Why Does Cilantro Taste Like Soap?

Cilantro tastes like soap"

Cilantro, also known as Chinese parsley or coriander leaf, is an herb derived from the Coriandrum sativum plant. This plant has been used for culinary and medicinal purposes for centuries. Traditionally, people have used its seeds to alleviate pain and inflammation, and various parts of the plant have been linked to numerous health benefits.

The Coriandrum sativum plant is rich in bioactive phytochemicals that play roles in several biological activities, offering antioxidant, neuroprotective, migraine-relieving, hypoglycemic, hypotensive, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties.

Cilantro is a versatile ingredient that enhances the flavor of many dishes, including salsa, soups, guacamole, and chutney. While most people find cilantro adds a pleasant citrus taste to their meals, a small percentage of individuals experience an unpleasant soapy flavor.

The Cilantro-Soap Phenomenon

It is not entirely known why cilantro tastes like soap to some people, but research suggests a genetic trait might be responsible. If you are among those who find cilantro soapy, there are alternative herbs and flavorings you can use.

How Many People Think Cilantro Tastes Like Soap?

Most people enjoy cilantro or do not significantly notice its taste. However, a small percentage of the population thinks it tastes like soap. Research has found that approximately 4-14% of people dislike cilantro because it reminds them of bath soap.

An older study examined the prevalence of cilantro dislike among 1,639 people across different ethnocultural groups. The study found varying levels of cilantro aversion: 21% of East Asians, 17% of Caucasians, 14% of Africans, 7% of South Asians, 4% of Hispanics, and 3% of the Middle Eastern group did not like cilantro’s taste.

More recent research into ethnocultural influences on cilantro taste is limited, but researchers continue to explore the causes of the cilantro-soap phenomenon.

What Causes Cilantro to Taste Like Soap?

The soapy taste some people experience when eating cilantro likely stems from genetic susceptibility. Scientists discovered that many people who dislike cilantro share a common olfactory receptor gene called OR6A2. This gene is responsible for detecting the odor of aldehyde chemicals found in coriander.

Aldehydes are organic compounds that usually have pleasant odors. However, variations in the OR6A2 gene can alter sensitivity to cilantro’s aldehydes, affecting overall flavor perception. People who dislike cilantro are typically sensitive to unsaturated aldehydes, while those who cannot detect these chemicals do not experience the same soapy taste.

This contrast in cilantro experiences highlights the interplay between genetics and sensory perception, showing how genetics can significantly influence taste and dietary preferences.

Can You Make Cilantro Taste Less Soapy?

If cilantro tastes soapy to you, it’s likely due to genetic factors, and there is no direct way to change your taste perception. However, you might gradually desensitize your taste buds by slowly increasing your cilantro intake. While not scientifically proven, this exposure might help you become more accustomed to cilantro’s taste.

You can also opt for dishes that use cilantro sparingly, allowing other flavors to dominate and reduce cilantro’s prominence. If these methods don’t work, consider using alternative herbs, spices, and citrus fruits.

Alternatives to Cilantro

Cilantro has an impressive nutrition profile, being low in calories and rich in essential micronutrients. However, if you find its taste unpleasant, several alternatives can offer similar nutrition and enhance your meals without the soapy flavor:

  • Parsley: This bright green herb has a fresh, peppery, and sometimes bitter taste. Unlike cilantro, it lacks citrusy undertones, so you might need to add a splash of lemon juice to mimic the flavor. Parsley works well in meat dishes, salads, pasta, sauces, and fresh vegetables. It may also provide health benefits, including antidepressant effects.
  • Fresh Dill: Dill offers an earthy and citrusy aroma and is considered a medicinal herb. It’s a good source of antioxidants and may help lower LDL cholesterol. Due to its strong flavor, you likely need less dill than cilantro. Dill pairs well with soups, creamy dips, sauces, and salad dressings.
  • Thai Basil: This variety of basil has hints of spice and licorice. It complements salads, curries, and stir-fry dishes and has many medicinal properties. Bioactive antioxidant compounds in Thai basil may help prevent some cancers, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
  • Lemon or Lime Juice: If a recipe calls for a citrus influence, lemon or lime juice can replace cilantro. These citrus fruits are rich in vitamin C, which can benefit heart health and boost immunity.

Experimenting with new herbs and spices can require some trial and error to find a blend that suits your taste buds. Nonetheless, incorporating cilantro alternatives can provide an exciting twist on traditional recipes and help you discover new favorite combinations

A Quick Review

Cilantro is a versatile herb used for culinary and medicinal purposes since ancient times. It offers numerous health benefits, including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties, making it a popular ingredient in many recipes.

However, while most people enjoy cilantro’s refreshing citrusy flavor, up to 14% of the population find it tastes like soap. This soapy taste is linked to the olfactory receptor gene OR6A2, which makes certain people more sensitive to the aldehyde chemicals in cilantro.

For those who dislike cilantro, there are plenty of alternatives to use in cooking. Parsley, Thai basil, and fresh dill can provide a similar herbaceous flavor, while lemon and lime juice can add a citrusy burst to dishes.

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