Cilantro is one of those foods you either love or hate. Some people can’t get enough of the herb, but there’s an unusually large group of people who won’t go near it, claiming that it has a terribly bitter taste, akin to eating soap.
So why is it that people have such varying opinions of the taste? Does it really taste different to different people?
Well, it turns out science has an explanation, and it sounds like you can thank your genes. Studies have found that cilantro-haters contain a shared group of olfactory-receptor genes called OR6A2 that increase their sensitivity to the smell of aldehyde chemicals, which cilantro contains, as do many soaps.
If you’re one of the lucky ones who can actually enjoy the flavor of cilantro without having to pick it out of all of your tacos, you can thank your parents for that. On the flip side, if the taste of cilantro makes you gag, you might want to switch to another herb like parsley instead.
And if anyone tries to blame your cilantro aversion on an unsophisticated palette, you can hold your head up high and let them know that great culinary artists have shared your distaste for the stuff.
“Hate it!” she exclaimed. “I know people love it, and you can add it to the recipe. I just hate it. To me, it’s so strong — and it actually tastes like soap to me — but it’s so strong it overpowers every other flavor.”
So, if you hate cilantro, too, and would like to find a nice, safe, cilantro-free cookbook, you might want to seek out some “Barefoot Contessa” tomes. In Garten’s books, even recipes that would traditionally incorporate the herb — like tacos, guacamole or tequila lime chicken — won’t include it.
Even the late Julia Child loathed cilantro — and arugula, too. She once told Larry King that these greens tasted “dead” to her, and she let him know what she would do if she encountered them on her plate.
“I would pick it out if I saw it and throw it on the floor.”