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I have several friends with the soap gene (cilantro tastes like soap to them), my father's allergic (it gives him a headache) and because of a lifetime of avoiding the stuff, I find cilantro overwhelming in just about everything.

Typically, I substitute parsley, but sometimes it still feels like the dish is missing something. Are there other good substitutes for cilantro, either individual herbs or combinations?

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Yeah, parsley seems like more of a visual substitute than a flavor substitute. – Jefromi Sep 10 '10 at 18:16
Soap is far from an adequate description for how foul it tastes to me...but I won't suggest a substitution that would do it justice by my tastebuds. ;^) – Ecnerwal Oct 24 at 0:10

5 Answers 5

up vote 5 down vote accepted

I would try Lime Basil or a mixture of 1/2 vinegar, and 1/2 bottled lime juice (small portion).

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The lime basil sounds delicious. – Sobachatina Sep 11 '10 at 1:10

This writeup suggests substitutes: I've quoted the most promising option. It seems that Vietnamese Coriander is not really from the coriander family and closely mimics the flavor of cilantro. Let me know if this works.

Vietnamese coriander or Persicaria odorata is a herb, the leaves of which commonly feature in Southeast Asian cuisine, particularly in Vietnam and Malaysia. It is also known by the name of Vietnamese cilantro, Vietnamese mint and Cambodian mint. Though it is not related to mint, its flavor as well as appearance can be said to slightly resemble mint. It is more commonly included in salads and soups. The flavor of Vietnamese coriander closely mimics the flavor of cilantro, and hence, can be used as a cilantro substitute. This herb is believed to be very effective for some common gastrointestinal problems like, indigestion, stomachache and flatulence.

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Out of 3 different recipe books, I see they swap parsley for cilantro. Not sure if you will get the flavor that you are looking for there, though.

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You won't. They look similar (if it's not tagged, grocery store clerks often ask me which it is) but they do not taste similar. Cilantro has a unique flavor and aroma. Parsley is just... parsley. – raven Sep 10 '10 at 23:00

If you are cooking a curry or Asian dish, perhaps Thai basil or purple basil would work instead. If you are cooking a Mexican style dish, Mexican oregano might also be a good choice.

I have also read that celery leaves are a good substitute, but they can be tricky to find as most stores only sell the stalks. Sometimes you can find bunches at the Farmer's Market that still have the leaves attached. I would also suggest carrot greens, which will have a similar appearance but still impart some flavor. These might pack more of a flavor punch than just parsley.

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I am one of the people that love the taste of Cilantro (and Coriander) - Cilantro tastes like as if it should be called lemon Parsley to me - so my suggestion would be to replace it half and half with Parsely/Lemon Balm or Pasley/Lemon Thyme depending on the region the dish is from.

If it is a SE Asian dish, you might also be able to substitute Lemon Grass and Parsley.

I would only use Flat leaf Parsley as it isn't as bitter and tastes more "green" than curly leaf Parsley. Lemon Balm and Lemon Grass on their own taste too much of Lemon, Parlsey on it's own is too dull.

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