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Feb 10, 2008 05:40 AM

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, 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 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:

                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.