Cilantro Haters

We’ve had this discussion before, but the NY Times is now on the ball.






70 replies
  1. 1
    Lisa K. says:

    I don’t get it.

    I lovelovelove cilantro.

  2. 2
    djork says:

    I’m a hater. I can take it in small amounts, but it seems like no one ever seems to use just a little of it. I hate getting tacos and finding that the cilantro is the dominant flavor.

  3. 3
    debit says:

    I used to hate cilantro when I smoked. It had a horrible, soapy taste. After I quit, I tried it again and loved it. Now I can’t get enough and have to make two batches of gazpacho; one for me with loads of cilantro and a another minus the cilantro for my daughter.

  4. 4
    SGEW says:

    @debit:

    I used to hate cilantro when I smoked. It had a horrible, soapy taste. After I quit, I tried it again and loved it.

    Huh! This is a fascinating anecdote, for me: I’m a smoker and long-time cilantro hater (“it tastes like soap!”). I’ve never heard of a connection before.

    [Thinks back to youth] However, I started disliking cilantro before I ever started smoking . . . so perhaps your newfound love of cilantro may be part of a more general reawakening of your tastes after you’ve quit smoking, rather than a direct tobacco-cilantro correlation?

    Unless you’re talking about smoking cilantro. I don’t have anything to say to that, really.

  5. 5
    RSR says:

    Was that a nutritional anthropologist they spoke to?

  6. 6
    jeffreyw says:

    Can’t say I hate cilantro, but it does taste like soap to me, also to Mrs J, so we don’t have any issues with not using it. Now olives are a different, and just fucking tragic, story. I loves em, Mrs J picks them out of everything I put them in.

  7. 7
    debit says:

    @SGEW: My first experience with cilantro was at a Vietnamese place and an order of Pho. The soup itself was lovely, but the large bunch of cilantro in the middle made me gag. As I was someone’s guest, I choked it down with a smile, but when I got home, I damn near barfed until I could get the taste out of my mouth.

    I don’t know what changed it for me. Other foods I’ve liked and disliked remain the same since I quit smoking. Thought I’d try fish again, but nope, still loathe anything not sushi.

  8. 8
    Keith says:

    It blows me away that there’s a percentage of people who don’t just not like the stuff, but absolutely hate it. I personally love it in everything (a fresh tortilla, some chunks of meat, onions, and cilantro is a true taco, IMO, and it’s perfect). I dump it in salsa and soup (it’s outstanding in pho), if I’ve got it.
    It reminds me a bit of this ongoing conversation on local radio here about whether or not people sit or stand to wipe their ass, and it strangely broke down into 55-45%, and each side was amazed – AMAZED – find out there was even another way to wipe one’s ass, much less there were that many people out there doing it that way.

  9. 9
    Some Guy says:

    I am grateful that I don’t have any taste problems with cilantro. Absolutely love it, one of my favorite herbs (after tarragon).

    The pesto gateway recommended in the article is great, but they said crushed leaves. So if one makes pesto in a food processor, will that not work as well? Or should the leaves be lightly crushed before being put in the processor? I imagine the second option is the safer choice.

    What I am always surprised by with cilantro is how perfectly it blends with peanut and lime flavors (presuming one doesn’t taste soap).

  10. 10
    chowkster says:

    OMG! Why would anyone hate Cilantro? It is the best herb ever! I can’t think of any better garnish than Cilantro for spicy food.

  11. 11
    geg6 says:

    I like cilantro, I’m a smoker, it doesn’t taste like soap to me, and sometimes it is overused.

    I don’t get the cilantro hatin’, but anything is bad if the cook uses way too much of it. Especially when it has a strong taste like cilantro. Hell, I’ve had dishes that I didn’t like because they had too much bacon. And anything that makes me think there IS such a thing as too much bacon is just a travesty.

  12. 12
    debit says:

    @jeffreyw: That is tragic. Mrs J can then never know the joy of a muffaletta sandwich. I weep for her.

