Why Cilantro Tastes Just Like Soap, According To Science

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Why Cilantro Tastes Just Like Soap, According To Science

Cilantro is one of those herbs that can make or break someone's meal. You either really love cilantro or really, irrevocably, hate it. The latter attributes this to the soap-y aftertaste they get from eating the herb.

It turns out that if you're a hater, it's not your fault. You can put the blame on your genes for never being able to enjoy the taste of cilantro, no matter how much you try. In fact, four to 14 percent of the population feel the same way. 

SciHow, a YouTube Channel that explores scientific explanations for everyday subjects, such as what gluten actually is, why whiteboards are so dirty, and whether cell phones actually cause cancer. It's hosted by Hank Green (author John Green's younger brother) and Michael Aranda. 

In this video, Green explains why, for some people, cilantro, "one of the more divisive herbs in the planet," tastes like "a bubble bath."


According to Green, a study in the early 2000s involving twins during a National Twin Day Festival in Twinsburg, Ohio, found that 80 percent of identical twins reported "sharing a like or dislike for cilantro." Meanwhile, 50 percent of fraternal twins reported the same.

After further analysis of 30,000 people's genomes, scientists discovered that those who have olfactory-receptor genes called OR6A2, can pick up the scent of aldehyde chemicals. 

There are various kinds such as Vanillin, which picks up the smell of vanilla, and Cinnamaldehyde, which picks up the smell of cinnamon. And what shares aldehyde chemicals? Soap and cilantro!

However, there are contradictions to the study. For example, scientists found that half of Europeans have two copies of the OR6A2 genome, but only 15 percent report to tasting soap when eating cilantro. They also found that 11.5 percent of people who don't have the genome report the soap-y taste. 

"So, other genes must be contributing as well," says Green. "There are at least three more genes that seemed to be involved in this cilantro gross-out mystery. One that codes for smell receptors, though we're not sure how. And two, that affect the taste of bitterness."

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Green says that in order to be sure of these findings, further studies have to be made. But for now, your dislike for cilantro is definitely not just in your head.