Vileness of cilantro explained

People who cannot stand The Detested Herb are beneficiaries of a genetic mutation. [MSNBC via The Awl]


  1. When did people start not liking coriander?

    I haven’t even heard it was a disliked thing.  Is this an American problem?

    1. Certainly not. Here in Korea, servers at Vietnamese, Mexican, etc. restaurants always make sure to ask whether you’re OK with cilantro. A lot of my friends say it tastes like soap.

      1.  Liquid dish soap, to be exact. With pepper added.

        I thought someone was trying to play a joke on me the first time I tasted it.

    2. Apparently in places where we call it coriander everyone fucking loves it. I fucking love it.

    3.  Then what of those who detested it at first and came to like it, love it even later like I did?.

  2. The linked article provides very poor evidence for a genetic basis. It even acknowledges the possibility (much more likely to my mind) of early childhood exposure being the salient explanation. This, together with my own experience of going from  a Cilantro hater to a cilantro lover (partly as a result of exploring Indian cuisine) suggests that it is about palate acclimation.

  3. Y’think maybe the dislike here in North America might have something to do with the incredible overabundance of processed food dulling the tastebuds of young Canadians + Americans? Or just foodfear? My wife didn’t like cilantro when we first started dating, but she loves it now… She had the same gradual warming to fennel, as well.

    1. By the way, Mighty Blowhole, if you’re looking to go beyond fennel… I recommend trying fennel pollen. (It’s expensive stuff that comes in tiny packets, the way saffron is sold, but you need only minute quantities of it.) It has a strong, sweet fennel flavor, but without any of the woody qualities of fennel seeds, in the form of a yellow powder. I sometimes add a small pinch of it when I make spaghetti sauce.

      (I get mine from ; another supplier is , but I haven’t tried theirs.)

      1. Sweet!  More riches from my backyard.  It’s such a good self-seeder that we have many volunteer plants.  At $20/oz, I may have to give pollen collection a go this summer. 

        (psst…your second link is busted.)

        1. Oops, I meant .

          A quarter-ounce packet of fennel pollen will last you a long time; it only takes tiny quantities to season things.

          Another fun weird strong flavor to try: Curry leaves. They look like bay leaves, but smell sort of like a cross between gasoline and green bell peppers. (And, unlike bay leaves, you can eat them without perforating your intestine.) You can get plastic bags of them at Indian grocery stores.

    2. I grew up with an allergy to wheat, milk, eggs, red meat, and just about every American processed food you can name. And yet, I think cilantro tastes awful.

  4. I’ve often heard that your genetics determine whether cilantro and ginger taste like a fun lemony treat or like toxic dish soap. The first few times I had dishes containing large quantities of either, I was overwhelmed by the flavors, which I perceived as being intensely unpleasant. Eventually I grew to like them — they now taste better and less overwhelming. So I doubt it’s a purely genetic thing, as my tastes have completely shifted from being reviled to cilantro and ginger to enjoying them. I really like fresh cilantro now. (The stems are my favorite part — they’re a little sweeter and less bitter than the leaves. To me, the stems taste something like a cross between celery and citrus.)

    Something to note about cilantro is that dried or frozen cilantro is completely ruined — it gets blackish and soggy and loses its tang (instead tasting like rotten spinach.) You have to get it fresh, and be careful not to really cook it (this is why most dishes add it at the end of cooking) because its flavor and texture just don’t survive heating, drying, or freezing. So if you’ve only ever experienced those rotten little black cubes of frozen chopped cilantro, that’s not what it normally tastes like. Other herbs and vegetables lose some flavor and texture when frozen or dried, but with cilantro, the difference is extreme. (When you buy a bundle of cilantro, the best way to keep it fresh is to put it in a glass of water in the fridge. And always rinse it in cold water right before you use it, because moisture helps perk it up.)

    1. When you buy cilantro from a store, it’s already rotting.  We’ve not had any issues with blackening when we freeze our backyard cuttings.  The key seems to be removing as much water as possible after washing, then wrapping in paper towel.

      1. > When you buy cilantro from a store, it’s already rotting

        That’s often true in my local markets, which only get new cilantro every week or two — sometimes it’s been sitting on that shelf for so long that it’s wilted and blackish and dead. But if a new batch has just arrived it’s nice and fresh. I only buy it if it looks like it’s still alive, and putting it in a glass of water when I get home keeps it happy for almost a week. (I live in the northeastern US; hopefully cilantro availability is better in the western US.)

        1. I wouldn’t know about how available cilantro is out west.  I’m in SE Michigan.  I just grow a lot of food on my tiny city plot.

