Why Coriander Tastes Soapy for Some

Does the sight of bunches of or cilantro fill you with love or loathing? Does its plentiful use, or lack of it, divide your household? Or would you simply rather live without it?

While most people enjoy the citrusy bonus that brings to dishes like pad thai or zingy guacamole, not everyone is a fan, and with reason. For some,  leaves an unpleasant  or bubble bath-like taste in the mouth, and can basically ruin a dish.

In fact, John Gerard sums up the experience of eating coriander for some in The Herball or General Historie of Plants. Amsterdam: Theatrum Orbis Terrarumsums (1597). He calls it a ‘very stinking herb’ with leaves of ‘venomous quality’.

If you’re predisposed to such a revulsion for coriander, you are not alone. And despite what people say, it’s not down pickiness, it’s actually down to genes. 

As many as one in five people say that coriander has a taste, and it’s most likely down to a super-sensitivity to chemicals called aldehydes. This is due to a variation in a cluster of olfactory-receptor genes, which are present in both coriander as well as perfume, soaps and detergents, hence the taste link.

A research paper, ‘A genetic variant near olfactory receptor genes influences cilantro preference‘, concludes that “there is a genetic component to cilantro taste perception and suggest that cilantro dislike may stem from genetic variants in olfactory receptors.”

Brittanica suggests that there is some evidence that, with repeated exposure to the herb coriander, haters can overcome their aversion. But commonly, people stick with their genetic pre-disposition and avoid the soapy taste.

So, herb heaven or herb hell? There’s little choice. It’s all down to your genetic make-up.

Get even deeper into the science with this video produced by the SciShow channel on YouTube:


If you’re a coriander fan, here are five recipes with coriander:

coriander recipes

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Post Author: MNS Master

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