The Cilantro Division
Posted on April 14, 2010 Posted by John Scalzi 322 Comments
Which is not the title of my upcoming novel featuring space travel and cooking. It’s me musing on this article in the New York Times, about why a significant number of people dislike the taste of cilantro, associating it with the taste of soap or something worse. This makes me sad for those people, because I really like the taste of cilantro. But then, most of the time that I consume cilantro it’s in my wife’s salsa, which is excellent all around, or it’s in Thai food, which is a cuisine I am insensibly in love with, so I’m eating it with other things I really like. Maybe if everyone who hates cilantro would just have some of my wife’s salsa, this gap could be closed.
Anyway, this is me wondering about your position on cilantro. Do you love it? Hate it? Are studiously indifferent about it? Have no idea what it is because it’s used on anything real Americans eat? Satisfy my culinary curiosity, if you would.
[Deleted because not related to topic at hand. Craig, for future reference, this is where random posts on that subject go. Thanks — JS]
Haaaaate! but I live in Texas, so I tolerate it.
Sorry, I meant to leave my thoughts on cilantro as well in my last post, didn’t mean to post exclusively about a totally separate subject. I share your bewilderment with people who don’t like cilantro.
No worries, Craig.
On cilantro, I am becoming; I used to despise the taste of it, but I am well on my way to greatly enjoying it.
I adore cilantro. Love, love, love how bright and fresh it tastes (especially in pico de gallo).
Down here in New Mexico, oh HELL yeah! on Cilantro. Add a little cumin and a lot of Hatch green chile and I’m in heaven.
I love it, meself. To me, it tastes like spring and nature and yumminess.
Soap…Hmmm…can’t really see it.
Looove it! I buy it fresh at the Korean supermarket for 50 cents a bunch. Cheaper than growing it…
We put it on tacos, burgers, salads, and fish.
Cilantro: Just say no.
My wife and I are big fans of it and the Mexican cuisine that it often is used in (Mexican cuisine to us is what Thai is to you).
A good friend of mine has the genetic expression of the cilantro=soap taste and cannot stand a lot of foods heavy in the herb for that very reason. It is my understanding that it is very much a hereditary trait.
HATE Cilantro. Ugh.
I am definitely a cilantro non-taster. It doesn’t taste like soap to me, and the only way I’ve been able to describe its flavor to the cilantro lovers around me is to say that if color green had a flavor, that would be it. And frankly, green tastes disgusting.
I have no idea if I like cilantro. Either I never go to places that use it, or they use it but neglect the big red warning labels. How can I know if I like it if I don’t know what food uses it? The Times article contains only vague references to what is it actually in.
When I was a child, I would eat the remaining sprigs of cilantro off of my parents plates.
Cilantro is wonderful, no matter what Alton Brown says.
Ditto on the cilantro hate. Or coriander, for those of you not of the American persuasion.
It does taste like soap. Throws me right out of any dish it’s in: for such a relatively mild herb, it’s presence in any dish is somehow overpowering to me.
Not to disparage your wife’s salsa, John. Though I don’t think I’ll be trying it anytime soon.
I love it. It adds an earthy depth of flavor that few herbs can match.
I think the division is biological. I don’t have a cite, but I recall some research about cilantro and super-tasters. I love the stuff, the more the better.
Cilantro = SWOON. It is definitely my favorite herb. Salsa without a decent helping of cilantro is not worth the effort. Oooh, and it’s SO good in potato salad, and pasta salad, and rice dishes, and well pretty much everything except breakfast cereal.
Cilantro definitely has a soap taste to me. I tolerate it well enough as long as it’s not overwhelming, but I don’t seek it out. The seeds, however, are among my favorite flavors, they don’t bother me at all.
Supposedly, cilantro has flavors in common with strawberries but I’ve never really cared to find out.
I get the soapy taste but I still enjoy it, especially in salsa. I used to work with a guy who would bring tomatoes, onions and habaneros from his garden and make salsa at lunch time. Tasty stuff, although the first time I had it I thought he hadn’t rinsed his mixing bowl well enough after washing it.
I don’t associate cilantro with the taste of soap, cilantro embodies the taste of soap. No sweet body milk, but gritty get-those-burns-stains-from-the-pan soap at that.
I still love Thai cuisine though (when not too heavy on the cilantro..)
I’m one of the cilantro genetic rejects. I can’t quite describe what it tastes like–not soap, but definitely not right. For me, it just detracts from the flavor of anything it’s in.
“Hate” is too strong though. It just doesn’t work out between us. It Was Not Meant To Be.
Love it! You should give us you wife’s salsa recipe so we can all enjoy!
Cilantro = awesome. My fiancee and I just discovered this recipe, with a sauce that would make strips of leather taste like a Moroccan delicacy: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Haddock-in-Charmoula-Sauce-104887
We double the cilantro and skip the parsley.
I’m really indifferent. When used right it’s a fine addition but I’ve seen it used in excess both by myself on accident and by restaurants on purpose. When there’s too much it overpowers everything else in the dish.
No strong opinion. I think it’s what they put in the rice at Chipotle, which is my only significant exposure to it. I thought it was just Mexican parsley, i.e., just something neutral you toss in a dish to make it look like real cooking.
Count me amongst the cilantro lovers. Food can only be improved by its inclusion. I would try cilantro ice cream were it to be offered (actually… that’s not a bad idea… cilantro pineapple sorbet perhaps?).
My wife and I love cilantro. When we go to the Mexican fast food chain Moe’s we add cilantro to anything we order.
Our favorite local Mexican restaurants became our favorites because they use it in the right amounts in the right places.
I absolutely had no idea some people hated it. I thought there were those who loved it, and those who didn’t know it existed; which included me about five years ago.
love it. cilantro in scrambled eggs is awesome! and in salsa. and in potato salad!! i’ll have to try it in rice dishes, haven’t done that yet. thanks for the tip.
Love it. I’m Texan, so that may have something to do with it.
To quote that great philosopher, Mick Dundee “It tastes loike shit, but you can live on it”
I normally despise the taste of cilantro, though I’ve always described the taste more as aluminum foil than as soap; it’s still not a pleasant sensation. I force myself to eat it, though, because it’s in a lot of cuisines I enjoy and because other people I cook for like it. I think it may be growing on me.
That said, I did find a salad of sorts at a local Burmese restaurant that consisted almost entirely of cilantro, and I really loved that. (In terms of proportions, think tabbouleh with cilantro in place of parsley.)
Where I live, I think most people treat cilantro as a garnish and then declare they hate it. Well, of course they do! Cilantro straight up is where I get the soapy taste and if that was the only way I used it I’d hate it too. However, used in combination with other flavors it is a unique and totally doable herb.
Cilantro is amazing. My wife uses it a lot when cooking.
John, how disappointed are you with the Mexican food here? I lived in Arizona my whole life and have been in Ohio for about 4 years. The Mexican food here is absolutely terrible. I’m pretty sure they use ketchup and call it enchilada sauce. It’s very tragic.
Fortunately, my wife makes great Mexican food and home made salsa.
Not a fan. I can deal with it in salsa, but that’s about it.
“You should give us you wife’s salsa recipe so we can all enjoy!”
I had to marry her before she would tell me the recipe, so no, won’t be revealing its secrets here. Sorry.
Big fan. Shows up a lot in Caribbean cuisine, too. One advantage of living in Florida is getting it locally grown in the main supermarket chains. I can’t wait for summer to start making my own fresh pico de gallo again.
Incidentally, cilantro==coriander. But the northern European use of coriander is traditionally limited to the seeds.
I get the feeling it doesn’t work for some people just because our taste buds are wired differently. I’ve heard the same kinds of things about broccoli and spinach. Some people just can’t stand the stuff.
The study of taste and flavor are really interesting areas. Lot’s of research going on there.
I happen to like cilantro, but dislike coffee and maraschino cherries. It’s clear to me that people who like coffee aren’t tasting the same thing I do at all (or else they are insane). I would say that cilantro like/dislike occurs similarly–the people who don’t like it really are experiencing a different flavor from what people who like it experience.
I get the soapy taste, at least with some levels of cilantro, but I like it in most salsas and in some Mexican food, although if it gets to overpowering levels it’ll ruin the food for me. But it’s a distinctly soapy flavor for me.
Two thumbs up for cilantro. My mother being from Costa Rica and growing up with her cooking cilantro is a great ingredient. Excellent in black beans.
Cilantro = soap. Gag. It makes me sad, because I see my friends and family greatly enjoy cilantro, and I wish I could join them. It’s like there’s some beautiful, delicious cilantro party, and I’m not invited. Sigh. I’ll just sit here in my anti-cilantro, anti-coffee, anti-cantaloupe corner.
This article explains so, so much. I now no longer must live in shame of my revulsion…
I love it — and I just planted some in my yard yesterday. I do not understand how anyone could hate such a wonderful herb.
Extreme cilantro hater. I used to call it an allergy, because it triggers an automatic gag reflex, much like most people’s response to drinking badly spoiled milk. These studies make it clearer that for some of us it’s not just opinion, it’s something biological. (Taste is like a rancid old smelly dishrag.)
I used to wonder about cilantro, because I like such a wide variety of spices and flavors. Now I just accept it as a non-life threatening allergic reaction.
I’m a fan. I’ve been known to make cilantro pesto (you have to cut it with some parsley or it does get overwhelming) instead of the standard basil. Of course I also toss it into salsa, guacamole and stir-fries.
ugh, hate cilantro. Sorry.
Funny cilantro story: In Cyprus there is cilantro in everything, and everyone eats it all the time. The wife of a visiting archaeologist threw a fit, demanding that no cilantro be served close enough for her to even breath it. Why? “Because cilantro causes miscarriages.” We tried to point out all the little baby Cypriots whose mothers happily chomped cilantro all the time, but she said those babies must have “just been lucky.” Funny lady. :)
When I was a kid I hated it because it tastes like soap. It still tastes like soap but I love it. Almost as much as I love arugula.
Sadly, it tastes like soap to me. Not even good soap. Bad, I’ve used too many swear words and now I must pay soap.
I love food of all kinds, and love to try new things, so this is horrible when it shows up unexpected and I’m picking around it. It’s hard to pick around cilantro. That is a gene I would happily swap out for a gene that makes, say, cinnamon taste like soap were I to have such a fantasical choice.
for me cilantro is just overpowering…a little I can tolerate, but most people put too much in whatever they’re cooking..on the whole cilantro == teh gross :-(
I tend to find that coriander-as-greens tastes of tin in large doses (as in, it makes whatever I’m eating taste as though it’s been canned in a very cheap, old-fashioned canning medium – a very metallic taste). In small amounts, it’s okay as a bit of a highlight, but my definition of “small amounts” is roughly “a lot less than in specified in most recipes”. Ground coriander seeds, however, I have no problems with, which is a good thing since I’m a big fan of curries and spicy foods, and ground coriander is a key component in most curry combinations.
