The Best Substitutes for Coriander

Ground coriander

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In everything from soups to curries to meat dishes, a little bit of coriander is all it takes to spice things up. This relatively inexpensive ingredient adds flavor and savory depth without loading up on calories, sodium, or fat—so it is an ideal cooking staple.

Sometimes, though, you may find your supply has run out. Or, if you only use coriander rarely, the lonely jar of it hanging around the back of your pantry might not be as fresh as it once was. When this is the case, it’s time to consider a substitute.

Although no other spice mimics coriander’s flavor exactly, several come close enough to use confidently. And fortunately, because there are not major textural variations in most ground spices, swapping a different spice for coriander will not dramatically change the mouthfeel of the finished food. Here is everything you need to know about the best coriander substitutes.

What Is Coriander?

If you have ever felt confused about the difference between coriander and cilantro you are not alone. Whereas in some parts of the English-speaking world, the fresh, green leaves and stalks of the plant Coriandrum sativum are known as coriander, in North America they go by the name cilantro. You are likely familiar with fresh cilantro as a key ingredient in guacamole, salsa, and Indian dishes.

In North America, the dried seeds of this plant, on the other hand, are known as coriander. These small seeds are typically ground into a powder easily and added to baked goods, curries, stews, and more. (For the purposes of substituting coriander in cooking, we will be referring to this dried, ground spice.)

Contrary to what you might expect, the flavor of ground coriander seed is not really the same as that of fresh cilantro. Instead, it is often described as earthy, warm, nutty, or astringent. The chemical compounds linalool, neryl acetate, and pinene give it its signature, almost citrusy taste.

Compared to other spices, ground coriander loses its flavor quickly, so chefs often grind it fresh. For home cooking, however, a store-bought jar will do just fine as long as it is used by its freshness date.

Coriander Nutrition Facts

Although coriander packs plenty of flavor, it is not a source of many nutrients. The following nutrition information, for 1 teaspoon (1.8 grams) of dried coriander seed, has been provided by the USDA.

  • Calories: 6
  • Fat: 0.3g
  • Sodium: 0.63mg
  • Carbohydrates: 1g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Sugars: 0g
  • Protein: 0.2g

What to Look for in a Substitute 

When you have shaken the last of your coriander from the jar, it is smart to remember the following pointers when looking for a substitute. First, consider whether color matters to your recipe. If so, look for an alternative with a similar hue. Ground coriander seed can be anywhere from tan to dark brown, so seek out a spice that matches this color.

Flavor is, of course, the other top consideration in pinning down a coriander substitute. Coriander usually is considered earthy or even sour. Spices that match this flavor profile are the best bet.

And because coriander can enhance either sweet or savory dishes, determine which direction a particular recipe gravitates toward. In sweeter preparations, like baked goods, you might replace coriander with common baking spices like cardamom or cloves. In savory foods with more heat, an earthier spice like cumin or garam masala will yield better results.

Best Substitutes for Coriander

Running out of coriander does not mean you have to scrap your recipe. These three spicy understudies are waiting in the wings to amp up your cooked and baked dishes.

Ground Caraway Seeds

Fortunately for the purposes of a smoky dip or lamb kebabs, coriander is part of a plant family that produces other, comparable seeds. One such kissing cousin is caraway. Caraway seeds—which you may know as the seeds dotting rye bread—are ground into a powder that can be used almost interchangeably with ground coriander.

Their flavor is very similar to that of coriander, with an earthy, nutty tone. Just bear in mind that some people find ground caraway seeds add a bit more licorice-like flavor. To substitute caraway equally for coriander, be sure to use the ground variety, not the whole seeds.

Like coriander, caraway is not a significant source of nutrients, so it will not noticeably change the nutrition of any dish. However, if a coriander allergy is your reason for seeking out a spice substitute, do not reach for caraway. Because it comes from the same plant family as coriander, there is a possibility it may cause an allergic reaction as well.

Ground Cumin

Another relative of coriander and caraway is cumin. Many recipes call for coriander and cumin in combination, and their flavor is relatively similar, so it is not surprising that cumin is a reliable stand-in.

And because this spice is so common in chilis, chicken dishes, and stir-fries, chances are, if you are out of coriander, you have some cumin to spare.

Try cumin in place of coriander in any savory preparation, such as meat entrees, vegetable fritters, or spicy lentils. Again, for a one-to-one replacement, make sure to use the ground, powdered version, rather than cumin seeds.

As with caraway, people with a coriander allergy should be careful about substituting cumin. In terms of nutrition, though, the two can be swapped without major changes. 

Garam Masala

If you have garam masala on hand, you are not technically out of coriander! This Indian spice blend features several savory spices, including coriander. Fennel, bay leaves, peppercorns, cloves, cumin, and several other additions typically round out the blend.

The phrase “garam masala” simply means “hot spices.” Because this spice mixture has coriander in it, it can be a useful substitute when you run out. Garam masala is best subbed for coriander in Indian dishes.

Try it in curries, lentils, or rice dishes—staying aware that, with its multiple other spices, it will change the overall flavor profile of a food. When possible, try adding a little bit of garam masala to a recipe at a time, tasting as you go.

Like cumin and caraway, garam masala as a coriander substitute will not alter nutrition in recipes but probably is not suitable for people with a coriander allergy.

A Word from Verywell

Finding the right substitute for coriander may require some trial and error. Different foods will do better with different alternatives.

When substituting other spices for ground coriander seed, always use the ground variety. Also, add little by little, tasting as you go. 

2 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Nejad Ebrahimi S, Hadian J, Ranjbar H. Essential oil compositions of different accessions of Coriandrum sativum L. from IranNat Prod Res. 2010;24(14):1287-1294. doi:10.1080/14786410903132316

  2. USDA, FoodData Central. Spices, coriander seed. April 1, 2019.

By Sarah Garone, NDTR
Sarah Garone, NDTR, is a freelance health and wellness writer who runs a food blog.