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Cilantro [Moved from Home Cooking board]

Is it me, or does cilantro make everything that it is added to taste soapy?? My fiance made a killer lasagna last week,and added a whole bunch of cilantro to it. The taste just permeated everything. I advised him that there is a HUGE difference between parsley and cilantro, and cilantro is generally used in Mexican dishes. Any thoughts on this? Sign me......Cilantro hater in the North Woods...

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  1. Actually, things like this are genetically determined. It's my understanding that certain types of food generate certain "off" flavors for people with specific genetic markers. The "cilantro tastes like soap" one is one of the most distinctive. Some people have the same issue with eggplant - that it tastes like they're eating a sponge filled with soap. So, no, you're not the only one!

    But, I'm curious, I've never heard of anyone putting cilantro in lasanga?!

    4 Replies
    1. re: FoodieGrrl

      I haven't heard of cilantro in lasagna either but maybe the OP's fiance mistook cilantro for parsley. In our market they're often sold one beside the other...and if you don't know what you're looking for it's an easy mistake.

      Add me to the list of people who avoid cilantro...seems to take centre stage in any dish I've had it in... asian or mexican and not in a good way.

      1. re: FoodieGrrl

        I've heard that genetic thing as well. However, I'm wondering if it's also a thing of acquired taste. I do think it tastes like soap -- yet I love it. My mother felt the same exact way, except that it took her a few years to develop a taste for it.

        1. re: Miss Needle

          it's funny, for a long time i thought mexican food always tasted soapy, and i couldn't figure out why. at some point my palate just changed, and one day i realized i didn't notice that soapy taste anymore. i learned later on that it must have been cilantro, but iby then it had become one of my favorite herbs...now, it never tastes soapy to me, just grassy & citrusy.

          i used to have the same problem with ginger, and now i eat the stuff like it's going out of style.

        2. re: FoodieGrrl

          That's what I was thinking...cilantro, aka coriander aka Chinese parsley in lasagna? It "could" work if the dish was re-worked significantly but it seems a bit odd if it's a standard red sauce lasagna.

          I like coriander but then my mom cooked with it regularly and being a Californian, it's in a lot of stuff.

          One thing I was thinking...how do people use it? Do people clean and chop it or just tossed in? If you pull off the leaves from the stems and chop finely, it's less strong...i.e., the stems have lots of oil.

        3. Having just used a bunch of cilantro in a chicken soup I made last night, my experience is, like yours, that it is a strong flavoring addition to foods, but I don't experience it as soapy. I love cilantro, though I wouldn't substitute it for parsley, and I wouldn't add it to lasagna. Cilantro is used in Mexican and Asian cuisine primarily.

          4 Replies
          1. re: 280 Ninth

            Coriander and cilantro are the same herb? I always think of coriander as a curry spice and cilantro as a mexican / south american thing.

            1. re: food_eater79

              I believe that in the U.K., cilantro is called coriander, and that in the U.S., we call cilantro seeds (the spice) coriander. Cilantro, the herb, is also called Chinese parsley.


              1. re: MMRuth

                While the seeds (coriander) are important in Indian cooking, the leaves are also used. From the wiki article:
                "Chopped coriander leaves are also used as a garnish on cooked dishes such as dal and many curries. As heat diminishes their flavor quickly, coriander leaves are often used raw or added to the dish right before serving. In some Indian and Central Asian recipes, coriander leaves are used in huge amounts and cooked till they dissolve into sauce and their flavour mellows."

                Indian Hari (Green) chutney is usually made with cilantro (corriander leaves).
                Howto video: http://www.wonderhowto.com/how-to/vid...

                1. re: paulj

                  Thanks - and I believe that cilantro/coriander roots are used in Vietnamese cooking.

          2. I love cilantro but never think of it in an Italian context. For me, it is pretty much a Mexican or Asian ingredient and works well with the other ingredients and flavors one would generally think of for those types of dishes. I do know what you mean by the soapy quality that cilantro can add but I also find the same flavor comes from basil, which I really hate.

            12 Replies
            1. re: southernitalian

              I think it can be an acquired taste. My husband always said it tasted soapy to him when we had it in salsa's years ago before we starting branching out and eating more ethnic foods. When we started eating Thai food he decided he liked it and now it is no problem anytime I put it in my Mexican food/pico or Asian food. There is always cilantro in my fridge. As the above posts say, I definitely wouldn't sub it for parsley, huge difference. Sometimes in the the store I have to smell the flat leaf parsley/cilantro to tell the difference.

