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A lot of falafel recipe calls for both chopped coriander/cilantro and parsley. Online images look the same to me. Is there a difference between the two? Would omission of one drastically change the flavor?

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4 Answers 4

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Coriander leaf/cilantro looks VERY similar to flat leaf parsley. When I have both at the house I sometimes resort to smelling them to know which is which.

Cilantro is very strong smelling, and you'd definitely change the flavor of the dish if you left it out.

Flat leaf parsley is significantly more subtle and has a much milder flavor and scent. It is not flavorless, and in a recipe that calls for a lot of it, you'd really be missing something by leaving it out.

When you've got a recipe that calls for both parsley and cilantro, you're definitely going to be more able to taste/smell the cilantro more than parsley, but they'll both contribute different notes. If you have to leave one out, leave out the parsley, but don't try to make up the volume with more cilantro, as you may wind up overpowering your dish. Just leave the parsley out and proceed as normal.

Do not use curly leave parsley in anything--it is tough and virtually flavorless. It is ONLY a garnish and not worth wasting your time on.

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I'll just add that cilantro is not as pungent in either smell or taste when it is very fresh. But it "expires" quickly. –  Aaronut Mar 7 '12 at 2:16
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True enough, but compared to parsley, even very fresh it has a much stronger flavor and scent. –  bikeboy389 Mar 7 '12 at 2:19
    
As far as visual recognition goes, cilantro leaves are much more delicate than those of flat-leaf parsley, and have large numbers of small rounded tips. Flat-leaf parsley leaves are thicker, and have larger, often pointed lobes. –  Theodore Murdock Mar 7 '12 at 23:50
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It is worth noting that Cilantro has an unusual characteristic; depending on your genetic makeup your tasting abilities differ. For some small percentage of the population the taste of cilantro is very unpleasant, I've heard it described as soapy. I wouldn't know as I'm lucky enough to enjoy it, and I find the few things I use it in (fajitas, a few 'don' style dishes) it is wonderful and essential. –  renegade Mar 8 '12 at 15:31
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It's the fact that Coriander leaf/cilantro looks VERY similar to flat leaf parsley,I always believe that they are same.Cilantro has flatter leaves and stronger flavor and aroma while Parsley don't.

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Apart from being green they're quite different, in flavour terms at least. Coriander is deep, earthy, and almost soapy - good with hot and oily food. Parsley - flat not curled which is almost tasteless - is fresh, green and good with fish and cured meats. You can switch but the flavour of the dish will change - if falafel I'd ditch the parsley if I had to choose, but They're both important. In 'older' (pre 1960s before they discovered coriander in the UK) recipes they tended to use the two interchangeably.

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Coriander/Cilantro is also known as "Chinese Parsley"... which hints that they are similar, but not quite the same. The parsley you likely typically think of has ruffled, curly leaves and is commonly used as a garnish. Cilantro has flatter leaves and stronger flavor and aroma.

You may be able to omit the curly parsley without a drastic change in flavor, but I would recommend not skipping the Cilantro as that will certainly have an impact.

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I'm fairly certain that they have similar names because they look similar. It doesn't really indicate much about the flavor. Look at the other things in that family - I don't think you'd try to suggest they're all "similar". –  Jefromi Mar 7 '12 at 17:39
    
+1 for the Apiaceae. Who knew you could learn so much from a cooking forum? –  uncle brad Mar 8 '12 at 14:59
    
many herbs are in the "mint" family but bear little other useful similarity in terms of cuisine –  zanlok Nov 30 '12 at 18:35
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