The world seems to be firmly divided into two camps: pro-cilantro and anti-cilantro. It is incredibly rare to find someone ambivalent about this ancient herb, either they love it or they hate it. If you are in the former group, here are a few ideas to take your cilantro game up a notch and incorporate it into even more dishes. If you’re in the latter group, well, maybe this article will change your mind. Here are just a few reasons to grow cilantro today.
How To Harvest & Prepare Cilantro
One of the best things to do to increase the lifespan of your cilantro plant is to harvest from it regularly. This is perfect since you’ll soon be incorporating it into every meal and won’t be able to get enough of it. Cut the plant one-third of the way down with sharp scissors to harvest and leave the bottom two thirds to grow new leaves. You can also just trim off a few pieces if your recipe is not cilantro-heavy. It is important to harvest from your plant at least once a week to prevent bolting. Freeze any leftover cilantro you don’t plan on using within a couple of days to preserve its flavor.
Be sure to treat cilantro gently when you are preparing it as it can bruise easily and leave all of its potent flavors on the cutting board instead of in your food. Use an extremely sharp knife and gently slice cilantro into small stips rather than roughly chopping it.
The use of cilantro as a food dates back to the ancient Egyptians, from there it was carried along trade routes to the Chinese where it became a popular staple in many dishes. Eventually making its way to North America, cilantro particularly gained traction in Latin America and Mexico where it enhances and flavors much Mexican cuisine to this day. But the use of cilantro in cooking doesn’t stop at tacos, burritos, fajitas, and guacamole. It can be added to many culinary creations for its fragrant and slightly citrusy taste.
1. Salad dressing
There is perhaps no better combination than cilantro and lime. And when these two flavors are combined to make a light, tangy salad dressing, the result is out of this world. This summery salad dressing utilizes lime, cilantro, garlic, olive oil, and spicy mustard to create the perfect blend of flavors along with a bit of sugar to cut through the potent citrus flavor.
2. Stir fry
Toss in some chopped cilantro after cooking a batch of stir fry to maintain the slightly-spicy flavor and enhance your dish. Lime and cilantro once again perform a perfect duet in this Cilantro Chicken Stir Fry that makes a wonderful weeknight meal.
3. Infuse oil
Infusing oil with herbs is one of the easiest ways to take your simple olive oil drizzle to a whole new level. Plus, it uses a large number of herbs all at once, so it is a great way to use the fresh cilantro from your last harvest of the season. Follow these instructions to create your own cilantro infused oil to use as a simple drizzle over cooked veggies, to marinade meat and any other way you can think to use olive oil.
Guacamole is perhaps one of the most famous uses for cilantro and is often the only thing that people use it for. There are a ton of guacamole recipes that incorporate cilantro but honestly, its all about finding the flavor that works for you. Avocados are very forgiving so don’t be afraid to use the recipes as more of a guideline and experiment with different amounts and ingredients on your own. There is nothing quite like a fresh bowl of homemade guacamole and a bag of tortilla chips to brighten an afternoon.
5. Pico de Gallo
Another famous Mexican dish, this chunky tomato salsa incorporates onions and cilantro along with fresh chilies and tomato to make a tart, yet slightly spicy dish that is perfect with chips or tacos (or anything really)
6. Smoothies and juices
Any cleanse or detoxification isn’t complete without a few cilantro smoothies to help rid your body of toxins. Plus, it supports digestive health, is high in Vitamin K, and has potent antimicrobial properties which make it an excellent choice for those wishing to reset their bodies. These attributes along with its ability to reverse heavy metal toxicity make this an often overlooked power-herb. Toss a few handfuls into whatever smoothie or juice you are making and blend well or try this cilantro-mango green smoothie detox.
Cilantro forms the backbone of this vibrant, healthy salad and pairs wonderfully with the other flavors of the tomato and avocado. It is essentially a salad-esque combination of salsa and guacamole with cilantro as the main focus rather than a seasoning. This cucumber cilantro salad is a little lighter and works well as a side dish for a summer picnic or barbeque.
8. Cilantro Pesto
Though basil is the more popular choice when it comes to whipping up a batch of pesto, this cilantro pesto certainly doesn’t disappoint. Use it as a spread for sandwiches, on pita, or baked into fresh bread. It is also delicious when combined with cold pasta and olives for a summer side.
9. Garnish, season, and marinate
Once you start experimenting with the unique flavor of cilantro, you’ll want to try adding it to everything. And the thing is, you totally can! It tastes great as a seasoning for most meats, fish, vegetables, and soups and stews. Your imagination is your only limitation! It goes particularly well with most Spanish, Southwestern, Chinese and Caribbean meals. Just remember not to add it until after cooking as it can lose its potent flavor.
A simple marinade of 2 tbsp. Finely chopped, fresh cilantro, 1/4 tsp. lemon zest, ginger, and minced garlic and 1/2 cup olive oil makes an incredibly flavorful, yet simple marinade for grilled meats.
Mojitos, margaritas, martinis, and more. There is no better way to up your summer cocktail game than with these delicious drinks that utilize the vibrant flavor of our favorite green superstar.
Health & Beauty
Not only is cilantro a flavorful addition to culinary creations, but it is also loaded with beneficial phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that make this herb a true superfood.
11. Improves skin
Believe it or not, cilantro can be a wonderful addition to many skin care products and can have a soothing, cooling effect on the skin. Plus, its astringent effects can help balance oily and acne-prone complexions and brighten your skin. These cilantro-based face masks can reduce puffiness, calm inflamed skin, and exfoliate dead skin cells.
12. Prevents wrinkles
Combine cilantro, egg white, and oats to create this rejuvenating face mask. Let sit for a 10-15 minutes before rinsing off. This paste can help increase the elasticity of your skin and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles by encouraging collagen production.
13. Eases anxiety
The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that nearly 18% of U.S. adults struggle with anxiety with many taking prescription medications to help regulate and control their mental health. One animal-based study showed that cilantro may be as effective as anti-anxiety drugs like diazepam for reducing anxiety. Without the dangerous side effects. Always speak with your health care professional when it comes to mental health and managing your well being.
14. Improves heart health
Cardiovascular disease is one of the main causes of death in America, causing one in every four deaths in the country. And most of the time, it is totally preventable. A study published in Food and Chemical Toxicology found that cilantro’s rich polyphenolic content and cardio-protective nutrients can help prevent oxidative damage associated with poor heart health.
15. Balance blood sugar levels
Cilantro could potentially be used to help balance blood sugar, making it a helpful aid in managing diabetes. High glucose levels can wreak havoc on the body, but a few handfuls of cilantro thrown in your morning smoothie or juice could help regulate your blood sugar and maintain consistent energy levels throughout the whole day.
16. Prevent food poisoning
No matter how careful you are, you’ve probably experienced food poisoning at some point in your life. It’s safe to say this is one of the more miserable food-related experiences with nausea, chills, muscle aches, and a blistering headache all coming out to play. But, there may be a way to prevent you from ever having to deal with food poisoning in the first place. Cilantro has been shown to be effective at protecting against listeria which is a bacteria that is most commonly responsible for that dreaded post-meal discomfort.
17. Protects your brain
Our brains are our most precious resources so it is absolutely crucial that we look after them. By eating foods high in antioxidants such as cilantro, you can protect your brain from oxidative stress and reduce chronic inflammation that leads to diseases such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s.
Are you now convinced that cilantro deserves a place in your garden? Have fun experimenting with this herb in the kitchen and add it to your daily diet to receive the incredible health benefits.