parsley vs cilantro

Parsley vs Cilantro – What Are The Differences?

If you are a fan of cooking, you surely have used either parsley or cilantro at some point. Perhaps, you have even used both! However, these two herbs are very similar, and to some, they may look the same, even when they are not. 

Don’t make more mistakes at the grocery store, this article will show you the clear differences between parsley and cilantro.  

What Is Parsley?

parsley herb

Parsley is a flowering plant native to the Mediterranean. There are two common varieties, the flat-leaf Italian, and the curly-leaf French parsley.  As such, parsley is essential in European and Mediterranean cooking, whether fresh or dry.

Many describe the flavor of parsley as slightly bitter and very aromatic. This herb is part of the cooking process in highlighting other flavors in a dish. Because the herb is delicate when fresh, it is not meant to be added early on during the cooking process. 

There are two other lesser-known types of parsley, the Hamburg and Japanese parsley. The Hamburg kind may also be called parsley root and is only used as an ornament, but the root is part of soups and stews. 

The Japanese parsley tastes very bitter, and it is native to Japan and China. 

Nutrition Facts

Even though parsley is not very significant in terms of nutrients due to its size, it still contains a good amount of vitamins and minerals. One cup (66 g) has the following nutritional content (*): 

  • 21.6 calories
  • 1.78 g protein
  • 0.474 g fat
  • 3.8 g carbohydrate
  • 1.98 g fiber
  • 82.8 mg calcium 
  • 3.72 mg iron 
  • 30 mg magnesium
  • 34.8 mg phosphorus 
  • 332 mg potassium
  • 33.6 mg sodium 
  • 79.8 mg vitamin C 
  • 7.68 mg choline
  • 253 µg vitamin A 
  • 984 µg vitamin K

Which parsley is the best?

Because Hamburg and Japanese parsley are not readily available, the only two mainstream kinds of parsley are the flat and curly ones. These two are often used in similar dishes and cuisines, but they have distinct differences.

Generally, flat-leaf or Italian parsley has a stronger flavor, while the curly French version is milder and often only seen as a decorative for food. For some, the curly-leaf parsley is a bit bitter, while the flat-leaf is slightly peppery and citrus.

Both types of parsley are available in most grocery stores, but finding them in the dry version may prove to be hard. However, dry parsley is made primarily with the flat kind since it is more flavorful. Still, some mixes may contain curly-leaf parsley as well.

Between Italian and French parsley, go with the Italian kind for flavor and the French one for decoration. 

When it comes to dry parsley vs. fresh parsley, you are better off using the fresh type wherever available. If you need to save money and time, though, the dry kind works as well.  

See more: substitute for parsley


What Is Cilantro?

cilantro

Cilantro is a herb from the fresh leaves of the coriander plant. Surprisingly cilantro is a member of the parsley family and maybe called Chinese or Mexican parsley. Cilantro leaves are also flat, and they look like Italian parsley.  

This herb tastes bright, lemony, and a bit pungent. There is a genetic variation in some people that makes cilantro taste like soap. The soap flavor occurs because of the natural aldehyde chemical in the cilantro leaves. 

Cilantro is an essential ingredient in South American food, including Mexican, Peruvian, Colombian, and Argentinian. 

Like parsley, cilantro is added at the end of the cooking process and may be used only as a topping. In some cases, cilantro is chopped and blended in sauce or salad dressings. 

Nutrition Facts

Even though cilantro is not very significant in terms of nutrients due to its size, it still contains a good amount of vitamins and minerals. One cup (16 g) has the following nutritional content (*): 

  • 3.68 calories
  • 0.341 g protein
  • 0.083 g fat
  • 0.587 g carbohydrates
  • 0.448 g fiber
  • 10.7 mg calcium 
  • 0.283 mg iron
  • 4.16 mg magnesium 
  • 7.68 mg phosphorus 
  • 83.4 mg potassium 
  • 7.36 mg sodium 
  • 4.32 mg vitamin C 
  • 53.9 µg vitamin A
  • 49.6 µg vitamin K 

Which cilantro is the best?

