A personal declaration on behalf of those who don’t need the herb to taste like soap in order to dislike it. 

By Matthew Kassel
October 02, 2019
Victor Protasio

I don’t like cilantro.

And I know what you’re thinking: That my aversion to the herb is caused by some sort of genetic mutation—that when I taste cilantro, I taste soap. I’m quite familiar with the argument. Believe me. It seems that every time I bring up the fact that cilantro isn’t really to my taste, somebody inevitably butts in with this bit of stale trivia, as if they were the first person to bring it to my attention. 

But let me stop you right there, because I am tired of my taste preferences being explained to me as if I have no part in them. This may sound radical, but I feel it is necessary to put forth the notion that my genes have nothing to do with my distaste for cilantro. 

I dislike cilantro simply because it doesn’t appeal to me—its bright, lemony flavor is extremely overpowering, unlike that of parsley or oregano, milder herbs which help to highlight a meal rather than overtake it. Herbs, in my opinion, should always serve as supporting actors in a dish, accentuating its flavor; cilantro, on the other hand, wants to be a star, but shouldn’t be. You can’t make a meal out of cilantro.

WATCH: The Great Cilantro Debate

What’s more, I have never thought that cilantro tastes like soap, and I have never even understood what that is supposed to mean. What kind of soap are we talking about? Dish soap? A bar of Dove? Dr. Bronner’s? Aesop? As far as I am concerned, it is a meaningless statement.

And yet I hear it over and over again. 

Here’s a little thought experiment: I also dislike fennel. Any idea why that it is? It’s because I don’t like its flavor, which, to me, resembles that of licorice, which can taste like an artificial sweetener. Would you say that my distaste for fennel is the result of my genes? I would hope not. 

I should add that I don’t hate cilantro, like Ina Garten or even Julia Child, who once said that she "would pick it out if I saw it and throw it on the floor."

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But I am not so vehement, though it's difficult to pass up an excuse to be somehow associated with those great cooks. In fact, I enjoy cilantro when, say, it is sprinkled judiciously onto a taco or into a soup. Just the other night, I made a sort of cilantro chimichurri with garlic, oil, serrano peppers and lime juice. Spooned onto some nachos, it was delicious.

Still, for the most part, cilantro just isn’t for me. And I believe that it is important to carve out a space for those of us who don’t really like the herb, but don’t hate it either.

Our genes are fine. Please leave us alone.

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