How To Use Up Cilantro

by Kristen on February 11, 2010 · 32 comments

in Food Waste, Use It Up

IMG_4317

Those of you who are regulars around here know that cilantro has been my nemesis in my battle against food waste. It’s tough to use up an entire bunch before it gets wilty or slimy.

I’m happy to report that though I do still waste some every now and then, I’ve gotten much better at using it up.

Apparently I’m not the lone cilantro-waster out there, as a lot of you have emailed asking for tips on using it up.
Of course, cilantro is hardly the most dreadful food to waste…it’s small, compostable, and cheap, so wasting it is not as worrisome as wasting a cut of beef. Still, if you’re like me, you’d really rather eat your food instead of throwing it out.

I know that I could theoretically grow cilantro, but I have not personally had great success with this. My spindly little plants tend to go to seed really quickly, before they’re even large enough to provide much of anything in the way of food. So, I figure it’s worth it to me to pay $.99/bunch for cilantro.

The way you store cilantro will make a big difference in how long it stays fresh. In my experience, the best thing is to treat it sort of like fresh flowers. When I bring mine home from the store, I cut off the ends of the stems, place the bunch in a glass of water, and store the glass in the fridge.

Here are some suggestions for using your properly-stored cilantro:

  • make fresh salsa. I combine chopped tomatoes, onions, jalapenos, and cilantro and add a little bit of salt. This is so tasty, and not counting the chips you dip into it, it’s pretty healthy too.
  • add it to quesadillas, tacos, fajitas and other Mexican dishes
  • use it to jazz up jarred salsa
  • add it to scrambled eggs. In the picture below, I made a salsa-like mixture and used it to top scrambled eggs.

IMG_7778

(It was kind of early and the sun wasn’t up, which explains why this picture isn’t quite up to snuff. I’m not a fan of summer, but my goodness, summer days are much better for photography!)

  • make a cilantro pesto to use on pasta or in panini sandwiches (I use lime juice, cilantro, oil, and salt in mine)
  • plan for two cilantro dishes in the same week, like fajitas + paninis, or tortilla soup + tacos
  • make a salad with it. I use corn, black beans, tomatoes, and chopped cilantro with (oddly enough) ranch dressing. It’s surprisingly good.

So, those are my best ideas. If you’ve got a good suggestion to add, please do leave a comment to help us recovering cilantro-wasters!

Leave a Comment

{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Stacey February 11, 2010 at 8:35 am

To prevent wasting my cilantro I’ve actually started buying the plant potted. With a little watering and tending to it will last longer than buying a bunch, and it is nice smelling and good to look at as well. It’s also cheaper for me to buy a plant than to buy a small bunch.

Reply

2 mamafitz February 11, 2010 at 8:53 am

i love to make frijoles. in the summer, we get a lot of cilantro in our CSA box, so i’ll make pots and pots of frijoles and then freeze in pint jars. my recipe (i do this in the crock pot, and it takes a long time so you need to plan ahead):

dry pinto beans
a tomato or two, depending on how big of a batch you are making (2 tomatoes if you are doing a whole 4 qt crockpot)
cilantro
minced garlic
salt
pepper
seasonings to taste (cumin, adobo, whatever you like)

The night before, put the dry pinto beans in the crockpot (anywhere from 1.5 c +), and cover w/water (like 2-3″ over the beans. Oh, be sure to pick through the dry beans for any stones first). Cover, and turn on low, let it sit overnight.

In the morning, drain and rinse the beans. Put them back in the crockpot, cover w/fresh water (only like an inch or so this time), cover, turn on high and let them cook for oh, 2-3 hours. Whenever they look right to you.

In a small skillet heat up some oil. Chop up the tomato and cilantro, and saute in the pan for a bit. Add a ladle-ful or two of the beans to the skillet and let it simmer and soften the stuff up. Mash it up with a potato masher (the stuff in the skillet). Pour that back into the beans. Add a bunch of garlic, pepper, at least a teaspoon of salt (or seasoned salt, or both). Let it cook for another hour or two. Taste the beans and start adding whatever other seasonings you like to jazz them up. my husband usually does this part, he adds cumin, adobo, a splash of lemon, i think taco seasoning, and whatever else tickles his fancy that particular day. By now you can turn it down to low if you want, and just let them sit until you are ready to eat them.

i used to do these in a regular pot on the stove, here are some photos:
http://mamafitz.blogspot.com/2006/03/frijoles-la-charra.html

Reply

3 wendy February 11, 2010 at 9:16 am

Finding out that living next to a market that has a high Hispanic customer base is great! I get cilantro for 25-33 cents a bunch. Take out of bag, wrap in papertoweling, stuff back in bag -works for me in the keeping fresh dept. When I have too much hanging around, I handle it like parsley–chop and store in the freezer. This works for dishes that need cooked cilantro.For extra fresh I chop and toss in my greensalads. There are other countries that use cilantro as well in their cooking, Middle Eastern mostly. And they use it in all three forms-in the same dish,seed-ground-fresh. For a Jordanian styled salad,add fresh cilantro to your lettuce base and dress with olive oil, lemon juice and minced fresh garlic. YUM!

