Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Difference Between Parsley & Cilantro

It's happened to you before. You're standing in front of the produce & herb aisle, trying to figure out, is this green bundle of small leaves parsley or cilantro? The sign says parsley but you can't be sure, because right next to the parsley sign is the cilantro sign! And it's a grocery store, so you know that customers are always picking items up, thinking about buying them, only to change their mind, & then putting down the item somewhere totally different, even another aisle!

Why? Because people are lazy, & whether they admit to it or not, it's kind of a power trip to leave items in different places, because it's someone else--usually an underpaid worker, not you--who has to take that item back to where it belongs.

So you can't be sure if that green bundle of tiny leaves is actually parsley or misplaced cilantro. You could ask the produce stocker, but they look frazzled & you can't be sure if you can trust their judgement--particularly if it's some scrawny teen, who's either shy, inexperienced, or unhelpful; or probably someone who couldn't care less, just itching for the next smoke break, watching the clock til it's time to punch out & party or just get the heck out of there.

You could try sniffing it. Cilantro has that pungent odor, more overpowering than parsley. But you can't trust your sense of smell. And it's cold & flu season, so gawd only knows what filthy, disgusting, germ ridden, runny nose, phlegmy people have coughed on or handled that green bunch of herbs with their dirty, unwashed, booger encrusted, body scratching, sweaty, grimy fingers. So for your health's sake, take precautions & sniff at your own risk.

And it's not just the grocery store. At a restaurant or cafe or at a meal or social gathering, you notice the green leaves in your soup, or mixed prominently into the salad, or sprinkled liberally on your fish taco. You wonder, is that parsley or cilantro? And more importantly, does it matter?

Yes, it matters! It matters a lot, especially if you hate cilantro, like me! I hate the soapy, disgusting flavor of cilantro! It ruins the dish for me. Once it gets into the food, the entire dish tastes like soap! Actual lather forming, slippery, bubbly, eye stinging, repulsive tasting soap! So hell yeah, it matters a lot trying to figure out if those tiny leaves are delicious parsley or poisonous cilantro!

As someone who despises the revolting taste of cilantro, you only have to buy a bundle by mistake just one time to learn a very important lesson. Actually, in my case, it was two very important lessons. Lesson one: Just because the grocery staffer works in produce is no guarantee that they'll know the difference between parsley & cilantro.

And it's misleading & confusing handling cilantro, especially when it's misnamed Chinese parsley--trust me, there ain't nothing Chinese nor parsley about cilantro! And in other places, it's called coriander. Whatever it's called, it always tastes disgusting to me.

Lesson two: There is a subtle but very significant difference between parsley & cilantro. And I'm going to share that subtle but definitive difference between parsley & cilantro. It's very simple. Blink & you'll miss it, so pay attention:

Parsley has pointy leaves. Look closely at the pointed tips.

Cilantro/Coriander has curvy leaves. See the rounded tips?

Just remember: Pointy Parsley leaves vs Curvy Cilantro leaves.

And here's where I confess to using a very powerful memory aid to remember the difference. Warning, I use explicit memory aids, because the more extreme the image, the better it sticks in my memory. So if you're sensitive to explicit/offensive imagery, then please, stop reading after this paragraph. Just remember that Parsley is pointy & Cilantro is curvy. P for Pointy Parsley, C for Curvy Cilantro.

Warning! Explicit Memory Aid follows:

To ensure that I never ever forget the difference between delicious parsley & vile cilantro, I just recall this explicit memory aid:

Parsley is Pointy. You know what else is pointy? A penis is pointy! So parsley is like a pointy penis. And penises are fun, like any seasoning, when used appropriately to enhance the pleasure of the experience.

Cilantro is curvy. Cilantro is the cunt Chlamydia of all herbs & spices! It's got a foul odor & causes a revolting reaction every time I am near it. It makes me want to throw up. Cilantro is the curvy, cunty, Chlamydia herb! And I never want to eat it!

And there you have it! The secret to telling the difference between parsley & cilantro. Now the next time you find yourself at the herb section of the grocery store, take a good look at those tiny green leaves bundles & you'll have no problems identifying parsley from cilantro. And as long as those leaves are intact & whole, you'll be able to spot whether that's parsley or cilantro topping your soup or sprinkled on your taco. Just look at them leaves & see if they belong to pointy parsley or curvy cilantro.

And if the leaves have been chopped up, then you're going to have to rely on three methods. They're less effective or more risky than spotting the whole leaves, but they do provide some measure of success.

One: If it's chopped up, then try to smell it first: Cilantro always smells more pungent than parsley. Two: Ask the cook! Did they use cilantro? A good cook always knows their ingredients. Finally: The surest yet most risky way to determine if that's chopped up parsley or cilantro spread on your meal, you're going to have to taste it.

If you're fine with both parsley & cilantro, then you should be okay. But if you hate the disgusting taste of cilantro, well, one small bite is the surest way to figure out if that taco is worth putting in your mouth & finishing it off with joy & satisfaction or just rinsing your mouth & walking away, feeling disgusted & hopefully much wiser.

