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Synonyms: cilantro, Chinese parsley; fruits (coriander seeds)

botanical name Coriandrum sativum



Coriander stems from the eastern Mediterranean area. It is one of the oldest spices and medicinal herbs and was mentioned in ancient manuscripts and in the Old Testament of the Bible.


In China coriander has been known for about 2000 years; it was introduced to the USA at the end of the 17th century.


Among the main cultivating areas are India, Egypt, Morocco and the USA. Coriander is also grown in many countries in the temperate zones of Asia and Europe, and to a small extent even in Germany.



The seeds of coriander are harvested in August/September and dried. They are sold all year round in Germany.


Fresh coriander leaves can be found in the vegetable market or in Asian shops.


Appearance, taste, characteristics

Like anise, caraway and fennel, coriander belongs to the umbellifers. The annual plant can grow up to 80 cm tall and has light-green, pinnate leaves. The leaves are diversely slender, according to the variety; some resemble those of parsley.


From June to August, tender white to reddish umbels form, from which the fruits develop. These are actually in two parts, so-called schizocarps, but they adhere closely together and do not break apart as the fruits of other umbellifers do.


The seeds of the Moroccan coriander are spherical; those of the less common Indian variety are oval. They are beige or light-brown, ribbed and, depending on the variety, have a diameter of 2-5 mm. The seeds are harvested with a combine just before they are fully ripe.


The fresh leaves of the coriander plant are also used as a seasoning. Their aroma is similar to that of the fresh, unripe seeds and is described as a mixture of lemon, ginger, and sage with slight undertones of pepper and mint.


Europeans often find this aroma repugnant; it reminds some of burnt rubber and is said to be unpleasantly soapy or stink-bug-like.


Dried and fully ripe seeds smell pleasantly spicy-aromatic, sweet, and have a pleasingly spicy, sweet, slightly peppery taste that is a bit reminiscent of orange peel.



Small coriander seeds contain up to 2% essential oil; in varieties with larger seeds the content is often only 0.1-0.3%. The main components of the oil are monoterpenes such as linalool (45-85%), geraniol, and pinene. Camphor, limonene and terpenol are contained in certain varieties.


Young seeds also contain unsaturated aldehydes, which produce the stink-bug aroma. These can constitute 83% of the essential oil in the fresh leaves.


Quality criteria, optimal storage conditions

The dried seeds should be stored in well-closed containers in a cool, dry, dark place. In this way they will keep for several years. It is best to grind the seeds fresh before using, however, because some of the aroma is quickly lost.


In a plastic bag, the fresh herb will keep in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. It can also be frozen, but it is not suited for drying.


Presumed effect on health

Coriander seeds are used as a remedy for stomach trouble and lack of appetite. They were used in ancient Egypt for stomach and intestinal problems. Infusions, extract or essential oil of coriander can be ingested; diluted, it can be used topically.


The oil from the seeds is supposed to be a stimulant, to aid with digestion, to relieve cramps and to soothe the nerves. Coriander is a component of many purgative teas and is also used in some countries for cough, fever, menstrual problems, and eye and bladder complaints.


Form of consumption, use, processing, practical tips for preparation

Coriander is a very common spice in many tropical and subtropical countries. Whereas mainly the seeds are used in Europe, the fresh leaves of this plant are valued in Asian cuisine and in South America. In Thailand even the root of the plant is used for seasoning.


Whole or ground, the seeds are added during cooking. If they are lightly roasted prior to being added the aroma will be somewhat stronger. We use the seeds mainly to season bread and Christmas baked goods such as gingerbread and spiced biscuits. However, numerous types of sausage, fish and meat dishes, particularly lamb, game, rabbit, poultry and meatloaf are enhanced with coriander as well.


Coriander tastes good with stews, potatoes, legumes / pulses, mushrooms, cauliflower, celeriac, cabbage, onions and sauerkraut, and it is popular for putting up cucumbers and beetroot. Crushed green olives with coriander are a specialty in Cyprus.


The aroma of the seeds also goes well, however, with fruit compote (e.g. apple, pear, mango or plum) and fruit pies. Coriander is added to many mixed spices. It is also important in the production of various herbal liqueurs and strong spirits (schnapps).


In Asia, fresh coriander leaves are used in large amounts with ginger and scallions in soups, wok dishes, curries and stews.


In India and Mexico the leaves are used for chutneys, salsa, relishes and vegetable sauces. A well-known sauce is guacamole, made of avocado, onion, garlic, tomatoes, chili, lime juice and coriander leaves.


The fresh leaves also go with fish and seafood, root vegetables, rice, maize / corn, and salads, particularly rice, macaroni and vegetable salads.


The taste of these foods takes some getting used to, however, owing to the fresh coriander. Some people detest it; others are very keen on it.


Seasoning tip

Coriander seeds go well with all foods that are seasoned with curry, as they are an important component of curry powder.


They harmonize well with caraway, nutmeg, cloves, fennel, cumin, lovage, cinnamon, pepper or allspice. They can also be cooked together with ginger, chili, garlic or mint; the flavour remains.

The fresh leaves go well with chives, parsley, basil, savory, garden cress, dill, fresh mint, garlic and onion. They should be added towards the end of the cooking time, as otherwise they lose their aroma.



The name probably stems from the Greek word koris, which means something like stink-bug. This is a reference to the scent of the leaves and the young seeds.


The leaves of some coriander varieties resemble those of parsley, which has given them the synonyms "Arab parsley" or "Chinese parsley".





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