Reply

4 Yvette February 11, 2010 at 10:51 am

I tend to use a lot of cilantro…I have a problem that when I need it, I don’t have it. So, I freeze this wonderful herb. Here’s a video showing how. The only difference, I don’t chop it. I pull off the leaves and some of the stem. Hope this helps!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FeOS5cndFoE

Reply

5 Nancy February 11, 2010 at 10:54 am

Excellent suggestions. I enjoy cilantro but don’t buy it often because the bulk of it usually ends up going to waste. I have found that we do use more of it during the warmer weather months, not sure why that is. Love your idea for a cilantro pesto. may have to try that.

Reply

6 Joni February 11, 2010 at 11:29 am

I love cilantro! It is one of my favorites to add flavor to a dish. I almost never have any to go to waste. I see a couple of other ways to use it now. Thanks!

Reply

7 Freckles February 11, 2010 at 11:46 am

You’re the first person whom I’ve ever heard say they were not a fan of summer! I’m curious to know why ….

Reply

8 Lauren F February 11, 2010 at 12:15 pm

Crikey, how NOT to use cilantro?! Worst case scenario, wrap it in a paper towel and a plastic bag and freeze it! The stems are great in chicken stock and most soups. The leaves add a something to pesto, bean dishes, plain rice. This is one food I truly don’t understand how it gets wasted because nearly everything tastes better with cilantro.

Reply

9 sheridan February 11, 2010 at 12:31 pm

this is so timely – I’ve been stressing about how to use mine up! I bought it over the weekend to include in the guacamole I made for a friend’s superbowl party and now it is sitting in a vase in the fridge. I was going to add some to a quesadilla, but now I’ll make pesto with the rest – thanks for the idea!

Reply

10 Rockzann February 11, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Love your blog!

My cilantro receipe offering comes from a local resturant called Cafe’ Rio. They make an amazing lime rice that goes great in burrittos and salads. Here is the receipe

4 Cups Water
2 Cups Rice
4 Limes
2 pats butter
1 bunch cilantro chopped

Prepare rice using your favorite receipe except you will be adding 2 Tbsp Lime Zest,the juice of the limes and the chopped cilantro to the water.

I also make a salad dressing using cilantro

1 c Sour Cream
3/4 c Buttermilk
1 package Ranch Dressing Mix
3-4 Tomatillos (peeled and quartered)
1 clove garlic minced
1 bunch of cilantro
Put everything in a blender, whip it up and you’ve got the best dressing for salads.

Reply

11 Nancy February 11, 2010 at 5:23 pm

These recipes sound wonderful! I’m definitely going to try them.

Reply

12 Elizabeth R February 11, 2010 at 3:49 pm

I have a white lightening chili (with ground turkey) recipe that uses cilantro. Good ideas. I have also tried to grow it without success. Thought maybe I was doing something wrong.

Reply

13 Michelle February 11, 2010 at 4:30 pm

Thanks for the great ideas. I love the idea of making cilantro pesto. I received a panini press for Christmas, and I am seeing a chicken/monterry jack/cilantro pesto sandwich. Yum!

Reply

14 Linda February 11, 2010 at 6:01 pm

I use cilantro sometimes when making broth (common ingredient in Thai cooking) or black bean soup. I also throw it into salads.

Reply

15 Condo Blues February 11, 2010 at 7:49 pm

To prevent me from wasting fresh herbs before they wilt I freeze them in ice cube trays. Once the herbs are frozen solid in the ice cubes, I pop them out of the tray and put them in a separate container and wash the ice cube trays. I try to do about a tablespoon of herb per ice cube to make it easier to measure out for recipes.

Reply

16 Charlotte February 11, 2010 at 11:16 pm

I throw my cilantro on the food dehydrator, and then use the dried spice over the course of weeks. (I’m not a heavy cilantro-user.)

Reply

17 Kayla K @KaylaK'sThriftyWays February 12, 2010 at 11:45 am

I posted this recipe a little while back…
http://www.kaylaksthriftyways.com/?p=672
for Gingered Carrot Soup.

I had something similar went I went out to lunch with my mom. We went home and duplicated the recipe, and now it’s a family favorite! You can’t even taste the carrot, it is more like a spicy tomato soup. Even my sister who’s “allergic” to carrots likes it.

Oh, yes- and it uses up a LOT of cilantro :)

Reply

18 Ana February 12, 2010 at 12:02 pm

FREEZE IT!
Chop up cilantro in a food processor, mix in a small amount of water, then freeze into cubes in using small ice cube tray! Perfect for salsas!

