In this article, we are going to size up two of our favorite herbs. That’s right it’s parsley vs cilantro! Let’s find out how to tell parsley apart from cilantro and how different its benefits and flavors are.
Parsley and cilantro are two visually similar green herbs, and people often mistakenly substitute them for one another in recipes. Which can lead to a horrible mistake, especially if you don’t like cilantro.
However, by comparing parsley vs. cilantro, you’ll understand how different they both are.
Our parsley vs cilantro guide will help you differentiate between them using sight, smell, and taste.
You‘ll find out what makes them different from each other with regards to cooking and health. You’ll also learn how to grow each of the herbs and how the growing process is different.
Parsley VS Cilantro: How to Tell Them Apart
The only way to tell parsley (flat leaf) and cilantro apart is via the herbs’ smell, taste, and appearance. While parsley and cilantro have a herby green color, long stems, and smooth or leveled leaves, the shape of the leaves is different.
If you place parsley and cilantro side by side, you’ll notice that parsley has more pointed and serrated leaves.
On the other hand, cilantro has rounder leaves, and they are curved, appearing more delicate.
Similarly, they both taste and smell differently. Parsley has a milder, herbal scent.
On the other hand, cilantro has a spicy or citrus fragrance, and its aroma is stronger than parsley.
However, cilantro has a citrusy taste, and parsley has a herbal and slight bitter flavor.
FUN FACT – Both parsley and cilantro taste soap-like because they contain substances called aldehydes used in soap making. According to an Allrecipes article… “Researchers at the consumer genetics firm 23andMe performed a survey, asking about 30,000 people whether they liked cilantro and what they thought it tasted like. They found that those people who said cilantro tastes like soap share a common smell-receptor gene cluster called OR6A2. This gene cluster picks up the scent of aldehyde chemicals. Natural aldehyde chemicals are found in cilantro leaves, and those chemicals are also used during soapmaking.“
How Parsley is Used in Cooking
Parsley works well with most everything. You can use it as a garnish with stews, curry, roasted potatoes, grilled veggies, soups, and rice dishes.
Moreover, sauces like chimichurri and pesto use parsley. Parsley enhances the flavor of these types of green sauces and adds a healthy touch of green color. It is a master in savory dishes!
As a herb with vivid green color, parsley is also an active ingredient for salads. You can use it in Mediterranean salads and Indian chickpea salads. It’s also used in making the Levantine Tabbouleh and is a staple in pasta recipes.
How Cilantro is Used in Cooking
Like parsley, chefs often use cilantro as a garnish. However, unlike parsley, cilantro has a strong citrus flavor, so it only goes well with citrus dressing and pasta salads. Chefs prefer to use cilantro in soups and rice dishes with lime as it complements its flavor.
Are you an avocado fan? Guacamole isn’t guacamole without the use of cilantro, and it’s popular in Indian sauces like cilantro mint chutney.
You can add cilantro to dishes like fried rice with bacon and Mexican scrambled eggs. You can combine cilantro with cream cheese to make a delicious spread for bagels and slices of bread.
I personally LOVE adding fresh cilantro and thai basil in a hot bowl of pho (a type of Vietnamese soup).
Health Benefits of Parsley
Parsley is low in calories and contains essential nutrients. It is rich in Vitamins A, C, K, Folate, and Potassium. The antioxidants like flavonoids in the parsley help reduce the chances of colon cancer, heart disease, and type two diabetes.
Carotenoids help lower the chances of lung cancer, and vitamin C supports our immune system, promotes skin health, and protects against chronic illnesses.
Vitamin K helps strengthen the bone structure in our body, and it has ample nutrients that protect the eyes from diseases like AMD.
Also, it’s good for the kidneys, and it aids in lowering blood pressure and controlling urinary temperature.
Health Benefits of Cilantro
Cilantro is also a medicinal herb, and it’s low in calories like parsley, and it contains vitamin C, K and A, folate, and potassium.
It’s richer in dietary fiber and calcium than parsley. Calcium and vitamin K help build bones, hair, and teeth. Cilantro also contains nutrients that aid in reducing blood pressure, cholesterol and help manage diabetes.
Secondly, cilantro has antioxidants like carotenoids that lower the chance of developing conditions like cancers and eye diseases.
Cilantro is known to have anticonvulsant properties. Hence, cilantro in your diet can prevent damage to the brain due to conditions like epileptic seizures, much like dill!
How is Parsley Grown
You can plant the parsley seeds indoors or plant them outside in the soil directly. Plant the seeds at least 3-4 weeks before the last spring frost day if you want to grow from seeds. Parsley is a slow starter, so you need to give it time to sprout before spring comes.
The chosen soil patch should be rich in organic substances, weed-free, and get around 6-8 hours of sunlight.
When planting, sow the seeds about one-quarter inch into the soil and sow each seed within a 6-8 inch distance. The seedling will sprout after 2-4 weeks. You need to water the soil to keep it moist.
How is Cilantro Grown
Just like parsley seeds, cilantro seeds need moist and nutrient-rich soil to grow. However, they grow well in a place that has whole light with partial shade.
It would help if you planted it at the end of spring or early summer. You should plant them at the beginning of fall if you live in a hot climate zone.
When growing them from seeds, ready the soil and then sow them directly into the soil. Unlike parsley, cilantro grows quickly from the start.
Cilantro seeds should be 6-7 inches apart when planted in rows and sown a quarter-inch deep. Keep the soil moist by watering it after a few days or as you see fit.
From my personal experience and those of many gardeners is that parsley is much easier to grow than cilantro. Cilantro is a little bit of a drama queen. It will not grow well if there is too much heat/sun, and too little or too much water.
Similarities between Parsley and Cilantro
In a nutshell, here are some of the BIG similarities between parsley and cilantro:
- Parsley and Cilantro come from the same Apiaceae or Umbellifers plant family.
- Cilantro is similar in appearance to flat-leaf parsley, but not curly parsley.
- They have a similar color of green.
- Both herbs are jam-packed with vitamins and nutrients.
- Both herbs are highly used as garnishes.
- Both plants are biennial.
Differences between Parsley and Cilantro
Now, let’s look at some differences:
- Cilantro’s aroma and taste lean towards a strong citrus note and for some…soap! While, parsley is a mild herb flavor.
- Parsley is widely used across many cuisines and continents. While Cilantro is mainly used in Latin, Middle Eastern and East Indian and Asian cuisines.
- Cilantro leaves are more rounded while parsley is serrated.
- As for health benefits, parsley has been touted for centuries to being great for kidneys, while cilantro has been known to help detox heavy metals.
- Cilantro seeds, which are known as coriander, have been used as a spice for centuries while parsley seeds not so much.
If you’ve ever placed parsley and cilantro side by side, you’ll note that they look different. And if you still can’t tell…give them a good sniff!
Due to the difference in taste and smell, parsley and cilantro have different culinary uses. Parsley tastes slightly bitter and smells herbal, while cilantro is citrusy and strong. Hence, replacing cilantro with parsley and vice versa won’t end well. I don’t recommend it!
Parsley is richer in some nutrients like folate, etc., while cilantro has a higher calcium level. Moreover, they both have other essential health benefits.
You can use parsley in abundance in various dishes with no side effects, but cilantro works best in small doses.
As for growing conditions for parsley and cilantro differ, and they need specific sunlight and soil conditions to sprout. When you’ve combed through parsley vs. cilantro, you’ll be able to use the right herb in the right situation.