              1. re: southernitalian

                "I love cilantro but never think of it in an Italian context. For me, it is pretty much a Mexican or Asian ingredient"

                Regarding cilantro and whether it shows up in italian cookery:
                Cilantro made its way to Mexico, via Andulucia in s. Spain, where you can find it in a number of Moorish derived dishes. Considering this link, it may be fair to predict that cilantro may be used in the cuisine of Sicily where there was a noticable North African Arabic presence.

                Any sicilians out there who can help?

                1. re: kare_raisu

                  I've never seen cilantro used in Italy, Sicily or elsewhere, nor in any Italian recipes I've come across. It is present in Italy, I've purchased it there, typically you can find it at Asian markets. The rare fruttivendolo has it.

                  1. re: kare_raisu

                    kare raisu,
                    Not Sicilian, but consider this: there was also a lot of hostility between Christian Italian city-states and Islamic North Africa. Not a good atmosphere for adoption of foodways. Not so much in Spain (winner makes the rules, in history), and in Portugal, cilantro is used extensively.

                    I'm eager to know what Sicilian dishes have the North African influence, as I'm a fan of the latter and not very well versed in the former.

                    So curious,

                    1. re: cayjohan

                      If you go far back enough you will find that Sicilians... genetically are more closely related to Middle Easterners & Carthagians than they are to say Romans or Florentines... some of those initial cultures must have survived no?

                      1. re: Eat_Nopal

                        Good point, Eat Nopal - yet another reason that history revolves around food, and where and when it's gathered!

                        An interesting thread of thought. Can you elaborate, or should this be another thread per the CH rules? Either way, I'd love the anthropological slant on this. I hope the foodways of Carthage can be fair game on this, as I am now eager to know.

                        (Still liking lasagne without the cilantro...but open to change!)

                        Fascinating twist to this thread, IMHO,


                        1. re: cayjohan

                          Hi Cay... I hope it doesn't get bumped... what I know of Siciliy is that the earliest known inhabitants were of the Cycladic culture (Cretian)... then the earliest seafaring Phoencians (Contemporary Syrians & Lebanese) regularly invaded it on their travels throughout the meditarrenean... at the height of Classic Greek culture it was Hellenized again afterwards it was invaded by many different groups from the Vandals to Iberians to Persians. Palermo is the island's capital, when it was founded in 800AD it was a Phoenician outpost. As far as food goes... it has one of the oldest Olive, Cheese & Wine cultures in Europe.... people forget that these are originally Middle Eastern / North African products and did not exist in Europe until recently. Marsala wine is suppossed to be one of the contributions from Carthage.

                          1. re: cayjohan

                            With respects as to Cilantro in Lasagne.... Mexico has a small but very classic repertoire of Pasta dishes (some go back to Iberian pasta dishes like Fideos which were also brought to India via Goa.... others are the result of 19th Century Italian immigration to Mexico)... maybe Lasagne with a traditional Sicilian red sauce might not work... but make Lasagne with a Ranchera or Veracruzana sauce and Cilantro would be perfectly comfortable there... it would even fit more nicely in Lasagne Poblana which is one of the classic dishes... Lasagne noodles in a cream Poblano sauce with Mushrooms or Huitlacoche and goat milk Fresco.

                            1. re: Eat_Nopal

                              Thank you - I do love food history! And the recipe suggestions sound delicious (specifically with the huitlacoche).

                              I am still curious about No. African influences on So. Italian/ Sicilian food - other than commodities (then and now) like oil, wine and cheese. I may be dimwitted, but I'm still looking for the culinary (flavor-way, perhaps) connection, other than sheer proximity and climate. Any enlightenment up your food history sleeve?

                              I soooo want to know so I can tweak So. Ital. in a No Afr. way for the family. Sorry - enough abbreviations!


                              1. re: cayjohan

                                I would start with a caponata which may be one of the most baroque dishes I have ever sampled out of the Italian reportoire. Saveur had an excellent recipe which I have made three times since then. It is perhaps the best example of moorish inroads in to the cuisine with its sweet, sour (vinegar) and savory bend. The inclusion of cocoa in traditional recipes also hints of Spain's years of rule over the island.

