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Cilantro is a bright, green, leafy herb that is used to enhance dishes with its flavor and color. It is hugely popular as a garnish in Asian cuisines like Thai, Indian and Vietnamese and in Mexican cuisine among others. Many people confuse cilantro with parsley due to its color and leafy texture. But cilantro has a stronger, more citrusy flavor while parsley is milder and brighter. Cilantro is also loaded with potassium and vitamins and works just as well in soups and broths as it does in tacos and wraps.
I love cilantro and there is always a bunch in my fridge, but you would find an unused bunch just as often in my garbage until I figured out how to make my cilantro last longer. Initially, I would just leave my cilantro in the plastic wrap it came in and use it till it started to wilt. But with the amount of cilantro I ended up wasting each time, I knew I needed to find a less wasteful way to use this herb.
If you are like me and cilantro is a staple in your household, then read on to find out how you can make them last longer and use it till the last leaf.
How Long Does Cilantro Last?
- Generally, cilantro lasts for about 3-5 days in the fridge. It can be a few days more or a few days less depending on how it has been stored.
- If you keep cilantro out and you live in a hot place, your cilantro will start wilting almost immediately. Soon after it will spoil and be unusable.
- Cilantro, fortunately, can be frozen. If you are a heavy user of cilantro this is a good option as the herb stays fresh longer without losing any of its flavor. Frozen cilantro can be good in the freezer for up to 6 months.
- A good alternative to fresh or frozen cilantro is dried cilantro that is sold in stores in bottles in the spice and condiment aisle. Dried cilantro is a lot milder than the fresh ones and is a practical option for when fresh cilantro is not readily available. Dried cilantro can last for anywhere from 1 year to 3 years.
- For those who want fresher tasting cilantro but don’t want to depend on the dried ones, now have the option of using cilantro paste. If you make cilantro paste at home it will be good for about 10-14 days. They do require refrigeration almost immediately. Because homemade cilantro paste doesn’t use emulsifiers or preservatives like the store-bought ones, their shelf lives are much shorter.
- Store-bought cilantro paste is usually sold in tubes or jars. These are good for 3-4 months after opening. Unopened cilantro paste can last for even a year if stored properly.
|Type of Cilantro
|A few hours
|Homemade Cilantro Paste
|Store-bought Cilantro Paste
|About 1 hour
|Best-by date + 3-4 months
The above table is an estimate only. Cilantro can last just a few days or for months depending on how much care we take to store it properly. Because it is so often used as a fresh herb, it can quickly spoil.
The important thing to keep in mind is that the fresher the cilantro the better it tastes, wilted, soggy cilantro has a much duller flavor.
How To Store Cilantro?
If you want your herb to last longer, here are a few things you can do to enjoy its fresh and bright flavors for a long time.
- Store fresh cilantro in the fridge as soon as you bring it home.
- One way to store it is to wash it in cold water, dry it completely and place it in a glass jar or bottle with a little bit of water, just like you would do flowers. Then, cover the leaves lightly with a plastic bag. Change the water every few days. Your cilantro will not start browning or wilting.
- Another way to store it is to wash it with cold water and dry it. You can chop up the cilantro or leave it as is. Line a container with paper towels and place the cilantro on top. Close it tightly and store it in the fridge. Your cilantro stays fresh and fragrant for a long time. Some people choose to discard the stems and only use the leaves, but you can keep the stems as they are packed with flavor.
- Many people just keep the cilantro in the bag they got in the store. While this is not ideal, as it greatly reduced the life and quality of cilantro, you can do it in a pinch. Keep in mind that your cilantro will start browning and getting slimy much faster. This is because there is moisture in the store-bought cilantro, and this makes it spoil faster.
- Dried cilantro on the other hand requires almost no extra work. You can keep it in your kitchen cabinet or pantry along with the rest of your dried spices. It will be fine for years. You can also keep it in the fridge, but it doesn’t extend its shelf life significantly or enhance the flavor.
- Cilantro paste on the other hand needs just a little bit of extra work, which is to refrigerate it as soon as possible. Also, be aware that store-bought cilantro paste has a lot of preservatives, which is why it can last so long. But that doesn’t mean it will survive any condition. If not refrigerated within an hour, the cilantro paste will start turning and browning.
- Homemade cilantro paste needs to be refrigerated in an airtight container within 30 minutes. Else, this too will start spoiling and as it has no additives to extend its shelf life it will spoil a lot quicker.
Fresh cilantro is the key to its flavor and fragrance. Here are a few things to keep in mind when buying fresh cilantro:
- Make sure the bunch you are buying is green with no wilted leaves
- Remove the rubber band or tie it comes in and discard
- Before storing wash and most importantly dry the cilantro. The presence of moisture makes it go bad.
How To Tell If Your Cilantro Has Spoiled?
- Smell: The easiest way to tell if your cilantro has spoiled is by its smell. Usually, cilantro smells fresh and lemony. It is a pretty strong smell. If it has a pungent, bitter odor it has spoiled. Many people think cilantro smells of soap, that is normal.
- Texture: Next check the texture, if it is slimy or sticky then it has definitely gone bad.
- Discoloration: If your cilantro is mostly brown, then it is on the way out. You can still use the few green leaves that are left.
- Taste: Spoiled cilantro will be bitter and inedible.
Cilantro is one of the most flavorful and delightful herbs you can use. A few sprigs of it can really elevate a dish. It is versatile both in use and in the types available. Use cilantro in any way you want, in any cuisine you favor. Follow the above tips to store them better for longer.