IFHate: Cilantro

By Mandy Simon

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting article the other week on the strong feelings surrounding cilantro (though I’m not really sure why this herb seems to inspire both advocates and adversaries to write haikus). I come down firmly on the anti-cilantro side of things (and I’m in pretty good company ). To me, it tastes like someone has sprinkled my meal with dishwasher soap flakes. To quote a friend: “Cilantro is the Devil’s weed.”

Like most cilantro haters, I’m pretty vocal about it. I even have a very sweet boyfriend of a friend who voluntarily makes me separate cilantro-free servings of his famous guacamole and ceviche. (I should note that when my own sweet boyfriend is cooking, he keeps my life as cilantro-free as possible even though he’s a fan himself.)


I like to think I’m fairly reasonable about this. I mean, I’ll suck it up and be polite if I’m eating at someone else’s home and I’m not going to make a friend turn around and return take-out over it.  But, listen, a little piece of that evil green can throw off the entire flavor of a dish and no one should have to suffer through that.


In the interest of compromise in this bruising battle, I believe there is an “everyone wins” middle ground. I advocate for a rough chop. Or just lay the cilantro on top like I ordered some Tom Yum and forgot to tell you I hate that stuff, ok? Large pieces of cilantro are easy-to-pick-out pieces and easy-to-pick-out pieces mean I can eat my meal with my cilantro-loving friends in peace.


Where do you fall in the epic battle over cilantro?

27 responses to “IFHate: Cilantro

  1. I never knew people didn’t like this until I read that article. Next to basil, it’s probably my favorite fresh herb. I love the stuff. I wonder why people have such different perceptions of its flavor.

  2. It’s in the nose. The haters lack a receptor that lets them perceive all the goodness that is cilantro. All they get is something that resembles soap, while missing the bright, the green, and the happy. It’s not their fault. Go out and hug a cilantro hater today.

  3. Pro-cilantro, decidedly anti-dill (I think we are a minority)

  4. My wife and I love cilantro. It’s probably our favorite herb and when we make salsa, we go heavy on the cilantro. Basil rocks too.

    http://www.starvingpundits.com

  5. I like to eat it by the bunch!

  6. I brush my teeth with cilantro, its THAT good

  7. I like cilantro, but love Dill even more. so much that I find the need to capitalize its first letter.

  8. No, it’s nasty stuff. I don’t like raw ginger for the same reason. Who wants to have a soapy aftertaste?

  9. This one’s purely genetic. Nothing to be done about it. If you don’t have the receptor, it tastes like soap. If you do, it tastes, I don’t know, like cilantro. My wife is in the soap category, so I’m careful.

    I love the stuff, but ALWAYS make a cilantro free version of anything I’m making with it, whether salsa cruda (use flat leaf parsley instead – not nearly as good, but, well, whatcha gonna do?) or marinated chicken thighs (use fresh basil instead).

    I can literally say that you don’t know what you’re missing. But I can also say that I don’t think I’d want something tasting like soap served to me, so I try to be understanding.

  10. APV — you’re not alone!!!

  11. I first learned of the cilantro-as-soap condition on this lovely little npr podcast :

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=98695984

    It’s a bummer. Cilantro is rad.

  12. I have always suspected that one either loves cilantro or doesn’t. No one ever seems middle of the road on it. I LOVE it. :)

  13. Midwest Product

    I remember this first coming up in the chocolate orange IFA thread. I continue to be fascinated by the phenomenon of Cilantro-hatred; as far as I can tell, there’s been no actual demonstration of a genetic component to peoples’ reactions to it, but it’s definitely become a meme. Maybe Snopes can take a look at it, I dunno.

    That aside, I suspect that one of the key reasons that Cilantro is so much more polarizing than other flavors is that, to those with the “wrong” (sorry, Mandy et al) sense of taste, it doesn’t taste like a food they happen to dislike but rather it doesn’t taste like food at all.

  14. I don’t buy the cilantro-as-soap genetic story. When I first tasted cilantro as a teenager, it tasted soapy and I didn’t like it. Now, after many exposures, I love it and use it with abandon.

    My genes haven’t changed. Cilantro still tastes the same to me; it’s just that I love it now.

    Which is not to say that cilantro haters should suck it up and eventually come to like it. Don’t eat food you don’t like, but also don’t propogate bogus reasons why you don’t like it.

