I Hate Cilantro

For years I believed that every Mexican restaurant my family took me to had some kind of problem with their dishwashing machine. Why else would the food always taste like soap? No one around me seemed to notice, so I just assumed that everyone else liked the taste of dirty dishwater in their food.

Fast-forward several years to college: I’m at dinner with some friends, and a girl named Alice asks the waiter “Could you not put cilantro on that? It tastes like soap to me.”

I was so excited. Not only had I found someone who had experienced the soapy food phenomenon, I now had an answer for what was causing it: Cilantro.

It turns out that Alice and I aren’t so special. There are lots of people who hate cilantro. Some, like us, think it tastes like soap. Others think it tastes like doll hair, stinkbugs, or burnt rubber. (See ihatecilantro.com for a long and colorful list of descriptors, as well as stories from fellow cilantro-haters).

There’s some evidence that hating cilantro (or as I like to think of it, realizing how gross cilantro truly is) is genetic. One study found that identical twins (who share 100% of their genes) are more likely to have the same opinion of cilantro compared to fraternal twins.

Could there be a SNP that explains why I hate cilantro but my husband loves it, just as there are SNPs behind my wet earwax and ability to drink milk with no lactose intolerance problems? This is the kind of question we hope 23andWe can answer.

By taking 23andWe surveys, customers can help us advance scientific research. We’ve already asked about which hand and eye they use more, whether they’ve ever had any cavities, and of course, whether they can smell anything in their pee after they eat asparagus. In the coming months, there’ll be plenty more surveys. And as we move forward, we’ll also be asking about more serious traits related to health and disease risk.

23andWe is consumer-enabled research (CER™). So we want to ask you, our customers and potential customers: What do you want to know about? Do you have a particular preference that you suspect is determined by your genes? Have you always wondered if some distinctive family characteristic is due to nature or nurture? Leave us a comment!






  • Amy Rohde

    Love this.. I’m really bummed I didn’t do some research first before I ruined my salsa recipe! The cilantro tastes like cheap bathroom soap or some kind of gross potpourri. YUCK!!

  • Irene

    Cilantro is delicious to me – I love it. Dried thyme, on the other hand, tastes very stronly of mold to me. For the longest time I thought ours had gone bad but then I bought new thyme and I’m having the same experience.

    I poked around online and it seems I’m not the only one. I’d love to see 23 and me check to see if there is a genetic connection.

  • Joe

    Cilantro stinks. I was in the same boat–I didn’t know why salsa in restaurants tasted disgusting but Tostitos tasted fine. Then I found out about cilantro and it made sense. My friends live it and think I’m crazy, but I can’t stand it.

  • Garett

    Maybe you could research sensitivity to the smell of blooming dogwood trees. Same principle as the cilantro example above. Some people don’t seem to notice anything. And other’s (like myself) are really sensitive to the smell. It’s horrid.

  • Nick Eriksson

    We’ve now posted a partial solution to this question. See http://arxiv.org/abs/1209.2096

  • anon

    How about adding survey on garlic? Some people have a very strong distaste for it, and some like it.

  • seachangeau

    I have read there is a cilantro gene but before I knew that I noticed that often people who like cilantro hate celery and cauliflower, and vice versa. So I started asking around and was at 100% correlation cilantro v. celry/cauli until recently finally met someone who will eat all 3 – haven’t met any adults who despise all three yet. It’s awkward – my partner hates cilantro and i love it but cannot abide the smell of cooked cauliflower which he loves.

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