                                1. re: cayjohan

                                  Well according to this very Nationalist Sicilian essay... it was the Arabs who invented pasta (might explain why Iberia has a small pasta tradition that seems almost uninfluenced by Italy's pasta traditions) and brought citrus, couscous, eggplant, rice, dried fruits, agrodolce, marzipan, torrones & sorbets.


                                  If you believe this site... then most everything we think of as Italian that isn't Greek or New World in origin is really Middle Eastern in origin.

                          2. re: cayjohan

                            One North African staple present in the Sicilian diet is cous cous. For example cous cous alla trapanese (named after the city of Trapani on the west coast), a cous cous dish served in fish broth and mixed seafood (frutti di mare). Here is a recipe for it, in Italian (maybe you can Google translate it?).


                      2. I'm a lover of cilantro and didn't realize that there were so many people who can't stand it. I think I was reading an article in the New Yorker about The Cheesecake Factory when one of the executives mentioned that the waiters are instructed to warn people if a dish contains cilantro since many people don't like it. i had no clue!
                        The cilantro in the lasagna must have been in error... that does not sound delicious... even for a cilantro lover.


                        3 Replies
                        1. re: wontonfm

                          I couldn't find that New Yorker piece, do you have a link?


                          1. re: ihatecilantro

                            i just searched the New Yorker site and couldn't find it. I remember reading it about 2 or 3 years ago.

                          2. re: wontonfm

                            I also think the ciltantro was added in error.The problem I have is the OP comment that "he added a whole bunch" of cilantro.A whole bunch of any ingredient will overwhelm the dish.No spice or ingredient should take precedence over another.

                          3. I love Cilantro, but my mother hates it. Maybe I acquired the taste when I was young, and getting my mouth washed out with soap.

                            1. Separate from the unfortunate who have a genetic dislike for the flavor of cilantro, it is rarely used as a part of a cooked preparation. It's flavor manifests best in uncooked recipes, or as a fresh garnish to cooked ones. It loses its essence and contribution when it's cooked.
                              Coriander seed, which is the genesis of cilantro, has utility in cooked dishes.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Veggo

                                Veggo, I just used cilantro stems in a chicken soup preparation, boiled alongside the chicken and some other ingredients, and then pulled them once the chicken et al. had been cooked sufficiently and the broth was tasty. I added the leaves at the end, after everything had been cooked.

                              2. I grew up with cilantro as it is used extensively in Indian cooking (many times just as a garnish) and love it. Only recently thanks to CH, I've discovered there are so many people with an aversion to it. I OTOH can't stand rosemary. I especially dislike its use in foccacia bread. Talk about "taste just permeated everything".

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: ceekskat

                                  The first time I ever tsated Cilantro "Soap" instantly came to mind, I hated it. It is an aquired taste, being a Mexican food fanatic I have come to love Cilantro. Although I cannot fathom what it would taste like in lasagna...

                                2. Cilantro is an acquired taste... I can see why people would think it tastes soapy... many people really love its assertive flavor.... I for one can't stand Parsley which I also consider to have a soapy flavor but there is something annoying about it to me.... but Cilantro is certainly a regular on my shopping list.

                                  One thing is that the quality of Cilantro can be quite disparate... within Calfornia itself there is a big difference from the good stuff I source at Mexican markets and the insipid yet bitter crap they sell at Whole Foods & Trader Joe's... so maybe you got a particularly bad bunch.

                                  If you don't like Cilantro make sure you avoid other more assertive Mexican herbs like Epazote & Papalo... they will definitely overwhelm your 'buds.

                                  1. I am sure you will find this gross but I just finished a bowl of rice topped off with cilantro. Delish!

                                    It is certainly one of those love it or hate it herbs. Very strong. I just grew up with it because my family is from Pakistan- we use it in EVERYTHING.

                                    1. I first tried cilantro about fifteen years ago, and I definitely remember it tasting like soap. Now, however, I absolutely love it. My favourite thing to do with it is to add it to canned soups for instant good flavour.

                                      I would never put it in lasagna, though. But if my boyfriend made food (even with an error like that) I would be so overjoyed that I really woudn't care.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. I was informed by a friend that in Malaysia, cilantro is considered an off taste (I think he called it a 'dirty' taste), and is not used in cooking.