  15. cilantro=do! not! want!

  16. fun fact (at least to me it’s kind of fun): in hawaii they call cilantro “chinese parsley.” i lived here for three years before i realized they were the same thing. somehow it tastes better to me when i call it chinese parsley. it fits the asian flavor profile for me better than the mexican flavor profile.

  17. Cilantro is amazing.

    That said, I was told tonight that, as Ron mentioned above, it’s purely a genetic quirk that leads some people to love cilantro and some to hate it.

    Incidentally, this is similar to the fact that some people can’t smell the asparagus pee smell.

    Sorry to make this comment thread *that* much more disgusting, but science is science.

  18. I’m with Cardinal Fang on this one. When I first encountered cilantro, I thought it was repellent. But I kept hearing so much good about it that I kept giving it a chance. But for a long time the results were the same: it was awful.
    Then one day I happened to be around some food with cilantro in it – I could smell it. Suddenly my mouth began to water: I wanted it, I had to have it. When I tasted the food in question, the old evil cilantro was there, but it was augmented by something else, something wonderful, heady, aromatic and keenly appetizing. I’ve been hooked since.

  19. There has been speculation in this thread about a genetic component in our appreciation of/aversion to cilantro.

    That reminded me of the genetic component said to play a role in our evaluation of truffles. To me, truffles (black or white) smell like dead rat.

    Evidently I’ve been able to desensitize myself to cilantro by repeated exposure; I doubt that I’ll have the opportunity to accomplish that with truffles!

  20. Cardinal Fang,

    Unfortunately, you’re a little off-base with your knowledge of genetics. It’s true, your genes don’t tend to change. However, the EXPRESSION of your genes does indeed change over your lifetime.

    The cilantro Wiki noted that no one has found a direct correlation between cilantro and the bitter taste perception gene (the one linked to taste perception of the synthetic chemical phenylthiocarbamide). However, this in no way proves a lack of such connection–just that no one has found it yet. Considering the wealth of circumstantial evidence, my gut would bet on the connection.

  21. Interesting. My co-blogger over at the Smithsonian food blog (Food and Think) is a cilantro hater, too:

    http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/food/2009/02/20/the-great-cilantro-debate/

    I was a little startled by the vitriol in some of the comments her post elicited:

    “It tastes like dish soap licked off of a shoe.”
    “Good for nothing except making people vomit.”
    “Cilantro is the food of the devil.”

    Personally I’m on the other side, with this guy:

    “I am stunned that there are people who don’t like cilantro… Next, you’ll be claiming there are people that don’t like strawberries and chocolate, or babies and puppies.”

  22. Midwest Product

    Next, you’ll be claiming there are people that don’t like strawberries and chocolate, or babies and puppies.

    In fairness, I don’t like eating either babies OR puppies.

  23. Apparently this discussion is everywhere. I’m with Andrew Knowlton – its a genetic thing. Personally, I could put cilantro on anything just about.

    http://www.bonappetit.com/blogsandforums/blogs/bafoodist/2009/02/dear-ba-foodist-cilantro-is.html

  24. I just stumbled upon this cilantro post, and want to weigh in on NO! Oh I hate the stuff.When I was a kid, my Nicaraguan family used to put it in everything, and I didn’t realize (at the time) that the foul taste of everything they made was on purpose. Well, first thing, none of them can actually cook — not a single one of them.  Chicken soup, for instance, was nothing more than a greasy, watery, cilantro-stinking, cloudy vat of rubbery skin and gristle and veins, with undercooked rice… oh it just makes me want to cry thinking about it.

    So, cilantro reminds me of home-cooking — gag. And, I didn’t realize there was a soap gene, but I guess I have that too. It does taste like soap. While my tolerance is much higher these days, I’d still really rather not.

  25. Pingback: We Need To Talk « The Internet Food Association

  26. Never even knew there was consideration of having a “soap gene” that made cilantro taste like soap. Just knew that whenever I ate it, it ruined whatever I was eating. Really thought I was crazy. How can people eat that when it tastes s much like soap. Like someone else said “like someone had sprinkled soap flakes over your food”. Seriously I wish it didn’t taste that way so that I could enjoy the same flavor that others claim it has and since so many recipes call for it and there is no real comparable substitute. But the fact remains whether you believe it nor not, there are those of us that taste it that way.

  27. Pingback: We Need To Talk | kashwaynepromotion.com

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