Hate the taste of cilantro? You’re not alone: In a recent interview, even Ina Garten confessed she hates the stuff, ranking it right up there with “passive-aggressive people” on her list of things she dislikes the most in this world.
As a vegetarian, I have an unwavering love affair with greens. From spinach to alfalfa sprouts, I try to incorporate green goodness into every single one of my meals, even breakfast. But I have one very—very—strict exception; I cannot stomach any hint of cilantro in anything. For someone who otherwise isn’t much of a picky eater, my intense dislike for the herb is rather peculiar.
But according to SciShow, a science show on YouTube, lots of people hate cilantro (about four to 14% they estimate) because it tastes like soap. Yep, there’s a whole community out there of people who always insist on ordering tacos without that green stuff. Scientists soon took notice of the food phenomenon and decided to get to the bottom of it. After asking 30,000 people what they thought of cilantro and what it tasted like to them, researchers found some things in common among those who wanted nothing to do with it. Sci Show host Hank Green explained:
Subjects who said that cilantro made salsa taste like bubble bath had similarities in a cluster of smell receptor genes that–surprise–detect the smell of soap. They tended to share one gene in particular which codes for the receptor that picks up the scent of aldehyde chemicals….There is more than one aldehyde responsible for giving cilantro its distinctive smell and they also happen to be a byproduct of soap making.
At the same time, not everyone who dislikes cilantro has said gene, and there are people who do have the gene who are fans of the herb. So, as Green explains, other genes–at least three more–play a role in why this anti-cilantro community exists.