Food & Drink

Scientists Reveal Why Cilantro Tastes Terrible to Some People

Cilantro, aka coriander, aka that green stuff all over your tacos, lives in just about every kind of cuisine around the world. You name a regional food -- pico de gallo, pho, Yemenite schug -- and cilantro lives somewhere in there. Usually as a garnish.

But some people are repulsed by the leafy herb, saying it tastes like soap, or bugs. Which is weird, because that would require eating soap or bugs for a frame of reference. And if you're willing to eat soap and bugs, you've got strange taste in foodstuffs.

Regardless, a recent episode of SciShow, featuring host Hank Green, dives into the weeds to pull out why a portion of the population dislikes the garden-variety garnish. Turns out, several studies suggest it's not a matter of being a picky eater -- but rather, it's a matter of genetics. According to the clip, people who hate the taste "tended to share one gene in particular which codes for the receptor that picks up the scent of aldehyde chemicals... responsible for giving cilantro its distinctive smell."

That goes well beyond a 12th-grade understanding of science, so let's simplify: certain shared genes may be responsible for picking up flavors and disliking them. NPR detailed two separate studies published back in 2012 on this very fact, which Green cites in his video.

But since it's way easier to click "play" on a YouTube video than it is to read 510 words about cilantro, why don't you just do that now?


h/t Laughing Squid


Ryan Craggs is Thrillist's Senior News Editor. His burrito was blown when he found out cilantro and coriander were the same thing. Follow him @ryanrcraggs.