Coriander (Coriandrum sativum) is an annual herb in the family
Apiaceae. Coriander is native to southern Europe and North Africa to
southwestern Asia. It is a soft, hairless plant growing to 50
centimetres (20 in) tall. The leaves are variable in shape, broadly
lobed at the base of the plant, and slender and feathery higher on
the flowering stems. The flowers are borne in small umbels, white or
very pale pink, asymmetrical, with the petals pointing away from the
center of the umbel longer (5–6 mm) than those pointing towards it
(only 1–3 mm long). The fruit is a globular dry schizocarp 3–5 mm
diameter. In American culinary usage, the fruits ("seeds") are
generally referred to as coriander, the leaves as cilantro.
Coriander leaves, raw Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 95 kJ (23 kcal)
Carbohydrates 4 g
- Dietary fiber 3 g
Fat 0.5 g
Protein 2 g
Vitamin A equiv. 337 μg (42%)
Vitamin C 27 mg (33%)
Percentages are relative to US recommendations for adults.
First attested in English late 14th century, the word coriander
derives from the Old French "coriandre", which comes from Latin
coriandrum, in turn from Greek κορίαννον (koriannon). The earliest
attested form of the word is the Mycenaean Greek ko-ri-ja-da-na
(written in Linear B syllabic script, reconstructed as koriadnon),
similar to the name of Minos' daughter Ariadne, and it is plain how
this might later evolve to koriannon or koriandron.
All parts of the plant are edible, but the fresh leaves
(cilantro) and the dried seeds are the parts most commonly used in
cooking. Coriander is common in Middle Eastern, Central Asian,
Mediterranean, Indian, South Asian, Mexican, Texan, Latin American,
Chinese, African, Southeast Asian and Scandinavian cuisine.
The leaves are variously referred to as coriander leaves, fresh
coriander, Chinese parsley, cilantro (in America, from the Spanish
for the plant).
Fresh coriander leaves, also known as Chinese parsley or cilantro
It should not be confused with Culantro (Eryngium foetidum L.)
which is a close relative to coriander (Coriandrum sativum L.) but
has a distinctly different appearance, a much more potent volatile
leaf oil and a stronger smell.
The leaves have a different taste from the seeds, with citrus
overtones. Some perceive an unpleasant "soapy" taste or a rank smell
and avoid the leaves. The flavours have also been compared to those
of the stink bug, and similar chemical groups are involved (aldehydes).
Belief that aversion is genetically determined may arise from the
known genetic variation in taste perception of the synthetic
chemical phenylthiocarbamide; however, no specific link has been
established between coriander and a bitter taste perception gene.
The fresh leaves are an ingredient in many South Asian foods such
as chutneys and salads), in Chinese dishes, in Mexican cooking,
particularly in salsa and guacamole and as a garnish, and in salads
in Russia and other CIS countries. Chopped coriander leaves are a
garnish on Indian dishes such as dal. As heat diminishes their
flavor, coriander leaves are often used raw or added to the dish
immediately before serving. In Indian and Central Asian recipes,
coriander leaves are used in large amounts and cooked until the
flavor diminishes. The leaves spoil quickly when removed from the
plant, and lose their aroma when dried or frozen.
The dry fruits are known as coriander or coriandi seeds. In India
they are called dhania. The word coriander in food preparation may
refer solely to these seeds (as a spice), rather than to the plant
itself. The seeds have a lemony citrus flavour when crushed, due to
terpenes linalool and pinene. It is described as warm, nutty, spicy,
The variety vulgare or macrocarpum has a fruit diameter of 3–5 mm
while var. microcarpum fruits have a diameter of 1.5–3 mm. Large
fruited types are grown mainly by tropical and subtropical
countries, e.g. Morocco, India and Australia and contain a low
volatile oil content (0.1-0.4%). They are used extensively for
grinding and blending purposes in the spice trade. Types with
smaller fruit are produced in temperate regions and usually have a
volatile oil content of around 0.4-1.8%, and are therefore highly
valued as a raw material for the preparation of essential oil.
It is commonly found both as whole dried seeds and in ground
form. Seeds can be roasted or heated on a dry pan briefly before
grinding to enhance and alter the aroma. Ground coriander seed loses
flavor quickly in storage and is best ground fresh.
Coriander seed is a spice in garam masala and Indian curries,
which often employ the ground fruits in generous amounts together
with cumin. It acts as a thickener. Roasted coriander seeds, called
dhana dal, are eaten as a snack. It is the main ingredient of the
two south Indian dishes: sambhar and rasam. Coriander seeds are
boiled with water and drunk as indigenous medicine for colds.
Flowers of Coriandrum sativum
Outside of Asia, coriander seed is used for pickling vegetables,
and making sausages in Germany and South Africa (see boerewors). In
Russia and Central Europe coriander seed is an occasional ingredient
in rye bread as an alternative to caraway. Coriander seeds are used
in European cuisine today, though they were more important in former
Coriander seeds are used in brewing certain styles of beer,
particularly some Belgian wheat beers. The coriander seeds are
used with orange peel to add a citrus character.
Coriander roots have a deeper, more intense flavor than the
leaves. They are used in a variety of Asian cuisines. They are
commonly used in Thai dishes, including soups and curry pastes.
These herbs are used where they grow in much the same way as
coriander is used.
Eryngium foetidum has a similar taste and is also known as
culantro. Found in South America.
Persicaria odorata is commonly called Vietnamese coriander, or rau
răm. The leaves have a similar odour and flavour to coriander. It is
a member of the Polygonaceae, or Buckwheat Family.
Papaloquelite is one common name for Porophyllum ruderale subsp.
macrocephalum, a member of the Compositae or Asteraceae, the
Sunflower Family. This species is found growing wild from Texas to
Health effects and medicinal uses
Coriander, like many spices, contains antioxidants, which can
delay or prevent the spoilage of food seasoned with this spice. A
study found both the leaves and seed to contain antioxidants, but
the leaves were found to have a stronger effect.
Chemicals derived from coriander leaves were found to have
antibacterial activity against Salmonella choleraesuis, and this
activity was found to be caused in part by these chemicals acting as
Coriander has been used as a folk medicine for the relief of
anxiety and insomnia in Iran. Experiments in mice support its use as
an anxiolytic. Coriander seeds are used in traditional Indian
medicine as a diuretic by boiling equal amounts of coriander seeds
and cumin seeds, then cooling and consuming the resulting liquid. In
holistic and traditional medicine, it is used as a carminative and
as a digestive aid.
Coriander has been documented as a traditional treatment for
diabetes. A study on mice found that coriander extract had both
insulin-releasing and insulin-like activity.
Coriander seeds were found in a study on rats to have a
significant hypolipidemic effect, resulting in lowering of levels of
total cholesterol and triglycerides, and increasing levels of
high-density lipoprotein. This effect appeared to be caused by
increasing synthesis of bile by the liver and increasing the
breakdown of cholesterol into other compounds.
Coriander juice (mixed with turmeric powder or mint juice) is
used as a treatment for acne, applied to the face in the manner of
Coriander leaves (Cilantro) contain aldehydes, which are also
found in soaps and lotions, leading some to complain of a mild to
highly irritating soapy flavor. There appears to be a genetic
component to the detection of "soapy" versus "herby" tastes.
Coriander can produce an allergic reaction in some people.