There has been a lot of confusion surrounding cilantro vs culantro. This is not really surprising. Aside from having almost similar names, these two herbs are closely related to each other. Due to their strong flavors, both herbs are used as an ingredient in various culinary dishes.
If you are thinking of growing these herbs at home, it’s important that you know the differences between them. So here’s everything you need to know about the differences between cilantro and culantro.
What is Cilantro?
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Cilantro is an herb obtained from the fresh leaves of the coriander plant. It belongs to the family of parsley and its leaves are similar to parsley, which grows on long and tender stems.
Cilantro is an essential ingredient in various Mexican, Indian, Middle Eastern, and Asian recipes. The seeds of the cilantro plant are being made into a coriander spice, which has a totally different flavor from cilantro. Its roots are also edible and are being made into some dishes.
When growing cilantro at home, make sure to give it full sunlight since it can grow easily in hot weather. It can also thrive well in moist and well-drained soil.
What is Culantro?
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Culantro has a somewhat similar flavor and aroma to cilantro. However, it has a much stronger flavor, which is why it’s only used in a small amount for cooking. The culantro grows in the same way as lettuce, with leaves growing around a central rosette. Once it reaches the peak of its growth, the culantro plant can grow up to one foot tall. Its leaves can go as wide as two inches. Sometimes, it will produce blue flowers.
Culantro belongs to the family of Apiaceae, along with celery, carrots, parsnip, and parsley. It is native to the tropical regions of America and the West Indies. Aside from culinary uses, culantro is also used for medicinal purposes. The strong aroma and flavor of its leaves make it a popular ingredient for cooking.
Just like cilantro, culantro can thrive well in moist and well-drained soil. It also loves to grow under full sun, although some growers find that the plant will be more productive for a longer period if it’s grown under partial shade.
Cilantro vs Culantro : Detailed Comparison
Culantro and cilantro look different. However, they have an almost similar taste. To distinguish cilantro vs culantro, here’s a detailed comparison:
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The cilantro leaves are small and lacy, almost similar to the parsley leaves. However, the culantro leaves are long and spiny, which looks like dandelion leaves. The leaves of culantro are tougher than the cilantro.
Both cilantro and culantro can be grown from seeds. However, as an annual herb, cilantro does not easily root from cuttings. The flowers of culantro will produce seeds, and the seeds can be used to cultivate new plants. It can also be grown from cuttings.
3. Growing Conditions
As a hardy plant, culantro can grow in poor soil conditions with a little amount of fertilizer. But cilantro is not a hardy plant, which means it’s more difficult to grow, especially in the tropics. You can grow cilantro indoors or outdoors, but culantro is usually started indoors in a heat mat since it will take a long time to establish if grown outdoors.
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Just like its leaves, the flower stalks of culantro have spines. As the plant matures, these spines will become quite sharp. Meanwhile, cilantro produces white flowers that are lace-like and come with long stems.
5. Plant Life Cycle
Another significant difference between cilantro and culantro is their life cycle. Cilantro is an annual plant, which means that it completes an entire life cycle in one growing season before it dies.
On the other hand, culantro is biennial, which means that it will take two years for its biological life cycle to be completed.
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Since culantro has a much stronger flavor, it’s often added during the process of cooking the food. In some places, culantro is added as an ingredient in soups and stews. But since it has a strong flavor, it’s only used in smaller amounts.
On the other hand, cilantro is often used as a garnishing after the food is cooked. The herb is sprinkled or placed on top of various dishes and is also a popular ingredient in salads.
Although the aroma and flavor of culantro and cilantro are almost the same, culantro has a much stronger flavor. It’s also more pungent compared to cilantro. In fact, some people say that it’s flavor is ten times stronger than cilantro.
Health Benefits Of Culantro
Below are some of the health benefits of Culantro:
1. Eliminates Bad Breath
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Just like parsley, Culantro can help to solve issues concerning bad breath. The fresh scent of the leaves can help to fight off bad breath, and the chlorophyll content of the leaves has a deodorizing effect. To use culantro for bad breath treatment, simply chew the fresh leaves after eating to eliminate the sulfur compounds that are responsible for causing bad breath.
2. Lowers Blood Sugar
Research shows that the leaves and stems of Culantro can help to lower blood sugar levels on animals. It has Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin), which encourages a healthy liver function and effectively release insulin hormones. To benefit from Culantro, simply chop the leaves or grind them finely. Then add them to your favorite salads or smoothies.
3. Relieves Asthma
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Asthma is a common condition that affects the lungs. It is usually common in people who live in industrialized areas since they are often exposed to dust, heavy metals, and toxic gas. A recent study shows that herbal plants like Culantro can help to relieve asthma and improve asthmatic conditions.
Health Benefits Of Cilantro
Below are some of the health benefits of Cilantro:
1. Protect Brain Health
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Several brain-related ailments, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases are linked to inflammation. Cilantro contains anti-inflammatory properties that can protect you from these diseases. A study done on a mouse that was fed with cilantro leaves has found that the plant may help in the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.
2. Rich in Antioxidants
Cilantro is rich in antioxidants, which helps to prevent cellular damage that’s due to free radicals. The antioxidants from cilantro have been found to fight off inflammation. These compounds include quercetin, terpinene, and tocopherols, that are said to have anti-cancer and immune-boosting properties.
3. Promote Better Digestion
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It has been found that the oil extracted from the leaves of cilantro may help to accelerate and promote a healthy gut and digestion. The study was done on people with IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), and those who took medications that contain cilantro extracts have reported a significant decrease in abdominal pain, bloating, and discomfort.
Q1: When should you use Culantro and when should you use Cilantro?
Since culantro has a much stronger flavor than cilantro, it’s usually added during the process of cooking. On the other hand, cilantro is more delicate, so it’s only added to food after cooking.
Q2: Can you Substitute Culantro for Cilantro?
Yes, you can substitute Culantro for cilantro and vice versa. However, since culantro has a slightly stronger flavor, you have to adjust the amount of Culantro leaves to use in order to achieve the same flavor that cilantro can give.
Q3: How do you keep Culantro Fresh?
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To keep the Culantro leaves fresh, wrap them in paper towels and refrigerate in plastic bags or store in air-tight containers. Rinse the leaves and pat dry before you use it for cooking. When stored properly, you can expect the Culantro leaves to be good for up to a week.
Q4: Can you eat Culantro Raw?
Unlike cilantro, Culantro is not usually consumed fresh. It is more suitable for cooking since its strong flavor can enhance the flavor of the food. If used in salads, culantro is usually cut into small, thin pieces.
Q5: Are Cilantro and Coriander the Same?
Although both cilantro and coriander come from the same plant, they have different tastes and uses. Cilantro refers to the leaves and stems of the coriander plant. Once the plant produces flowers and turns into seeds, the seeds are being made into a coriander spice.
Culantro may not be as popular as cilantro, but this herb can also make a dish flavorful, just like the cilantro. Since it has a very strong taste, it is best to use it sparingly. Also, it is best to add it to the food while being cooked, unlike cilantro, which is usually added at the end.
Hopefully, this article has helped to give you an idea of the difference between cilantro vs culantro. If you cannot decide which herb to grow, you can choose to grow both plants.