Difference Between Parsley and Coriander

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Parsley and coriander are the two most popular herbs in our culinary today. They are widely used for cooking and garnishing purposes in many parts of the world. And some dishes exclusively calls for any or both of these herbs. Quite frankly, others still confuse the identity of the herbs because their edible leaves look similar at a glance. But a closer look or the smell can reveal the differences between these plants, from their applications and origins. We explore these distinct features below.

What is Parsley?

With a botanical name Petroselinum crispum, parsley is an herb that is native to a variety of regions including, but not limited to, the Middle East, America and Europe. There it is used widely not only as herb, but vegetable and spice. The plant is characterized by a rosette of leaves that spans 10-25cm long and leaflets of 1-3cm with the stem that can grow to 75cm. 

Parsley is a bright-green biennial plant in temperate climates and an annual plant in tropical and subtropical environments. It is divided into leaf and root parsley, whereby the leaf parsley is the edible component mostly in cooking and garnishing. But this leaf parsley is further categorized into flat and curly leaf parsley. The flat-leaved parsley is predominantly used for its mild and subtle flavor in garnishing a broad range of dishes to enhance the flavor. These can include the stews, soups, potatoes, rice or steaks. The curly parsley is not a favorite in cooking because of its unimpressive smell. Instead, it is used as a garnish. On the other side, the root parsley is also an ingredient in some of the central and eastern European cuisine. 

Root parsley can also be used as a snack or vegetable. It appears that various regions have their preferences on the uses of these herb components. The stem and the seed of the parsley are, however, not considered to be edible.

With regard to nutritional composition, parsley contains great health benefits such as the Vitamin C, iron, potassium and Vitamin A. It can be used to control the high blood pressure and enema. But, on the other hand, parsley contains oxalic acid which may not be a good consumption for pregnant women as it may trigger premature births or cause uterine stimulation. For breastfeeding moms it can help in stimulating the milk production. 

What is Coriander?

Botanically called the Coriandrum sativum and interchangeably called the Chinese parsley or cilantro in America, coriander is a plant native to North Africa, South Western Asia and Southern Europe. Both the parsley and coriander are the members of Apiaceae family. Coriander is an annual herbal plant and it is characterized by a pungent smell and strong flavor. All its components, the stem, seed, leaf and the root are edible, unlike with the parsley. 

Coriander is renowned for its medicinal properties and as a result is widely used as a main ingredient in many cuisines. The Indian, South Asian, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Caucasian, Central Asian, and Latin American cuisine, among others, predominantly employ the coriander as the enhancer of their flavors. If a certain recipe is calling for the duo-addition of parsley and coriander, coriander smell will dominate that of the parsley. In most cases you can leave out the parsley but not the coriander. 

The fresh leaves of coriander have a strong flavor, relatively, and are popular ingredients used in Indian dishes because of their distinct flavor. The leaves are best used before serving, not during cooking, as the heat can destroy the flavor.

Key Difference between Cilantro and Parsley


Appearance wise, we have already that they look the same until you examine them closely. Parsley is a biennial plant characterized by the seeds that have fragments at the top and are 2-3mm long whereas coriander seeds are spherical and have a diameter of 3-5mm. Parsley seeds can be used to extract oil from them.

Both parsley and cilantro have divided leaves whose leaflets are connected at the base. The parsley leaves are sharper whereas the coriander ones are rounded. Furthermore, coriander has fewer and thinner leaves than the parsley plant per the stem. Comparing the curly-leaved parsley with coriander, they look rounder. But the flat-leaved parsley is sharper than coriander leaves.  


The smell of these herbs is one aspect that distinguishes them explicitly. If you smell them, you would know the difference in the scent. Coriander is more pungent and aromatic whereas the parsley has a grassy and mild smell.


Both coriander and parsley are of Apiaceae family, but have different growth and scientific names. Parsley is a biennial plant in temperate areas and an annual plant in tropical and subtropical environments, whereas coriander is an annual plant in its native regions as aforementioned. 


They are both of medicinal values. Parsley plant, however, only has the leaf and root as edible components. The leaf is mostly used in cooking and garnishing. The coriander, on the other hand, has the leaves, stems, seeds and roots as edible components in cooking and garnishing purposes. Different parts of the world prefer one over the other in their dishes. The plants can be used as herbs or just flavoring agents.

Nutritional Information

Parsley has abundant antioxidants such as flavonoid and also abundant Vitamin A, folic acid and Vitamin C. Coriander has abundant dietary fiber and minerals. It also has vitamin C and vitamin A.



Scientific name is Coriandrum Sativum

Scientific name is Petroselinum crispum

Originated from Western Asia and Southern Europe

Originated from central Mediterranean regions

It is pungent and aromatic

Has a mild flavor

Stems, leaves, seeds and roots are all edible

Only roots and leaves are edible

Not dangerous for pregnant women

Its oxalic acid can be dangerous to pregnant women

Leaf has a rounded shape

Curly leaf parsley has a rounded shape but a flat-leaved parsley has a sharp shape


  • Parsley and coriander look the same at a glance but are different herbs in the culinary dishes
  • Parsley (Garden Parsley) has a mild flavor whereas coriander has a strong flavor. In a recipe calling for these herbs, leaving out coriander can make a huge difference
  • The stems, leaves, roots and the seeds of coriander are all edible while only the leaves and the roots of parsley are edible
  • Curly leaf parsley is seldom used whereas the flat-leaved parsley is used predominantly as the garnish
  • The root parsley can be used as snack or vegetable in central and Eastern Europe.
  • Coriander and parsley have the same botanical family called the Apiaceae  

Author: Lusi Madisha

Lusi is a professional writer and a researcher for more than seven years. She is a chemical engineering graduate from the University of South Africa.

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