What Is Coriander And What Does It Taste Like?

You've probably stopped and stared at the array of spices in your grocery store a thousand times. And you've likely seen coriander every single time. So, what exactly is this magical spice?

Coriander is an edible aromatic plant used in international dishes all around the world. It's grown in regions in southern Europe, North Africa, and southwestern Asia (via SPICEography). Culinary experts have calculated that the delicate, leafy plant was first used as a spice around 5000 B.C. To align with its full-bodied taste, coriander has a rich history. It's believed to be one of the oldest herbs on record, even with symbolic references in the Old Testament of the Bible as well as ancient Sanskrit writings, according to Faith & Culture. The seeds were placed in Egyptian tombs to ensure eternal love, per Nutritional Geography, and the colonists of Massachusetts grew it upon arriving in America (via The Spruce Eats).

The coriander plant's leaves are widely known as cilantro (which is actually the Spanish word for coriander). Cilantro is an herb that people either love and appreciate or absolutely hate (more on that in a bit). The seeds of the coriander plant are often dried and ground into a spice that's used in many European, Asian, Latin, and Indian dishes, according to MasterClass.

Healthline reports that Coriander has several health benefits and medicinal properties, including immune-boosting antioxidants, protection for brain and heart health, and the ability to lower blood sugar, strengthen and clear skin, and promote digestion. Delicious and nutritious? Win-win!

What does coriander taste like?

Coriander seeds possess a bright, warm, floral, lemony flavor and aroma, according to The Spruce Eats. On the other hand, cilantro — the leaf from the same plant — sports a strong, perfumey taste and is often used as a garnish or an add-in (hello, guacamole!). However, some people have an adverse gene that makes cilantro taste like soap, 23andMe reports. This explains why there are so many passionate arguments on both sides whether cilantro tastes good or awful — it depends on your genetics.

Ground coriander is often blended with cumin to create an even bolder flavor that makes the taste buds dance. According to Thrive Cuisine, it resembles a more savory cardamom with notes of lemon pepper. It's a common ingredient in curry dishes and baked goods, as it provides a nice balance against sugars and sweeter spices. Whole coriander seeds are often used in pickling and brining recipes to bring forth a hint of warmth. The seeds are usually lightly toasted to release their captivating fragrance before being added to dishes or ground into a powder (via Thrive Cuisine). The flavor of this lively, versatile spice deepens the longer it's cooked.

Love it or hate it, coriander and cilantro are here to stay.