Making salsa from scratch gives you the freedom to choose your own ingredients, such as cilantro. Cilantro is added to salsas for its distinctive, assertive flavor. People either love cilantro or hate it due to its particular taste, which some describe as “soapy.” Cilantro, an herb, comes from the leaves of the coriander plant and is available all year in produce areas of supermarkets. If you cannot find it or do not like the taste, replace it with another herb in your salsa.
Mint has a bright, refreshing flavor to it. This flavor is unlike bold cilantro, but it will pair well with the ingredients in a fruit or tomato-based salsa. Try replacing the cilantro with an equal amount of fresh mint in pineapple, papaya, mango, peach or watermelon salsas. Opt for mint as a cilantro substitute in tomato salsas, too, as suggested by Simply Cooking.
Basil and tomatoes are a perfect pizza sauce pairing, but these will also combine well in salsa, especially as a replacement for cilantro. The bright green color of the basil will approximate that of the missing cilantro. According to Gourmet Sleuth, the flavor of basil is not similar to cilantro, but the site recommends it as a substitute. Opt for fresh basil instead of dried and substitute the same amount for cilantro in your salsa.
Parsley’s slight pepperiness lacks the assertive flavor of cilantro. Flat-leaved (Italian) parsley more closely resembles the flavor and look of cilantro, without the soapy flavor detected by some. This type of parsley is not as readily available as its more frequently seen cousin, curly leaf parsley, which is the parsley sold fresh in most supermarkets and used as a garnish in restaurants. Gourmet Sleuth suggests that parsley will replace cilantro in recipes, but the flavor will not be the same.
Chives can replace the green color from cilantro in salsa, but the flavor will be different. Seen topping baked potatoes or mixed into dip, chives taste similar to onions. In fact, they’re related to onions and leeks. Instead of chopping the chives with a knife, snip them with kitchen shears to avoid bruising the plant. Like cilantro, add the chives at the end to retain their bright color and flavor. Due to their taste, use chives to replace cilantro in salsa recipes including onions, so the chives will be a complement to the dish.
References and ResourcesSimply Cooking; How to Make Salsa; Shannon; 19 October 2006
Gourmet Sleuth: Cilantro
There's A Chef in My Kitchen; Tropical Salsa Recipe; Donna Marie Desfor; 2011
Food Network: Cilantro