  13. 13
    Randy P says:

    @debit: Any place I’ve ever ordered pho, all the stuff to add comes on the side – leaves, lime, slices of jalapeno, bean sprouts, and whatever crunchy cow bits you ordered. But the leaves are definitely not cilantro. Whatever it is has a larger leaf than cilantro. My wife believes it’s some species of mint.

    I admit I’m a cilantro lover. I put it in everything when I have it in the fridge, and I’ve been trying on and off for years to figure out how to have an herb garden with just enough ready at a time so that it doesn’t all get overgrown before you can harvest it.

    From the NY Times article it sounds like loving it/hating it is at least partly genetic.

    @Keith: Count me amazed. I can’t even imagine the first moment in your life where you decide that doing it standing up is a possibility, let alone making a habit of it.

    At least we can all agree that there’s only one logical way to install the toilet paper, right?

  14. 14
    valdivia says:

    Put me in the cilantro lovers camp.

  15. 15
    Violet says:

    I’m a cilantro lover. Sadly, it’s a cold-weather herb and I usually end up wanting it when the weather is hot. So I end up not eating that much of it unless I’m willing to run to the supermarket in July just to get some.

  16. 16
    Ash Can says:

    That’s a fascinating article. And I was intrigued by the part about the ability to get used to a flavor and start to like it if you’re exposed to it enough. There were certain foods I hated as a child, that I can easily tolerate or even like now. I’ve always thought that my tastes simply changed as I grew older. Now I see that exposure to these foods over time may at least have played a part.

    ETA: And I too am a cilantro lover, although I can see how the strong and unique flavor can turn some people off.

  17. 17
    Ann B. Nonymous says:

    Cilantro depends on context. Once when my father was making his special meatballs–you chop the meat fine, you don’t grind or, heaven forbid, use the supermarket stuff (maybe the butcher’s, if you have the right relationship)–he used cilantro as an experiment, instead of parsley, the way God intended.

    It was edible. You could watch everyone at the table try to figure out what would make it good. (My guess: cumin, deep browning the meatballs, shifting the sauce to one of the mixed tomato-gravy/jus ones you don’t see in restaurants, banana pepper to brighten it.)

    Rocket/arugula on pizza is pretty good. I wouldn’t trust Brick Oven Willie’s version, though–he reminds me of that Isaac Bashevis Singer story about the baker who contaminated his bread with his secretions.

  18. 18
    p.a. says:

    I don’t find it offensive in soups, even in large quantities. But dry… soap. I can’t grow it, yet I have good luck with most herbs- since my gardening skills best suit plants requiring benign neglect. I keep trying to ‘top’ cilantro to encourage leaf growth, and the plants just die. So now I let them do their thing and enjoy using the coriander seeds. I think if you dropped a coriander seed on a tile floor it would successfully germinate. Suckers are prolific.

  19. 19
    gbear says:

    Count me among the cilantro hate hate haters. Sometimes there’s just no choice other than to eat it, but it overpowers and wrecks all the flavors around it. I avoid restaurants that love it.

  20. 20
    p.a. says:

    There were certain foods I hated as a child, that I can easily tolerate or even like now.

    Taste buds are much more sensitive in children than in adults. The bitters/sours are a hard sell to kids- unless leavened with sugar like in candy.

  21. 21
    Keith says:

    @Randy P:
    Speaking from someone in Houston, cilantro’s pretty common in the pho here, but it’s also dirt-cheap and grows like a weed. Generally, there’ll be beat sprouts, lime, some jalapeno, cilantro, basil, and mint (I use everything on the plate but the jalapeno…there’s sriracha for heat)
    On the issue of toilet paper, sure: sitting on end on the back of the toilet. HA! Seriously, though, even with 3 cats, I put my TP with sheet over for aesthetic reasons (the cats grew out of the habit of emptying a roll years ago).

  22. 22
    AuldBlackJack says:

    Skirt steak with this chimichurri sauce (served with yucca fries) is the only thing keeping me from going vegan.

  23. 23
    Comrade Scrutinizer says:

    Cilantro’s okay in the right circs, although it takes getting used to. But Harold McGee, the guy who wrote the article? Best food writer ever, with the possible exception of Brillat-Savarin and his Physiology of Taste. Alton Brown gets almost everything he does from McGee’s books, especially On Food and Cooking.

