What is the difference between flat leaf and curly parsley? Is one better than the other?
The answer is, It Depends.
Flat Leaf Parsley
Flat leaf parsley is considered by many to be the “classy” parsley. (Curly leaf parsley is often seen as something “retro,” something restaurants garnished plates with throughout the 50s-70s.)
Many consider flat leaf parsley easier to work with. Since it has (surprise!) soft, flat leaves, it can be faster to clean and chop.
Flat leaf parsley has a stronger flavor than curly parsley. This makes it especially well suited for Italian dishes (one reason it is also called Italian parsley).
Finally, I prefer flat leaf parsley for foods that are served hot. Examples would be adding chopped flat leaf parsley to potato soup, or adding a handful of it to a few spoonfuls of melted butter and pouring it over boiled new potatoes. Its soft, limp texture works better with these foods than crunchy, curly parsley, which could be distracting.
Curly parsley is by the far the prettier parsley, with its bright green color, curly leaves, and crunchy texture.
And there’s a reason it was used as a garnish for so long. Not only did it look pretty on the plate, but if you ate your garnish after the meal (YES! You WERE supposed to do that!) curly parsley also freshened your breath.
Curly parsley has a milder, “grassier” taste.
Curly parsley is the parsley more typically used in French cooking.
Curly parsley is also the parsley more typically used in Greek/Middle Eastern cooking. Imagine tabbouleh made with soft, flat leaf parsley instead bright green, crunchy, textured, super-fresh-tasting curly parsley. Yeah, I don’t want to imagine that, either.
Finally, I prefer curly parsley in foods served cold – like pasta, potato, couscous salads. We all know those salads can get a bit soft and dingy sitting in the fridge. Curly pasta keeps its green and crunch, keeping cold salads colorful and fresher tasting. Click here for the recipe for the couscous salad you see below.
What About Dried Parsley Flakes?
Dried parsley flakes work very well as a replacement to flat leaf parsley. Flavor wise, they also work well as a curly parsley replacement. But if you are depending on the crunch and color curly parsley gives a dish, you may want to make a different recipe.
As I always say, you do you. I like to use both types of parsley for different dishes. But if you have a strong preference for one or the other – go for it! I’ve listed the advantages of both, but never let an “expert” tell you what you “should” be using. Do what you like best!