I’m terrible at identifying spices by taste alone (except with the obvious ones, like cinnamon, ginger, pepper, etc.) so it’s possible I’ve had cilantro and didn’t know it. I certainly couldn’t pick it out of a lineup.
Cilantro Love x 2 in my house!
I like a small bit of cilantro in pico de gallo and salsa, but am not a fan of it as a garnish on things like sopa de lima. Inconsistent? Yes, but I can’t convince my taste buds to think differently on that score.
I usually don’t taste cilantro in Thai food, because there are so many other flavors in those dishes that it gets lost.
Verdict: part-time cilantro hater.
I am indifferent, largely because I’m still outgrowing that age (teenage years; I’m a ripe old 21 right now) where I will literally eat anything that is placed before me with rather little regard for what it tastes like. Food is food, especially for a poor college undergrad like me.
So what *is* the title of your upcoming novel featuring space travel and cooking? ‘Cause I would totally read that.
It tastes like burning plastic to me. But I like burning plastic. I find it’s a nice addition to chili or black bean soup.
I can’t stand cilantro. If it’s in something, it ruins it for me. It makes a burrito taste like it went through a washing machine.
I’m in the “tastes-like-soap” group myself. But I have a theory: Some folks can’t taste the “soap” at all.
In High School Biology, my teacher handed out little strips of paper and told everyone to taste them. About half the students in my class just tasted paper, and the rest thought it was the worst-thing-ever. The strips had been brushed with some chemical or other that some folks just don’t register at all (I do wish I could remember the name of it).
Purely anecdotal evidence, I suppose, but if there’s any HS Bio teachers in the audience maybe they can back me up.
My point is maybe that stuff (or a relative) is in cilantro, and those that can’t taste it get to enjoy; while those that can get to not-enjoy it.
Count me as a cilantro lover, especially in good salsa. Hey, would your wife mind if you posted her salsa recipe.
I’m one of the “tastes like soap” people. It used to be that I could tell if cilantro had been waved in the vicinity of any dish I was eating and would ruin it. I may have eaten enough Mexican, Thai and Indian food of late that it doesn’t completely ruin a dish for me. But I still scrape off any fresh stuff sprinkled on top. It’s a disproportionately strong flavor for me, and it’s really rather unfortunate.
Longtime lurker forced to post due to the importance of this topic. Love, love, love cilantro. Here in Geneva (CH), they never stock enough in the supermarkets and always run out by the end of the day and so I often plan my entire Saturday around going to the supermarket early enough to get cilantro. Did I mention I love it?
I like cilantro, but oddly enough, the first time I had a dish with it (Indian food in grad school) I thought the dish tasted soapy.
I’m a big fan of Thai food, as well. And there’s this great little Mexican place in town (in what used to be a Chinese place. So there are sombreros on the walls, but plate-glass booth dividers with pandas and cranes etched in them. It’s quite the culture mash-up) that makes amazing salsa.
So I’d say yeah, cilantro gets the thumbs up.
Coriander? Love it. Have just sown a bed full of it. Have a plant on the kitchen windowsill to tide me over, plus ground coriander and coriander seeds in the food cupboard.
I love cilantro and I always keep a batch of the fresh stuff around. I also use it (sometimes) in dishes that don’t traditionally include cilantro. If you’re a fan, try some in your next lasagna.
I’m a fan of salsa and Thai food, but in general, I can always taste the cilantro in the food. It’s very prominent, and I don’t care for its overbearing personality. Cilantro can be a bit boorish at the flavor party.
I grew cilantro in my winter herb garden this year, and even the smell is rather unpleasant and makes me think of anti-insect spray. I don’t get the soap thing (but my experience of soap flavors is limited). To me it’s just too sharp and high and distinct when cooked with other foods. It’s heavy on the bitter. I’m not big on bitter.
I don’t hate it, but I find it distracting. I can easily have too much of it in a salsa or other dish.
On the other hand, I can nibble rosemary straight off the bush, while I have friends who claim it tastes like Pine-Sol. I wonder how they know what Pine-Sol tastes like, but I don’t ask.
Hate. It tastes like soap, even in things I love.
Love it! Actually got some growing in the garden, I love it so much.
Cilantro is an evil anti-herb. It is hollow – its flavor is soulless, and it likewise pulls the soul out of anything containing it. It also has a similarity to the metallic taste of food cooked in pans that are losing their non-stick coating.
Coriander is the same plant, but the “coriander” spice is usually the ground-up seeds rather than the leaves and I don’t mind it at all.
Since my twin brother doesn’t mind the taste, I don’t think it’s genetic.
Cilantro? WTF? *googles*
Ah! Coriander is what we call it in Australia and we’d be lost without it.
Thank you John, I have learned something today.
I love Cilantro, but I always find it spicy — a hot flavor, like chili peppers. I’m not sure why I find it tastes like this, because no one else I’ve talked to has described it the same way. As such, I like it when used sparingly, but I can’t handle a lot of it. Never detected any soapy flavor.
I’m mostly in the “Ugh” camp. I can stand cilantro if it’s used sparingly, especially if there’s yummy Mexican and/or Thai food involved, but the habit foodies got into a few years ago of tossing multiple fistfuls of the nasty stuff into every dish made me want to run from the table crying.
stphbg at 71: Coriander is what we in the US call the seed.
I love cilantro, which I only discovered as an adult, since my father couldn’t stand it and therefore it never made it into any of our dishes at home.
I am apparently a “super-taster” – genetics pre-dispose me to like cilantro, and hot peppers and to NOT stand broccoli, some cabbages and other sulpherous products. Nor have I developed a taste-aversion to the stuff due to a bad experience w/ bugs or cilantro scented soap (Murphy’s oil soap does have some of the same ‘tones’ as some of the background notes of cilantro but not close enough to turn me off)
I love Mexican food, and I love, love, love Thai food, but I do not love soap-weed. I can take it in the Thai food, but the appeal is just lost on me, for some reason.
Cilantro . . . I’ve never even heard of this until now. And if someone had asked me yesterday, “What is cilantro?” my response probably would have been, “Um . . . is it a ‘male enhancement’ drug?”
So, based on my own aversion to anything overly spicy (I don’t even use pepper), I would have to say I’m in the No Cilantro camp.
See, it doesn’t smell like soap to me. I like the smell of soap. And while I can handle cilantro in salsa and pico de gallo, I avoid it on its own. Also arugula, which is mentioned in the article–both taste overpoweringly bitter to me.
Did anyone else do that thing in bio class where the teacher has everyone lick special paper to showcase traits controlled by just one gene? Most of the class goes “what? it’s paper.” A small minority goes “OMG I need an altoid Right Now–why did you tell me to put that in my mouth?” I was in the latter category, and the paper tasted like a way more intense version of cilantro and arugula. So I’m going to go ahead and blame genetics.
I can’t think of anything that I like that could not be improved with a little cilantro, (Ok, maybe a ruben, the most perfect of sandwiches.)
Then again when I was younger my grandfather and I would sit around and eat raw onions like apples.
Love Cilantro. Thankfully, no soapy aftertaste for me.
Love Thai food too. If you’re ever in central NJ, I can point you in the direction of several quite good Thai restaurants.
Cilantro = greasy metallic soap. Sorry cilantro lovers, but to many of us your favorite spice would make manna inedible.
My wife can’t stand cilantro, which is now becoming more common with other cuisines, such as Mexican.
I believe that this particular taste has a strong biological difference. Some people taste it differently than others.
The question I don’t know the answer to, is whether cilantro haters also dislike ground coriander. Is it the leaf or the seed?
Love it. Have you ever heard Trout Fishing in America sing Pico de Gallo? There’s a great line for us Ohioans about how you can like it even if you live in Ohio.
Gah, no! It doesn’t taste like soap to me like it does to lots of people, it just tastes… yuck. I can handle it in very small amounts but if there’s a lot of it and it can’t be picked out, no way.
Weirdly, I’ve recently discovered that I do like coriander (the seeds), which makes no sense to me since they’re of the same plant.
I like cilantro; my sister-in-law is one of the soap tasters – and my wife has a mild soap taste when she has cilantro – don’t know if it is power of suggestion.
I like cilantro (and it’s in the rice at Qdoba, too, and I wonder if the cilantro-hating people just can’t eat there, or if you can request non-cilantro’ed rice) but it can be overpowering. My favorite Mexican restaurant does a chunky salsa that’s fabulous – if you’re careful and eat around the cilantro as best you can, because it’s overpowering.
I think I’ve read that it’s a genetic thing, too, but I don’t have a source handy.
Love cilantro, it grows almost wild in the herb garden and I sulk in the winter when I have to buy it at the grocery (and mostly have to identify it to the checker) It’s especially good in curries.
Gary 35…We have a great Mexican Restaurant here in the Miami Valley…El Sombrero just north of Troy. I also remember a fantastic mexican restaurant in Cleveland..Nuevo Alcopulco…mmmmm Mashed Potato Chimichangas..
I recently tasted Marmite, just a tiny dab on the tip of my tongue. I couldn’t get the taste out of my mouth fast enough.
Their slogan is “Love it or Hate it”, and I count myself among the latter. There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground.
With cilantro, you would think the results are similarly polarized. But for myself, I can take it or leave it.
I have a friend who can’t stand cilantro, or parsley, in anything.
I don’t mind it mixed into something, but my kids love just picking pieces of it from our herb garden and eating it straight. Not to mention our guinea pigs can’t get enough of it and go through it by the handful (human handful, not guinea pig handful).
Love cilantro. Wife loves cilantro. Even my preschooler loves it. I think what I love most about cilantro is the smell when you’re cleaning/preparing it. Really delicious. Nice question!
I don’t like it, but I don’t think it tastes like soap — just faintly bitter and sort of soggy. Blecch.
Another vote for “tastes like soap,” and as a bit of a “fresh” child back when, I make that statement from experience: Mom and the bar of Ivory were always at hand, in case a phase such as “butt-head” or “Al Gore” should escape my lips. Not much room for freedom of expression in my youth.
Some of you have got to be kidding. Let’s put it this way: So many recipes with cilantro, so little time. Or maybe to channel May West: Too much cilantro is not enough! Mexican (we live in New Mexico), Thai, Indian, salsa, pico de gallo, salads, green chili stews, Chinese, Viet, Moroccan..the list goes on and on. My wife is a “super taster” and loves it as much as I do.
To be fair tho, neither of my kids, both in their thirties, can stand it so I have heard the soap comment at home. Go figure.
I love it but the wife hates it. It’s a house divided.
I don’t think she associates it with soap, but I’ll have to check on that. I’ve always felt it has an earthy, citrus-y taste.