  24. 24
    Curtis says:

    Count me as a cilantro hater. Stuff nearly makes me sick when I eat it.

  25. 25

    Cilantro, like any herb, should be used in the appropriate way. I personally love the stuff, but too much of any herb can be overwhelming. Ever had someone put too much cumin in a dish of something you normally like? Nothing says the taste and smell of dirty, old socks like too much cumin.

  26. 26
    Nylund says:

    I hated cilantro as a child and would be so upset when my mother brought home the local fresh salsa that featured the dreaded herb. But, as an adult, I love and adore it. I buy it all the time and it goes on about 30% of everything I cook. I’m never without it in my household. I think the taste is bright, crisp, and fresh.

  27. 27
    Sarcastro says:

    Mrs J can then never know the joy of a muffaletta sandwich

    I don’t like olives much but the one thing I most definitely can stomach olives on is a muffaletta. It’s sort of like bell peppers, I’ve no love for ’em unless they’re on a pizza.

    Cilantro is the bomb though. Made dim sum this past weekend. Lots of cilantro chinese parsley in the jio xi dumplings and crab rangoons.

  28. 28
    jlo says:

    “The same or similar aldehydes are also found in soaps and lotions and the bug family of insects.”

    I’d like to know more about this “bug family” of insects the writer speaks of . I think my 7th grade science teacher my might wash the writers mouth out with -soap- cilantro for having such a Homer Simpsonesque view on biology.

  29. 29
    Persia says:

    @Keith: Keith, I feel exactly the same way– hating cilantro seems so strange to me!

  30. 30
    Josie says:

    I feel truly sorry for the cilantro haters, since they can never appreciate the joys of pico de gallo on fajitas and charro beans. Yum!

  31. 31
    JGabriel says:

    @djork:

    I can take it in small amounts …

    Ditto. It’s okay in amounts small enough to blend in, but as a top flavor I find it unpleasant.

    .

  32. 32
    cleek says:

    not a hater, wouldn’t say i “love” it. it’s nice, in the right setting.

    i really don’t like big sprigs of it in my pho – partially because it’s not always washed well, and can be gritty, but mostly because it’s just too much.

    i do make a kick-ass cilantro risotto, though.

  33. 33
    Lihtox says:

    When I first had cilantro in a dish (unbeknownst to me), the first forkful of the food caused an *overwhelming* taste of soap/plastic/whatever to fill my mouth, like a bomb had set off. I really have to laugh when people describe cilantro’s “mild flavor”– to me, that’s like calling jalapeños mild. This doesn’t seem to be the case for everyone who hates it though; I can’t imagine people saying “Oh, it tastes a little soapy but I can get past that” if this is the reaction they’re having.

    Then again, I am hypersensitive to spices: I find black pepper to be rather unpleasant, and avoid anything stronger than that. I also don’t like a lot of vegetables, but unfortunately people don’t ever cite genetics for that one; they just call me a picky eater. :)

  34. 34
    South of I-10 says:

    Like I said the last time this came up, cilantro tastes like stink bugs smell. I’ll eat it if it’s chopped finely and is not overpowering, but otherwise, no thanks!

  35. 35
    Comrade Mary says:

    I grow cilantro in my backyard every summer and use the heck out of the plant, even collecting the final dry seeds for my winter curries. I never ate it as a kid, but loved it as soon as I ran across it as an adult.

    Note to self: put cilantro in every available nook and cranny this spring. Guys, I am going to have such an awesome white trash veggie garden this year — tomatoes planted in old recycling bins and old wooden shelving units stuffed with herbs — and I DON’T CARE!

  36. 36
    Luthe says:

    @Randy P:

    But the leaves are definitely not cilantro. Whatever it is has a larger leaf than cilantro. My wife believes it’s some species of mint.

    You’re probably talking about Thai basil. Yum.

  37. 37
    Ron says:

    @Lihtox: Just a note. Jalapenos ARE a fairly mild pepper. They have some heat, but are hardly scorching.