Cilantro is one of the most common herbs out there, and it is often available fresh. However, you can also use the dry kind if you need a more subtle flavor. As with parsley, you should only add the leaves, but you can use the stems as well when drying it. 

Fresh cilantro has a strong lemony aroma and flavor, and it is very potent. As mentioned above, some people find the flavor repulsive. On the other hand, dry cilantro is more muted and only has a slight lemony scent with a barely palpable taste. 

In terms of which cilantro is best, the truth is the fresh kind is always superior. There is always a case to pick dry cilantro if cooking for those that find fresh cilantro too potent or pungent. Otherwise, fresh cilantro should remain the first choice for every dish and recipe.  

Also see more: best substitute for coriander

What Are The Key Differences Between Parsley and Cilantro?

When grabbing parsley and coriander, you may not know the difference at first, particularly if you pick the flat-leaf Italian type. When it comes to curly-leaf parsley, you will be able to tell it apart because the leaf is much thicker and as the name suggests, it is curly. 

Aside from appearance, parsley and cilantro also have different aromas. Parsley smells slightly earthy and peppery, while cilantro is intensely lemony and citrusy. If you are not sure which one you have on your hands, try to smell them.

The culinary uses of parsley and cilantro are also different. While you can use them as topping and decoration, parsley remains a staple of Mediterranean and European cuisines. Cilantro is part of Latin American foods, especially Mexican cuisine, and also Middle Eastern and African.  

Flat parsley has a very distinct earthy flavor, and curly parsley has a similar flavor, though much more subtle. Cilantro has a strong pungent flavor and a lemony scent that some find to taste like soap. Between the two, cilantro has more flavor than parsley. 

In terms of health benefits, parsley and cilantro share various nutrients. Parsley contains myristicin, a compound that can prevent tumor formation, making it a chemoprotective food. Cilantro is a known antiseptic and digestive agent. 

Cilantro vs ParsleyParsleyCilantro
Origin The Mediterranean and Western Asia.   The Middle East, North Africa, Europe, and Asia. 
ShapeLong stalk and flat or curly leaves. Long stalk and flat leaves. 
ColorGreen Green  
Cuisines Mediterranean, European, and Middle Eastern. Latin American, Mediterranean, Asian, Middle Eastern, and African.  
Taste and SmellParsley tastes earthy and peppery, and it has a grassy and earthy aroma. Cilantro tastes pungent and citrus, and it has a very distinct lemony aroma.  
How To CookParsley leaves are the only ones meant to be used, and they are often added at the end of cooking or as a topping. 
 
Cilantro leaves are the only ones meant to be used, and they are often added at the end of cooking or as a topping.
Cooking TimePrep time: 5 minutes No cook time Prep time: 5 minutes No cook time 
Calories per 100 gram serving36 calories 23 calories 

Is Parsley or Cilantro Healthier?

Both parsley and cilantro contain several nutrients that make them highly nutritious. However, they are both used in very small amounts, which means someone would have to eat a lot of either to get the nutritional benefits.

Cilantro has fewer calories but also is less nutrient-dense. Parsley, on the other hand, has a few more calories but contains a few more nutrients. Either one of these herbs is very healthy and will contribute virtually no calories or fat. 

Since cilantro is virtually inedible to some, parsley seems to be the easier and more obvious choice. When it comes to which kind of parsley, the flat-leaf type is more flavorful. Using dry parsley or dry cilantro is a safe choice as well, though they do have less flavor.


Conclusion

There is no more confusing parsley and cilantro with each other anymore! You can now decide which one to buy and use without any problems and knowing very well what each can add to your meal. 

Do not wait any longer to prepare your favorite dishes and add a bit of parsley or cilantro. 

Up next: Can You Freeze Cilantro?

*image by Bowonpat&Anegada/depositphotos

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