I have always liked cilantro except during a three year period after my first pregnancy. Then it was fine in dishes, but raw and alone it made me gag. I would get my husband to chop up the cilantro and put it in the mixing bowl before I went on to fix the rest of the salsa. Since he likes his salsa, he cheerfully complied for a few years; then one day he just started formulating his own recipe and making the whole dish himself. His salsa is better than mine.
I like coriander, even though the leaves do taste slightly soapy. But it is just needed to finish some dishes.
I very much love cilantro. The one time I didn’t enjoy it so much was at a chain of quick-service Chinese restaurants where I found they put tons of it in everything to give it a fresh, zingy taste. That got old.
But other than that, bring it on.
I adore cilantro. One of my favorite applications is a Vietnamese sub packed full of the stuff. My husband is slowly coming around, and likes it well enough in moderation (he picks a fair bit out of the subs). I do have some friends who get the soap taste, but I’ve never noticed anything like that myself. Frankly, the association with soap baffles me.
Love Cilantro, any way, any how.
Funny though, this post’s title (“The Cilantro Division”) sounds like an episode title of “The Big Bang Theory.” And that’s a good thing.
I *adore* cilantro. Maybe it’s from my time in New Mexico or from dating a lot of latinas, but I use it a lot! I mix it into salsas, spaghetti sauce, I rub it on meats, as a garnish instead of parsley … yeah. Cilantro = yum!
I, too, hate the devil weed.
Which breaks my heart, as it’s in freakin’ everything anymore. It can ruin a salsa in a heartbeat, and I have to be a freak at Qdoba and ask for plain white rice instead of cliantro-lime rice in my burritos.
But then, I’m a bit of a supertaster myself. Many flavors that others adore, I can’t abide. Cinnamon in any quantity, mint, mayonnaise, mustards, and almost anything with any large quantity of chlorophyll in it.
My wife is in the “meh” camp, so it’s not ever been an issue in our house.
@Sihaya: I have a friend who couldn’t eat cilantro during her pregnancies but loves it otherwise. She felt the same way about lovage, which like parsley is another member of the apiaceae family (like celery, uis what that name means) which is high in vitamin K. But I think parsley, celery, etc., were okay even in pregnancy with her, which is good because at the time we were having babies they were telling us to eat a lot of parsley — half a cup a day.
Cilantro? Fine. Smells like a month-old dishrag; tastes wonderful.
(I like asafoetida, too.)
Despise it with every fibre of my being.
Horrible, horrible stuff. I would rather eat poison ivy.
Love cilantro; indispensable in cooking certain things. But most of my friends are in the soap faction. Invitations to dinner at my house have come back with an RSVP along the lines of, “love to be there but you’re not going to have anything with cilantro in it, are you?” For them, it’s on the side. Sad…
I don’t know much about cilantro but living in New Orleans I love good spicy food. It makes my gout act up every now and then when I eat to much spicy stuff. By the wat John, don’t forget to wear a jacket up there in Bradford today. I just checked the weather up there and its 50 degrees. It’s 79 in New Orleans today. Yeah I know, I have to much time on my hands!
Personally, I’m indifferent to cilantro. I can taste it and I’m aware of its presence in a dish, but I don’t mind it one way or the other. I like Thai, Mexican and other foods that use it, so I accept cilantro as part of the package.
Now, my wife is a true foodie — the most accomplished cook I know outside of professional chefs. She watches Food Network, follows food blogs, collects cookbooks from all ages and regions, and reads cooking magazines as if they were holy writ. She’s eclectic and loves to experiment with all sorts of cuisines and flavors.
Ironically, she’s one of the cilantro haters. Soap would be a big step up, she’d gladly eat a bar of it instead. For her, cilantro has an almost unutterably loathsome taste. Picking it out of the food doesn’t begin to address the situation. As much as she otherwise likes a particular dish, if it has been exposed to even most minute quantum of cilantrosity, she will reject it on contact — often accompanied by a sudden and shocking violence that I’ve learned to anticipate.
We have been approached by… shall we call them “representatives”… of military and security industries, with an interest in examining my wife’s cilantro detection abilities. If the knack can be cracked and repurposed for defense applications, there could be some big licensing coin in it. But so far no luck. Meanwhile, it’s a fraction more cilantro available for Krissy’s salsa…
Cilantro is vile. Disgusting. Even the smell of it makes me shudder.
I’m happy for the people who like it, though.
It is good. All salsa needs more Cilantro, and possibly more lime.
#102 Lucy Kemnitzer: That’s weird, I’ve read just the opposite about parsley in pregnancy – don’t eat too much of it because it affects the smooth muscles (spasmodic or relaxer, I can’t remember which).
Now, if y’all want a controversial seasoning, get some epazote. You’ll need only two leaves of it in your chili pot, and it takes the place of alot of cumin and coriander. However, it smells like turpentine and looks weedy. Heck, it acts kind of weedy, too. But it’s my secret ingredient.
I love coriander. Especially in balti.
I wasn’t aware anyone couldn’t taste it properly. Or maybe I can’t taste it properly. Whatever…
I hate cilantro by itself. Tastes like soapy bubbles to me, but I can enjoy salsa or pho with cilantro in it.
I have been known to just chew on a bunch of cilantro all by itself.
Put me in the no, thank you, catagory.
I live in Southern California, where every other restaurant serves Mexican food, and I have Thai family members, so I am glad I don’t get the soap flavor from cilantro. I like it, but I’m not crazy for it the way some people seem to be.
Same reaction, for the same reasons, for chilies. I ate in a Tex-Mex place a couple of days ago, and while it was tasty, it was nowhere near spicy enough for me – I kept pouring bottled hot sauce on things. Some of my family take that to a whole new level, though.
I HATED cilantro the first time I tried it. It had a wierd taste and pungency I could not place. Basically it took a few times.
I think the real problem is not that people don’t like it, but that they are not willing to push themselves out of their comfort zones. If they try it a couple times they’ll learn to like it, but they won’t. Sometimes people “try” things once by convincing themselves they’ll hate it. But it’s not just about cilantro, and not just food, it’s everything we do. The attitude that we have enough experience and can’t learn anything from unfamiliar people or sources is what is bad.
(Like one friend who “tried” public transportation by deliberately taking the wrong train because she didn’t want to wait on the platform for the next one, spending an extra 20 minutes riding around Chicago in the wrong directions, then proclaiming “see I tried it I told you I wouldn’t like it!”)
I can think of very few foods outside of what I grew up eating that I liked the first time I tried them. If I only tried things once and gave up, there would be a whole wealth of experiences that changed me that I never would have had.
I love the stuff. In Southeast Asia, it’s used extensively on whole steamed fish with ginger and garlic. OMG it’s amazing.
What I do wonder at is if cilantro haters *also* hate the taste of ground coriander seed, which I find has a different taste, and I tend to use in making home made chili powder from scratch.
Is there anyone out there who hates cilantro leaf who’d like to comment?
I view cilantro as pure yumminess wrapped in awesome. My too-extreme love of both Mexican and Thai food may be related to this in some way, although I’m not sure if it is more cart or horse in that equation.
It was I think a story on NPR last fall, about researchers had found a gene that made some people taste cilantro as soap, and that it often runs in families. I hate the stuff and my husband loves it. He wants to plant it in the garden this year.
I like cilantro just fine. There are many foods I do not like. When I do not like a food, I do not claim to be genetically *special* in some way that entitles me to BORE people with my ranting about how I hate that food. In fact, good manners dictate that I am not even entitled to *mention* it, lest I spoil the enjoyment of others or needlessly prejudice their children against cuisines enjoyed by roughly half the world’s population. In short, cilantro-haters, please shut up and deal. No one is forcing you to eat the stuff, and you really don’t want to know how I feel about capers or what happens in my lower intestines when I eat octopus.
My wife can’t stand cilantro. I’m one of the rare borderline folks – I don’t hate it, but I don’t love it either. Given my druthers, I’d probably go for parsley or some other mild green herb. But I won’t throw a fit if I find my food has been made with it. It just doesn’t thrill me.
I love cilantro and cook with it all the time.
Love it! In India and in Indian cooking we use it in practically every dish either as a garnish or we make chutney out of it.
For further information, check out McGee’s blog. He has references for all the stuff he talked about, and an interesting bit about cilantro leaf extracts potentially causing DNA damage.
(If you like this sort of stuff, you should pick up a copy of his book, On Food and Cooking. Great stuff.)
I actually read McGee’s blog:).
Strangely, I thought I liked cilantro, because I love all things Mexican and Thai. But after buying it fresh (at my local Syrian store, where they carry it in bulk) and using it in recipes, I have decided I don’t like it. Maybe the recipes have me using too much?
I’m with you – I love cilantro in salsa, Thai food, and the like. I don’t like big sprigs of salsa on tacos and the like. It just gets too strong.
Catherine : Trolling is lame.
Love cilantro. Love, love, love, love.
Cilantro does have some soapiness, if it’s used wrong — people keep saying it’s a mild herb, but it’s not. It’s quite powerful, and only a small amount is necessary to impart the cilantro-ey goodness. Also, I think it works better with acidic foods (like salsa!) than with neutral foods; not sure why. But when it’s used right, I love it.
I don’t really know. I’ve had it stand out and detract from some foods, and I think I’ve had it add to others. Count me among the “uncertain but deeply suspicious.”
On the other hand, there are a *lot* of things that I don’t like at all–except when used as an ingredient in salsa. Go figure.
“In short, cilantro-haters, please shut up and deal.”
er, we were *asked* our positions on cilantro.
I can handle small amounts of cilantro, but not a lot. It’s something of a problem, because I’m dating an Indian guy who loves to cook, and he throws handfuls of it in everything. I have to constantly plead with him to tone down the cilantro when he makes dinner.
I didn’t like cilantro for a long time, then I went through a phase where I could eat food with cilantro in it, but I wasn’t happy about it. Now I love it. To me, it tastes sweet. Although obviously, it tastes best when it’s freshest. I wonder if some of these cilantro-haters have been exposed to cilantro that wasn’t at its best.
Joe – Yeah, but trolls want to piss people off as an end in its self.
Absolutely love cilantro, but then, I share John’s insensible passion for Thai food (have not had the privilege of tasting his wife’s salsa, alas). Also: it rocks as a garnish in Vietnamese pho…
No idea what it tastes like. But it’s.. green, right?
I find cilantro mildly pleasant in the right circumstances, and overpowering in others. I can take it or leave it. The spouse says it tastes like burnt rubber, and upon accidentally consuming even a small bit of it, will consume several glasses of water to get the taste to go away. Just one of those things. It makes going to certain types of restaurants together rather difficult.