  38. 38
    Fergus Wooster says:

    Wow. Count me among those who never knew there was a large camp of cilantro-haters. I don’t know if I could live without the stuff (but then I’m in Houston, so if it’s not in your pork tacos and menudo, it’s in your pho or your Indian food).

    I’m curious as to the breakdown – 60/40? It’s reminding me of the Marmite Wars.

  39. 39
    Bill E Pilgrim says:

    Cilantro? I like the early stuff, but anything after the 50s I thought sounded like a square, painfully white, Vegas lounge singer.

  40. 40
    Rosalita says:

    I found cilantro to be an acquired taste. I grew up in the Northeast and it was not a recipe staple. When I moved to California, of course, it was everywhere. Found it strong at first but then grew to love it.

  41. 41
    FiveInchTaint says:

    Another cilantro hater here. I really can’t eat anything that has cilantro in it, even in what seems like vanishingly small amounts. That nasty, soapy taste just infests everything it touches. I’ve sent back a good number of dishes because of surprise cilantro.

  42. 42
    steve says:

    not liking cilantro is like not liking boobs.

    Does Not Compute.

  43. 43
    DanF says:

    Cooking tip: If the recipe calls for cilantro and you have none, ground coriander (the seeds of cilantro) makes a decent substitute. We use it when making salsa in the winter time.

  44. 44
    Randy P says:

    @Luthe:
    By George, I think you’ve got it!

    Well, that’s one of my life’s great mysteries solved. Let’s see, what’s next on the list… oh yes: Why, of all the talent on the original SNL, was it the very unfunny Chevy Chase who got famous first?

  45. 45
    RedKitten says:

    @jeffreyw:

    Now olives are a different, and just fucking tragic, story. I loves em, Mrs J picks them out of everything I put them in.

    A woman after my own heart. I can’t even bear the smell of olives.

  46. 46
    Randy P says:

    Dang, it’s one of Edit’s bad days. I don’t have permission to edit my comment.

    One last item for the cilantro discussion, just because I won’t have another chance in 20 years to throw this out. “Muy bien es cilantro, pero no tanto”. (Cilantro is great, but not so much). I overheard that in a Salvadoran restaurant years ago. I love it mostly because it’s the only spanish proverb I know, not because I agree with it. I’m one of those people who doesn’t personally believe there’s any problem with “tanto cilantro”.

  47. 47
    LuciaMia says:

    I suppose it seems odd that people could have such different reactions to a fairly simple taste.

    But I remember when there was a report about how a lot of people can’t stand veg in the Brassicaceae family-cabbage, brocolli, brussel sprouts, etc. Find them bitter. (Think G. Bush Sr. is in that group.)
    I love all them. I even find raw cabbage sweet and eat it that way.

    But I’m in the ‘cilantro is soapy’ family. A little bit, okay. But I guess the ones who love it, really love it, and just load dishes up with it.

  48. 48
    Laura W. says:

    Oh, John…we’ve had this discussion long before before.
    Yawn.

  49. 49
    Fwiffo says:

    The first time I tasted cilantro I thought I was being poisoned. It was beyond imagination that someone would put that in their mouth on purpose.

    It was worse than the first time I smelled kim-chee, which has roughly the aroma of a dumpster overflowing with diapers and rotten eggs in August.

  50. 50
    mak says:

    Wow. I had absolutely no idea that people disliked, let alone hated, cilantro. To me it’s just a slightly more flavorful form of parsley (and I use it as such, often substituting). Course, I lived in Thailand for 5 years, and my mom always cooked with coriander, so maybe that has something to do with it. An acquired taste, apparently. Then again, many of the ‘great’ tastes – beer, scotch, blue cheese – are acquired.

    Protip: If you’re a cilantro lover, try and find a place – usually an Asian market – that sells it complete with the root. Cilantro root offers an even more intense dose of the flavor, and is used as a base ingredient for lots of Thai soups, etc. (often mashed mashed with garlic, white pepper, or chilies).

