Cilantro: 10 Ways to Use the Superfood

Posted on April 6th, 2012 by in Nutrition


Adored by many, loathed by some, cilantro can be used in countless ways to enhance chilly winter days with a tasty dose of nutrition. Often used in Mexican, Asian, and Caibbean cooking, and rich in minerals, vitamins, and antioxidants, cilantro can provide a healthful boost to many a meal. It’s even considered to be therapeutic. John Bagnulo, PhD, nutritionist at Kripalu, notes:

Cilantro is a wonderful herb that has remarkable attributes for treating heavy-metal toxicity. Animal research has shown that cilantro contains molecules that prevent the deposition of lead and mercury in tissues. I recommend eating cilantro for people who have been exposed to toxic levels of heavy metal.

But there are other ways to use cilantro, too. Here’s our top 10 uses for cilantro:

  1. Add cilantro into a stir-fry, toward the end of cooking to maintain the fresh flavor and oils that can stimulate digestion and minimize gastric distress.
  2. Chop and toss into some of the fresh herb into guacamole. At my house, we like to add chopped kalamata olives for a salty contrast to the creamy, sweet avocado flavor.
  3. Dab it. Essential oil of cilantro can be used topically to minimize skin inflammation. To use, add a small amount (a couple of drops) to your favorite cold sesame oil or almond oil for a light, soothing massage.
  4. Throw a handful into a smoothie. Annie B. Kay, MS, RD, RYT, Lead Nutritionist at Kripalu, advises eating cilantro during a cleanse or detoxification to aide in supporting digestive health.
    In addition to the heavy-metal benefit John described, the oils in cilantro have powerful antimicrobial benefits. Add in its antioxidant profile, and cilantro is a detoxification superfood.
  5. Stew a coconut curry. There’s nothing like a warming, ginger-cilantro curry to nourish and soothe.
  6. Chop it like salad and eat a whole bunch! John Bagnulo recommends eating cilantro in higher amounts (tasty with chopped peanuts, mango, and crisp green lettuce) to boost gastrointestinal processes.
  7. Season your dishes. Cilantro Mint Chutney is a staple in the Kripalu Dining Hall and goes well with many dishes, such as rice biryani, mixed vegetables, or quinoa and beans.
  8. Finish sesame noodles with fresh, chopped peanuts and cilantro.
  9. Garnish. A friend recently taught me to cook Brussels sprouts by roasting them in the oven for ten minutes, then searing them in a pan at a high heat to lightly blacken, then adding a dash of soy sauce, garlic, chopped cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice. This is a show stopper! I served these for Thanksgiving and everyone fought for the last of the sprouts.
  10. Add cilantro to a fresh-pressed juice for a cooling effect for pitta doshas when they’re dominating the day! Hilary Garivaltis, former Dean of the Kripalu School of Ayurveda, and President of NAMA notes: We recognize fresh cilantro to be especially good to cool pitta down in the digestive track as well as topically for hot, itchy skin issues.

Share your favorite cilantro recipes!


About Kimberly Jordan Allen

Kimberly is a writer, editor, and content strategist who has worked for national brands and publications. Her professional background includes branding, digital content, and feature writing. Kimberly's areas of expertise are lifestyle, health and wellness, environmental issues, and the mind-body-spirit connection. She crafts communication strategies that integrate traditional, web, and social to ignite, engage, and mobilize. Her work has appeared in Berkshire Magazine, The Huffington Post, E/The Environmental Magazine, Rural Intelligence, Shape, Organic Consumers Association, Sonima Foundation and Beliefnet. Kimberly is one of the founding contributors of Eco Chick, a website for hip, environmentally conscious women. Eco Chick has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, Grist, Treehugger, Glamour, Self, and She is currently the Digital Content Editor at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health.
  • karlonwheels

    Yumm!  I like to add cilantro to mashed potatoes, but ya gotta blend it into a powder first.

  • Vicky

    it is a great additon to summer salads, I love it in a lime dressing!

  • KripaluEditor

    Love the mashed potatoes idea!

  • Mainah3

    Do you have any suggestions for those of us who do not like the taste of cilantro at all?

    • KripaluEditor

      Some may be genetically predisposed to not like cilantro, as this New York Times piece states:

      I spoke about this with Annie Kay, one of our lead nutritionists here at Kripalu, and she said some people react negatively to the aldehydes. In time, some get over this reaction, but some do not.

      In this New York Times piece, Jay Gottfried, MD, from Northwestern notes that his experience of cilantro eventually changed:

      “I didn’t like cilantro to begin with,” he said. “But I love food,
      and I ate all kinds of things, and I kept encountering it. My brain must
      have developed new patterns for cilantro flavor from those experiences,
      which included pleasure from the other flavors and the sharing with
      friends and family. That’s how people in cilantro-eating countries
      experience it every day.”

      “So I began to like cilantro,” he said.
      “It can still remind me of soap, but it’s not threatening anymore, so
      that association fades into the background, and I enjoy its other
      qualities. On the other hand, if I ate cilantro once and never willingly
      let it pass my lips again, there wouldn’t have been a chance to reshape
      that perception.”

      ~Kimberly J Allen from Kripalu

  • Maureenbliz

    Chopped cilantro is delicious in soups, salads, and filet of any fish!  

  • Kimberly

    Makes me want some Mexican food tonight! Is it anti-yoga to say that I’m now thinking about margaritas too?

  • Big Jim

    I’m not sure I enjoy or even know  some of the foods you write about, but enjoyed the writing.