Exploring the Flavor Profile of Coriander
Coriander is a culinary ingredient that brings about much confusion regarding what it is and its flavor profile. We’re going to clear that up. You see, when the term, coriander is used in the United States, it is typically referring to the seed of what is called (in American English). the cilantro plant, or Coriandrum Sativum, whereas the stems and leaves are considered cilantro.
However, in other places around the world, like the United Kingdom, coriander refers to the entire plant and they will specify if they are talking about the seed. For the purpose of this article, we will refer to the seed as coriander, or coriander seed and the green part of the plant as cilantro.
What do coriander seeds taste like?
Despite the fact that coriander seeds and cilantro are sourced from the same plant, they have very different flavor profiles. Cilantro boasts a refreshing, citrusy, and somewhat soapy taste (which is oddly delicious for many people, but also the reason why some folks tend to have a strong aversion to it). Coriander seeds, on the other hand, possess much more complexity. They are light and floral, with subtle sweetness and earthy undertones. Like cilantro, there is a definite note of citrus, but it is less pronounced. When toasted prior to use, coriander will project a deep warmth and nuttiness into dishes to which they are added.
Is coriander sweet or spicy?
The answer to whether coriander is sweet or spicy is both and neither. Coriander seed possesses floral notes that are often experienced as sweetness, though it is not sweet in the way one experiences honey or cane sugar.
Coriander seed is not spicy like peppers or chiles, though many people do recognize an element of warmth in the spice, especially when fresh-ground. Oddly enough, this warm flavor experienced on the tongue does not translate to the rest of the body. Coriander seed is actually thought to have cooling properties and is used in Ayurvedic practices to bring down body temperature.
Do coriander seeds taste like cilantro?
No. Coriander seeds contribute very different flavor attributes to dishes than cilantro does. They do have similarity in that they both contain a citrusy element, but aside from that, they are on different ends of the spectrum. Cilantro is often used to “cool” spicy dishes, whereas coriander adds an element of warmth. Cilantro is also somewhat astringent, whereas coriander comes across as being slightly sweet. It’s actually because of these differences in individual flavor profiles that they are often chosen to be employed in the same dishes, where they perform an impressive flavor balancing act.
What food-types does coriander compliment?
Coriander seeds are a common ingredient in many different cuisines, particularly in Indian, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean cooking. They are often used in spice blends such as curry powder, garam masala, ras el hanout, and a long list of rubs for fish and meats. They are also frequently included in the ingredient lists for braises, brines, marinade baked goods, soups and stews. We recommend using this transformative spice to balance the other flavors in the dishes you make.
You can find some great ideas for using coriander seeds in this article.