Why Does Cilantro Taste Like Soap?
Cilantro is maybe the most polarizing food out there. Some people swear by it. They say it tastes bright and fresh and they just put it in everything. Other people say it’s a terrible non-food that tastes like actual soap. Full disclosure, I fall into the latter group. I hate the taste of cilantro. Can’t stand it. But I love the health benefits (we’ve got a whole blog post on those benefits, if you want to check them out). So I have to know: why does cilantro taste like soap? And how can I get over my hatred of it?
What is cilantro?
Cilantro is the green, leafy part of the coriander plant (the dried seeds are called coriander, and the flavor profile of the two is completely different). You’ll find it in a lot of Thai dishes, in Mexican food, and in a lot of cleansing recipes, since the plant is so good at sweeping heavy metals out of the body. It pairs well with coconut, with lime, and adds a pungent pop to soups, stews, and sauces.
That’s if you like it, of course. 4 to 14% of people are genetically predisposed to hate the flavor of this plant, but it honestly feels like the percentage is much higher. So what’s gone wrong with their taste buds?
Why does it taste like soap?
It all comes down to the chemicals. Cilantro contains aldehyde chemical compounds, which appear in both the plant and also as a product of the soap making process. If you have aldehyde receptors that interpret the compounds in cilantro in a certain way, it’s gonna taste like soap.
So what makes some people taste it while others don’t? A study published in Nature found that there are genetic variants linked to the perception of the herb, the most common of which is a gene associated with perceiving smells. According to The Huffington Post, “One of those genes is OR6A2, which is very sensitive to the aldehyde chemicals that give cilantro its distinctive flavor.”
How do I get over my hatred of cilantro?
This plant really does deserve a shot at making into our regular food rotation. But how?
A lot of it comes down to how you use cilantro. I once tried to force myself to like cilantro by using it in a detox smoothie. Ingredients list: kale, cucumber, avocado, cilantro, and water. It was terrible. Like, activated-my-gag-reflex bad. But chopping it up really fine and sliding it into a guacamole recipe? That I can do. It turns out that chopping or blending or crushing the plant breaks down some of those aldehyde compounds, which makes it all taste less soapy.
Remember, you can also play with the quantities you consume. About a third of that darn detox smoothie was cilantro. That was too much cilantro. Start small. Chop fine. Combine it with other flavors (like coconut or lime) and you may eventually find the combo that works for you.
But it still tastes gross! How can I get the health benefits?
So you tried, and it still tastes terrible? Well, luckily for you there’s more than one way to approach the cilantro plant. Maybe coriander will be your new best friend.
There are three forms of coriander:
– the seed (coriander)
– the leafy herb (cilantro)
– the oil (pressed from the seed)
You can eat it, make it into a paste and put it on your skin or boil it and drink the water as a tea or infusion, but the easiest way to get the most concentrated dose of its powerful health benefits is with coriander seed oil.
Coriander seed oil is made by pressing thousands of coriander seeds, which makes it the fastest way to get your body the most nutrients possible. Also, it’s quite easy to disguise for people who hate the taste of cilantro; because it’s so concentrated, you don’t need to add as much to your food or smoothie.
Another reason that the seed oil is the best way to take coriander is because of industrial farming practices like monoculture and the use of pesticides and herbicides. These practices have severely depleted many crops of their nutrition. This means that you need to actually eat more cilantro than before to get the same amount of nutrition. Organic coriander seed oil is the easiest and fastest way to get all the nutrition you need.