I think it’s good in specific dishes, but it does have a really strong taste and I don’t like it if it overpowers everything else. I prefer to have it in a sort of food harmony with the other ingredients, so that it’s a contributor to the flavor as a whole.
Love cilantro. Love love love it. In fact, AFAIC salsa is not salsa unless it contains cilantro. It’s just mushed-up tomatoes.
It is the worst flavor in the world. It’s not just something I “don’t like”. It tastes awful.
For those of you who like cilantro, imagine if all of the sudden, the new food trend were to take a cheese grater and grate soap into all restaurant food. I agree with the above ‘greasy metallic soap’ description. It literally causes a gag reflex with me.
I’ve learned how to say “no cilantro” in several languages over the last few years as a result.
I used to hate it when I was a kid. Maybe because my mother could never figure out how to use it in anything I liked. Then I had a rather sudden change of heart. I think it’s because I tried Thai food and fell in love with it.
Funny enough, one of my cilantrophobe friends describes eating cilantro as ‘chewing metal’.
I can’t say I hate cilantro/coriander leaf. But I can definitely say that I try my best to avoid it. It adds a soapy tinfoily taste to dishes that I find incredibly unpleasant. I can deal witrh it, in small amounts or when really hungry, but I try my best to avoid it.
Bit of a shame, because it’s quite prevalent in Indian and Mexican food (can’t say I’ve had that much Thai food, but if it’s common there too, I know to look carefully at the menu).
Hate cilantro. It takes perfectly good food items and adds great swathes of “ick” to them.
I love it, my sister hates it and can detect even minute amounts in prepared food. Not sure what that means, but it’s another data point..
Hate hate hate hate hate hate hate. It tastes like lemony sweat socks. I use ground coriander seed all the time, but can’t bear fresh cilantro. I can handle a little of it, but in things like salsa, where it’s possible to eat a leaf with very little else to counter it, I’ll avoid it.
To answer a question from above, I like ground coriander just fine even though I don’t like fresh cilantro. The ground spice doesn’t have that “lawn clippings” taste to me.
I friggin’ love it.
My wife-to-be hates it.
Hoping this isn’t as divisive a subject as money, kids, etc.
Until I read a similar article to the one you referenced I was barely aware of cilantro except as a word on menus. I don’t hate it. I would be hard put to pick it out of whatever dish it was in.
I intend at some point to eat it straight so I can figure out what all the distress is about.
I find the explanation that people associate it primordially with poison or danger fascinating though.
Love cilantro. My sister-in-law makes the best guacamole and there is much cilantro in it. So good. Now I have to go out to the store. Let’s see, avocado, cilantro, limes, purple onion…
I love cilantro myself.
Just like I love broccoli.
The reason for some people not liking the taste of cilantro is likely similar to the reason some don’t like broccoli.
Don’t Care For Broccoli? A Bitter Taste Receptor Gene’s Variation Suggests An Evolutionary Excuse
Some ancestor of humans found the soapy taste of cilantro (or a plant with the same chemical that causes the soapy taste) to be advantageous due to possible poisons.
If it tastes like soap it probably isn’t good for you! That’s what evolution decided.
Now some people carry that variation of taste sensitivity around like luggage and will never know just how good cilantro really is.
I’m not a big cilantro fan. The soapy taste thing is an issue for me, but generally only if someone’s thrown cilantro in a salad, where it tends to overwhelm the other flavors and ruin the salad. In salsa or Thai food, I mostly taste the other herbs and spices and the cilantro is at worst an undertaste.
Unlike fennel or anise, which ruin pretty much anything they’re put in. I hate licorice. the only acceptable use for the stuff as far as I’m concerned is putting star anise in soy cooked chicken gizzards. Otherwise it must be avoided at all costs.
The other thing my tastebuds have a problem with is tannin. I’m fine with regular tea, but pu-erh tea just tastes like dirt to me. As does pretty much every red wine.
Dorian – That list, plus ground black pepper, fresh jalapeno (chopped v. fine), and salt. That’s all you need.
Don’t like it, even though I like pretty much all the cuisines it tends to appear in–Indian, Mexican, Thai, and so forth. I can tolerate small quantities of cilantro but I’d never willingly dump piles of it on my food.
Cathy, what about not-very-tannic reds like red zinfandel or Beaujolais?
It’s absolutely essential to the only type of food I know how to cook, which is Indian. So: Love it!
Well, I’d say guacamole and salsa aren’t complete if they don’t have cilantro. So put me in the “love it” column…
Tolerable in moderation. Unfortunately, most of my friends and family who use it in their cooking overuse it.
To add to that: what does annoy me is the Cilantro / Coriander thing. I get it – one is the seed and one’s the plant – but is it really necessary?
In Indian recipes I see calls for ‘fresh coriander’ meaning cilantro, so I think the two terms must be a American/Western thing. I like the extra precision, since the seeds and leaves have quite different flavors, but agree that the surplus nomenclature is a bit unusual.
Cilantro – yes
Thai food – yes
Homemade salsa – yes
Cilantro is good in Vietnamese food as well (mmmm bûn noodles).
I loathe cilantro, despite loving Thai food. Just not Thai food with cilantro. I am also one of the bitter supertasters, but I’m not sure if that has anything to do with it.
In looking at information online about cilantro/coriander, it seems the volatile oils in cilantro contain a natural antibacterial compound. I wonder if its use as an herb began as a way to prevent salmonella poisoning…
Hate cilantro. I`m one of those people who register a “soapy” taste, as does my mom. Maybe it is genetic…
I’m a big fan of Ceviche (citrus-marinated raw fish), and Cilantro’s a big part of its overall taste. I guess it has this kind of special taste that you can’t just tolerate, either you love it or hate it, no middle ground. I had never made the connection with soap, though my brother holds that the taste is closer to that of burnt rubber…
I love cilantro now. The first time I had it was a Thai restaurant when I was about 13 and I thought it tasted soapy. I seem to have grown out of that. I don’t know if there is a period of desensitization for some people and they never get over the first soapy taste.
Don’t like Cilantro, but live in Texas, so I get a lot of it. Personally, I think of it like nutmeg – a little goes a long way, but people seem content with putting half a bush (tree?) in every dish.
I like cilantro in small amounts.
As far as your wife’s salsa goes, sorry, but I can’t stand salsa. Tomatoes = gross, peppers = gross, therefore gross + gross = super gross. No offense to your wife’s salsa I’m sure it’s great and all; I just am not a salsa eater.
I’m a cilantro lover, my family however, disagrees. I also like many other bitter herbs as well. I can see the soap taste, remembering what cilantro tastes like, but I don’t find it to be soapy to me – I can just see how other people would classify it that way.
My wife thinks I’m a “super taster” I cook entirely by taste and flavour combinations – I can identify many flavours easily, and can imagine what a combination will taste like.
That’s why I hate baking – I can’t taste as I go along to balance.
My wife is great at baking, and never tastes her food. She’s a good cook still, but she has less imagination in her cooking, she tends to use tried and true combinations.
My kitchen fallacy is not being able to re-create exactly what went well last week unless I write it down as I go, and the way I layer flavours, that doesn’t happen much. I always get asked “can you make that pork rub you made last week?” and the answer is always “I’ll try, but it will probably taste different.”
Maybe those of us who can discern flavour variations and identify them better are more inclined to like cilantro? More reading is needed.
My wife loves it.
I can barely tolerate it.
It’s like eating grass. It’s right up there with parsley as “things that look nice on a plate but have no business in your mouth” for me. Seriously, both are exactly like eating grass, and I just don’t get the attraction.
Then again, Brauchle (see, I can’t even spell it right) makes me get physically sick, so perhaps my body just has a thing with dark, vitamin rich greens.
HATE IT! The article claims that you can learn to love it by eating foods with it and getting used to the taste by associating it with delicious food and friends, etc. Well I’ve tried that, and it still tastes disgusting. I too love Thai and Mexican food, but I pick it out of my dish whenever I can.
It’s totally genetic… my mom and aunts all hate it too. I heard a story about a molecular biology teacher who had all his students taste a compound. 60% of the class couldn’t taste anything, 40% of the class were grossed out. My belief is that those of you who love cilantro can’t taste the nasty soap-bug aldehyde flavor compounds.
So really we cilantro haters must be genetically superior :-)
Hate it. Tastes absolutely like soap. I didn’t really recognize what was going on until I went to a South American fusion restaurant, walked in, and thought, “Wow, they must clean all the time because all I smell is soap!” Then when my tomato soup tasted like soap, I thought “They sure don’t rinse the dishes very well.”
I figured it out before the end of the meal. And maybe that instance of overload made my tastebuds even more sensitive, because now I can’t bear even the smallest sprig of cilanto in my burritos.
I wonder – ginger tastes exactly like dish soap to me. Perhaps those taste experiences are related? Anybody else hate both, love both?
Joel, was that supposed to be “broccoli”? I’m not trying to be rude, just trying to figure out what you meant…
Don’t like cilantro, but I have learned to tolerate it so that I can enjoy Mexican food – in my midwestern town, the only non-chain restaurants we have are the ones run by Mexican immigrants, so we have *excellent* Mexican food.
Cilantro doesn’t taste like soap to me – more like stale air.
@ Karen Rustad
You’re absolutely right – I learned to cook with a chef in India, and he had never heard of or used the word ‘Cilantro’. It made for some confusing trips to the supermarket when I got home.
Last night we cooked Tilapia on a bed of cilantro. The cilantro is fine, baked, but our adding a cumin dusting to the fish was a bit too much. My brainstorm.
Here in western North Carolina it tends to self seed and we get it all summer long. Smells nice when mowed, too!
But… The Cilantro Division makes for an interesting book title….
Joel @175: I love ginger too, but I’ve heard the soap analogy before, especially with pickled ginger.
i think guns n’ roses said it best with the lyric,”I used to love her (cilantro) but i had to kill her (and eat it in pho)
I am definitely on the cilantro band wagon. It is delightful, refreshing and like the scent of garlic or onions cooking — makes me think, mmm food!!
Love cilantro. My wife and I eat it by the bucketful (which, if you’ve ever had to pick the leaves off the stems isn’t actually as much as it sounds)
Anyway. Cilantro! My wife is from Texas so cilantro is pretty much a staple in any and every dish. I’ve gotten pretty good at making pico de galo:
1-2 bunches of cilantro
half an onion
2 jalapenos, seeded
4-5 Roma tomatoes
dash of lemon juice
chop it all up together. Yum.
Not only does this go well with tacos, brisket or enchiladas, it’s awesome on spaghetti.
Cilantro? Yum! Now you want to talk revolting vegetation? Celery. That stuff infuses everything it touches with the flavor of moldy dishwater.
