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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 chow.com/xxxxxxx" 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.

                  2. We had a discussion on this awhile ago and I cited a study that showed for people who love cilantro, the soapy taste is "covered up" by another pleasant tasting chemical in the cilantro. For those, like me, that taste soap, we don't taste the pleasant flavor that is stronger and masks the soap. Guess there are lots of theories out there, but the one I read was based on testing.

                    10 Replies
                    1. re: escondido123

                      I am wondering about this study myself. From my own personal experience, cilantro tasted like soap, 100% fully to over power anything else Ivory soap. I *would* pick out each and every tiny little piece i found (love the Asian cuisines) Then one day it was gone! I recall that moment exactly; very much a taste epiphany.
                      Now my Mother had the exact same "it's soap!" deal going as well, so I can fully see the genetic marker deal working there. But a year ago we started eating at a local wonderful Mexican place. It was both of ours experience with the cuisine besides the Taco Bell. I watched in awe and wonder as my Mom yummed with delight over dishes that (we eat there at least once a week now) that clearly had fresh cilantro in abundance. She doesn't understand it either, it does not taste soapy to her now. If it is a marker, it has some sorta timing out deal going then.

                      1. re: Quine

                        It is so true, when I was younger my grandmother grew cilantro and both my sister and I could not stomach the stuff. Now, many years later-both of us love it! Curious to know why that is...

                        1. re: andieb

                          Now that would make an interesting study, if it is genetic, it clearly has a timed "switch off". Perhaps a way into the gene for research on aging and age related disorders?

                          1. re: Quine

                            I was also wondering if maybe it's just not as strong today as it was 40 years ago in my grandmother's garden...

                            1. re: andieb

                              I honestly don't think that is it, I think something just switched off or timed out on how our tastes reacts to it.

                        2. re: Quine

                          I doubt it's a genetic thing as well (not that this topic hasn't been beaten to death on these boards several times) -- used to hate it, would order everything w/out while traveling through Thailand..... and now I love it. Go figure. Maybe our tastes just evolve?

                          1. re: linguafood

                            If the very preliminary report of a strong discrepancy in cilantro aversion rates between identical twins and fraternal twins is valid, it would strongly support a genetic rather than environmental basis.

                            As Quine suggests, it's entirely possible that it is a primarily genetically-determined trait that is on a physiological timer -- or that can be modified, at least in some cases, by experience.

                            1. re: racer x

                              Whichever it is, it's been discussed ad nauseum. Cheers.

                              1. re: racer x

                                Interesting how some food related things provide research inroads to other things. Another example would be how the body so quickly moves asparagus from eating to urine. Research being done about it to get faster delivery of drugs into the system sorta thing.

                                Sorry you find it so boring linguafood, but you are the one who chose to read the thread, I am pretty sure you weren't forced.

                          2. I don't perceive cilantro as soapy, but I have another food-related genetic taste marker: I think foods cooked in canola oil taste fishy. Cold canola oil, like in salad dressing, is ok, but once you heat it up above some as yet undetermined temperature (deep frying is especially bad) the oil breaks down. Most people can't taste it, but french fries cooked in canola oil is instantly identifiable to me.

                            1. To me fresh cilantro I buy at the grocery store tastes very soapy - so much so that no matter what I've made it's inedible to me. However, here's where things go strange for me - I buy dehydrated cilantro at the grocery store and use that in pico de gallo and other recipes that call for fresh cilantro and I have no issue whatsoever. Then I go to a restaurant and have dishes served with both fresh and cooked cilantro and have no issue there either. I don't get it, I thought it was me, I thought I was doing something wrong when washing/rinsing the cilantro because I've eaten it so many times without an issue, and decided to try buying fresh and will not do that again!! Makes no sense right????

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: nsstampqueen

                                I don't think it's just you. I think there's something about the cilantro as well.
                                I don't know whether it's different varieties of cilantro, or whether it's the aging of the cilantro, or what.

                                I love cilantro. But I've definitely observed that some cilantro bunches I get from the supermarket are wonderfully fragrant and tasty while other bunches are soapy or just kind of blah-smelling, without that characteristic good cilantro aroma. I always, always smell the cilantro before purchasing it to try to minimize disappointment. I won't buy the soapy- or bland-smelling cilantro unless I'm desperate (need it at the last minute for a dish and don't have other options).

                                1. re: racer x

                                  thanks for the Times article on cilantro--very good. Albondigas (soup) would not
                                  be the same without cilantro. Cilantro is kind of an acquired taste--kind
                                  of like scotch. Also it varies from batch to batch--sometimes it's very
                                  pungent-you need to adjust accordingly. A small amount brings out flavors
                                  and adds freshness--overdone it can be a disaster---peace --D

                              2. My first taste of cilantro was my first bite from a plate of enchiladas suizas, and I thought, "Ick, soap!" The second bite was tolerable, the third one delicious. So you see it's an acquired taste … just took me a minute or two to acquire the part that overrode the soap. But there are so many really delicious flavors and aromas with an icky, repellent component to them, without which the totality would be bland and boring.

                                I'm still waiting for the "good" part of durian …

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Will Owen

                                  "I'm still waiting for the "good" part of durian …"

                                  Find it, and get back to me, because I don't think there is one! :)