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: Leucadian

                                          I think your friend may have been mistaken as I certainly have had cilantro in Malaysian restaurants. And there is actually a restaurant called Cilantro in Malaysia.


                                          1. re: Miss Needle

                                            I checked around, and believe he is actually right. Several internet sources indicate that coriander is 'less enjoyed' in Malaysia and Indonesia, and in Cradle of Flavor, James Oseland says 'the green leaf of the coriander plant, what we usually call cilantro in North America, is rarely used as an ingredient or garnish in traditional local foods.' I don't doubt that you have had it in Malaysian restaurants or restaurants in Malaysia, but I believe that the traditional cooking avoids cilantro. Kuala Lumpur is a very cosmopolitan city, and would be more open to new tastes. What's intriguing is that Indian and Thai and Chinese cuisines use it extensively.

                                        2. I have a strong opinion on this, as I'm one of those strong haters of cilantro. Even standing near it makes me nauseous. So I think I have a genetic thing (my entire family dislikes it) against it. For me, it's also a sensation thing-- whenever I taste it, it feels like the unpleasant sensation of getting chlorine up my nose. I have tried it on many occasions, but I just can't get myself to "acquire" it. It makes me absolutely miserable. But I love Indian food, so if they accidentally put some in the dish, I just take my fork and pick the pieces out (yes, I hate it that much).

                                          I'd love to learn to "acquire" the taste, though. So those of you who hated it, but learned to like it, how did you acquire this taste? My body reacts to it so strongly-- even when it's in small doses, so I'm not quite sure what I can do to overcome my aversion. . ..

                                          Oddly enough, I don't have this reaction to coriander seed.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: anzu

                                            I am with you 100%. My husband loves cilantro but he agrees it tastes like soap! I'm very tempted to grate some Ivory soap into his salsa and see if he even notices. ;-).

                                          2. Ummm... I don't think it tastes like soap. But that's probably because I LOVE it. I can't get enough cilantro for dishes that call for cilantro. While I'll be very sparing with parsley (too bitter), I absolutely overload things with cilantro when I can.

                                            1. If you don't like it, don't use it. Cilantro is a polarizing flavor and people generally either love it or hate it. However, used properly, even cilantro haters will like it. Think of it this way: cilantro's got personality - a LOT of personality, and that much personality can only be tolerated in small doses and with complementary personalities. Otherwise the cilantro just stands out and become the a-hole in the group! Yeah, you all know what I'm talking about now! When used with flavors that it complements or supplements, and as an additional flavor as opposed to using so much it overpowers everything, cilantro use can be successful. Cilantro is too powerful of a flavor to use an entire bunch, or even half a bunch in a single dish. if you WERE to make an asian or mexican inspired lasagne, you'd probably have to make 6 to 8 9"x13" pans to use an entire bunch of cilantro.

                                              But also remember that there are people out there with certain personalities that you hate - even in small doses.

                                              14 Replies
                                                1. re: raf945

                                                  Thanks Raf...they don't call me the analogy-meister for nothing!

                                                2. re: ChefDude

                                                  Raf is so right, excellent post!

                                                  I can handle cilantro in very small doses but most places I go seem to have "the more, the better" approach.

                                                  1. re: ChefDude

                                                    Can you give me an example of a recipe or situation in which cilantro is used properly and there is some hope of my liking it? B/c as much as I detest/abhor/dislike/abominate this herb, it would make my life so much easier if I could learn to like it. Thus, I'm always willing to try it, but I've tried it a dozen times, and each time, it makes me want to gag. I'm pretty sure I can't be converted, but I'm open-minded to the possibility and am willing to try something that you say "even cilantro-haters will love it", even if I'm a bit skeptical.

                                                    I mean, I don't like meat or egg yolks, either, but prepared a certain way, I could tolerate both things. I think that people who don't dislike cilantro don't understand the level of aversion I have. I literally have to pick out every little shard of cilantro in Indian dishes. Someone once tried to feed me curry that had small amounts of cilantro unbeknownst to either of us, and I could still taste it. It was probably a trace amount-- it was one of the last ingredients listed on the jar of curry--but it was enough that I took one bite of the curry and it gave me that unpleasant chlorine-up-my-nose sensation I mentioned earlier.

