetic receptor that enhances the ability to taste the naturally occurring aldehydes in the cilantro leaf. Cilantro is low in calories and is packed with an impressive array of nutrients. It contains many phytonutrients and plant-based compounds that have significant health promoting properties. 

This flavorful guacamole will light up your taste buds with not only cilantro, but a surprise touch of diced apple. Serve with your favorite chips or enjoy as a topping for chili or tacos. Speaking of tacos, these crispy baja fish tacos offer a nice change from traditional beef options. The red cabbage slaw adds a bold crunch and pairs well with these deliciously light tacos. 

Tandoori chicken is one of the most popular dishes in Indian cuisine. This traditional Indian favorite is seared on the grill to lock in the wonderful spice flavors, then baked just to cook it through.

This steak salad is loaded with the bright flavors of spring produce, including cilantro, basil, and mint. Let the steak soak up the flavors of a lively garlic ginger marinade while the salad is being prepped. 

For a fun twist, this Hawaiian pizza with mango and pineapple, complimented with onions, pepper and fresh cilantro, will surely become a family fav. 

When purchasing cilantro, choose leaves that are green and aromatic. To extend the life of the herb, wash just prior to use. Store cilantro in the fridge with the stems in a glass of water. When ready to use the herb, simply pick off the leaves, discard the stems, and chop to the desired size.

Cilantro can also be frozen. Just blanch the herb in boiling water, pat it dry, and transfer the leaves to a freezer-safe bag. Be sure to spread the leaves out thinly in the bag so they lay flat. This will allow a quick grab of what’s needed. Another great way to store this herb is to blend it with olive oil in a blender and freeze the mixture in ice cube trays.

When cooking with fresh cilantro, it is typically added just before a dish is served or as a garnish on top because heat diminishes its flavor. However, in many Indian and Central Asian recipes, large amounts of cilantro are cooked in the dish to add depth of flavor. 

Dried cilantro is an option when fresh cilantro is not readily available. The dried herb provides a more concentrated flavor that is suitable for milder, more subtle cilantro flavor. If a recipe calls for 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, use 2 tablespoons of the dried herb instead.

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