Smell May Be the Reason Why Cilantro Tastes Like Soap To Some People

Ciltantro Process

Nacho Cabellero, a 3rd year bioinformatics PhD student at Boston University, explains about the genetic variant that causes the herb cilantro to taste like soap to 10% of those who had their genetics analyzed through 23andMe, himself included.

The first time I tried cilantro I didn’t realize it; I just thought somebody had emptied a bottle of Old Spice on my pizza in an attempt to poison me. Cilantro tastes like soap to approximately 10% of the people who have had their genotype analyzed by 23andMe. The currently accepted explanation is that those of us who passionately despise cilantro were born with a genetic variant known as a single-nucleotide polymorphism (or SNP, pronounced ‘snip’)…The cilantro SNP is called rs72921001, and apparently, its genomic location lays close to a cluster of olfactory receptor genes that includes OR6A2, the gene most likely to be alerting our brain about the presence of cilantro.

Nacho’s information comes from a very interesting report 2012 report from Flavour Journal.

The leaves of the Coriandrum sativumplant, known as cilantro or coriander, are widely used in many cuisines around the world. However, far from being a benign culinary herb, cilantro can be polarizing—many people love it while others claim that it tastes or smells foul, often like soap or dirt. This soapy or pungent aroma is largely attributed to several aldehydes present in cilantro….These results confirm that there is a genetic component to cilantro taste perception and suggest that cilantro dislike may stem from genetic variants in olfactory receptors.

image via Nacho Caballero

Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails.