4 to 14% of people have a strong aversion to cilantro, claiming that it has a soapy kind of taste. Scientists have found that the way you taste cilantro depends greatly on your genes.
Scientists started a study in the early 2000s during the National Twin Festival in Twinsburg, Ohio. They found that 80% of identical twins shared a like or dislike of cilantro and only 50% of fraternal twins had equal feelings toward the herb.
Next, researchers at 23 and Me decided to dig deeper. They asked about 25,000 people whether they liked or disliked the taste of cilantro. When they searched the genes of the people who disliked cilantro, they found out that next to a “cluster of odor-detecting genes, including one that is known to specifically recognize the soapy aromas in cilantro’s bouquet” (npr 2012).
Using all the data that they received throughout the studies, the scientists were able to identify that cilantro haters have a special olfactory gene called OR6A2 that take in aldehyde* chemicals, which are both found in cilantro and soap. What a nice coincidence!
*Aldehydes are a type of fat molecule found in essential oils, fragrances and…cilantro.
If you dislike cilantro, here’s a tip to avoid the soapy taste.
Try a cilantro pesto. Crushing the leaves releases enzymes that convert the soapy taste into more tastier smells. Find a recipe here.