  51. 51
    Cat Lady says:

    A little cilantro goes a very long way. I don’t really want to taste it. Sort of like parsnips – it can overpower everything, and not in a good way.

    Olives. That’s what I’m talkin’ about. No such thing as too much olive.

  52. 52
    The Bobs says:

    @Randy P:

    The leaves you are talking about are likely sweet basil, or thai basil. It is basically basil with an anisey taste. I can’t get enough if the stuff.

  53. 53
    sputnikgayle says:

    I completely empathize with specific and strong food aversions. I cannot eat curry, cannot smell curry, cannot be at the same table with curry. I don’t know why. It’s really the only food that affects me that way.

  54. 54
    BigSwami says:

    Put me in the lovers camp, but then again I love anything that has a pungent taste/aroma. Cilantro, coriander, cumin, habaneros, garlic, raw onions, scallions, shallots, tabbouli, bleu cheese, hot mustard, expensive scotch, cheap gin, hot coffee, it all gives me a thrill.

    It’s the bland stuff I can’t take. White bread, heavy cream, potatoes, carrots, slimy sauteed onions…blah.

    I cannot eat curry, cannot smell curry, cannot be at the same table with curry. I don’t know why. It’s really the only food that affects me that way.

    I understand how you feel, as I know other people who feel the same way. It’s the smell of cumin that’s probably turning you off. If it were me, though, I’d eat Indian food every day for the rest of my life and never get bored of it.

  55. 55
    schrodinger's cat says:

    Cilantro should be used in small quantities as a garnish, it makes a great garnish, it should be finely chopped (only leaves no stems and used along with some finely chopped red onion a dash of kosher salt and some lime or lemon juice.
    (Try this on top of chili, for example)
    Large sprigs I can do without.
    Also love cilantro chutney ( with ginger, coconut and hot green peppers such as serrano or thai), use it as a sauce while cooking shrimp or fish.
    Great stuff, if used correctly and in small quantities.

  56. 56

    Count me among the amazed that people still are amazed that there is a virulently anti-cilantro camp. Personally, I think spice/herb hate would be better directed towards the truely loathsome caraway seed… but I digress.

    I can taste a little of the soapiness, but still love it. I personally don’t find the “exposure is key” theory to be very persuasive. While I’m sure you can make yourself like anything if you try really really hard… my experience suggests that it’s really something innate, not learned.

  57. 57
    mslarry says:

    1/2 Puerto Rican here… CANNOT. LIVE. WITHOUT.CILANTRO. It’s the only way to make sure my homemade sofrito turns out well

  58. 58
    Gravenstone says:

    Sorry, my individual biochemistry does not lie, cilantro is vile, vile stuff – to me. I don’t mind the scent, but find the taste hideous. Those of you who love the weed are welcome to “pity” me to your heart’s content. I’ll find my eating pleasures in other avenues.

  59. 59
    ricky says:

    Cilantro is a must when you try and swallow a diet of fat, sorority girl groping quarterbacks.

  60. 60
    t says:

    If your recipe calls for cilantro and you don’t have any, you can just subsitute a combination of rat poison and tooth paste. You won’t taste the difference.

  61. 61
    Evolutionary says:

    @South of I-10: I agree. Cilantro by itself smells and tastes exactly like stink bugs (Class-Insecta; Order-Hemiptera; Superfamily Pentatomoidea) and I can’t stand it by itself. I can enjoy a moderate amount chopped and mixed in good Mexican food, but the thought of Cilantro Pesto makes me think I might rather be water-boarded. Would I enjoy it with practice? I doubt it. Give me gobs of Basil Pesto and I am in heaven!

  62. 62
    Wallace says:

    It used to be that even the tiniest bit of cilantro would ruin a dish for me. I identify with that article. I think it used to be that my mouth would detect it as an intruder, like perhaps my food had a hair or a pebble of dirt in it. And I’d want to wipe it off my tongue. And now that my brain recognizes what it is, it no longer becomes what I immediately pay attention to when I detect it.

  63. 63
    IndyLib says:

    @t:

    This is the best one I’ve heard yet.

