The science of why some people don't like cilantro


Does anyone else get a slight momentary buzz when they taste fresh cilantro by itself?

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Interesting article. I think I’ve always taken the “how can you eat that horrible stuff” reaction of the cilantro-sensitive as just a humorous quirk, but has anyone taken a stab at explaining whether there’s some evolutionary reason for that distaste? Is part of the cilantro plant actually harmful in some way, or perhaps some related plant is?


Odd choice of words for the article description. Yes, I’m aware it’s a joke, but since when does BB treat disability as a jocose topic?

To be fair, the article itself jokingly takes the opposite stance - implying that the 90% of people who don’t mind the taste are in fact simply less able to discern the true nature of cilantro as something foul, but honestly, do we really need either sort of “joke” at all?

We could have just had a nice article about human genetics and olfactory sensations, but people gotta make lame jokes abo… aww, dangit!!!

What’s important to note here, as the authors do, is that this genetic component correlates strongly with “detecting a soapy flavor in cilantro”, ands that only correlates mildly (r^2 = 0.33) with hating cilantro.

This seems to confirm my long-standing hypothesis that certain people may taste cilantro differently, but whether you like or hate cilantro is more strongly dependent on whether you ate it much as a child.

The study notes that people of European descent are among the most likely to hate cilantro, yet even within Europe some cultures, like the Portuguese, have a strong culinary tradition of using cilantro – most likely brought over from trade and the colonies. Did Portuguese suddenly lose all their cilantro-hating genes? No, they just started eating more of it, and learned to love it.

Many people, myself included, have gone from soapy-tasting cilantro haters to soapy-tasting cilantro lovers, just by eating more varied cuisine.

If you tell me you hate cilantro, you can explain it all you want with your genetic condition, but I’ll still privately think that you could resolve your picky-eating by being braver…


Do you drink coffee? Do you like your coffee black, or do you need to drink it with cream and sugar?

Whichever option you don’t like (or if you don’t like coffee at all), I’m going to privately think that you could resolve your “picky-eating” by being “braver”. :wink:

Taste is partly genetic, partly cultural, and almost certainly partly individual. I personally hate watermelon, because of a full week spent in which I had almost nothing else to eat. This despite having grown up with it (cultural exposure), and despite probable genetic inclinations (many of my ancestors come from the Mediterranean region).

Labeling someone else a picky eater simply because they don’t enjoy your particular tastes is staggeringly presumptuous - especially when you’re in the majority who do like a particular taste. Just enjoy the food you like, and let other people dislike it if they do.


I had never heard of cilantro before, in the UK we call it coriander.
I don’t like or dislike it, but it it doesn’t taste soapy to me.

it doesn’t taste like food. it tastes like metal. i’ve had it hundreds of times because its forced into my food when i’m not expecting it. i fail to see how i’m not being brave by disliking that evil crap

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This SNP runs in our family too. One of my cousins and I are affected. Interestingly we’re also both biologists and have discussed this before. We’ve always assumed it was a SNP presumably from our grandmother. Anyway, the soap taste is really overpowering for both of us. Unfortunately for her she spent junior high on in Albuquerque.

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Coriander is the seed, cilantro is the leafy stuff.

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I prefer to think of it as 10% of the people with good taste, and 90% of you guy are defective and like that horrid stuff. It does not taste like soap, so I am not sure if I have that gene or not, but I definitely do not like cilantro.

Nope, it’s coriander seeds, and coriander leaves. Honestly, you Americans make everything so complicated! :wink:
(wikipedia tells me that as it was mainly introduced via Mexican food, that’s why the Spanish name is used in the US, and of course, us brits have to have our own, seperate words for things)

This article gets the genetics a bit wrong. It implies that this SNP is the causative agent of disliking cilantro, but in fact the more likely explanation is that the SNP is merely genetically linked to whatever the causal change is, most likely in the olfactory receptor gene mentioned. This would mean that people with the C variant of the SNP are more likely to have another change in the actual receptor gene than people with the more common A variant. This type of linkage is the whole basis of how SNP-array-based genotyping by companies like 23andMe works: it’s too expensive right now to get your entire genome sequenced, but if you look at just 2 million (I think that’s the number they’re up to now) base pairs that are known to be variable, you can still detect correlations with traits of interest, and make informed guesses about which nearby genes may be responsible. Incomplete overlap in individuals with the SNP variants and the actual causal variants, however, could be responsible for some of the uncertainty in predicting cilantro hate.

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My friend Ray says “I’m afraid I’m one of the 10% who tastes soap and that I secretly just like the taste of soap.”


Britishisms are all Bubble to me. It’s about as Glen Hoddle to understand your average Brit as it is to understand a Rainbow who’s had a few pig’s ears too many!

Your characterization of myself and my fellow supertasters as “disabled” is noted. With great power comes great responsibility, and I will do my utmost to conceal my pity.

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I guess I didn’t explain clearly what I meant – my fault.

Frequently I come across people who tell me, apologetically, that they can’t eat cilantro at all “because it’s genetic.”

My point is that it’s clear that many, many people with the same gene love the taste of cilantro. (I suspect I am one of them, since it tastes soapy to me.) It has more to do with your cultural cuisine (e.g. Portuguese), what you ate as a kid, or what you habituated yourself to later.

So you hate cilantro because you hate cilantro. Perhaps you hate tomatoes and parsley too, and pick them out of you food. That’s fine. But don’t pretend that it’s any more meaningful because it’s a genetic condition.

(And yes, in my head, if you pick all the tomatoes or parsley out of your food, I will think of you as a picky eater, though I won’t make any mention of that to your face – I personally feel that all pickiness, is a matter of habituation, and lack of developing “adult tastes” for food. Yup, it’s a personal and highly judgmental opinion, I know.)

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This study is actually suggesting a different cause for “soapy tasting cilantro” than being a super-taster. As far as I know, the super-taster connection was a popular hypothesis, but there was no evidence for it.

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Let’s see if I can monkeywrench the whole genetic hypothesis. You see, 20 years ago cilantro was soapy and horrible to me, medicinal and perfumey. Now I love the stuff (in moderation) and can’t make pico de gallo without it.

Hey, hey! That’s my origin story and I’m stickin’ to it.