Parsley, cilantro, oregano, similar are not dangerous to pregnancy when eaten in the amounts you see in cuisine. It’s when you start taking cilantro or rosemary or whatever SUPPLEMENTS that you should be careful. A dash of rosemary on your chicken or a handful of cilantro in your salsa is not going to hurt you. In fact, ginger in large quantities isn’t supposed to be great, either, and most docs recommend ginger (snaps, ale, candies) to pregnant women to help them deal with nausea!
As for cilantro, my story went from tolerate to hate to love, so I’m skeptical of the “genetic” explanation. I spent a summer in Costa Rica, where they might as well put cilantro in the coffee. It’s in EVERYTHING. Many of my companions had a horrible time while there, but I never noticed or minded. Finally, on the last day, someone told me what they were tasting when they ate cilantro: Lemon Pledge. Well, I spit out my mouthful of soup and for YEARS I tasted Lemon Pledge every time I put even the tiniest bit of cilantro in my mouth.
Then I got a job as a food critic. I learned to appreciate cilantro in Latin and Asian cuisines, and then from there, I learned to love it. Now I’ve got a big patch of cilantro in my garden and my husband and I make our guacamole in separate batches (because he doesn’t like cilantro).
John, trust me, if there was some way to work around the taste of soap, I’d be grazing on cilantro. It’s not a choice, trust me.
That said, I was practically raised on Mexican food and have come to love Thai food since moving to Seattle a decade ago so I do my best to steer around it. If it’s a garnish, I’ll ask them
to hold it. If it’s in the salsa, I eat of it. If you’re offering cilantro soup, I’ll say no thank you.
The Cilantro Division sounds like a pastiche of a Ken Macleod novel.
Put me in the cilantro is ok as long as it’s used very sparingly. I’m not sure what it tastes like, old quarters that have gone through a wood chipper maybe? Mixed with lawn clippings and stirred?
It’s not the same nasty “sucking on an old quarter” taste I get from Green Bell Peppers but it is related.
I never had a strong opinion on cilantro until I had a wonderful sandwich, with tons of raw cilantro rather than lettuce.
Loved the taste, the first time, but my body rejected it with passion, and let me tell you, cilantro is not so good in repeats. Since then, I seem to be sensitized and have to be very careful not to have it raw. I can still eat it with acidic foods, like in salsa, or in cooking, but avoid it when possible.
My genes must be out of synch, with no oral warning of its negative effect on my system… just call me the missing cilantro link.
Love it! I have this recipe for Cilantro Turkey Burgers with Chipotle Ketchup that is squeelicious!
Hey, cilantro haters, it’s probably not your fault. I suspect there may indeed be a genetic factor at play. Or something chemical. Or a combination. I personally cannot stomach raw tomatoes — but stew them and mash them up into pasta sauce or ketchup, and I like them. Apparently cooking the tomatoes changes some key chemical property, so that they no longer trigger my gag reflex.
I never “learned” to appreciate the taste of raw tomatoes, and don’t expect cilantro haters to “learn” to like this herb. Might just be beyond our control.
Also often mistakenly grabbed instead of parsley in busy kitchens leading to a night of horror in the bathroom for me.
Like the taste, though far from addicted to it. Since I’m in .ca.us, there’s plenty to go around.
What, no recipe?! *AAAARRRGH*
Guess we’ll have to wait until Kristine Blauser Scalzi on Cooking: You’re Not Fooling Anyone When You Use Pace™ in the Salsa comes out in print.
 Alas, my brane insists on recalling the claim of an otherwise-clueful person that cilantro in quantity had been linked to neural damage. I’ve never found an authoritative, relevant study or source to support or refute this claim which I first heard nearly twenty years ago.
Bugged? Why yes, I am.
I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one who gets the “it feels like I’m chewing on jagged pieces of a luminum foil” taste/sensation from cilantro – but my partner absolutely adores it. Strangely parsley gives me the same sensation.
If I take a leaf of cilantro and eat it I gag!! but I don’t mind if it is in a recipe either a good salsa (there is an awesome sold at costco) or Thai food which I LOVE!!
Thanks Tam Tam @47 … I shoulda used some logic (other than the sort practiced by the wife in question) on the problem.
John, the obvious fix for the “secret recipe” then, is to bring her with you on your next tour, and set up a chips and salsa station at each event.
File me under the Anti-Cilantro crowd.
While I have never once had a taste experience which I would liken to soap, the closest I can come to describing it would be with some mild synesthesia. For me, Cilantro tastes like what the tactile sense ‘sharp’ feels like. It bites through everything else in the dish, even when it is in very small quantities. It is the culinary equivalent of a paper-cut.
Bill @193: Cilantro and parsley are from the same family*, so it’s not so strange that you’d have a similar experience with each…
*Apiaceae/Umbelliferae, which also includes carrots…
I’ve learned to like cilantro, but it took a while, and I never use much. I buy a 50-cent bunch at the grocery store, chop it up and freeze it for use in marinades, and it lasts for months.
Can’t do cumin or parsley, though, except in very small amounts. No idea why, though a quick Wiki search shows they’re in the same family with caraway (slightly less yuck), and dill (meh). Who knows.
I have not read the 196 comments all the way thru, so I don’t know if anyone else feels as I do:
I’m fine with cilantro right up to the point – and know this, it’s a very delicate, subjective and somewhat variable point – where there is too much cilantro in whatever it is that I’m eating.
In amounts less than the “critical mass,” cilantro is a sublime flavor addition that enhances my enjoyment of many foods.
In any amount at or beyond “critical mass,” it utterly ruins the meal for me. As in, I have to refuse to eat it, send it back to the kitchen, whatever.
I must confess I am unfamiliar with this “cilantro.” Coming from a good, Protestant, Minnesotan family, I learned to make do with but three spices: salt, pepper, and ketchup.
cilantro’s ok, good in thai food.
if you wanna try something really yum, try mitsuba: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryptotaenia.
even more yummy, shisoo. i fed a leaf to a young woman yesterday, she couldn’t spit it out fast enough. i love the stuff:
perhaps i was an herbivore in a former life…
I can’t stand the stuff. I really wish this weren’t the case, but it is. If someone is dicing cilantro in the same room, I can’t even stand the smell of it and look for the nearest exit. I can tell if there’s even one little piece of cilantro in whatever it is I’m eating and spend great lengths to dig it out. I am not happy with this situation because so many of the foods I love (dim sum, Vietnamese, Thai) have a high probability of containing the foul herb. I would love to somehow learn how to like it, but, alas, I fear that I will continue to always have to be on the lookout for sneaky cilantro.
Natalie @203: I feel the same way about anise and coffee (and, heaven forbid, anise IN coffee)…
There is apparently a gene that controls whether people taste cilantro like soap. I have it.
My goodness, obviously this herb raises strong opinions. I love Thai food, like Mexican, and find other cuisines that use cilantro to be generally good, so I’m fine with it. I’ve used it in cooking. But it’s a pungent herb, so I prefer not a ton of it. The smell is kind of grassy, not soapy.
I like anise — it’s like licorice, which I like. I love mint; my daughter doesn’t like mint at all. I drink green tea; my sister thinks it tastes like wheat grass. I’m not a big fan of parsley. It’s okay, but it really doesn’t have much taste.
John H @204: That’s interesting. I have a friend that is that way with chocolate. It boggles the mind, but I figure everyone has experienced some food item that provokes the response of “Of all that is holy, why would you put that in food?! That you want to eat! You ruins it!!”
I discovered cilantro quite late in life, for guy in his early thirties. Several years ago, my then girlfriend (now wife) and I went to a Pho place in Boston, where I fell madly in love with a fantastic, spicy chicken and shrimp soup that was loaded with cilantro. My wife despises cilantro — being in the unlucky, soap-tasting minority — and at the time, she immediately said something to the effect of “Ugh, it’s loaded with cilantro. None for me, thanks.” Madness! It was so good.
After that, whenever the opportunity presented itself, I looked for Pho, Thai food, Tex-Mex, etc. with cilantro, enjoying the flavor it added to those foods, but never used it at home in deference to my wife’s preferences.
But I wondered how it was that I had never had cilantro before that Boston visit. My mother and grandmother both had broad tastes, cooked recipes from many cultures, and taught me to do the same. My cilantro-free upbringing was a back-of-the-mind mystery until the day, a few years ago, that I mentioned my wife’s disgust with the plant in the presence of my parents.
My mother immediately said “Oh, I know just what she means, I hate that stuff. It tastes terrible. I never use it.”
Oh, so many wasted, cilantro-free years.
And I boggle at how popular it’s become lately — hell, I saw a cilantro-infused martini at a restaurant last year — given that a non-negligable portion of the populace is actually driven off their meal entirely by the smell and/or taste.
(For the record, it’s always tasted and smelled bad to me, but I was able to cope with it at first. Unfortunately, my first encounter was in Costa Rica, where it was in everything I ate. Two weeks in, my tolerance went away with a bang: I ate white rice for my last couple of days there, as it was the only thing safe from the stuff.)
I make myself Indian curry on a regular basis and one of the main ingredients is cilantro. Love the stuff… :)
Marie Brennan @209: You must not have seen cilantro rice then — places like Chipotle and Baja Fresh do that to their white rice, so watch out!
Okay, how do the cilantro haters feel about mint? I see that some like parsely, but some don’t. These foods are all in the same family – any food that has a sqared stem is in the family of mints. The thing is that these foods are often medicinal in small quantities, but dangerous in large quantities. As some folks have pointed out, they have antibacterial properties. But some are so strong as to be dangerous. Pennyroyal is in the same family, and it’s use as an easy poison is well documented. So yeah, I suspect that folks who hate the taste of foods in the mint family have got some sort of evolutionary holdover. While some of our ancestors outlived everybody else in the village because they kept infection at bay by eating a milder mint, some other ancestors outlived *their* village because they didn’t like the smell of that other mint that their neighbor just foraged.
Love. Will eat sprigs straight when I am meant to be cooking with it. Curiously, I know a person who thinks it tastes like soap, and likes the soapy taste.
Apparently, it’s genetic predisposition:
I, for one, love cilantro. Haven’t yet found an herb/spice I don’t like if properly used in a dish.
John H — thanks for the warning. I’ve recovered to the point where the mere smell doesn’t make me ill, but I still don’t want to eat it.
After the world was formed I’m convinced it smelled like cilantro.
It’s just that good.
I don’t believe I’ve really ever had anything with cilantro in it. But for the purposes of your research, I am also a culinary brute, generally only eating hamburgers, pizza, and steaks. And spaghetti and lasagna. I suppose there could have once at one point been cilantro in there, but not often.
Me, I’m borderline ok with it, but too much is no bueno.
My wife? She hatesssss it, yess….it burnsss!
So, we just stay away from the stuff. Cumin, on the other hand…HEAVENLY.
