Dried Cilantro vs Fresh: What’s the Difference?

All around the world, cilantro is used in both its fresh and dried form to flavor the country’s signature dishes. Those who love it enjoy its minty and peppery flavor that has just a hint of citrus. Your recipe may call for dried or fresh cilantro depending on the recipe you use to get a slightly different flavor. 

Dried cilantro has a much more mild flavor without any of the pungency that fresh cilantro has. It is still minty and peppery but in a more mild way. Fresh cilantro is bright and fresh, it has a very pungent flavor and odor which some people do not like.

Different recipes will call for dried or fresh cilantro based on the flavor it is trying to achieve. A bright, fresh salad will likely call for fresh cilantro whereas a more savory soup may call for dried cilantro.

Dried and Fresh Cilantro Overview

Dried Cilantro

Dried cilantro is a spice that you can find in just about anyone’s spice cabinet. It is made from the dried leaves of the cilantro plant and has a minty and peppery taste. 

Dried cilantro is especially popular in things like casseroles and stews. The heat and exposure to moisture release the flavors in the dried cilantro and allow them to permeate the dish. 

Fresh Cilantro

Fresh cilantro is just what it sounds like, fresh cilantro. It is typically sold in bunches and you can purchase it for a very affordable price at most grocery stores. When comparing dried cilantro vs fresh, the biggest thing you’ll notice is the difference in taste. They both have the same overall flavor notes, but the taste of fresh cilantro is much sharper and more intense.

Fresh cilantro is almost always used as a garnish or is one of the last ingredients to be added to the dish. This ensures that the leaves stay crunchy and the herb retains its bright flavor.

Is Fresh Cilantro as Good as Dried Cilantro?

Fresh cilantro is just as good as, if not better, dried cilantro. However, it is a lot more polarizing than its dried counterpart.

When cilantro is dried, it tends to lose the slightly bitter taste that some people can detect when they eat fresh cilantro. Fresh cilantro has a far brighter, more intense flavor in every way. While this is good for some recipes and it’s especially good if you love cilantro, it can be difficult to tolerate if cilantro isn’t your favorite thing.

For that reason, dried cilantro is probably the more universally enjoyed version of this popular herb.

What’s the Difference Between Dried and Fresh Cilantro?

Although they are made from the same plant, there are several differences between them that the drying process creates. These differences will likely influence you to have a preference for one or the other.


Probably the most significant difference between dried and fresh cilantro is the flavor. 

Fresh cilantro has a very sharp flavor. Some people describe it as a combination between mint and lemon, with a distinct peppery note. This makes it a great way to brighten up a dish and it is typically used as a garnish that adds just that extra kick of flavor the dish needs. 

Fresh cilantro is typically also the version of the herb that some people have a problem with. There is a gene that affects your taste buds and if you have it, chances are you think fresh cilantro tastes like soap. You won’t be tasting any of the lemon and mint flavors that everyone else is talking about.

This all changes when the cilantro is dried. Dried cilantro offers a completely different flavor profile than fresh cilantro. Instead of having an intense, sharp flavor, the flavor of dried cilantro is much more muted. You’ll still get the same flavor notes of mint, lemon, and pepper with a distinct anise-like quality, just in a more subtle way. 

This makes dried cilantro a great choice for people who are sensitive to fresh cilantro as they’re unlikely to experience the same soap-like flavor. It is also a good option for soups or sauces where you don’t want the cilantro to be the star of the show so to speak. 


One of the easiest ways to tell the difference when comparing dried cilantro to fresh is by their appearance. 

Fresh cilantro looks almost identical to parsley and other herbs in that family. It has dark green leaves that are attached to thin stalks of a slightly lighter green color. The outsides of the leaves are slightly jagged looking and are very thin. It is typically sold in bunches and while the stems can also be consumed, most of the time they are discarded.

Dried cilantro is typically sold in a jar and looks just like any other dried herb. It has a crumbly texture and usually has broken down into small flakes of dried cilantro. The stems are usually discarded before the drying process so you won’t find any dried stems in your jar of dried cilantro.

Shelf Life

Another big difference between fresh and dried cilantro is their shelf life. This is also one of the big appeals to dried cilantro and dried herbs in general. They can last a lot longer than their fresh counterparts.

When you buy a bunch of fresh cilantro from the store you go into it knowing that you’ll need to use it within about a week. This is if it’s stored properly as well, if you store fresh cilantro at room temperature without water it will break down within a couple of hours.

If it is stored in the fridge with water to keep it fresh and crispy, you may be able to stretch the lifespan of your fresh cilantro to two weeks, but that’s pretty much the limit.

On the other hand, dried cilantro can stay fresh for significantly longer than fresh cilantro. If it is stored in a cool dry place and in an airtight container, you can expect dried cilantro to stay fresh for anywhere from 1 to 3 years.

Even after that time period your cilantro will not have gone bad, it will have just lost flavor. The older a dried herb is, the less of its original flavor it retains. This is why it’s always recommended to repurchase spices every couple of years, even if you’ve been storing them the right way.


The scent of cilantro is probably the next place where you’ll notice a difference. Just like the flavor, the scent of fresh cilantro is much more intense whereas the scent of the dried version is milder. 

Fresh cilantro will have a bright, lemony scent that you can smell from across the room as soon as you start chopping it. 

In the drying process, the scent of the cilantro will fade. It will still smell minty and lemony, just without the same in your face sharpness that fresh cilantro has. That is another reason that many people prefer the dried version, it’s simply less intense overall.


The last important difference between the two is how they are used. Generally speaking, fresh cilantro is best for fresh dishes whereas dried cilantro is best for dishes that you’ve cooked for a long time. 

Some of the most popular dishes that fresh cilantro is used in are Mexican dishes. Fresh cilantro is almost always used as an ingredient in or as a topping for enchiladas, salsa, street tacos, tostadas, and chilaquiles. In addition to this, it is used in other non-Mexican foods like sandwiches, chili, and even Asian dishes like curry.

Dried cilantro is best used for slow-cooked dishes. This is because even if you were to use fresh cilantro, by the time the recipe is done cooking it will have disintegrated. Dried cilantro is easier to maintain and also can have a more potent flavor since all of the water has been extracted. This makes it ideal for things like soups, stews, and casseroles.

If you’d like to include cilantro in a marinade, you should always use dried cilantro. If you add in fresh cilantro, it won’t actually give flavor to the marinade unless it has been crushed. The dried cilantro will rehydrate in the marinade and in that process, it will flavor the marinade. 

Can You Use Fresh Cilantro Instead of Dried Cilantro and Vice Versa?

Most of the time you can use fresh cilantro instead of dried cilantro and vice versa. However, you won’t get the exact same results when you do this. 

If you are making a salad and realize that you’re out of fresh cilantro, you can simply top it off with a sprinkle of dried cilantro. However, you won’t get as bright of a flavor as you’re used to. Instead, it will have a more savory and muted flavor. However, you’ll still be getting the slightly minty and lemony flavor that you’re used to with fresh cilantro.

The same goes for if you switch them the other way around. You can use fresh cilantro in a slow-cooked recipe, you just may need to use more than you would with the dried cilantro. You will also have soggy pieces of fresh cilantro floating around your food that could be unappealing to some.


Both dried cilantro and fresh cilantro have their place in any home or professional chef’s kitchen. They provide a minty, lemony, and peppery flavor that is difficult to replicate without this popular herb. Cultures all over the world use this herb in their traditional dishes including many countries in Asia and Latin America. 

Fresh cilantro is typically used as a garnish or in fresh dishes. This allows the crunchiness of the leaves and the bright taste to shine through. However, some people find fresh cilantro difficult to eat and think it tastes a lot like soap. 

Dried cilantro is best reserved for slow-cooked dishes where fresh cilantro would disintegrate. It provides a much more subtle flavor and is tolerable even for those who don’t like fresh cilantro.