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10 Similar Substitutes for Cilantro in Salsa and Guacamole

Similar substitutes for cilantro in salsa and guacamole include parsley, basil, mint, papalo, chives, celery leaves, green onions, and dill. are the best substitutes for fresh cilantro leaves. Cumin and garam masala are ideal substitutes for dried cilantro or coriander seeds in such recipes. 

Let’s look at these cilantro substitutes and the distinct flavors they bring to homemade salsa or guacamole recipes. 

Cilantro SubstituteTaste
ParsleySlightly bitter. Enhances the flavor of other ingredients. 
BasilSlightly sweet with a touch of citrus and spice. 
MintRefreshing and sweet. Complements the flavor of other spices.
PapaloMixture of spicy, zesty, bitter, and sweet. Has a strong flavor.
DillHas a sharp, citrus taste with a slightly bitter aftertaste.
ChivesCrunchy with a strong taste. Perfect substitute for onions.
Celery leavesFresh and crisp with a mild/bitter aftertaste. A little goes a long way. 
Green onionsCrisp, mild and sweet, although it has a strong aftertaste. 
CuminNutty and sweet with a slightly bitter undertone.
Garam masalaBest spicy alternative to cilantro and coriander. 

1. Parsley

Salsa in a bowl with fresh parsley nearby

If you’re looking for a readily available substitute for fresh cilantro, parsley is the best alternative. There’s nothing like fresh parsley to bring a peppery flavor to your dishes. Parsley and cilantro belong to the same plant family, and many people struggle to tell the difference between them, which is why parsley is the perfect substitute for cilantro. 

While most supermarkets will label them separately, you can tell the difference between them by looking at the leaves or smelling them. Parsley has pointed leaves and a fresh, herby smell, while cilantro has rounded leaves and a strong spicy smell. 

Parsley is slightly bitter but often enhances the flavor of other ingredients in salsa or guacamole dishes.

While parsley is a great alternative to cilantro, it lacks the citrus flavor of cilantro. You may have to substitute this with lemon or citrus juice in your salsa and guacamole recipes. 

When using parsley to substitute for cilantro in salsa, try experimenting with different types of parsley. Flat-leaved parsley is often the best option because of its more flavor and strong aroma. Italian and curly-leaved parsley have slightly milder flavors, but Italian parsley has higher oil content, making it ideal for salsa and guacamole recipes. 

What makes parsley unique is that you can replace it with the same proportion of cilantro in most recipes. 

2. Basil

Bowl of avocado with basil

Basil is the perfect option if you’re looking for an herb with a blend of freshness, spiciness, and citrus taste. The distinct flavor of basil makes it one of the best substitutes for cilantro in salsa, and it also works well in guacamole. 

Unlike parsley and other green herbs, basil has a sweet taste. Many fruit salsas call for basil as the primary ingredient instead of cilantro because it complements the sweetness. However, if you don’t like the taste of cilantro, freshly chopped basil leaves make a great replacement. 

If you aren’t looking for a specific taste and want your salsa or guacamole to have a perfect balance, use basil instead of cilantro. Despite being sweet, basil has a touch of pepper and citrus, so you won’t have to compensate when using it as a substitute for cilantro. 

There are several types of basil, each with a distinct flavor. These include:

  • Sweet basil
  • Lemon basil
  • Christmas basil
  • Thai basil

Sweet basil is the most common type that you’ll find in most stores, although Thai basil and lemon basil are also used in certain dishes. 

3. Mint

Guacamole bowl with mint with avocados nearby

Do you find parsley and cilantro too bitter or bland? If so, try substituting cilantro with fresh mint leaves. Mint is a common go-to herb and equally effective when used fresh or dried. Fresh mint has a distinct, unmatched aroma and refreshing taste, making it a tasty alternative to cilantro. 

If your salsa is too spicy, consider using mint to help mellow the taste. While mint is sweeter than most herbs, it also complements the flavor of other spices, making it ideal for guacamole. Mint also goes well with vegetable salsas and may add taste to a bland dish. 

When replacing cilantro with mint, remember that mint is much stronger and more nutritious, so you’ll only need half the quantity of mint. You can also use vinegar or lemon to balance the sweet taste of the mint for a well-rounded dish. 

With dozens of commonly grown mint varieties, you can achieve a lot when using mint to substitute cilantro. If you prefer a sweeter mint flavor, try using spearmint. For a sharp, spicy taste, peppermint is the best option. 

The best thing about using mint in salsa is that it’s widely available. If you can’t find fresh mint, you can always use dried mint leaves instead. 

4. Papalo

Papalo next to a bowl of chipotles

Papalo is a popular Mexican herb commonly used in South American cuisine. Its taste is difficult to describe and is a mix of spicy, zesty, bitter, and sweet flavors. Papalo leaves are used in seasoning, but you can also use them in salsa and guacamole. 

Papalo has a taste that closely resembles cilantro, making it the perfect substitute. It’s also not as spicy as parsley or as sweet as basil and mint, which gives it a unique, balanced taste. It also has a stronger, long-lasting aroma, making it perfect for fresh salsas. 

Many Mexican salsas use papalo instead of cilantro, albeit in smaller quantities. When substituting cilantro with papalo, always use one-third of the amount of papalo since it has a stronger effect. 

The only downside to papalo is that it’s not as common as mint or parsley, so you’ll have to look hard to find fresh papalo leaves (unless you live in South America!). However, papalo is becoming more popular worldwide, and more mainstream supermarkets are beginning to stock it. 

