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Love It Or Loathe It? The Great Cilantro Debate

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Love It Or Loathe It? The Great Cilantro Debate

There is a deep rift running through the heart of America. It’s not the divide between red states and blue states, but the ongoing battle between cilantro lovers and those who can’t stand the stuff.

Cilantro, which is the North American name for the green leafy part of the coriander plant, is a pungent annual herb that grows in warmer climates across the world. Other names include Chinese parsley and dhania.

While the entire plant is edible, most people eat either the fresh leaves or the dried seeds, which are ground into a powder. Cilantro/coriander is a popular staple as both an herb and a spice throughout Asia, Europe, Africa, and the Americas.

As with many other traditional spices, seasoning food with ground coriander is a natural preservative. The seeds contain phytochemicals that delay spoiling.

(Continued Below)

As a spice, coriander tastes sweet, citrusy, and mildly peppery. The flavor profile of fresh cilantro, however, is more controversial …

Those who love cilantro say it’s refreshing and tangy. Those who hate it—and this latter group is pretty outspoken, even going so far as to create a website called IHateCilantro.com—say it tastes like soap or bugs.

Since there weren’t more pressing problems in the world for them to sort out, scientists have recently discovered the cause behind this intensely partisan debate. People who can’t stand cilantro are probably genetically predisposed to hate it.

There are a number of chemical compounds that come together to make up cilantro’s flavor. People who love the herb can taste and smell a wider range of them, say geneticists, while cilantro haters, because of how their smell and taste receptors work, are only able to taste unpleasant bitterness.

Love it or hate it, cilantro is great for your health. For one thing, it’s packed with dietary fiber, which can reduce bad LDL cholesterol and raise good HDL cholesterol, and in inflammation- and cancer-fighting antioxidants.

It’s also rich in minerals like potassium, which helps to control heart rate and blood pressure, calcium for strong bones, and iron for red blood cell production, among others.

Cilantro is also an excellent source of folic-acid, riboflavin, niacin, beta carotene, vitamin-C, and is one of the best all around sources of vitamins A and K, providing more than 200% of the recommended daily value of these two vitamins in just one small serving. It is said that the herb also has the ability to flush (chelate) heavy metals like mercury, aluminum, and lead from your body. All these great benefits have moved cilantro to superfood status.

Of course, if you hate cilantro, there are plenty of other nutritious foods out there to enjoy. But if you’re among those who love this polarizing plant, here are a few recipes to help you love it even more.

Cilantro Lime Shrimp

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 jalapeño pepper, diced
3 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
Salt to taste
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons lime juice
2 cups cooked rice

Directions:

Allow a large pan to sit over high heat for one minute, then add oil. Add the pepper to the pan, toss to coat with oil, and cook for 30 seconds. Add the shrimp and garlic, toss to coat with oil, and sprinkle with salt. Allow the shrimp to become lightly seared before tossing again. Stir-fry for about 2 minutes. Remove from heat and mix in the cilantro and lime juice. Serve over rice.

Avo-Cu Salad

Ingredients:

2 medium cucumbers, cubed
2 avocados, cubed
4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons minced scallions
Salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons lime juice

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and lightly toss. Allow to sit for 30 minutes before serving.

Cilantro Pesto

Ingredients:

2 cups fresh cilantro, chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 cup walnuts
Salt to taste
1/2 cup olive oil

Directions:

Place cilantro, garlic, vinegar, Parmesan cheese, cayenne pepper, nuts, and salt in the bowl of a food processor or blender and pulse to combine. Add 1/4 cup of olive oil, and blend. Continue adding olive oil and blending until the pesto reaches your desired consistency.

What about you, do you love cilantro or loathe it?

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31 comments

1 Chris { 01.15.17 at 8:30 pm }

Loathe it.

2 Deniese { 01.15.17 at 9:46 am }

ALERGIC! Feels like it closes my windpipe.

3 GiGi { 01.15.17 at 12:46 am }

I LOVE Cilantro!!!

4 Ettojr { 01.14.17 at 10:20 pm }

Hate is a strong word! Cilantro has no ill effects on me but it tastes like soap. I don’t care for the taste of soap so it makes sense that I wouldn’t like cilantro. I am happy to know that it’s how my taste receptors receive it’s yucky taste that makes me dislike it and not just me being a humbug about trendy things. And that I definitely am. ?

5 MaiMai { 01.14.17 at 9:55 pm }

I DETEST CILANTRO!!! It taste like stomach acid to me. Working a restaurant in the southwest has been a challenge.

6 Debbie { 01.14.17 at 8:34 pm }

I like it but only in moderation. If you use too much it tastes like dish soap to me. I’ve had good pico de gallo and some that the cilantro was too overpowering, therefore tastes like soap.

7 Deb Smith { 01.14.17 at 8:24 pm }

For year I worked as a cashier at Shaw’s and just the pungent rotten smell of it made me sick.

8 Tami Lynn { 03.28.15 at 12:38 am }

I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE CILANTRO! I LOVE GROWING IT ALSO!

9 Mary C { 03.26.15 at 12:41 pm }

I love cilantro! I dice red onion, fresh plum tomatoes, fresh cilantro, fresh lime juice, and some salt and pepper, and mix it up. I leave hot peppers out, and put them on the side for people who don’t like spicy foods. We love it on tacos. What’s left over I put in omelets, or soups, or salads. I put the stems in a glass with water and it keeps for over a week. I change the water a few times. I like to grow it in my garden!!

