All out of coriander? Find out which coriander substitute can help you achieve a similar warming, nutty, spicy flavor — without altering your recipe’s taste. 

coriander seeds and cilantro

You’re about to whip up a delicious curry, chutney, rich marinated meat dish, or comforting casserole (or perhaps you’re even pickling cucumbers), and just discovered that you’re out of coriander. Should you just leave it out of your recipe entirely, or could there be an effective coriander substitute stowed away in your cupboard?

If you seldom cook with coriander, it helps to know a bit about its flavor profile before deciding which spice to pick as a substitute. Coriander is warming, nutty, slightly spicy, floral, and citrusy. It has a very earthy flavor. These notes can really bring the X factor to Indian cuisine and marinades, so it’s ideal to find an effective substitute for coriander seeds rather than leaving them out entirely.

What’s the Difference Between Cilantro and Coriander?

As an important note, we’re talking about the whole seeds of the coriander plant or ground form of coriander, not the fresh leaves from the plant. In some parts of the world, coriander leaves are referred to as “fresh coriander”. In North America, we call those leaves cilantro. And they have completely different flavors. Therefore, keep in mind this article isn’t about cilantro substitutes, but coriander seed substitutes. 

Cilantro (or fresh coriander) has a tangy, citrus, herby flavor. Some people describe the taste of cilantro as “soapy”. It’s most comparable to parsley and is commonly used in Latin American, Mexican, Italian, and South Asian dishes, typically as a fresh herb garnish. It’s also a key ingredient in guacamole.

As mentioned, the whole or ground coriander seeds taste warm, nutty, spicy, and mildly sweet with floral and lemony notes. Coriander is commonly paired with ground cumin, peppercorn, and fennel to lend warmth and spice to Indian dishes, such as curries and chutneys. It can also help balance out the taste of bitter ingredients.

As you can guess by now, you won’t want to substitute ground coriander or coriander seeds for fresh coriander (aka cilantro). However, there are four spices that make the cut ideal ground coriander substitute. Read on to find out what they are.

What’s the Best Coriander Substitute?

1. Cumin

ground cumin - one of the top 4 coriander substitutes

Cumin is the closest you can get when it comes to finding a coriander substitute.

Although less sweet and more pungent than coriander, cumin embodies the same warm, spicy, and earthy tones. You can substitute cumin for coriander in equal ratios without compromising or drastically altering the intended taste of your dish. It’s commonly used in the Mediterranean, Middle East, Asia, and India. Since cumin is used in regions all over the world, it’s easy to find at almost any grocery store.

Although they have a similar flavor, cumin’s greater pungency means you may want to start by substituting with half and do a taste test before going for the full 1:1 ratio.

2. Caraway Seeds

caraway seeds - one of the top 4 coriander substitutes

Caraway seeds are the next best coriander substitute. They come from the same family: the Apiaceae plant family, and they have a similar taste. Caraway’s flavor profile is described similarly to coriander’s: earthy, nutty, and sweet with a hint of citrus.

However, caraway seeds and coriander seeds do have their differences. For example, caraway seeds are included in dessert recipes, which you’d never see with coriander. This is because caraway seeds have light licorice notes. Despite this, caraway seeds still make a good substitute for coriander seeds when you’re in a pinch.

You can substitute coriander for caraway seeds in a 1:1 ratio.

3. Garam Masala

Garam Masala in a bowl - one of the top 4 coriander substitutes

Garam masala is a warming blend of spices that includes coriander, cumin seeds, cinnamon, black and/or green cardamom, nutmeg, anise, cloves, and ground fennel seeds. The spices in any given garam masala blend can differ, but they will consistently achieve a deep, sweet, warming flavor profile.

Since garam masala is a spice blend, it may slightly alter the taste of your dish when using it as a substitute for a single ingredient. However, depending on the dish, using garam masala as a substitute could actually elevate the flavor.

I’d assume using garam masala as a coriander substitute could be fairly foolproof for Indian dishes, like curries, stews, and chutneys. It may not work as well for other ethnic dishes that call for coriander (although you can certainly try by adding it little by little).

You can substitute garam masala for coriander in a 1:1 ratio. If you’re unsure of how the flavor will change, try with ¼ of a teaspoon for every teaspoon and work your way up.

4. Curry Powder

Curry Powder in a clear bowl with a spoon in it

Like garam masala, curry powder is a warming spice blend that includes coriander. However, it leaves out the floral, sweeter notes of garam masala—like cloves, cardamom, and cinnamon—and adds in sharper spices like turmeric, ginger, garlic, mustard, and cayenne.

As you can imagine, curry powder’s taste (and color) is entirely different from garam masala. It could still suffice as a coriander substitute for certain dishes though, like carrot soup, chutneys, and curries.

With curry powder having a sharper, more pungent taste, you may want to use ¼ or ½ to substitute for the amount of ground coriander in your recipe to avoid overpowering the flavor. 

The Takeaway

The spice that tastes closest to ground coriander or coriander seeds is cumin. Caraway seeds also have a similar flavor profile and come from the same plant family. The next best options are garam masala or curry powder, which are two warming spice blends used in Indian cuisine. Both blends include ground coriander, but taste entirely different. As blends, they may drastically alter the taste of your dish, so consider the spices in the blends and use them sparingly. 

Top 4 coriander substitutes that can help you achieve a similar warming, nutty, spicy flavor — without altering your recipe’s taste.

About the Author

Sharon Chen is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and author of the Complete Sous Vide Cookbook. She believes food not only brings healing but also connection. As the creator of StreetSmart Kitchen, she aims to make meal prep easier than ever and help you find balance, ease, joy, and simplicity in the kitchen as you improve your well-being.