    2.  But did you start out by tasting cilantro as soap? Or did you taste it as a non-soap flavor that you didn’t like at first?

      Also, I have never in my life encountered cubes of frozen chopped cilantro. That sounds awful. I’ve encountered dried cilantro, which is mostly just flavorless, and bunches of fresh cilantro sold in the produce section, which is what I use.

  5. “People who cannot stand this delicious herb are victims of a genetic mutation” – there, fixed.

    This is a really silly argument though.  “Genetic mutation”… is there an evolutionary benefit or disadvantage to disliking cilantro?  You don’t have to justify your taste, even if it is poor and unevolved.  It’s ok to just say you don’t like something.

    My main gripe with crap filler articles like this is how quickly and poorly they are written just to fill up space rather than inform us.  Example: “But who are these people in the anti-cilantro community? No one had a clue — until now.There has been no attempt to quantify which people hate the herb until…” blah blah blah about statistics.

    “Who” and “quantify”?  Should be “How many” and “quantify”, or “Who” and “qualify” or something implying qualitative analysis.  Knowing how many of them there are doesn’t say much about “who” they are.

    Up next… the great licorice & anise wars of 2013.

    1. Wait – what does evolutionary advantage/disadvantage have to to with something being a genetic mutation? There’s plenty of mutations in our genome that are neither.

    2. I have always disliked it and called it a vile herb my entire life…I went so far as to write Qudoba and Chipoltle letters stating so since you cannot eat anythng there that doesn’t contain this horrible plant

  6. I prefer to think it is a genetic mutation that causes people to LIKE this vile devil’s stink weed…

    1. Not if you got it passed to you intact from your parents. A mutation would be de-novo, so two parents who like cilantro carrying no recessive cilantro-hating genes having a cilantro hating child, for example.

      Presuming it’s a simple Mendelian genetic model and actually based in genes in the first place, and not something more exotic in inheritance, or a combination of genetic, epigenetic, and psychological factors, or just plain old “blarg this tastes different I hates it”.

      My husband has a bad dose of the “blargs” but he’s on an admirable quest to try everything he thinks he hates, just in case it’s his 6 year old memories talking.

  7. Either Rob should leave science reporting to Maggie, or he is trolling us. I choose to believe he is trolling us.

    There is no solid evidence what-so-ever that cilantro-hating is genetic, in that article or elsewhere. I believe that it is a explanation that is inherently pleasing to cilantro-haters because it means that they don’t have to justify their tastes.

    There is at least as much, if not more, evidence that it has more to do with exposure to the plant at a young age (cite). I solidly believe this: I was a cilantro hater as a child, I thought it tasted “soapy,” then with more and more exposure, particularly in Indian food, I started being ok with it. Now I love it.

    Any genetic argument would have to explain why Portuguese, Indians, South Americans and South Asians all seem to love it, while Germans and Italians seem to mostly hate it, from my experience (and East Asians — the journal article says they hate it the most). Are Portuguese more closely related to South Asians than to Italians, maybe? Perhaps Germans and East Asians share a common ancestor that South Asians don’t?

    1. I am pretty sure I was exposed in my childhood. But it started tasting worse and worse after some point and ruining whole dishes by my twenties.

  8. I feel deeply sorry for people who don’t like cilantro or get that overpowering soap taste that they supposedly taste when they eat it.  Apart from it’s many other uses in Mexican cuisine (and sooo many other cuisines) it is one of the key ingredients in one of the most sublime dishes on Earth:  Tacos asada.

    I’m currently waiting for some cilantro I planted to sprout, hopefully in the next few days.

    I even put cilantro in the margaritas I make sometimes.  I’m so happy I’m not a victim* of this “mutation”.

    *beneficiary?  are you crazy?

  9. I grew up with a lot of cilantro-heavy Mexican cooking.  As a kid, I hated it.  I couldn’t even stand to be near a bowl of pico de gallo with cilantro in it.  As an adult, I adore it.  I grow on my balcony and put it in everything. 

    I have some sympathy for those who hate it.  I can remember how badly I detested it once upon a time. 

    I also sympathize due to how I’m treated when it comes to beer.  I hate hops.  I think really hoppy beer is beyond gross.  Beer snobs accuse me of just not having a refined palate.  I’m told I just need to get a taste for it.  My opinions on beer are considered worthless because I don’t enjoy hops.  Holding that opinion doesn’t make me less cultured or less refined.  It’s just a personal preference.

    1. But you don’t go around excusing your personal preference by declaring with certainty that your preference is genetic, right?

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