What is Parsley?

Parsley is used widely in cooking to add a mild flavor and color to a variety of dishes. See more culinary herb pictures.
Iva Villi


Q. Can you explain the basic differences between flat-leaf parsley, Italian parsley, Chinese parsley, and cilantro?

A. First, a quick parsley refresher course. There are only two types of parsley: curly-leaf and flat-leaf.

Curly parsley has a pleasant grassy flavor and decorative ruffled leaves that make it the perfect garnish. When a stronger flavor is desired, recipes usually call for flat-leaf or Italian parsley (they're the same), which features broad, serrated leaves.


Despite the name, Italy is not the only country where flat-leaf parsley is widely favored. It's dominant throughout Europe and the Middle East.

Chinese parsley, on the other hand, is not parsley at all! It's actually cilantro (which also is called coriander). Although cilantro is related to the parsley family and looks a lot like flat-leaf parsley, its leaves have a distinctly different smell, a deeper emerald color, and a much stronger flavor. Cilantro is a popular ingredient in Asian, Middle Eastern, Indian, and Latin American cuisines.

While the names are different -- not to mention confusing -- all of these leafy herbs do share one thing in common: They're used around the world to add lively color, fresh taste, and delightful aroma to many different dishes.


Learn about parsley and herbs in the following articles: