Parsley and cilantro are often wrongly located next to each other in the produce aisle. Similar in appearance, they have vastly different flavors. On more than one occasion mistaking one for the other has resulted in some rather “interesting” meal results.
Look-alike foods are more prevalent than you’d think and can often lead to disastrous cooking situations. But never fear, here’s your go-to guide to telling apart these twelve commonly confused foods.
Dates vs. Prunes
Dates - Dates are oblong-shaped and usually a lighter brown than prunes. They’re also much sweeter and commonly used in all-natural baked goods as a healthy alternative to sugar – they’re the reason you justify buying all those brownies from Whole Foods. They are often used to help constipation, sexual dysfunction and can be enjoyed fresh, dried or wrapped in bacon.
Prunes - Your mind might immediately go to that terrible juice that’s always on hand at your grandma’s, but prunes are so much more than a liquid laxative. As dried plums, prunes are less sweeter than dates but much more savory. Prunes pair best with meats such as chicken and duck and are especially delicious wrapped in pancetta.
Zucchini vs. Cucumber
Zucchini - Although it’s difficult to tell by sight, zucchini has a rough, dry exterior. When eaten, zucchinis are the ultimate contradiction - they tend to taste simultaneously sweet and bitter. Zucchinis are also best eaten cooked; they make an excellent side dish when cut into strips and roasted in olive oil and seasonings.
Cucumbers - Cucumbers have a waxy surface that’s both smoother, yet bumpier, than a zucchini. Eaten both raw and cooked, they have a juicy, crisp taste. Because of this taste difference, you could be facing a culinary disaster if you were to mix up these two lookalikes. I once accidentally made cucumber bread instead of zucchini bread…I lost a lot of friends that day.
Cilantro vs. Parsley
Cilantro - Often used in Latin American and Asian cuisine, cilantro has a clean (some might say “soapy”) smell with a slightly citrus flavor. Yes, for some with a genetic predisposition, cilantro will also taste like soap. Regardless of your preference, with a strong flavor, a little cilantro goes a long way.
Fun Fact: The best way to tell cilantro from parsley? Cilantro leaves are curved while parsleys are pointy. Bonus Fun Fact: Cilantro is the leaves of the coriander plant, which have a flavor all their own.
Parsley - You can’t blame the confusion, as parsley and cilantro are both related, but each has a distinct character, with parsley offering a more muted yet grassy, and slightly bitter taste. You’ll also find parsley used predominantly in European, Middle Eastern, and American cuisine.
__Yams vs. Sweet Potatoes __
Sweet Potatoes - It’s very likely what you’ve been calling a yam all along has been a sweet potato. Part of the confusion is that grocers and the U.S. government wrongly used the terms intermittently.
Native to Central and South America, there are two major types of sweet potatoes, a firm variety with golden skin and white flesh, as well as a softer variety with orange flesh and copper skin.
Yams - Native to Africa and Asia, yams are larger, and starchier than their sweet potato doppelganger, with skin that is rougher and more bark-like while their flesh can vary from white to purple to reddish. While they are both tuberous roots, they have little in common with sweet potatoes.
Persimmons vs. Tangerines
Persimmons - Persimmons get a bad rap for their “astringent-like” taste, but this fruit has some super powers that may change your mind, as their ability to lower blood pressure and even prevent cancer.
Because of their appearance, persimmons are typically mistaken for a citrus. They don’t, however, separate like a citrus, and have none of the fibrous, white casings that give texture-sensitive people like me the creeps.
Tangerines - Tangerines are the weird cousin of the mandarin orange and come in seeded varieties, whereas persimmons are all seedless. Being a citrus fruit, tangerines also have more of succulent texture and a sour-sweet taste, where persimmons are much more straight forward sweet.
Artichoke vs. Cardoons
Artichoke - A variety of thistle usually eaten for their fleshy hearts - as weird as that sounds. You’ll notice that artichokes grow larger flower buds than cardoons and have a rounded globe shape, with less pronounced spines. With a subtle nutty flavor, artichokes are best eaten when they have overdeveloped and taste best grilled, in salads, or as a traditional Italian antipasto.
Cardoon - Also called the artichoke thistle (you can already see where the confusion lies), cardoons grow with small thistle blossoms, and their globe-like shape is less round than their lookalike artichokes. Unlike the artichoke, cardoon leaves and flower stalks are best when immature. My personal favorite? Gratinéed and paired with a red wine reduction.