What is Coriander?

Coriander, in both seed and ground forms, is a versatile spice that offers a fresh, bright, slightly citrusy flavor to food. Here’s what you need to know about it!

Ground and whole coriander on a white plate

Lori Rice

Coriander is one of my favorite spices. Whole, the seeds look like tiny striped globes; ground, the powder is a light brownish yellow pile that smells sweet and subtly like citrus.

You might recognize its sweetness as the flavor that rounds out savory spice mixes like Moroccan ras el hanout, Indian garam masala, and baharat, or its delicate crunch as just another textural element of Egyptian dukkah.

But, if you’re not familiar with coriander yet, don’t worry—this article will cover all the basics so you can feel confident buying, storing, and cooking with this tasty spice.


What it is: The dried fruits of the coriander plant

Grown in: All over, from Southern Europe to Southwestern Asia

Flavor notes: Warm, earthy, nutty, citrusy

Ground and whole coriander

Lori Rice

What is Coriander?

Coriander refers to the dried fruits of the coriander plant, whose leaves are also called cilantro. That’s right: coriander seeds and cilantro are both edible parts of the same plant! British chefs and recipes refer to cilantro as coriander, but in the United States coriander means the seeds, which are considered a spice.

The plant itself has a large span of native growing regions, from Southern Europe to Southwestern Asia, which also informs the cuisines where it’s most used. You’ll find the seeds and leaves used all over the world, in European, Central and South American, Indian, Middle Eastern, and Asian cuisines, mostly in savory dishes.

Two bowls of coriander one ground and one whole pod

Lori Rice

Coriander Seeds vs. Ground Coriander

Ground coriander is made up of pulverized coriander seeds, and the flavor difference between the two is hard to detect. They both impart warm, earthy, nutty, and citrusy tones to the dishes they’re in. One major difference is the texture, so this should be taken into consideration when adding the spice to various dishes.

Ground coriander is best for dishes where you want the spice to be flavor, but not texture—think batters, doughs, smooth sauces, marinades, or drinks. Coriander seeds, whole or even gently cracked, work great in chunky sauces, sizzled in soups, stews or dals, or in pickles.

To make your own ground coriander from coriander seeds, simply blitz the seeds to a powder in a spice grinder. Store in airtight container; I like to reuse glass jars from mustard, jam, or other spices.

What Does Coriander Taste Like?

Floral and citrusy, coriander is a very fresh-tasting spice. Its mildly sweet, lemony flavor is often harnessed in conjunction with other spices in savory recipes; you’ll often see cumin and coriander paired together.

Whole coriander on a plate.
Alison Bickel

Where to Buy

Coriander seeds or ground coriander can be found in the spice aisle of any major grocery store. As with most spices, it’s often best to buy the whole seeds, toasting and grinding them right before you use them for the best flavor.

If you want to purchase the seeds online, we recommend Burlap & Barrel, Diaspora Co, or The Spice House.

How to Store

Just like you would other spices, ground coriander and coriander seeds need to be stored in airtight containers away from heat and light, like in your pantry, cabinet, or spice drawer. Properly stored, whole coriander seeds will last longer than ground coriander, up to three or four years.

Ground coriander will last up to two years, but can lose its potency and flavor well before this. It’s best practice to label your spices with the date, so you can easily go through and discard and replace old spices.


Though they are from the same plant, coriander seeds do not taste like cilantro leaves and should not be substituted for each other in any recipe. If you need a substitute for coriander seeds or ground coriander, check out this post:

Chicken stew with coriander cilantro and chard
Elise Bauer

Recipes That Use Coriander

There are many ways to use coriander seeds and ground coriander in your cooking, but these are some of our favorites!