Cilantro ranks high among polarizing foods; the foods we either love or hate the taste of, and if you identify as a cilantro hater, there’s also a high chance you think it tastes like soap. Studies published in the early 2000s and later in 2012 by Charles J. Wysocki of the Monell Chemical Senses Center and by Nicholas Eriksson, respectively, gave the issue of cilantro’s soapy taste, dislike and genes a bit of press.
These studies looked at whether participants thought cilantro tasted like soap, whether or not they liked to eat it, and if they had a genetic variant that predisposed them to disliking cilantro. In one of the studies, flavor chemists found that a fat molecule called aldehyde made up much of cilantros aroma or flavor composition. This same or similar aldehyde is found in many lotions and soaps, and according to these studies some people pick up this aldehyde through taste or smell when eating cilantro and immediately correlate it with soap.
However a doctor on JustAnswer still believes that these studies are still speculative in nature and don’t have much basis as proven medical science. In fact, Erickson admitted that the genes he studied didn’t seem “”to make a huge a difference in cilantro preference from person to person."” (Huffington Post, 2012)
Rather some like Dr. Jay Gottfried quoted in a New York Times article from a few years back, pointed to neurology playing a large role in why some hate the taste of cilantro, linking it to those parts of our brains that have stopped us from eating poisonous and dangerous foods and herbs over our evolution. Because some do link the taste of cilantro with soap, something that contains lye and shouldn’t be eaten, their brains are probably telling them to stay away.
Dr. Gottfried goes on to explain that our brains can be re-patterned to not distrust cilantro and eventually, potentially, enjoy it, bringing the haters closer to the side of the lovers. Add to that a study in Japan that found crushing the leaves turns the aldehydes into a different substance with no aroma and we could become a world of only cilantro lovers.
Wondering why you detest certain foods? Ask doctors on JustAnswer why this might be.