Reply

19 Sarah February 12, 2010 at 1:47 pm

Hmmm…I’d never thought of putting the cilantro in water. I’ll be giving that a try next time!

Reply

20 LizandBoys February 12, 2010 at 1:51 pm

I mix some w/jarred salsa and it really jazzes it up – I HATE that it goes bad so quickly but it really adds that special UMPH to a recipe

Reply

21 Sarah February 12, 2010 at 2:56 pm

I have been struggling with this exact issue. Finally, a friend suggested a solution that works well for me. Chop and drizzle with a small amount of olive oil – just enough to be damp, but not soggy – and freeze. Break off the amount needed and use as if it were fresh.

Reply

22 Forest February 13, 2010 at 4:32 am

If your cillantro (or any herbs) are starting to go old and you see no use for them then simply dry them.

Put it on a chopping board, chop it fine and then spread it thin over a baking tray. Then put it on the top of the oven while you cook something in the over or anywhere warm. The warmth will help dry it very quickly and then you can put it in a bag or a jar and add it to stew, curries, chillis or whatever.

Reply

23 Katy Rox February 13, 2010 at 4:54 am

Instead of treating it like a bouquet exactly I find it (and many, many other vegetables & herbs) lasts MUCH longer by simply wrapping the root end in a double layer of paper towels. Then get the paper towel wet. Wrap the whole thing loosely in plastic wrap (so you don’t bruise the leaves). It’s amazing how long it lasts.
Also … In Canada they sell cilantro with the root attached. This helps it to last much longer naturally. I wish American retailers would ask their wholesalers to do that. I ask the shopkeepers as often as I can … if every customer did this, eventually I think they would get the message.

Reply

24 Lisa February 15, 2010 at 7:10 am

One of our favorite cold side dishes uses a lot of cilantro

1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
equal amount frozen corn kernals, rinsed to thaw
1/2 onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, minced (remove the seeds and ribs if you have wimpy taste buds!)
1/2 bunch of cilantro, chopped

for the dressing
juice of 2 limes
2 T peanut oil
1 clove of garlic, crushed
salt

Toss it all together and refrigerate for an hour prior to serving.

Reply

25 Michelle August 5, 2010 at 3:56 pm

Add a good amount of cilantro to Uncle Ben’s chicken rice or Rice-a-Roni chicken rice. Makes it taste AWESOME!

Reply

26 Lynda Swink October 23, 2010 at 11:37 am

The salad you made above with the ranch dressing is actually served in restaurants in California. I used to make it at home too. The secret ingredient? A bit of chunky tomato salsa mixed into the ranch dressing! It is also served with strips or chunks of grilled chicken and some strips of corn tortilla chips. But I’ve been known to forgo the extras (strips and chicken).

But at the very least try adding the salsa. It really adds a spark to the flavor!

Reply

27 Jim Long February 2, 2012 at 3:57 pm

I’m growing cilantro in a pot this winter in New England. By day I let the cilantro catch sun rays atop the garage roof then take it inside during the cold nights. The leaves are doing great. And now I’m going to try that great sounding recipe for lime rice – thank you.

Reply

28 Pam K. March 2, 2012 at 3:08 pm

Similar to Katie Rox above, I find that wrapping in a damp paper towel and storing in a plastic bag makes cilantro last a LONG time. I just rinse the cilantro, wrap it in a dry paper towel while still damp, and store in the plastic bag in the crisper drawer. The bunch I have in there now has been there for at least six weeks. I usually make something Mexican at least once a week, so I pull out a little of the bunch, chop it, and sprinkle on top. It’s only 88 cents a bunch here, but I still don’t like to waste it!

Reply

29 jada May 19, 2012 at 6:00 pm

I have more cilantro than I know what to do witth…any fresh ideas?

Reply

30 Ken April 30, 2013 at 11:41 pm

Cagiun cavaier 1/2 choppedonion,1 chopped green bell pepper,2jalapino peppers 1tbs minced garlic, 1 can black beans ,1can diced tomatoes,1 bunch choped fresh cilantro, 1 8oz zesty italian dressing,refrigerate 4 hrs strain and serve with chips

Reply

31 Teresa May 4, 2013 at 2:47 pm

Thank you for all the wonderful ideas on how not to let cilantro go to waste!!!

Reply

32 Jovan June 16, 2013 at 12:02 am

After a trip to the farmer’s market and getting cilantro, I Googled “how to use cilantro” . I love the stuff but just can’t use it up fast enough and I too end up throwing it out.

Tonight I made your tomato/black bean salad. WOW! Sooooo good! Tomorrow morning, the scrambled egg idea.

Thank you for the good tips!

Reply

Previous post:

Next post: