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How to see the difference between parsley, coriander (cilantro) and celery

Topics: Cooking  /  

The difference between coriander cilantro celery and parsleyFrom left to right: Coriander (cilantro), celery and flat-leaf parsley

For years I have been unable to notice the difference between flat-leaf parsley, coriander (aka cilantro) and celery, unless I tasted or sniffed them. Since they are all green, have about the same shape of leaf and usually come wrapped in plastic bags, I needed to find some unique visible characteristics of each them to distinguish one from the other.

So here is your little almost-identical-looking-herb identification guide. Each herb has different varieties that vary in shape, size and colour, so this guide only uses characteristics that are shared by all varieties of the herbs.

The difference in leaf shape between coriander and parsleyCoriander (left) has a more rounded leaf shape than both celery and parsley (right)

Coriander is probably the easiest to recognise, as its leaf shape is clearly more rounded than that of both parsley and celery. Also, the coriander (aka cilantro) varieties that I know usually have leaves a shade of green lighter than most parsleys and celeries. So if the shape of the leaves is not pointy, you can be sure that it is coriander.

To see the difference between the two pointy-leaved herbs, one should look at the stems instead of the leaves. Whereas parsley always has a smooth stem with a more or less circular section, celery stems have a jagged surface and a crescent-shaped section. Celery stems look like a small version of the celery stalks.

Celery and Parsley stems crescent-shaped and circularCelery stems (left) have a jagged surface and a crescent-shaped section, while parsley stems (right) have a more smooth surface and a more-or-less circular section

Extra: For those that want to see the difference between chervil (a not-so-widely available but very aromatic kitchen herb) and the herbs above, the following might help.

Chervil distinguishes itself by its smaller leaf size and the higher number of ramifications (branch junctions) on the route from the main stem to a leaf. Whereas parsley and celery plants always make a leaf after one, two or three (very rare) ramifications, almost all chervil plants branch out three to four times before making a leaf.

Chervil and parsley have different number of branchesChervil (left) has three to four “branches” before a leaf grows, while parsley (right) and celery usually only have one or two

Please use this identification guide on your market or in your own kitchen only. Do not use these characteristics for the identification of wild herbs as there are many Apiaceae that look just like parsley, but are deadly poisonous. Like this one for example, which supposedly killed Socrates.

  1. Sarah says: November 26, 20128:19 pm

    thank you! there are many times that I’ll buy celery leaves instead of parsley and then getting frustrated when it’s not what I had wanted.
    good day!

  2. cecille says: March 6, 20135:26 am

    thank u so much..! i didn’t know that im buying everytime the coriander leaves instead of parsley leaves coz ive heard that parsley is very good for cleansing our kidney…that’s y im looking for it.well then thanks a lot for this infos…

  3. The Main Ingredient says: June 14, 20132:03 am

    Very interesting and useful article…thank you!!

  4. izki says: July 18, 20135:11 am

    thanks :)

  5. Brad Nguyen says: November 26, 201312:03 pm

    Great guide. Many people are confused between Italian parsley and cilantro. Did you take the photographs yourself?

  6. roshni says: December 23, 20138:30 pm

    Its very informative, thank you.

  7. James says: January 10, 20149:32 am

    The perfect answer to my question. Very useful to have the text as well as appropriate pictures. Thank you.

  8. Name (required) says: January 16, 201410:21 am

    Thanks a lot… very clear explanation of significant differences between one another

  9. Nadine says: January 23, 20146:25 pm

    Very informative. I’m sure there are still lots of people out there who buy the wrong herbs all the time. . . like me. Thanks for clearing this up.

  10. Teguh says: April 11, 20146:13 am

    Thank a lots. Very practical info.

  11. ALKA says: April 18, 201411:04 am


  12. Shirlyn Lee says: May 1, 20144:29 am

    So glad my friend share this with me, now I can at least recognize them.

  13. karima says: June 12, 20145:05 am

    yes, thank you very much for this helpful guide :) i’m really having a problem of discovering coriander XD

  14. Firda says: September 13, 20146:48 am

    Thankyou so much! Love this article

  15. Mary says: September 24, 20142:19 am

    Thank you so much….You saved me from a deep confusion between them! it was so useful.

  16. [...] How to see the difference between parsley, coriander (cilantro) and celery | A Peace of Cake [...]

  17. sandy carpio says: October 26, 20146:35 pm

    thank you for the knowlege now I know rigth

  18. Anamika says: November 7, 20142:14 pm

    Thank You for the information. Now it is much easier for me to differentiate between celery and parsley. Coriander anyways was not a problem :-)

  19. Vini says: November 9, 20145:00 am

    very useful and helpful article. Thankyou so much.

  20. Gaganpreet says: November 29, 20144:05 am

    Thank you for this awesome post and suck clear pictures and pointers. I live in a place full of greenary and I think my entire life so far, I have been using all 3 of these as coriander :D Now I know which is which. Great post!

  21. jean says: December 5, 20144:56 am

    Thank you. This is by far the most helpful explanation with pictures of the difference between celery, the flat-leaf French parsley and coriander, cilantro.

  22. Steve A says: December 18, 20141:11 am

    wow, the photography is excellent. gj!

  23. Melissa Omolo says: December 19, 20146:14 pm

    I now know the difference, thank you

  24. kkking says: January 13, 20157:06 am

    very interesting and knowledgeable article.

  25. Skm says: February 10, 201510:44 am


  26. Skm says: February 10, 201510:45 am

    Thank you so much

  27. Grace C. Espiritusanto says: April 5, 20153:26 pm

    Thanks, it’s a very useful information. I never knew that there were others that looked like celery.

  28. Swathi says: April 20, 20152:36 pm

    Thanks For the Info it adds some value

  29. mabel says: May 2, 20156:09 pm

    very useful information.just purchased coriander leaf instead of parsely.i also got to know celery leaf through this medium.The information was useful.keep it up

  30. vidya says: May 8, 20159:23 am

    Do we get parsley in India.

  31. Ajish says: June 9, 20156:58 pm

    Yaeh very useful article so its round stem parsley , crescent shaped stem celery n rounded leaf is cilantro aka coriander

  32. Dr Omana Mammen says: August 12, 201512:06 pm

    very informative and short. Thank you.

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