What’s a Cilantro-Hater to Do?

Oh cilantro, you just may be my nemesis! If you, like me, cannot stand the taste of this herb, you know what I'm talking about. There are some foods I don't particularly like, but still would eat if I really had to. But cilantro? Never. And it's so annoying. You see, cilantro has a pretty hefty presence on restaurant menus nowadays. So while I really don't want to be the person telling the waiter, "Oh, I can't eat that …" — suddenly, I am that person!

I try not to make a big deal about it. I've tried nonchalantly inquiring about preparation. One time I asked, "Is the cilantro sprinkled on top of the dish?" The reply was a prompt: "Yes, and we would not be willing to leave it off!"

Don't they know that the estimated four to 14 percent of people who can't stand the taste of cilantro actually can't help our hatred? Tweet this We're not being picky — research indicates it's genetic. Cilantro-haters have a gene that results in the aldehyde component tasting like soap or bug spray. Would you want to eat something that tasted like dish soap or bug repellant? I didn't think so.

So are cilantro-haters doomed to lead a life trying to avoid it? Apparently not. Some say we can be converted and, with different experiences and exposure, the brain's perception of taste can change. Not a believer? I'm not sure either. 

For those of you who actually like the taste, that's wonderful. Cilantro has many health benefits, including containing potent antioxidants and a compound that acts as a natural antibiotic that may help kill salmonella.

But if you are a cilantro-hater who wants to change to fit into a cilantro-loving world, here's my advice: cook it, mince it, crush it or pulverize it. These actions break down the aldehydes and release the enzymes that taste so nasty to us. The result is not so much soap or bug — and a little more flavor of lemon and spice. I can admit that I'm not appalled at the taste of cooked cilantro, so there is something to this theory.

I'm not sure that I'm totally ready to take the plunge, but I am considering it. In the meantime, when a recipe calls for cilantro, I usually just use parsley.

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Erin McNamara
Erin McNamara, RDN, LDN, is a registered dietitian nutritionist in the Philadelphia area. Read her blog, Erin Dishes Nutrition, and follow her on Pinterest and Facebook.