Why Does Cilantro Taste Like Soap To Some People? This SciShow Video Explains It All
We've all made the horrible mistake of drinking orange juice after brushing our teeth, making the sweet citrusy orange goodness taste like the bottom of a car tire. Well, for some people, a similar phenomenon happens when they eat cilantro. But why? Why does cilantro taste like soap to some, but not to others? Well, the good news is that this SciShow video explains it all — but the bad news is that it won't make cilantro not taste like soap to those suffering from that flavor disaster.
Is it bad that all I can think of right now are the foods these poor people aren't enjoying? Like, how about every item on the Chipotle menu? I mean, I've heard that people who hate Chipotle exist, but I always thought they were some sort of myth. Maybe this seemingly mythical Chipotle aversion is founded in a sort of genetic opposition to cilantro? But hey, I suppose at least we're not talking about chocolate tasting like soap. Or coffee. I don't even want to think about what would happen if that were the case.
So why do certain people taste a big old bar of the sudsy stuff when they bite into a chip slathered in cilantro-laced salsa? Apparently it has something to do with genetics and a lot to do with their noses and sense of smell. Although the complete answer isn't known, science has figured out some important specifics. Here's what the video tells us:
1. 4-14 Percent Of People Hate Cilantro
Hate is such a strong word for such a harmless little plant.
2. Science Investigated
People had such a strong aversion to cilantro that scientists decided to find out why. Because, science.
At the National Twin Day festival in Twinsburg, Ohio (HA!), researchers found that 80 percent of identical twins shared the same preference for cilantro while only 50 percent of fraternal twins shared this trait.
4. What's That Taste Like?
The consumer genetics firm 23andme decided to ask almost 30,000 people the question, "Hey, what's that cilantro taste like?"
Researchers found that people who responded that cilantro tasted like bubble bath shared a gene, OR6A2, that codes the receptor that picks up the scent of aldehyde chemicals. Aldehydes can have distinctive smells like vanilian that, you guessed it, smells like vanilla. There are multiple aldehydes that contribute to cilantro's smell and guess what? They're also a bi-product of soap making...interesting.
6. But, This Isn't The Full Story
Unfortunately, the presence of OR6A2 isn't the only reason people taste Irish Spring instead of cilantro. Almost half of all Europeans have two copies of OR6A2 and only about 15 percent said they tasted soap. Also, of the people who have zero copies of the OR6A2 gene, 11.5 percent said cilantro was soapy. So the entire explanation doesn't just come down to OR6A2.
Researchers have figured out that there are other genes that contribute to the soapy cilantro phenomenon — one that codes for smell receptors and two that code for bitterness. However, what all this means is that being grossed out by cilantro is at least somewhat genetic. So if you're a fan of cilantro-infused treats better send a "P.S. thank you" to Mom and/or Dad in your next text home!
Watch the full video below: