Peppercorn-Cilantro Root Flavor Paste

Here, the essential flavors of the Thai repertoire all come together: black pepper (prik thai), fresh coriander (cilantro) roots, and garlic, salted with a little Thai fish sauce. Use this paste as a marinade for fish, grilled chicken, or pork. Because the paste is so versatile, it’s handy to have a stash of cilantro roots in the freezer. Whenever you buy a bunch of cilantro, after you have used the leaves, chop off the roots and wash and store them in a plastic bag in the freezer. You don’t need to defrost them before using, as they can be chopped and pounded still frozen. This recipe makes a small quantity of flavor paste, just over 2 tablespoons. Double the quantities if you’d like to make more.–Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

What are Cilantro Roots?

What are cilantro roots? That’s probably what you’re asking yourselves at this moment. While supermarket cilantro tends to have the roots already lopped off, cilantro at your local farmers’ market or Asian market typically can be found with the dirt-encrusted, gangly roots still intact. Be sure to give the grungy roots a good soak before pounding them. The cilantro stems can also stand in for the roots if you can’t lay your hands on the latter. If you’re fortunate enough to have a molcajete in your possession, this is a lovely excuse to put it to use. And then what? Slather the paste over skin-on chicken or whole fish prior to roasting or grilling.

Peppercorn-Cilantro Root Flavor Paste Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 25 M
  • 15 M
  • Makes 2 to 3 tablespoons


  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • 5 to 6 large cloves garlic, coarsely chopped (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro roots (or stems)
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon fish sauce


  • 1. Place the peppercorns in a mortar with the garlic and pound to a paste.
  • 2. Add the cilantro roots and salt and pound to a paste. This will take 5 to 10 minutes. If you have a small blender or other food grinder that can produce a smooth paste, you can use it instead. (We tend to toss in a few cilantro stems along with the roots when we make this paste—just for good measure.)
  • 3. Stir in the fish sauce.
  • 4. Use the paste immediately or store in a well-sealed glass jar. This keeps for up to 4 days in the refrigerator.
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    1. You’re so very welcome, Nathalie. When I first thought to freeze cilantro roots, it was life changing! So glad the tip has helped you, too. Thanks so much for taking the time to let us know!

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