First thing’s first, coriander is not cilantro. Both coriander and cilantro come from the same plant, but they’re from different parts and have very different tastes. You won’t find anyone saying your coriander tastes like soap.
Coriander tastes nutty, spicy, and warm along with notes of citrus. When whole it smells quite floral and citrusy. However, when it’s ground it takes on a more nutty aroma.
As noted, whether coriander is whole or ground, it will have both different flavor and aroma profiles.
Whole Coriander Seeds
The seeds, when whole, are sweet and citrusy. They have somewhat floral tastes and are extra crunchy, especially after roasting.
Speaking of which, roasting the coriander seeds helps to deepen and develop the flavors. It also heightens the floral aromas. Just make sure this is done in a dry pan to make sure the flavors and smells are undisturbed.
Whole coriander seeds are excellent for a firm, crunchy snack.
Ground Coriander Seeds
While whole coriander has a floral, citrusy flavor, ground coriander tastes nutty and spicy. It retains only a tiny hint of citrus in this form.
When ground, coriander is fairly fine but tends to clump together when stored.
Unlike whole coriander, it doesn’t make for an excellent snack on its own.
What Else Tastes Like Coriander
If you’re searching for a substitute for ground coriander, your best bets will probably be either fennel or caraway seeds.
Fennel should be used a little sparingly as a substitution since its sweetness comes from licorice flavors. However, it also has a sweet somewhat smoky flavor that works to replace coriander.
Caraway seeds are also a good choice. They have a nutty flavor with some bitterness and a hint of citrus.
A Versatile Spice
Coriander is interesting because it has completely different flavors and aromas depending on its form. When whole it is floral and citrusy. However, when it’s ground it’s nutty, spicy, and warm.
If you’ve never tried coriander, be sure to try it both whole and ground as they are completely different.