10 Susan P { 03.26.15 at 2:33 am }

I love cilantro. My husband is in the opposite camp. When I was a kid, my dad used to put it in our hamburger patties (we called in Chinese parsley in Hawaii). When my husband and I went on a road trip in his VW bus before we were married, I fixed those same hamburgers and cooked them on the stove in the camper. The smell of cilantro clung to every surface of that bus, and my husband NEVER liked cilantro again. He will eat a small amount of it now, but it isn’t a favorite. I will have to ask him about the soap taste. It’s an interesting explanation.

11 Charles { 03.26.15 at 1:38 am }

Keep fresh by placing fresh (minimal trim) cut cilantro in water and place in refrigerator. Keep water changed out at least once a week and the cilantro shelf life can last longer than a week!

12 Patty Jacobs { 03.25.15 at 10:25 pm }

I love cilantro. I got started by adding it to quesadillas. Now I buy several bunches, chop them up stems and all, add a light drizzle of olive oil, and freeze it. It retains the fresh flavor without the issues of spoiling. But don’t leave it out for any longer than just removing it from the bag. I also do the same thing with fresh parsley and green onions. Makes fresh guacamole or salsa a breeze.

13 Terry { 03.25.15 at 9:18 pm }

My husband and I love, love, love cilantro, especially in freshly made salsa he makes.

14 Linda M { 03.25.15 at 7:40 pm }

I have many Hispanic friends and relatives and for them it is a staple in the kitchen. But the tiniest piece will ruin a dish for me because I taste soap and can’t swallow food with that awful flavor.

15 Seahare { 03.25.15 at 6:58 pm }

theres a chewing gum that’s been around forever in Canada called Thrills. Right on the pack it proudly proclaims “Still Tastes Like Soap.” I love it, and cilantro 🙂

16 The One { 03.25.15 at 5:26 pm }

I used to hate cilantro. Then I started eating Indian and Bangladesh style curries. Now I love cilantro and use it in many of my dishes. My family on the other hand hates it so I have to disguise it and sneek it into their foods. Mu ha hya ha!… lol

17 John Reagan { 03.25.15 at 12:22 pm }

My wife is allergic to Cilantro. What can I substitute?

18 Katie G { 03.25.15 at 11:56 am }

I am addicted to cilantro. I use it in so many recipes. I grow it and have to keep adding plants because I do not want to run out.

19 Melissa { 03.25.15 at 11:47 am }

We love it. I use it for taco salad

20 Pentica F-B { 03.25.15 at 11:40 am }

We use fresh cilantro in our home-made seasoning mix which we use for marinating meats, poultry and seafood. It is a favorite herb especially in seafood.

21 Maureen { 03.25.15 at 11:05 am }

I’m not the kind of mother to accomadate all the if my children’s tastes in one meal and for that my children love a variety of food…they even love escargot . That said, my son was so adamant about my beloved cilantro being added to a dish I had to accomadate him. He dispises it as much as I love it… Now I can understand why thanks to the article!

22 Nancy Hebert { 03.25.15 at 10:55 am }

Funny story about how I came to eat cilantro. One day my husband brings home two orphan newborn wild rabbits whose mother had been killed accidentally on his construction site. After feeding them homemade formula til they got big enough to eat solid food I discovered wild rabbits will not eat regular rabbit food. On my desperate quest to find something they would eat I discovered they LOVED cilantro. I realized I loved it too and have been eating it ever since.

23 Lynne Coffman { 03.25.15 at 10:54 am }

I LOVE Cilantro..in fact, I have one whole raised bed in my garden for just that ! It also self seeds from year to year. so it is the earliest green I have…I use it in everything ( thanks for some new recipes !) 🙂

24 Ali { 03.25.15 at 10:38 am }

I LOVE it! , and my son despises it and always has, but he loves parsley!

25 Kim Bernhardt { 03.25.15 at 10:05 am }

My mother always accused me of being picky, but I taste soap. Science is vindicating me. When I make salsa, I use Italian Parsley. I LOVE fresh ingredients, but Cilantro ruins it for me.

26 Mary Ann { 03.25.15 at 9:58 am }

Try the Cilantro Pesto it’s REALLY good and easy to make. I bought some at a local Farmers Market, needless to say it didn’t last long, so I went to my own garden and harvested enough to make a double batch. Also try mixing some of the pesto in soft butter to make a compound butter for steaks or pork chops. Again killer.

27 kck83 { 03.25.15 at 9:35 am }

This may put a question on the “scientific” conclusion: My husband and I both thought “SOAP” the first time we tried cilantro. But we tried it again and again (five years in Guatemala) and now we LOVE it! I agree with Judy P. that there are recipes not worth making if I don’t have cilantro on hand.

28 pam s { 03.25.15 at 9:32 am }

PASSIONATE about cilantro!

29 Debby Price { 03.25.15 at 9:22 am }

My husband and I both despise it. It tastes like soap to both of us. I do demos at Wal-Mart and when I have one that uses cilantro, I have to chop it up where I can’t be seen. I will dry heave when I chop it.

30 Judy P { 03.25.15 at 9:11 am }

LOVE it. In fact, if I don’t have it on hand,there are certain recipes I won’t even bother cooking since I think it is indispensable to the flavor.

31 anna r bowlin { 03.24.15 at 12:17 pm }

we use fresh cilantro in homemade salsa. I get happy with the knife and cilantro. I put one or two bunches cut up in my salsa. we cook and can it. cilantro is great for this and other dishes.

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