    I trudge grumpily into the I detest cilantro camp.
    I grew up eating mexican food, all happily sans that nasty green herb and then I moved to Arizona for college and have been fighting a rear-guard action against the stuff ever since then.

    It’s become very difficult to find a mexican food restaurant anywhere that doesn’t ruin perfectly good salsa with it. I have however found a Mexican restaurant in Kenosha, WI, that makes the hottest red enchilada sauce I have ever had the pleasure to eat. It makes my eyes water, my forehead breaks out it a sweat and I have to have an entire pitcher of water to get through a plate of juevos rancheros – it’s sublime.

  64. 64
    bend says:

    Cilantro, not unlike cayanne pepper and lemon juice, makes everything better.

  65. 65
    HumboldtBlue says:

    Cilantro is shit, tastes like shit and should be banned. Banned I say! Crappy, soapy bug juice herb of death. It’s the crappiest crap of craptastic herbiage that should be banned.

    If your recipe calls for cilantro and you don’t have any, you can just subsitute a combination of rat poison and tooth paste. You won’t taste the difference.

    This, along with some mud from a nuclear waste site, the scrapings from the bottom of a restaurant dumpster and battery acid and you get the full picture,

  66. 66
    licensed to kill time says:

    I love cilantro, but I can see how some people don’t like it.

    Food tastes are entirely subjective and your personal experience with a food can ruin it for you. For instance, I once subsisted on bulgur wheat for several weeks in Nepal and to this day I cannot smell bulgur without wanting to hurl. Sometimes French roast coffee smells like tuna fish to me, which makes it difficult to drink. And I got sick on orange soda once as a kid so now the very thought of orange soda is nausea inducing.

    So, if I tasted soap when I ate cilantro, I doubt I’d want to eat it again either!

  67. 67

    I hate cilantro with a passion. It tastes exactly like soap to me. I like most foods (water chestnuts and kiwi being two notable exceptions), so my hatred for cilantro is mildly distressing to me. I will eat it (because it’s fucking everywhere), but it always detracts just a bit from whatever food I am eating. Once it’s gone (usually just sprinkled on top), I enjoy my meal much more.

  68. 68
    litbrit says:

    I’m with those who like cilantro in certain dishes, in the proper amount. It does tend to take over a dish, and should thus be used with a lighter hand than you’d think.

    I love all peppery, spicy, musty, sweet, garlicky, sour, and even searing-hot-make-your-eyes-water-scotchbonnet-y foods.

    What I cannot stand are raw onions. Oh my God, get those effing things away from me, and if we’re going through the drive-through and you’re in my passenger seat, I will politely request that you order whatever sans onion, lest I be forced to ask you to walk the rest of thew way with your whatever in hand.

    This all started when I was pregnant with Son Three, by the way. I was barely six weeks along, and I could smell onions being cooked–at the house two blocks away–which led to nausea the likes of which I’d never known. The mind is a powerful thing: I can’t stand raw onions to this day, and any pre-made foods that have onion powder in them–YUCK–will be spat out (discreetly, of course) and banished from my kitchen thereafter. Yet a tiny bit of sweet onion in soup or chili is fine. Go figure.

  69. 69
    Older says:

    I knew some folks didn’t like cilantro, but I never realized until now how much some folks don’t like it. Personally, I like it a lot (doesn’t taste or smell like stink bugs to me), but I can never use an entire bunch before it goes bad. Or I couldn’t, but you know, groceries now sell a kind of green bag that is supposed to keep veggies fresh longer, and it really works! It keeps the cilantro from getting slimy for at least three times as long.

    Another thing that helps with delicate greens like cilantro and arugula, and even spinach, is, don’t buy the ones where the leaves have been cut off the plant. Buy only bunches of plants with their roots on.

  70. 70

    People who complain about cilantro are invariably people who are just picky about certain foods. Which is fine, but I don’t buy that there’s some scientific excuse as to why people don’t like it. I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that cilantro is usually found cuisines that have more intense flavors overall that Americans are used to eating. For fuck’s sake, we don’t even like our fish to taste like fish.

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