Cilantro lovers, like myself, can attest to the fact that the herb adds a bright, citrusy flavor to rice, fish and meat dishes. In fact, my fridge is always stocked with a bunch or two of cilantro to give any recipe an instant easy upgrade. While my adoration for the herb runs deep, I used to make the mistake of throwing away the best part – the stems. Many recipes call for only using cilantro leaves as they’re soft enough to chop and chew. However, cilantro stems are just as edible and a perfect addition to recipes since they’re full of flavor and nutrients.
The stem portion of cilantro can also be used to make pesto, simple syrup for drinks and compound butter. Keep reading to learn why you shouldn’t throw away cilantro stems and money-saving ways you can eat them in a variety of dishes.
Can I eat cilantro stems?
Cilantro stems make up more than half of the herb itself, yet they’re often viewed as being less attractive than the vibrant green leaves. This is a key reason the stems tend to be discarded, but they have a lot more to offer than you think. Here are three reasons you’ll want to use cilantro stems to enhance your meals instead of throwing them away:
- Crunchy texture: Cilantro stems have crunchy yet tender texture, making them perfect to blend into marinades, salad dressings or pestos. You can also chop the stems with the leaves until they resemble small, bite-sized pieces. Then, sprinkle chopped leaves and stems into a dish just before serving.
- Intense flavor: Surprisingly, cilantro stems hold a more potent and sweet flavor than the leaves. Because of this, it’s best to utilize the entire herb when possible.
- No waste: Using cilantro stems ensures that no part of the herb goes to waste. This comes in handy, whether the cilantro is store-bought or from your herb garden, so you get the most bang (and flavor!) for your buck.
The #1 way to use cilantro stems
The best way to use cilantro to get the most flavor and save the most money? First for Women Food Director Julie Miltenberger let us in on her genius trick that works for any recipe: She saves the cilantro leaves to garnish a dish and uses just the stems to add flavor while cooking. She says the stems can withstand high-heat temperatures without wilting, unlike the leaves.
How can I cook with cilantro stems?
You’d be surprised how versatile cilantro stems are to cook with. Below, the First for Women test kitchen shares four recipes that use the herb’s stems and leaves so you can enjoy the herb’s maximum flavor:
1. Compound Butter
To extend the life of cilantro sprigs, stir them into butter to spread on top of grilled meats or crusty bread.
- ⅓ cup cilantro, chopped with stems included
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- ½ cup unsalted butter, softened
- Mix chopped cilantro with garlic and butter.
- Form into log; wrap in parchment. Chill in fridge for up to one week.
2. Cilantro-Infused Simple Syrup
Herbs including cilantro release natural oils when exposed to heat. This makes them perfect for infusing into a savory-sweet syrup for cocktails, mocktails, iced tea and more.
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 cilantro sprigs
- In small pot, simmer water, sugar and cilantro until sugar is dissolved, 3 minutes; remove from heat.
- Let sit 30 minutes. Strain; cover and chill for up to a month.
3. Cilantro and Oil Ice Cubes
For easy-access flavor bombs, simply freeze cilantro sprigs and stems in oil, then add cubes to hot pan to quick-start a sauté.
- Leftover cilantro sprigs and stems, chopped
- Olive oil
- Place sprigs and stems in ice cube mold and fill with olive oil; freeze.
- Transfer cubes to plastic food storage bag; stash in freezer until ready to use.
4. Homemade Cilantro Pesto
Cilantro stems infuse pesto with a fresh and pungent flavor that’s great to enjoy on pasta or pizza.
- 1 bunch fresh cilantro, stems and leaves
- ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons almonds
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- ½ cup olive oil
- In processor, pulse cilantro, Parmesan cheese, almonds, garlic and lemon juice with motor running.
- Stream in olive oil and process until smooth.
- Toss with cooked pasta or drizzle over pizza.
Are cilantro stems good for you?
Cilantro stems not only add a fragrant flavor and crunchy texture to dishes, they’re also packed with nutrients. The herb contains vitamins A, C and K, which are essential as part of a balanced diet for healthy teeth, skin and bones. And there are reports about cilantro having additional benefits for blood sugar and Alzheimer’s disease risk, although more research is needed. Another bonus: Fresh cilantro is a healthier flavor enhancer than salt as it’s unlikely to raise your blood pressure. Therefore, you use more of this herb and less salt to make mouthwatering and nourishing meals.