Cilantro. Some love its citrus flavor; some claim it tastes like soap. Julia Child once said she’d “throw it on the floor.” Detractors have even formed online communities like ihatecilantro.com, where they share stories and haikus about their distaste for the herb.
Turns out that the love-hate relationship with cilantro may not be purely a matter of personal preference. For the 4 to 14 percent of people who dislike the herb, DNA may be at least part of the answer.
Based on a study of the genomes of 30,000 people, it seems that people with a gene called OR6A2 are more likely to think that cilantro tastes like bubble bath or soap (or even dead bugs). The reason has to do with sensitivity to aldehydes, present in foods like vanilla, cinnamon and cilantro. (For a fuller explanation, check out this SciShow video.)
The cilantro plant actually produces two common herbs with very different flavors. The fresh leaves are known as cilantro, and the dried seeds are coriander.
If you’re a cilantro-hater, you have our permission to substitute parsley for cilantro in recipes and to pick that leafy garnish off your taco. Just blame your DNA if your dinner companions can’t understand your behavior.
But if you’re either neutral or enthusiastic about cilantro, there are plenty of reasons to cook and garnish with it. Its delicate leaves are packed with vitamins A, C and K, as well as minerals like manganese and iron. Those health benefits may be why cilantro is used across the globe, especially in Mexican, Asian and Mediterranean cuisine. Or maybe it’s popular because it adds peppery, lemony depth to any dish.
Try cilantro in place of basil the next time you make pesto, or incorporate it in salsa and guacamole. We also love it in stir fries and curries; just make sure to add the leaves near the end of cooking time so they maintain their fresh flavor.
On Team Cilantro? Check out some of our most popular recipes with cilantro:
Clockwise from top left: Chimichurri, Garden Veggie Linguine with Cilantro Pesto, No-Cook Salsa Verde and Cilantro Cauliflower "Rice."