The similarities and differences between culantro and cilantro are quite confusing. Those who aren’t very well familiar with these two herbs often mistake them to be the same. In fact, the confusion becomes all the more profound as they both have similar-sounding names with slight differences in spelling. Some even think that culantro is a misspelled name for cilantro.
This article focuses on “cilantro vs. culantro” comparison. Let’s take a look into their similarities and differences in flavor, texture, uses, and benefits.
What is Culantro?
The plant Eryngium foetidum is native to Mexico, Central and South America, and the Caribbean.
It has long, waxy, green, and serrated leaves with a pungent aroma like cilantro. Its flavor and aroma are several times more intense than cilantro.
Culantro is mostly used in the Caribbean and Latin American dishes. Vietnamese and Thai dishes like noodles, soups, and stews do make use of these leaves.
Culantro has a strong pungent odor and transfuses a mild bitterness into the dish. It is not everyone’s cup of tea because of its soapy flavor. The odor of this herb is often compared to burnt rubber or crushed stinkbugs.
Culantro is used fresh in salsas, marinades, and chutneys, or added to soups, sauces, and stews. It is the chief ingredient in ‘sofrito’ or ‘recaito’; a chutney base for soups and stews.
What is Cilantro?
Cilantro and coriander come from the plant species — Coriandrum sativum. Cilantro is the Spanish name that refers to the stalks and leaves of the coriander plant. Meanwhile, the dried seeds of the plant are called coriander. Internationally, cilantro is known as coriander or Chinese parsley and the dried seeds are called coriander seeds.
Its flavor and aroma are milder and more delicate than culantro. In addition, cilantro has a citrusy flavor yet an earthy tone.
This herb is widely cultivated and commonly used in numerous dishes across the world. Their leaves are best to add to your dish either raw or near the end of the cooking process to keep their flavors intact.
Many people use coriander leaves in dishes like salsas, soups, marinades, and as garnish. It’s a regular ingredient in Indian, Middle Eastern, and Asian meals like curries and masalas.
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Culantro Vs Cilantro
Often culantro is mistaken for cilantro as they both have similar flavor and aroma. Despite the similarly spelled names, they are two different species of herbs belonging to the same family of plants.
Culantro is more commonly grown in the Caribbean and Latin America, whereas cilantro is grown in several regions across the world. Let us look at their similarities and differences in detail.
Similarities Between Cilantro And Culantro
Like parsley, these two herbs are members of the Apiaceae family of plants. Culantro and cilantro are true green herbs that grow in similar conditions, especially in tropical zones.
They have similar tastes and aroma; however, culantro has a stronger flavor than cilantro. Cilantro goes well with most recipes that call for culantro. Always use cilantro in larger quantities to equal the flavor level of culantro.
In short, cilantro and culantro have similar uses in different cuisines; they add depth of flavor and intense aroma to the dish.
Differences Between Culantro And Cilantro
Many mistake culantro for cilantro but they have significant differences in appearance, taste, aroma, and uses.
They are two different species of herbs in the Apiaceae family of plants. Culantro belongs to the Eryngium genus whereas cilantro belongs to the Coriandrum genus
Culantro is a perennial herb, and it will sprout again and again for several years from the same shoot. On the other hand, cilantro is an annual herb that dies off every year and grows fresh from the seeds it produced.
Both of them are green-leafy herbs but their leaves are vastly different in appearance and texture. Cilantro has small, delicate, lacy green leaves, resembling flat-leaf parsley but culantro has long, serrated leaves and looks a bit like the long-leafed lettuce.
Both have a soapy and tangy flavor and smell somewhat lemony and pungent. Culantro has a comparatively more robust taste and smell than cilantro; several times stronger indeed.
Culantro is common in the Caribbean and South American and cuisines, while cilantro is more of a Mexican, North American, Mediterranean, and Asian herb.
Usually, culantro is used in cooked dishes and not consumed fresh. On the other hand, fresh cilantro is mostly used for garnishing because its taste dissipates if cooked for long.
Culantro is used for managing common bacterial infections, diabetes, bad breath, renal disorders, Alzheimer’s, asthma, fever, malaria, and worms. Cilantro may provide health benefits in reducing heart diseases, obesity, seizure, diabetes, boosts energy levels, and improves skin and hair health.
Cilantro contains vitamins C, A, K, and minerals potassium and manganese. Culantro is rich in calcium, iron, riboflavin, and carotene; also vitamins A, B2, B1, and C.
Can You Substitute Culantro For Cilantro?
Of course, you can substitute culantro for cilantro and vice versa. The flavor of culantro is several times stronger than cilantro, thus one leaf of culantro may be enough to substitute 4 sprigs of cilantro and vice versa. Remember, the substitution ratio of any cooking ingredient depends on your taste preferences or the demand of your recipe.
Cilantro is soft and delicate; it loses its flavor and texture if cooked for more than a couple of minutes. However, culantro is thick and strong; it can withstand prolonged cooking. While using cilantro as a substitute for culantro, use it in your dishes just before your turn off the fire or as a raw garnish.
Usually, culantro is not eaten raw whereas cilantro is mostly eaten raw or half-boiled. In most dishes, culantro isn’t a suitable substitute for cilantro, especially in dishes that call for raw cilantro.
The Bottom Line
Our discussion on ‘culantro vs. cilnatro’ brings to the conclusion that these two herbs are botanical cousins with close similarity in flavor. However, they are very different in appearance and uses. Cilantro has soft textures and mild flavors whereas culantro has a strong flavor and rough texture. Cilantro can be used as a substitute for culantro in most dishes, but culantro cannot be used as a garnish like cilantro.