Cilantro — it’s as divisive as orange juice with pulp. You either love it or hate it. In fact, the leafy herb splits opinion so much, that to bring it up in conversation at a dinner party — let alone serve it — is like to introducing politics or religion to the table… potentially detrimental.
So, thank goodness someone has finally shined the light on this controversial herb, and put the much-needed time into discovering why cilantro, also known as coriander, is so polarizing.
Professor Russell Keast, who specializes in sensory food science at Deakin University’s School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, answered the question of thousands from all over the world: Why do people hate cilantro? Blame it on your genetic make-up, he says.
In an article on the university’s website, Keast explains that we have a "whole series of smell receptors that are responsible for air-borne chemicals."
However, smell receptors differ greatly from person to person — what one person might experience when they chomp into cilantro, might be entirely different to someone else. "Depending on your smell receptors, you may experience a soap-like flavor, rather than the herby flavor others experience," explains Keast.
Keast also adds that you may have an adverse reaction when you try new things if you’re not used to stepping out of your culinary comfort zone. "This is common to different cultures, or flavor principles of a region," he says. "For example, many Australians have problems with the intensity of fish sauce, yet South-East Asian populations find it an integral part of their flavoring."
So, does this mean the more someone grits their teeth and eats cilantro, the more they will grow to like it?
Well, not exactly. Keast explains that that "having repeated exposure to [cilantro] isn’t necessarily going to teach the likening of that food," but he suggests there are ways of tricking ourselves into liking the herb.
"The ability to cook, whether it’s a cooking method or different additions to cooking, may help you overcome an aversion to food," Keast says. "Pairing something you don’t like, such as coriander, with other foods you do like may help you overcome the aversion."
Although is a great source of dietary fiber, iron and magnesium, we doubt that the herb haters would bother going to the effort to tame their tastes into liking it. And, if cilantro really does tastes like soap to some, we don't blame them!
This post was written by Bettina Tyrrell. For more, check out our sister site Now to Love.