Cilantro has become quite the divisive herb in the culinary world, with some people declaring their love for the green that adorns Chipotle’s signature rice, while others denouncing it as a “soapy” horrible addition to any dish. So why are opinions so extreme and divided? Well, it turns out that those who absolutely despite cilantro many have a scientific reason to back them up. So what is the genetic explanation behind the cilantro hate?
It turns out that a group of olfactory receptor genes, namely OR6A2, are to blame. The genes influence people’s recognition of aldehyde chemicals that are found in cilantro, and it so happens that these chemicals are also present in soaps. Some people have a genetic variant of OR62A, which makes the herb taste more soap-y to them, which explains the aversion.
Since this is genetic, this cilantro hatred can run in families, which hints at a hereditary component, and can predict that children of cilantro haters may also dislike the herb. It should be noted that this aversion to cilantro can be found throughout various populations across the globe. There are even areas where it is more commonly found than others.
Additionally, people who have this specific genetic variant who also live in places where cilantro is not commonly used as a staple herb may find it even more difficult to stomach it when they are served cilantro.
Despite the fact that there is actually a genetic explanation for why people hate cilantro, it is possible for them to get over this and even develop a tolerance, if they so choose. The best way to build a tolerance is to slowly increase exposure to cilantro in small amounts and then ramp it up slowly. It also possible to include it in many types of meals and forms.
Some scientists believe that this phenomenon is an evolutionary advantage. They explain this by saying that in areas where this is more common, perhaps people with this genetic trait were less likely to consume dangerous or off foods, since aldehydes are also found in spoiled foods. Those who are sensitive to the chemical were less likely to eat the potentially harmful foods, but the side effect is also the aversion to cilantro.
Since there is an actually explanation for this hatred of cilantro, it’s important to remember that many people are not just being difficult. Those who adore the herb may not understand it, but since these genetic factors explain it, it shouldn’t be such a divisive debate. Besides, everyone is entitled to like and dislike whatever foods they choose.