Frankly, President Donald Trump has nothing on the world’s most polarizing food: cilantro. If you’re not one of those who thinks cilantro has a soapy taste, then you’ve probably wondered: Why do some people hate cilantro (and usually with such a burning passion)? Turns out, they’re genetically predisposed to have an aversion to its flavor.
The green leafy herb, also known as coriander, is most commonly served in either plant or dried seed form in various Asian and Mexican cuisines. Some welcome parsley’s cousin with open arms while others loathe cilantro’s “soapy” taste, and we’ll get to the science behind that in a bit. But first, a little background on cilantro.
What is cilantro?
An herb whose leaves, stems, and seeds are all edible. They can’t be used interchangeably, though. Fresh cilantro leaves and stems hold the most bitterness, while its dried seeds (usually labeled coriander seeds) are typically more subtle and earthy in flavor.
Where is cilantro grown?
It’s quite easy to grow cilantro in most environments (something to think about if you’re expanding your potted plant collection), but it is native to southern Europe, northern Africa, and southwest Asia.
What type of cuisine is cilantro featured in?
You often find it in Mexican salsas and guacamoles as well as sprinkled on top of tacos. It also features quite heavily in Chinese and South Asian cuisines, including Thai, Vietnamese, and Indian meals, whether as a garnish or an ingredient in salads, chutneys, or noodle dishes.
Why do some of us hate cilantro?
“How cilantro tastes to you has a lot to do with your genes,” says YouTube SciShow’s Hank Green in an informative video. Studies have shown that up to 14 percent of our population carries olfactory-receptor genes that sense the smell of aldehyde chemical compounds. These chemicals, found in cilantro, also happen to be in that Dove bar of soap sitting in your shower. Because most of your taste is actually derived from smell, the association between the two can be extremely off-putting. You can thank your ancestors for this picky palate.
Whether you love it or hate it (and can’t help it either way), here are 11 recipes that highlight cilantro:
The boldness of cilantro makes an excellent counterpart to mild and delicate fish like salmon and halibut. Cilantro in pesto form also celebrates the herb’s depth of flavor with the simple additions of lemon juice, salt, and olive oil, and is just as good on sandwiches as it is in soups. Get our Salmon Chowder with Cilantro Pesto recipe.
If you’re looking for another breakfast zinger to join your morning coffee routine, look no further than these spicy cilantro hash browns. Your scrambled eggs will thank you. Get our Chile-Cilantro Hash Browns recipe.
Life’s all about balance and nothing tones down the spiciness and bitterness of jalapeño and cilantro better than plain Greek yogurt. We consulted Apollo and he agreed. Get our Jalapeño-Cilantro Yogurt Spread recipe.
It’s greens on greens on greens with this refreshing salad recipe that highlights the absolute best of Mother Nature. At the very least, you’ll make your co-workers jealous during lunchtime. Get our Romaine and Watercress Salad with Cilantro recipe.
Beef burgers aren’t necessarily “Asian,” but the ingredients in this dish show how well cilantro pairs with traditional Asian flavors. And you don’t have to master chopsticks to enjoy it. Serve in lettuce wraps and these are also keto and paleo-friendly. Get our Asian Beef Burgers with Ginger and Cilantro recipe.
Those in Vietnam don’t pho around when it comes to their pho. It is traditionally topped with a mound of cilantro, which is exactly what you should do after cooking this surprisingly easy noodle entree. Get our Easy Shrimp Pho recipe.
You’ve had it before and you know it’s delicious. Make it now. And never share. Get our Easy Guacamole recipe.
The cilantro pesto in the salmon chowder up top doesn’t contain any nuts, but this one blends in almonds for extra body and roasty flavor. Slather it on a sandwich, even a banh mi instead of the usual fresh cilantro sprigs tucked in. Get our Cilantro Almond Pesto recipe.
A full cup of parsley and a half cup of cilantro leaves help give this rice its verdant hue; the spice comes from poblano and serrano peppers. Make this the base of a rice bowl or stuff it into a burrito and Chipotle has nothing on you. Get our Spicy Green Rice recipe.
This recipe uses cilantro stems and seeds in the spice paste to flavor the chicken, and cilantro leaves in the creamy dipping sauce. Think of it as a three-part harmony. Get our Turmeric Chicken Skewers with Cilantro-Lime Coconut Dip recipe.
Fresh cilantro plays well with fresh mint and Thai basil; wrap them all up with shrimp, scallions, rice noodles, bean sprouts, and crunchy cucumbers in these super-fresh summer rolls. And dip liberally in peanut sauce. Get our Vietnamese Style Summer Rolls recipe.