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Sep 29, 2011 01:22 PM

Cilantro Haters, it's not your fault!

This may have been posted before, so if it has, I'm sorry!

I am a cilantro lover, I love it in salsa, burrito's, salads, you name it. But I have found that there are a lot of people who absolutely abhor it. To each their own, then I remembered reading an article about it awhile back. I found it, and there is a little excerpt from it below:

{Dr. Gottfried turned out to be a former cilantrophobe who could speak from personal experience. He said that the great cilantro split probably reflects the primal importance of smell and taste to survival, and the brain’s constant updating of its database of experiences.

The senses of smell and taste evolved to evoke strong emotions, he explained, because they were critical to finding food and mates and avoiding poisons and predators. When we taste a food, the brain searches its memory to find a pattern from past experience that the flavor belongs to. Then it uses that pattern to create a perception of flavor, including an evaluation of its desirability.

If the flavor doesn’t fit a familiar food experience, and instead fits into a pattern that involves chemical cleaning agents and dirt, or crawly insects, then the brain highlights the mismatch and the potential threat to our safety. We react strongly and throw the offending ingredient on the floor where it belongs.

“When your brain detects a potential threat, it narrows your attention,” Dr. Gottfried told me in a telephone conversation. “You don’t need to know that a dangerous food has a hint of asparagus and sorrel to it. You just get it away from your mouth.”


So it seems as though some people are genetically predisposed to not liking it, and a Pavlov's Dog-type effect in others. Myself? I'll just keep loving it!


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  1. Go figure? I love cilantro. My Syrian grandfather used it in many dishes. When I am cooking with it I'll just rub some between my hands. Love that scent

    1 Reply
    1. re: Motosport

      Me too, I get a bright, citrusy flavor with a scent that compliments that. I consider myself lucky to be able to enjoy this herb!

    2. I seem to recall reading, (possibly here), that one's like or dislike can actually be used as a genetic marker.

      9 Replies
      1. re: DoobieWah

        Correct. Cilantro tastes like soap to some people (myself included) due to a genetic thing.

        1. re: boogiebaby

          And I thank the heavens I don't have that genetic marker. I love cilantro, love to cook with it, love it's aroma, and get frustrated by people in my life who have that soapy taste response going on. I realize it's not their fault, but damn, I can't help thinking about what they're missing out on.

          I didn't actually taste cilantro until the mid 80's, and really had no idea what to expect from descriptions of it's flavor. The info the OP provided, specifically about the brain searching its memory to find a pattern from past experience that the flavor belongs to, is intriguing to me, and although I know that whether or not one enjoys the flavor of cilantro is genetically imposed, I also think that my enjoyment of it comes from the citrusy scent it has, and it's slightly grassy bite, flavors I find very exciting on my palate. I 'm not sure if the two, genetic disposition and being excited by a food's flavor, are mutually inclusive, but in my case it has lead to a solid cilantro infatuation.

          1. re: bushwickgirl

            I hear you BWG, I find it interesting how polarizing a food is. Usually, you have people on both sides of the fence, and some sitting in the middle. With cilantro, either you love it, or hate it, it seems anyway!

            1. re: bushwickgirl

              Mexican and Southeast Aaian cuisines would be severely impaired without cilantro in their repertoires. I'm with you on cilantro, but have loved it all my many years. Maybe I'm genetically predisposed to liking it!?

              1. re: DavidA06488

                I recently prepared a nice stir fry meal for a some friends. While I was cooking one of the guests commented that she likes almost anything but has never liked Cilantro. OOPS! Lots of cilantro already in the wok.
                I never mentioned cilantro and she loved the meal. Go figure?
                Maybe the scent of fresh cilantro is too strong?

                1. re: Motosport

                  I find that cooked cilantro does not have the same soapy taste; even true for fresh salsa vs cooked.

                  1. re: escondido123

                    Very true. I tried a corn chowder that had a fair amount of cilantro in it and absolutely loved it. I then thought maybe I was cured of my cilantro aversion so tried it again in something fresh. Eeeew. Soapy taste was just as strong as ever.

              2. re: bushwickgirl

                Cilantro is the only thing I can't stand. Otherwise I have no food allergies or dislikes. I can eat just about anything and that ability had led me to having some very adventurous meals.

                I'd take that tradeoff any day in my food genetics. A single herb that gives me an unpleasant taste vs ability to eat anything without any kind of negative physical reaction.

            2. links are broken for me tho...

              2 Replies
              1. re: srsone

                I just tried them, and chow tries to redirect them like their a chow page. Just copy and past them into the address bar.

                Or, when you click on them, erase the "www" that they put infront of the real web address

              2. I LOATHED it until I was about 25 years old, and then I turned into an addict, I absolutely LOVE it now.

                1. I used to work with a woman who loved Mexican food but hated cilantro. After a while the rest of the team avoided going out to lunch with her if a Mexican restaurant was on tap. She would order something that contained cilantro and then meticulously fish out every little scrap of green. It was tedious watching her and we were always late getting back to the office.

                  You'd have thought she'd just pick out as her favorite some other cuisine, one that doesn't involve cilantro, Greek food, maybe?

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: mandycat

                    I also adore Mexican food but cannot tolerate cilantro. It would be very sad to eliminate a whole cuisine based on one pesky ingredient. But holding a table of diners hostage to pick out the offending cilantro?! Wow, that is really crazy. Not to mention rude beyond words.