I am neutral about cilantro. It has no taste for me but I am occasionally puzzled by its texture. I really don’t like its cousin parsley, which sort of numbs my taste buds.
I really enjoy ramp, a wild member of the onion family that is in season right now. Much stronger than garlic, my wife claims that it is the reason there are no native vampires in WV. My wife can not stand the taste of ramp. It is far too strong for her. She thinks there is some genetic issue here since blood kin of mine like it and “normal” people don’t.
I want your wife’s salsa recipe. We serve cilantro as a side dish with Chinese food on hot days:
Wash the cilantro and chop it up in bite size pieces; then add a good quality soy sauce*, a tiny bit of sugar, and a dash of sesame oil. It’s good alone, or on some rice.
such as San-J naturally brewed tamari (regular or reduced sodium).
Obviously my family is in the “love cilantro” camp. :)
Hate it – it tastes bitter to me. I wonder if this is one of those things that taste differently to different people according to some gene or other – my oldest son adores it. His description of how it tastes to him bears no resemblance to how it tastes to me.
I love cilantro. BTW, to those calling it coriander: in the US, when people think of coriander, they’re thinking of the cilantro *seeds*, which have a psuedo-lemony flavour and are used mostly in baking lemony things.
Anyway, cilantro is yum. Good with poached tilapia too. Also Thai food is amazing and I could eat it every day.
I love that there’s more than 200 comments on the cilantro debate! Personally, I like it.
And now I’m hungry for Thai, too! :)
Cilantro is good. Coriander is good too. Cilantro pesto sounds yum, must try that…
Sihaya @212: Interesting theory, but I love mint and parsley while despising cilantro. If all the foods that normally have cilantro in them used parsley (or mint) instead, I would be a happy camper. Tabbouleh is actually one of my favorite dishes.
I like it. As a spice not as a side dish.
Damn John, telling us how great the wifes salsa is and then refusing to share the recipe is as bad as telling us that you have a super top secret project in the works that you can’t tell us about. You are becoming such the tease! Ah well maybe the recipe will follow the formula of the project. You’ll tell us about it right about the time we get tired of hearing that you can’t tell us about it. Like cilantro, a little tease can be a good thing but too much can ruin it. Ha!
Am I being obnoxious? I never can tell.
Cilantro is one of those ‘manna from heaven’ sort of foods for me. However, my wife is from the ‘don’t you dare chop cilantro in my kitchen’ ilk. Consequently, I don’t get to have it as much as I would like.
Just a few weeks ago I had my first Thai pho. I was very pleasantly surprised to find cilantro in it and have added it to my list of favorite foods.
To the parsley = meh people out there: I am told, although I cannot corroborate, that for some people parsley actually tastes like something.
To me, it just tastes vaguely like plant matter, neither offensive nor tasty; but apparently others have a different experience.
Don’t know how cilantro tastes, as most of the foods it is part of I don’t eat.
I don’t eat a lot of things, peppers (of all types), shellfish, mushrooms, garlic, onions, Thai cuisine, Indian cuisine, most Chinese dishes, wasabi, shushi, paprika, cumin, curry, the list gets longer every time.
I have a particular hatred for that abomination to nature known as the chili pepper.
Huh. You’re the first person I’ve ever run into with this reaction other than myself. I’ve managed to get to the point where a bite or two of raw tomato is (sometimes) tolerable, but as a kid I would gag on it. I’ve always liked the various forms of cooked tomatoes.
(On the other hand, eggplant always has been totally gross in any form whatsoever. Bu-lech.)
i, too, am pro-cilantro if only because i use it in my homemade salsa…. which, by the way, is really easy to make:
1 large red onion
2 green jalapenos
2 tennis ball-sized tomatoes
fistful of cilantro
juice from one lime
3 cloves garlic
dash of salt
chop all, mix in bowl. let sit in fridge overnight.
or (for salvadoran style): liquify all in blender
Used to hate it until I had fish tacos for the first time. I think some people overuse it a bit though.
Tastes like soap.
Cilantro: Personally, I can take it or leave it. However, it makes my lady wife sick, so I tend to avoid it like the plague for her sake.
Like cilantro just fine. Live in TX, but my grandmother lived in Mexico for a large part of her youth. She uses cilantro in a lot of her cooking and it’s always very tasty. Love it in salsa, picadillo, and tortilla soup especially, but in general I don’t think she can cook anything I won’t like (except maybe menudo–the smell alone makes me gag). I’m also completely in love with Thai food, so I suppose I like it in there, too. I’m sure I’ve tried it in other cuisines as well, but depending on how you prepare it, it sometimes has a stronger taste than other times, so I might not notice it in everything. But I like it a lot and I grew up with it, so I never gave it a thought that there were people who didn’t like it. However, I would buy it that some people taste it differently than others. I’ve never had cilantro that tasted bitter or like soap, so obviously I’m one of the ones that tastes it as a mild herb rather than anything else.
Well, poo. There goes my theory. Cilantro is part of the same family as pennywort, poison hemlock, carrots and fennel – but not mint.
Yeah, it’s a genetic thing. An enzyme, I believe. So people who hate cilantro can blame it on their ancestors.
Me, I love the stuff. It adds a subtle ‘wow’ taste to food.
Cilantro is teh gross! Plus it gives me a headache,so I avoids it whenever possible. Which is kinda frustrating, because Mexican food is my favorite…
Unlike pretty much everybody else I’m somewhere in the middle. I don’t love cilantro, but I don’t hate it, either. It’s a matter of the correct dosage. IMHO a little bit of cilantro goes a long ways. A small amount absolutely enhances certain Thai and Mexican dishes. Indeed, without cilantro the dish will be lacking something. But it’s very easy to cross the line from “enhancing” to “overwhelming”, and too many restaurants cross that line.
Cilantro is awesome. Cucumber, on the other hand, is the devil. It tastes nasty and corrupts everything it touches. My cousin once told me that cucumber just tasted “like fresh.” (I mean that in a non-Valley Girl sort of way.) To me, cilantro just tastes (and smells) like fresh and I love it.
Tim @ 201 – Coming from a good, Protestant, Minnesotan family, I learned to make do with but three spices: salt, pepper, and ketchup.
That’s not eating, it’s subsisting. Might as well just eat nothing but gruel.
loathe it.. it doesn’t taste like soap to me, it tastes worse, its very own kind of revolting.
‘de gustibus non est disputandum’, which means I find your tastes disgusting ;-)
I am ambiguous about cilantro. My first main exposure to it was working at a Columbus, OH Taco Bell in college, so my first reaction was “Not parsley — WTF?!?” It tastes okay to me, and I have come to associate it with certain forms of cooking. I don’t avoid it, but unless it’s called for in a recipe, I don’t keep it around the kitchen either.
I wonder if it’s one of those foods that supertasters hate? I’m not one, but a friend in genetics class was and I also happen to know she hated cilantro.
Hate it. Hate it a lot, even the scent of the cilantro display at the supermarket. Yes, indeedy, cilantro tastes like soap – like cheap, skin-abrading soap at that.
That being said, I’ve learned to tolerate the taste, since it’s ubiquitous in certain cuisines (like Thai). I pick off as much of it as I can, and tolerate what’s left.
I love how many comments this post has gotten. And I also love, love, LOVE cilantro… but I have learned, when inviting people for a meal, to ask two questions: Do you have any food allergies, and how do you feel about cilantro?
Ugh, it tastes like puke to me. Mostly because I got food poisoning from something that was very heavy on the cilantro. So I now associate it with much tossing of the guts. Before that I can’t say I hated it, but I wouldn’t have gone out of my way to get some.
suzanne @244: I must be weird because I’m a supertaster but I love cilantro and parsley…
I am unaware of cilantro.
It’s also known as coriander leaf.
Hmmm. Cilantro is one of the few green herbs that I’m not terribly fond of. I won’t leave it out of a recipe if I find it, but I certainly won’t be careless in the measuring.
I find cilantro to be an overpowering taste and, yes, it takes like soap to me. I seem to dislike it now more than I used to, which has interesting connotations in light of the article cited. I used to wait tables in a mexican restaurant, and I don’t recall having an opinion on way or another about cilantro. Now, having a partner who’s deathly allergic to peppers (and therefore not a shred of latin american food – and no Thai!) I find that I dislike it quite a bit.
So there you have it. Learned association because what cilantro is paired with might kill my partner? Could be.
Josh Jasper: I am not a troll. If you have a problem with me, take it to private email. Here it is: cathshaffer (at) gmail dot com
Love it, love it, love it.
The Mexican restaurant that used to be in south Evanston when I was at Northwestern in the 80s introduced me to it, pretty much. I’d had it before, but probably didn’t notice it, but their salsa was chock full of it.
And now I’m finding it in more and more cuisines: Mex, Thai, Indian, Chinese, it just plain works to bring a bright freshness, especially paired with acids (tomato, lime, vinegar).
Go to a small taco stand, and order “solamente cebollas y cilantro ” (only onions and cilantro) and realize you’ve been hiding your taco flavor under cheese and lettuce and cold tomato chunks.
I give a thumbs-up to both cilantro and coriander (which is the seed of the same plant).
I can’t abide spicy food, so no salsa for me. But cilantro is welcome in the non-spicy dishes of Asia. Yes, even Thai food has non-spicy dishes!
Catherine Shaffer – if you’re the same Catherine who posted at 121, then
(a) Yes, that was trolling. It was abusive, argumentative, and if it wasn’t intended to provoke a fight, it was the best disguise I’ve seen in a while.
Seriously, don’t be rude and try to provoke a fight while lecturing people on manners. It reflects poorly on you.
(b) I have no desire to email you about it. Also, I don’t have a problem with you as a person, just your behavior in that post. I’m sure you’re a decent person, but trolling is still worth mentioning even if a decent person does it. When I do something stupid in public, I hope rational people will point that out, and explain why it was stupid. In your case, I used the shorthand of “trolling”.
(c) That’s all I have to say on the matter. Don’t bother replying unless you feel a burning urge to get the last word in. If you do, feel free. I’m quite able to control myself from starting a flame fest by bowing out of an incipient one
Guys, remember we’re discussing a plant. Outrage level should be low.
Wow, what a discussion, is this more responses than bacon? Maybe a poll on lima beans.. (love ’em) Spouse and I just had a 10 minute chat about cilantro and what one eats growing up. Since both of us grew up in “wonder bread” American and both loved cilantro the first time we met it in our 30s, I don’t know how relevant our observations would be…
“Now, having a partner who’s deathly allergic to peppers (and therefore not a shred of latin american food . . . .”
Not a shred? Not all varieties of latin american food have peppers, you know. Cuban food, for instance, very rarely includes peppers or anything spicy.
mmmmmmm. cilantro. especially on grilled tilapia.