                                                    So if you have a dish that properly uses cilantro that you think someone with as strong an aversion as I have to cilantro will actually like, please please, suggest away. I'm open to trying, though might make one of my friends make it for me, b/c I can't even stand w/ in 5 feet of this vile herb without it making me want to gag. :-P

                                                    1. re: anzu

                                                      I discovered I could handle small amounts of the evil weed when making a mango salsa. I have to cook my onions for consumption (raw onion is a big trigger for my migraines) so my husband suggested adding the cilantro to the onions and it worked. I add it the last minute or so of cooking. Try cooking/wilting before adding to any recipe. Or just sub Italian parsley or basil. :)

                                                      In an non-processed or raw prep I can't eat the stuff. I've had to send whole measl back because it was so heavily garnished with cilantro, I mean parsely on a steak I can see but CILANTRO?

                                                      1. re: anzu

                                                        Traditional guacamole uses cilantro.

                                                        Chinese steam fish often uses cilantro as well.

                                                        1. re: anzu

                                                          Give up. Listen, you've already done due dilligence, tried cilantro in so many different applications and the verdict comes back the same every single time. You hate it. The reason doesn't matter. The fact that you can detect traces of it in a dish and that it ruins the dish for you says something. You're a lost cause - as far as cilantro's concerned. Time to face the facts and accept them.

                                                          1. re: ChefDude

                                                            Well, you theorized that if used properly, even cilantro-haters would like cilantro, so I wanted you to prove your theory. :) Like I said, I'm pretty sure I can't be swayed, but given how inconvenient this aversion is, I'm eager to try something that someone claims "even cilantro-haters will like".

                                                            (Besides, I used to dislike licorice when I was a kid; now I think I almost like it!)

                                                            1. re: anzu

                                                              I'm actually using it improperly, according to all the cilantro lovers I know, but hey I'm the one cooking. ;)

                                                              1. re: anzu

                                                                You're the exception to the rule.

                                                                1. re: ChefDude

                                                                  I don't quite understand.Most I've spoken with tell me that cooking the cilantro gets rid of most of the flavor (if you call soapy pine tree a flavor :) ) Please educate me, I would love to not have to sub a different herb. Thanks.

                                                                  1. re: hipquest

                                                                    There are many compelling dishes in Mexico that cook Cilantro... its character changes a bit but it still makes a significant if more subtle impact... Cilantro soups, Fish & Cilantro baked in Parchment Paper, I add it my Vegetable soups and it makes all the difference in the world.

                                                                    But not everyone's palate is sophisticated enough to get Cilantro :)

                                                                    1. re: hipquest

                                                                      I disagree. Cooking certainly abates the flavor, compared to when it's raw, but for example, I had Indian last night and asked to have the cilantro removed. (The cashier laughed at me because I knew how to say cilantro in like 5 different languages.) They left a few (cooked) shards in, which I actually tried after this discussion thread. So it is mild enough that if I don't actually bite into the actual piece, the surrounding spices of the curry overpower it enough that I can't taste it. However, I did bite into one piece at some point and while it doesn't make me feel nauseous like raw cilantro, I could still taste it enough that I ended up having to resort to my usual ritual of picking out the shards. :) I think I'm on the extreme end of this cilantro-hating spectrum, though, so maybe for most people, it won't be noticeable once you cook it.

                                                                      1. re: ChefDude

                                                                        LOL ChefDude! Sorry, as a cilantro hater that was the best post EVER! :)

                                                            2. Hmmm....thinking out loud...
                                                              I wonder what the difference in flavor would be between conventionally grown cilantro, and organic.
                                                              Has anybody here done a comparison?

                                                              1 Reply
                                                              1. re: ChefDude

                                                                Yes and No. I am sometimes forced to buy Whole Foods organic Cilantro... its never that good because they don't get good turnover, they don't handle it well and its pretty flavorless.

                                                                OTOH, I have had naturally organic, home grown Cilantro that is phenomenal... but its unfair to compare something that is grown lovingly with full respect for seasons etc., to something mass produced.

                                                                What I have never done is a carefully controlled study where the only variable was Oraganic vs. Pesticide.

                                                                The thing to note is that after Cilantro is harvested, its naturally finicky (like most herbs)... since it grows best in warm climates... there are places in North America that are always going to get excessively bitter cilantro with no aroma... some of the stuff I've had in NYC is just terrible.

                                                                The best quality cilantro smells slightly sweet and has a pleasantly earthy flavor in addition to its nice complex character... that most of us love.