And there you have it. The secret to identifying parsley & differentiating it from cilantro. It's all in the leaves. Parsley is Pointy, & Cilantro is Curvy. And I love parsley, but totally abhor cilantro! Remember the difference in the leaves between them & you'll never have a problem mixing up the two in the future.

Related Links
I Hate Cilantro


  1. Darling... You would get on so well with the Empress! Her pet-aversion is Corriander. She cannot even abide the smell of it. I grew it one year in the vegie patch and one day while I wasn't looking she'd donned the trusty gardening gloves and removed all of the offending plants to the compost heap. The only time it is permitted is when i'm making myself a Thai Green Curry! Then it must be store bought!
    However you have solved a conundrum for me! I've always wondered what the heck all those American Celeb chefs were banging on about when adding this "Cilantro" stuff by the bucket load to every dish they prepare as if it was some fantastic new "must add"
    cullinary discovery. Little do they realise that it has been part of the south east asian cullinary pallette for centuries...
    Here's something else to add to your confusion.
    Curly Leaf Parsley

    1. Princess, The Empress is very wise & has exquisite taste! I can't stand the pungent smell of cilantro/coriander either! It's hilarious how she classified cilantro/coriander as a weed to be removed from the garden, then got rid of it! But I admit, your Thai green curry sounds scrumptious.

      All celebrity chefs seem to jump on fads & try to ram whatever they think is cool at the moment down the public's throat. I remember chefs pushing sesame oil, then truffle oil, along with balsamic vinegar as the wonder ingredients for all dishes--honestly, those ingredients are so overpowering & very pricey! And they ain't all that great! Then came the push for green tea matcha powder, quinoa, & kale! Celebrity chefs are looking more & more like shady salesmen, pushing their products in our faces. The worst ones have terrble cooking shows where instead of sharing/showing the recipes or even giving us proper measurements, they tell us to "look it up on the website"! Then waste the entire show trying to sell us useless products or trying to impress us with their slightly famous friends! You're a cooking show, not a gossip site! People watch cooking shows for recipes, not waste their time listening to celeb chefs trying to tell us what to buy or what to eat or what lifestyles we should be imitating! I've learned that most celeb chefs are a waste of time & money.

  2. This is one we learned in Boy Scouts to distinguish between a Coral Snake and King Snake. "Red touch yellow: kill a fellow. Red touch black: poison lack." Very important info in the piney woods of Southeast Texas.

    1. LX, Your Boy Scouts snake memory aid is so much more useful & informative compared to my standard snake sighting response: "Oh, my gawd! It's a fraking snake! I'm getting the hell outta here!"...And I immediately exit & flee the area & relocate as far away from the snake as possible.

  3. After your last post I raked through my memories to see if I'd had Thai food. Yes! I have! In a very expensive restaurant in Fulham, called the Blue Elephant. I recall that all the food tasted of perfume, and all I ate that evening was a raw carrot that had been carved to resemble a flower. So maybe I don't like coriander either?
    I like Parsley though, it doesn't taste of much, and isn't it darker than Coriander?
    Anyhow, thank you for the tales to tell them apart.

    1. Scarlet, That's exactly what happened to me when my friends & I tried a new Thai place that used coriander in all their dishes! After disliking the soapy taste in all the food we ordered, I ended up eating all the raw carrot flowers that were used as garnish!

      I love parsley, too. Its mild flavor is wonderful! One of my fave ways to eat parsley is to finely chop it & add it to a minced garlic clove added to a stick of butter that's all melted together to make a delicious dip; or I like to mix chopped parsley & minced garlic with butter, creating a garlic butter that's spread on a piece of bread/roll that's then lightly toasted/pan grilled for an amazing garlic bread treat.

      And I love parsley in a delightful Chimichurri verde (green) sauce, perfect for BBQ! The raw combination of chopped fresh parsley, oregano, garlic, olive oil, vinegar, & red pepper flakes is delectable; & it actually enhances & adds more savory flavor to the all ready rich, smoky, sensational taste of grilled/BBQ foods. Add diced red, orange, & yellow bell peppers & it becomes a terrific Chimichurri rojo (red) sauce. Chimichurri is so much better than salsa!

  4. Petersilie and Koriander - very hard to tell them apart by looking at them. Interestingly the Greek word "corian[d]er" is a composit of "coris" and "amon / anon", with "anon" meaning "Anis" or "Dill", while the "coris" (koriós) is a bug, a "Wanze" : For the Greeks it reeked of bugs, hence the name. I doubt that they used it for eating, perhaps for pharmaceutical usage only.

    1. Mago, Thank you for sharing such interesting info. Those ancient Greeks were right to ascribe a stinky bug scent to coriander! Because cilantro/coriander does stink like a pungent, poisonous bug!

  5. I am the overly cautious shopper in the veg section of the market! Even when I know it's Italian flat leaf parsley, I look at the band to make sure!! ;) xoxoxo

    1. Savannah, How prudent & clever to check the band to be sure you've got the right parsley! Most of the markets I've shopped at here use twist ties or rubber bands to bind up their green leafy herbs. But thanks to your awesome tip, I'm going to be reading the bands!