Is Cilantro Spicy?

Cilantro, also known as coriander, is not considered spicy or hot. It is an aromatic herb often compared to parsley in terms of appearance and flavor. Cilantro has a unique taste that can be described as warm, spicy, and nutty, with a hint of citrus. This distinct flavor profile makes it a popular ingredient in various cuisines, particularly in Mexican, Indian, and Southeast Asian dishes.

While some people enjoy the taste of cilantro, others may find it distasteful or even soapy due to a genetic variation that affects their perception of the herb's flavor. Despite these differing opinions, cilantro is not inherently spicy like chili peppers or other hot ingredients. Cilantro is often paired with spices like cumin and cinnamon, which share similar flavor traits. Overall, cilantro has a fragrant, refreshing, and citrusy taste and aroma that can enhance the flavors of various dishes without adding heat or spiciness.

Featured Answers

No, cilantro is not spicy or hot. It is an aromatic herb similar to parsley. To some people it is distasteful, while others like it very much.

Answered from DM

Its aroma is best described as warm, spicy and nutty, with a hint of citrus. The spice is commonly paired with cumin and cinnamon because they share similar flavor traits. Summary Cilantro has a fragrant, refreshing and citrusy taste and aroma

Answered from meredith carney

Is Cilantro Spicy Hot?

As a cilantro lover, I used to assume everyone enjoyed its bright, citrusy flavor as much as I did. But I've learned that some people actually find cilantro to be an unpleasant, soapy herb. So when someone asks “Is cilantro spicy hot?”, it gets me wondering – what exactly does cilantro taste like? Can it truly be considered spicy? Here's a deep dive into the curious flavor profile of cilantro.

What does cilantro taste and smell like?

To me, cilantro has an incredibly fresh, aromatic flavor. The leaves have a flavor reminiscent of lemon, lime, and orange citrus fruits mixed with light floral and herbal notes. The stems taste earthier and grassier. Overall, it’s a really bright, refreshing flavor!

But I’ve come to learn that not everyone experiences cilantro this way. Due to genetics, some people perceive the taste and smell of cilantro as soapy, metallic, or even disgusting. There’s apparently no specific compound responsible – it’s the whole unique combination of flavors that some palates interpret negatively.

Why do some people think cilantro is spicy?

While cilantro isn’t actually spicy, some descriptions of its flavor profile can make it seem hot and spice-adjacent. Words like “pungent”, “strong”, “zesty”, and “tangy” are often used to describe cilantro, perhaps making some people think it’s spicy.

Its leaf shape and appearance is also very similar to flat-leaf parsley, which does have a slight peppery bite, so there may be some confusion between those two herbs contributing to the impression of spiciness. The strong smell alone seems to trigger spicy or soapy perceptions in cilantro haters.

What does cilantro contain that creates its flavor?

Fresh cilantro contains compounds like:

  • Aldehydes – Provide citrusy, soapy aromas
  • Terpenes – Lend an earthy, woody taste
  • Flavonoids – Support its bitter, pungent notes
  • Esters – Give fruity and tangy qualities

It’s really the particular combination of these that creates such a polarizing flavor people interpret in different ways. But there are no capsaicin-like compounds that trigger spiciness.

What spices and flavors pair well with cilantro?

While not inherently spicy itself, cilantro does complement and enhance real spices very well. Some of my favorite flavor pairings include:

  • Chili peppers – Cilantro cools the heat of chilis. It’s amazing in dishes like tacos al pastor.
  • Cumin – This warm, earthy spice has rich depth when combined with cilantro’s brightness.
  • Cinnamon – Cilantro echoes cinnamon’s sweet-spicy tones. Delicious in Mexican moles.
  • Citrus – Lime, lemon, and cilantro are just meant for each other with their tangy notes.
  • Ginger – The zing of ginger and cilantro works great in things like chimichurri sauce.

What are some “spicy” cilantro recipes?

Some of my favorite recipes that pair cilantro with other spicy ingredients:

Indian and Thai Curries

Curry pastes use spices like cumin, turmeric, chili, and ginger and then get finished with lots of fresh cilantro. The cilantro balances out the rich heat. Try recipes for green curry or chickpea curry.

Tacos al Pastor

The combination of chili-marinated pork, raw onion, cilantro, and lime is just sublime. The cilantro cools the spicy meat perfectly.


This North African chili paste often contains garlic, olive oil, spices like caraway and cumin, and fresh cilantro. It packs some serious heat that the cilantro helps mellow.

Salsa Verde

Tomatillos, chili peppers, onion, garlic, lime juice, and cilantro make such a bright, flavor-packed combo in this salsa. The cilantro lightens up the spice blend.

Does cooking affect cilantro’s flavor?

Raw cilantro has the strongest, most assertive flavor. Cooking mellows out some of the punchy notes and integrates the flavors nicely.

Quick heating, like a light sauté or quick steaming, preserves more of the fresh taste. Prolonged cooking can make cilantro lose its signature flavor, so it’s often best used raw or added at the end.


For cilantro lovers like myself, its flavor is bright, citrusy, and vibrant. But I now know it can subjectively register as soapy, metallic, or confusingly spicy for some. While not truly a hot and spicy herb, cilantro does add a zesty pop that lights up and complements spicy cuisines around the world. I hope this cilantro flavor profile breakdown helps shed light on this polarizing herb!

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