Here’s a clip of the Ohio refrain.
Recipe doesn’t mention cilantro, however
“It’s got jalapenos, I reckon y’all have seen those.
They’re kinda hot for gringos and probably flamingos.
Just add some tomatillos, onions and cilantro,
Lime juice and tomato, you got pico de gallo!”
I likes it.
then one day he just started formulating his own recipe and making the whole dish himself. His salsa is better than mine.
Since some people (who shall remain nameless) are so stingy with their recipes, perhaps your husband would be gracious enough to share his?
By the way, I had similar experience with kiwi’s when I was pregnant. I still avoid them. The fruit I mean, not the humans with a lovely accent. :)
I haven’t the faintest idea whether I like cilantro or hate it, because my mom absolutely despises it and therefore it has never been in my house. I tried part of something that my mom and sister said had cilantro in it, but couldn’t find a flavor either offensive or delicious, so I’m still undecided.
@Joe Iriarte, thanks for the tip about Cuban food! I can’t handle any kind of peppers or anything spicy. And now I’ve looked up “Cuban cuisine” on Wikipedia and it sounds right up my alley. I’ll have to look for a Cuban restaurant.
Put me in the “little bit goes a long way” camp – it tastes like soap, but trace amounts are okay in Thai or Mexican food so long as you can taste, you know, everything else over that green soapy overtone.
My mother can’t stand the stuff. She, however, eats bell peppers with enthusiasm, whereas I can tell if whatever I’m eating was -touching- bell pepper in the salad bowl.
I thought it had been well-established that people who taste cilantro/coriander as soap are genetically different from people who do not. It’s not an issue of being unwilling to try things or acquire tastes; it’s that some people simply physically taste soap when they taste cilantro. I find this fascinating. Apparently I was wrong about the genetics being well-established?
Of course, some people don’t taste it as soap but still don’t like it, and some people (bizarrely, to my mind) do taste it as soap but like the soap taste. There’s no accounting, etc.
Like some of the food chemists mentioned in the NYT story, I can smell/taste the soapy note if I concentrate, but mostly cilantro has a very fresh, bright taste to me. I always liken it to lime, even though it doesn’t have that citrus acid. It’s the same kind of bright, fresh flavor as fresh limes, if that makes sense.
I personally love cilantro and will chop up truly disgusting amounts of it to put into fresh salsa. (I also use truly disgusting amounts of garlic when I make anything involving garlic. I like strong flavors.) My salsa recipe isn’t hardly a recipe at all. Dice a fresh tomato or two, dice about half a small onion, chop up an entire bunch of cilantro, chop up a fresh jalapeno, combine the lot in a bowl, sprinkle lime juice, eat. Add, remove, and substitute freely. In fact I do make it with garlic sometimes. Yum.
I also have a recipe for green curry that consists of nothing but sliced onions sauteed with curry spices, large quantities of cilantro puréed in a food processor, and a can of coconut milk with a bit of chicken broth, all cooked together in a pot. You’re meant to cook chicken in it, but I happily eat the sauce over rice, or just with a spoon.
Also, a recipe for a Thai salad dressing/sauce that combines equal parts lime juice and fish sauce, a small bit of sugar, a chopped bunch of cilantro, a few chopped green onions, and chile paste or Sriracha to your heat tolerance (start with very small quantities, like 1/4 tsp, if you are unsure of your heat tolerance — you can always add more after serving). Toss various proteins and vegetables in this — I favor 1 pound each of sliced medium rare flank steak and lightly steamed green beans, to serve 4. Eat warm, cold, or room temp.
However, my brother is a cilantro soap-taster, so when he’s eating with me, I don’t prepare these dishes. In many dishes, cilantro can be substituted with basil or mint — this works well for the Thai salad dressing. I haven’t tried the cilantro curry with basil; I bet it’d work, though. Something to try this summer when I’ve grown lots of basil.
I’m on the love side; only person at catered lunch today that ate the cilantro garnish on the potato salad. But my darling child (a full grown-up with children) is on the hate side and he is an excellent cook of Thai food and a general lover of Asian cuisines. There really are individual differences in taste perceptions. He also dislikes eggplant (which I like but don’t “love”) and his daughter appears to have inherited that part of his palate since I can still see the horrified look of betrayal on her one-year-old face when her granny gave her a taste of what to me was a quite bland moussaka.
Wow! Over 267 comments. About cilantro! Including sparks.
Well… NOW it’s over 267…
Mmmm, cilantro. Savory goodness. I got hooked on it thanks to Mongolian bbq and also use copious amounts in my own pdgiidssm (pretty darned good if I do say so myself) salsa.
Seriously? The NYT is several years late on the ball, there. I knew about the genetic component at least three years ago.
Luckily for me, I do NOT have the death-to-cilantro gene, and I LOVE it in salsa and in my pho!
I had no idea there was such a strong dislike of cilantro out there. Hmm. I like cilantro, but wouldn’t say I love it. Do adore Mexican and Thai cuisines, so have had my fair share of the herb. Plus I live in CA, it’s in virtually everything out here these days.
I do have, though I imagine not as fab as the Mrs’ recipe, a fab recipe for watermelon salsa with a lovely cilantro note – chopped watermelon, pineapple, red onion, cilantro, OJ and jerk seasoning (or chopped jalapeno – I prefer the kick of the jerk – heh). Fantastic with chips or on grilled fish.
I’d forgotten about cilantro and coriander being different parts of the same plant. The seed is pretty good, although the smell is (to me) better than the taste.
I’m finding the lists of food aversions VERY interesting here — as I share some and have the opposite of others (all vegies are good raw, although some are greatly improved by the addition of either good ranch dressing or melted cheese — well, except beets. Beets are evil). There are other more bitter tasting herbs and leafy vegies I can eat, preferably in small amounts, but without problem.
And I was surprised to find someone else who is sensitive to tannins (like in black tea). I’ve tried and tried over the years to drink black, green, or white teas, but I am repulsed by the combination taste/thick fuzzy sensation on my tongue. I’ve tried many varieties and qualities of tea and find the same thing each time. I have run into the same problem with tea flavorings used in other foods, even when I didn’t know the tea was there.
What’s even more interesting — and something I’ve run into before — is how hard it often is for some of us to accept others like what we do not like, or cannot stand what we adore. It’s almost like a personal insult to hear someone describe something we really enjoy in negative terms, as if they are saying something about us personally rather than expressing an opinion about something that is not directly related to us. We want to argue people into liking what we like or hating what we hate. We tell them they are being stubborn or can learn to like things. We come up with stories about how we didn’t like something once but changed later (which is often true — our tastes in food often change as we age. Old favorites fall away and new items take over.)
Anyone know of a book or a study about this? I’m curious!
But I’ll still take some of your wife’s salsa, since you offered!
I can’t stand the stuff.
What this article absolutely got right that others haven’t is that cilantro, to me, tastes like ‘not food’. It’s like if someone had sprayed Windex or dirty dish-water all over your dinner, you might not recognize the flavor but you would know it tasted bad and not want to eat any more. It’s not that it’s bitter, or soapy, it’s got its own distinct flavor… and some portion of my brain is convinced it’s toxic. Perhaps for the same reason, I can detect it in very small amounts… Not surprised it’s related to pennyroyal and hemlock.
Aside from the heavy “poison” signal (which is hard to get past, believe me), it reminds me of thai basil, which I quite like.
On the genetics note, I once encountered a dish soap that smelled like cilantro to the extent that I had to check whether it was an ingredient (maybe instead of lemon scent?). No one else present thought it smelled like cilantro at all. So that implies a difference in our olfactory receptors – some component present in both that I could smell and they couldn’t.
Too much of it, I don’t like, it can overpower a dish that I’d otherwise like. I’ve done the cilantro pesto, though, and liked that. Sometimes, especially “old” and used as a garnish, it does acquire a little bit of a soapy taste. Strangely, I like bitter and earthy tasting things, so it’s not just that. Taste, there’s no accounting for it.
I’m a supertaster, and I can’t take more than just a hint of cilantro in a dish; its flavor is so “loud” that it overpowers all the other subtler flavors I should be savoring. If I carefully pick out as much cilantro as possible, most of the time the dish is salvageable. This is a non-trivial exercise in Texas!
Oddly enough, I love parsley and mint in all its other forms.
Love it! Salsa isn’t salsa without it.
Cilantro – as a topping on sweet potato coconut soup. Yuuuummmm.
Now we have to have a conversation about Asparagus pee (make the smell and/or smell the smell). I get 2 for 2 on that one.
I dislike it but it doesn’t taste like soap to me. It reminds of pickles a little bit.
I cannot eat a sprig of cilantro. it does taste like soap to me. However, there are certain dishes that would not taste right without it. I feel the same about celery.
Mmm I love cilantro, and cilantro sprouts which are quite delicious. My sister hates it though and always always yells at me when I use it when I cook.
I like it.
My wife, unfortunately, has issues with it. I don’t think it’s the taste, but something about it her stomach just can’t handle. So I don’t get to eat as much as I’d like.
The first time I tasted it, I thought that whatever I was eating was bad or had soap in it or something. Then, I became accustomed to it and now, I absolutely love it. There’s even a restaurant here that makes a yummy cilantro and garlic dressing that I always order on my salad.
adelheid – WRT asparagus, Rob Kowal (Mary Robinette Kowal’s husband, a skilled vinter and all around great guy) once gave me an interesting demonstration of how food and wine interact – if you eat asparagus, then sip red wine, the wine tastes astringent. OTOH, if you eat a rich cheese and drink red wine, the fats in the cheese open up your taste buds and can make the wine taste more rich.
Soapy, mildly dislike, avoid — but it’s so easy to grow (albeit remaining at harvestable stage for only a week or two) that I tend to plant a little patch in my Community Gardens plot about fortnightly, in case anyone else wants a bit of it.
I like cilantro (called coriander leaves where I’m from) and even used to grow my own, because coriander was so hard to come by in leaf form. The seeds are all over the place, though.
I’ve never even heard that there was such a strong dislike directed at that poor herb, probably because it’s rarely used in North Western Europe. I don’t think it tastes like soap at all.
The reason for that may be that I am anosmic (i.e. I have no – or in my case rather a very weak – sense of smell). So if the soap association is largely based on scent, it’s no surprise that I don’t get it.
BTW, another spice whose flavour is transmitted solely via scent is vanilla. I can’t taste vanilla at all – in fact, I thought for years that vanilla was a fancy name for ice cream without flavour.
I don’t know if anyone mentioned that it’s a genetic thing about how someone perceives the taste of cilantro, but that’s a helluva lot of comments to wade through, so I’m throwing that in.
http://www.uic.edu/classes/bios/bios101/variation.PDF — you’ll probably have to do a keyword search for “cilantro” to get to the relevant stuff.
