Test Your Genes With Coriander

This title makes it sound like I’m about to introduce a silly woo theory I found on the internet, but I actually mean it.

Fresh coriander (or cilantro in the States) is a herb like no other. To my knowledge, there is no bigger controversy surrounding any other edible green leaf. Some people can’t get enough of it, others viscerally hate it. There is even a website called IHateCilantro.com

Of course it is normal for people to like or dislike different foods. However, when it comes to coriander, this disagreement becomes extreme. I am in the coriander hater camp, and I can tell you that it’s not just a matter of disliking it. Fresh coriander, to me, tastes toxic. It tastes like chemicals, like dish soap, like the kind of thing that your body automatically refuses as something that is not edible, that might make you very very sick. Because of this, I never understood how people could love it, to the point of eating a coriander salad. To me that would be like eating a stick of lipstick, or drinking the dirty soapy dishwater in my sink. It’s no longer a matter of like or dislike, it’s a matter of bodily refusal. I am not alone in this, and it is this controversy that finally sparked scientific scrutiny.

It turns out that it’s not that people who like coriander like the taste of soap and garbage, it’s that they don’t taste it the same way that we, who hate it, do. A friend of mine, who loves coriander, says it tastes light and peppery, not remotely like chemicals at all. It comes down to your genes, and whether or not you can pick up a certain aldehyde that is present in fresh coriander. I’ll let the good folks at SciShow explain further.



It has now become one of my favorite quick and dirty genetic experiments. Get a group of people who have never tasted coriander before, smack a small bunch of it down on the table, have them all try it and watch them either pull disgusted faces or shrug in a “what’s the big deal” sort of way.




  1. curdle says

    This might sound odd because although I’m firmly in the love coriander camp- guacamole, stir fries or a vietnamese roll just wouldn’t be the same without it – sometimes there is just a hint of soap or chemical; then I get the yummy peppery taste and all is good again. Mostly its just a tweak of bitterness that adds extra flavour.
    Having said that, a bunch of old sad coriander that’s been sitting on the window sill in a glass of water is the most disgusting thing known to humankind. It can turn in a day, and the smell of the water is appalling. I have to hold my breath, walk it outside dump it, rinse the glass then hope its safe to breathe again !

  2. Onamission5 says

    I don’t like cilantro enough to eat a whole salad of it, but it doesn’t taste like soap to me! More of a pungent, flavorful version of parsley.

  3. lorn says

    For me coriander is a variable experience. I don’t know what makes the difference, whether it is variables between coriander plants, possibly maturity or storage, or something in my chemistry but sometimes it is okay, tolerable, other times it is intolerable, like a mouth full of dish soap.

  4. anat says

    Recently my husband managed to train himself to overcome a strong dislike of cilantro, in order to benefit from its anti-inflammatory properties.

  5. inquisitiveraven says

    I seem to be in the “tastes like soap” camp.

    On nomenclature: Cilantro is the Spanish name for the plant, and for some reason, probably having to do with the cuisine it’s used in, US terminology uses “cilantro” for the leaves and “coriander” for the seeds.

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