5. Dill

Fresh tomatoes dill and a red pepper

Dill is a popular grassy herb commonly used in salad dressings and dips, although it also flavors salsa and guacamole. If you’re looking to add a citrus flavor to your salsa, use fresh dill as a substitute for cilantro. 

Dill has a sharp, citrus taste and intense aroma and is similar to parsley in many ways. It does have a slightly grassy undertone, but this is balanced by the fresh, citrus taste and unique aroma. The best thing about dill is that it doesn’t have the excessive sweetness of mint and basil or the spicy and bitter flavors of parsley and cilantro. 

When substituting cilantro with dill, use as much dill as cilantro since dill isn’t as strong as other herbs like papalo or mint. You can also offset the grassy taste with lemon, vinegar, or citrus juice. However, be careful not to use old dill leaves as they quickly become bitter. 

The slight licorice aftertaste of dill makes it perfect for sour salsas, dips, and other flavored dishes. Fernleaf dill is also widely available, so you won’t have trouble using it as a replacement for cilantro in your recipes. 

6. Chives

Homemade Salsa Made of Kiwi Pears Chives and Mint

If you’re looking for a strong but balanced taste in your salsa or guacamole dishes, try using chives to replace cilantro. Fresh chives have a distinct onion-like taste and smell and provide a fresh crunch to any dish. However, they don’t have the same strong aftertaste found in onions, so they’re the perfect herb substitute. 

When replacing cilantro with fresh chives, use a similar quantity of both. Always chop the chives finely to allow the taste to spread evenly throughout the dish. Finely chopped fresh chives almost melt in the mouth and complement other herbs and spices in salsa. 

Chives aren’t classified as herbs and belong to the family of garlic and onions. However, they’re milder and give a crunchy touch to dishes when used as a herbal substitute. Unlike onions, chives have a herb-like scent and can be used both fresh or dry. 

7. Celery Leaves

Bowl of fresh pico de gallo with jalapenos and celery leaves nearby

Another interesting alternative to cilantro is fresh celery leaves. While most people hate the taste of celery stalks, celery leaves pack more flavor and are the perfect herb substitute. You can use both the outer or inner leaves depending on what taste you want to achieve. 

Always chop celery leaves finely when adding them to salsas and guacamole. The outer leaves of celery have more flavor, so it’s best to add them in small quantities. The inner leaves give off a fresh and crisp taste but have a mild taste. 

While celery leaves taste quite different from cilantro, they do have the qualities of many popular herbs. Celery leaves may have a slightly bitter aftertaste, so be careful not to overuse them in your dishes. If you want a more balanced, sweeter taste, use the inner leaves of celery since they’re milder. 

Celery leaves are packed with essential nutrients, making them a great alternative to popular herbs. They’re also widely available and make a great last-minute alternative to mint, cilantro, parsley, and other herbs. 

8. Green Onions

Chopped fresh green onions isolated on a white background

Green onions are a popular alternative for many herbs, including cilantro. The leaves of green onions have a strong taste, similar to chives. Green onions also have a strong smell and will give a lasting flavor to salsas and guacamole. 

Use the hollow leaves of green onions as a substitute for cilantro. You can use green onion bulbs if you want to add a stronger flavor to salsa, although they’re sweeter than regular onions. However, if you want to use it as a herb alternative, the green tops are perfect. 

Since green onions have a stronger taste than chives, you should chop them finely for a more balanced taste. If you want to substitute cilantro with green onions but don’t want the “onion-like” aftertaste, try adding dried onion leaves to your dishes instead. 

While fresh green onions have a distinct taste, they expire quickly and should be used within 3-4 days of purchasing. If your salsa recipe includes onions, there’s no need to substitute it with green onion shoots since green onions aren’t as strong as regular ones. 

9. Cumin

A smiling girl in a blue dress in an herb store holding a jar of dried cumin

Cumin is one of the best dried-spice alternatives to cilantro. It has a slightly sweet, nutty taste with a slightly bitter undertone. Cumin is a great ingredient to add to salsas and guacamole and complements many of the spices used in strong salsas. 

While cumin doesn’t have the same spicy flavor as chili powder or other spice seasonings, it helps bring out the flavor of these spices. Unlike many spices, it also gives off a unique color that defines the dish. If your salsa or guacamole recipe calls for coriander or dried cilantro, try using cumin as an alternative. 

The only downside to using cumin as an alternative to cilantro is that it has a slightly bitter taste and lacks the freshness that cilantro leaves bring to dishes. You’ll also have to use it reservedly and complement it with other spices. 

Nonetheless, since most people have cumin in their spice cabinets, it’s a great last-minute alternative when you run out of fresh cilantro leaves. 

10. Garam Masala

Garam masala in a wooden bowl and on a scoop

If you want to spice up your salsas or guacamole without dealing with the soapy aftertaste of cilantro, try using garam masala as a substitute. Garam masala is a mixture of several spices, including cinnamon, peppercorn, cloves, cumin, and coriander. 

Garam masala is favored by many chefs since it’s a unique blend of spices and may give more flavor than adding a single spice. It’s a great alternative to cilantro in salsas and may add some spice to your dishes. When using garam masala as a substitute for cilantro, add it in small amounts to your dishes until you achieve the desired taste. 

However, you’ll also have to be careful not to add too much garam masala as it could ruin the taste of your dishes. Another problem you’ll face is how to substitute different spices in salsa recipes when you’re using garam masala. 

So, unless you want to make your salsa extra spicy, it’s best to replace cilantro with another fresh herb instead of garam masala.

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