Frankly, if I wanted Ivory dish soap in my Mexican food, I’d add it. I don’t. So please, please, please, make cilantro go away. Permanently.
Josh @284, there is a reason why asparagus is usually served with white wine.
`Ryandake, #202 Hear hear! I LOVE shiso. I even enjoyed the Shiso Pepsi they made last year…and you know, it is a little cilantro-ish.
I believe cilantro is an acquired taste. Ten years ago I did not like it. I now like it very much. My spouse still detests cilantro.
Cilantro: love at first taste. (See Calvino’s “Under a Jaguar Sun”.) Best salmon burger recipe: equal parts cubed salmon steaks or fillets, chopped jalapeños, and chopped cilantro. Add an egg and some bread crumbs so things hold together, make into patties, and fry to golden-brown. Serve with lime juice and salt.
Can’t stand the stuff. Will actively avoid restaurants where I have detected that taste in the past.
Jennifer Ouellette @190, Bearpaw @230:
<raises hand/> Same here. Just running a tomato through a blender (sans seeds) suffices to render it palatable for my taste.
Tomato sauce, tomato juice, salsa – love ’em all.
Slice of tomato, okay; cherry tomato, ditto. Huge wedge of raw tomato – no thanks.
– CJ “bitten in youth by a tomato” H
Fresh cilantro, cut in the garden and rushed straight to the kitchen is sublime. It’s got a subtle citrusy scent that you don’t get, even from fresh store-bought cilantro.
Pico de gallo is always a fine use for cilantro. So’s sprinkling a handful of chopped cilantro over a freshly roasted chicken or fish. Its also great in sandwiches and tacos. I use it in place of lettuce or sprouts.
I like cilantro, and specifically cilantro-heavy green salsas, especially in dishes involving pork carnitas. No initial aversion here–I loved the stuff instantly. I get strong cravings for the taste.
I wonder about the claim that it’s something genetic, though. It doesn’t taste like soap or hand lotion to me. But some people here describe the taste as metallic, like the taste that metal cans or pans can give food, and you know what? I get the association there. It’s not exactly the same but it’s distantly related.
The news article’s mention of bugs also makes me realize that it’s not that different from what I tasted this one time a large insect flew into my mouth.
It’s a strong taste, in any event, and it’s quite possible that I’m detecting all the same molecules that a cilantro-hater does, and I just like them.
Cilantro or Corriander as it is known here in Australia – is a great herb of which I use a lot in many dishes.
Yes it has a unique flavour and I’m happy with all you lot who hate it – more for me!
I absolutely love it. But my parents can’t stand it. Go figure.
…and I like big slabs of ginger, too, though it’s off in another dimension from all the other food items in the world, and I can totally see why many people would say it tastes like not-food and refuse to eat it.
Asparagus pee smell: yes. But all it does is remind me that I recently had tasty asparagus.
I’m definitely in the “cilantro ain’t so good” group, but the “tastes like soap” concept is new to me. Instead, biting into a piece of cilantro is, for me, very similar in /effect/ to biting into a whole clove: a totally overwhelming burst of a flavor that is best in very small doses.
As for the trait being hereditary, I’m the only one in my close family (parents, siblings, nieces and nephews) who has an issue with the stuff.
Personally, I think we should have stopped at coriander seeds and left the rest for compost.
Erica @ 176
First, sorry it took me 150 ish posts to reply
Yes, it was supposed to be Broccoli.
I went to school with a girl whose last name was Brauchle. And, unlike the veggie, she never made me vomit.
Forgive me if you’ve already nailed down the supertaster question; there are 300 comments to read in front and I have to go to work.
I believe I am a super-taster. I have to take a medicine for my thyroid daily, and it tastes Very Bad. But, I am sort of becoming immune to the taste. I also notice my sense of saltiness changes with my thyroid health. (I suspect that a sense of some tastes may someday be shown to indicate medical conditions, similar to the sense of smell.)
So, I think I understand why some people sense a “soapy” taste. (I have tasted Ivory though, and I don’t find an equation there.)It does have an aroma when chewed that I can sense in my nasal passages. I don’t notice this as much if it has been cooked into a dish for a bit.
That said, I LIKE cilantro, quite a bit. I tend to enjoy a variety of tastes.
@kejia #262: He won’t allow me to put any quantities out, though I can say that a single batch starts with 3-14.5 oz. cans of petite diced tomatoes. Put two cans in a food processor with the rest of the ingredients “to taste”:
-roasted garlic – you can get diced roasted garlic from the grocery store if you’re pressed for time
-fresh cilantro leaves
-canned chipotles, *undrained*
-pepper – black pepper works if that’s what you’ve got, but my husband likes those peppercorn blends. I know – pepper on chipotles, right? But it works. The flavor gets more complex.
-salt – add salt last – the lime juice really brings out the already salty flavor in canned tomatoes, so you may not need much
Blend all these ingredients together in the food processor. Add the last can of petite diced tomatoes to give the salsa some chunkiness. This stuff is best if it can sit for a few hours to chill and let the flavor get stronger. It’s fine straight from the kitchen, though.
I’m leaving out the one ingredient that goes into the hot version of this stuff – a smidgen of fresh habanero. The hot stuff is not my cup of tea, though it’s pretty popular among some of our friends.
John: Guys, remember we’re discussing a plant. Outrage level should be low.
Marijuana is a plant and folks get all riled about it just the same. People can be passionate about plants is all I’m saying.
Cilantro – unwashed body parts
Rosemary – Pine Sol
Artichoke – Cigarette Butts and I used to be a smoker.
I’m ok with mint not in food, tomato, peppers & parsely. Parsley has a taste?
Oh, now that’s sad. I LOVE rosemary. The only thing worse than hating rosemary is hating garlic.
I like cilantro just fine, and in moderation. What confuses me is how so many people know what soap tastes like!
There are foods I don’t care for, foods I truly dislike and then there is cilantro, which is in its own category. My reaction on tasting it is visceral and immediate. My brain says, “this is not FOOD! Get it out of your system immediately! You are about to be poisoned!!!”
Seriously, you people who love it and think that those of us could overcome our distaste if we just tried it in the right dish are going to have more luck convincing a gay man to enjoy heterosexual intercourse. It ain’t gonna happen.
Which is sad, because so many people think it’s so tasty and I really wish I could eat it. Not to mention that it is in so many dishes it’s really hard to avoid.
The taste of soap isn’t something people forget, and it’s easy to get it into your mouth in the shower. Or perhaps some people had their mouths washed out with it as kids.
Kate@306 Perhaps you were too well-spoken as a child to have ever gotten your mouth washed out with soap.
I love cilantro. I’ve done pestos with cilantro sitting in for the parsley. Cilantro, garlic, piñon, olive oil and a dry Mexican cheese for a Southwestern variation. A little green chili can be added as well. Serve on freshly made corn tortilla chips. Yummy!
Good lord. Coriander has another name?
There are people out there who *hate* coriander?
…My world is different now than it was five minutes ago.
I love cilantro, and just about any other fresh herb. We grow it year-round, and use it in salads, in fruit salsas (mango or peach with jalapeno is great) and to marinade fish and vegetables.
I have sympathy for anyone who can’t eat it.
I like it in extreme moderation, but have a ha-ha–only-funny-in-retrospect story about it anyways:
I seem to be wickedly reactive to artificial cilantro flavoring, at least as it appears in guacamole flavored Doritos.
Note: I hate guacamole, but those green-bagged devils are oddly compelling.
I had one of those snack-sized bags on a flight home from somewhere, like you do, and went to bed, feeling somewhat off. I woke up the next day, feeling more off, in a decidedly abdominal manner. I went to work, and felt progressively greater levels of discomfort, finally asking the one other guy in the office if he wouldn’t mind taking me to New Orleans’ Charity Hospital (as I didn’t have health insurance, being the only non-retired guy in my company, the other fellows had their Medicare and retirement health insurance plans, and like that).
I present to the ER desk around 10am with acute abdominal pain in the vicinity of what google’s assistance says an inflamed appendix would feel like – firmness, hot, tender to the touch, an elevated pulse and respiration. As I am not actively bleeding on anyone else present, or otherwise leaking or spewing bodily fluids, nor have anything visibly where it ought not to be, I take a seat, and will be seen eventually.
I spend eleven of the most boring, banal, uncomfortable hours of my life in that waiting room, with nothing more than a water fountain for sustenance, until, the pain having finally abated after my girlfriend arrived to pick me up shortly before 9pm, I go back over to the reception desk and say, “You win. If I come back in, it’ll be on a fucking stretcher.”
Artificial cilantro flavoring, man. Fuck that stuff.
@ Sihaya #302
Thanks! I’m going shopping tomorrow!!!
@GVDub #309: I’ve never made pesto with parsley. I thought it’s supposed to be made from basil in its original form? I like to use toasted sesame seeds for the nuts, but it’s not to my husband’s taste, so I split my time 50/50 between sesame seed and pine nut recipes in the summer. I think I’ll try your cilantro variation sometime this summer.
@kejia #309: Sure, you’re welcome.
Used to despise the stuff, now I can tolerate it. Given enough exposure I will probably get to a point where I find it completely ignorable. I doubt that I will ever like it.
I love cilantro. The most concentrated form of cilantro I can think of is cilantro pesto. Just make a regular pesto recipe but substitute cilantro for the basil. The flavor is surprisingly subtle. Another feature is that cilantro pesto stays bright green while basil pesto starts to oxidize and turns dark almost immediately. I can’t really conceive of how cilantro could taste like soap; it must be a gene thing.
I am exactly like Dr. Gottfried in this regard. Many years ago I did not like cilantro but kept encountering it, and I eventually came to like it. At times it can still remind me of soap, but that doesn’t really affect my enjoyment anymore.
Hate it. Have hated it for about 20 years. It used taste super strong nasty soapy to me, and if I got a taste of it by accident (because it became trendy to put it in EVERYTHING), I couldn’t get rid of the flavor–I’d be tasting it for hours. Blecccchhh!
Now I still hate it, but I don’t find it as strong, and it doesn’t persist as long. Still, bleaaaaaahh.
I LOOOOOOOOOVES the Cilantro. Especially in some excellent salsa. Best I ever had was down in Old Mexico (of course!).
I try. I really do try. It taste like metal to me. Imagine taking a bite of tin foil. Really. It’s that bad. I usually, very discretely, pick it out.
First time I had cilantro, I thought it was parsley but I was horribly disappointed when I tasted it. Although I’m OK with it in the seed (coriander) form as a spice, I can’t stand the green version… I think that’s because I’m from Turkey and we never use it, so the taste is too alien (especially since the resemblance to parsley causes wrong expectations).
For some reason it tastes like mould to me and therefore it’s on my “rid it from the world” list :)