What does cilantro taste like?
September 12, 2016 8:44 AM   Subscribe

Some people experience cilantro as "tasting like soap." Does this mean cilantro tastes like soap smells or tastes like soap tastes? What does it taste like to people without this soap gene? I dislike cilantro and always get asked if it tastes soapy...I don't think it does, really, but I'm not sure. If I were a cilantro-soap-taster, would I definitely 100% be able to self-identify as such, or is "soapy" a more imprecise description of how it tastes to some folks?
posted by lizzicide to Food & Drink (72 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
My mom is a cilantro soap-taster and from my experiences with her, you would definitely be know if you were. There can be just a little cilantro in a dish and to her the whole flavor is ruined - tastes like her idea of what soap tastes like, I can't say she is an expert on the flavor of soap.
posted by DoubleLune at 8:50 AM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

While it's been a long time since I've tasted soap, I find it easiest to define cilantro's awful taste as "soapy." So, the latter -- it's an imprecise description, but apt enough to work. It's also less dramatic than most other ways I would emphatically describe cilantro's horribleness.
posted by mudpuppie at 8:51 AM on September 12, 2016 [5 favorites]

Big-time cilantro-soap-taster here.

You would 100% be able to tell.

There are a handful of foods I dislike; that's not what's going on with cilantro. It's a difference in kind, not just a more intense dislike. Cilantro immediately registers as "that is not food, that's dirty, that will make you sick" to me.

It's more like soap tastes than like soap smells, but neither analogy is perfect. It's like a combination of grandma's lye soap, unwashed socks and its own undefinable horribleness.
posted by sourcequench at 8:54 AM on September 12, 2016 [6 favorites]

I am a cilantro lover. I agree that it has sort of a smell of soap... but it's fresh green, grassy and a somehow DEEP smell that is more likely a kind of scent that soaps have been made to smell similar to. I mean, smell a real rose in someone's garden. It smells like hand soap because that's what we all grew up knowing soap to smell like.

I love love love cilantro.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 8:55 AM on September 12, 2016 [12 favorites]

I am a soap-taster who has learned to like it, and before I heard the term "soapy" I called it "metallic". I've never tasted soap and don't plan to, so it me it's more like it smells like it is relatively pleasant (like a soap might) but it doesn't taste like it smells, and in fact tastes like an accident, like something that's not food got in the food.

I would never, like, ladle a big glug of cilantro sauce over a perfectly good piece of food, but definitely things like salsa and certain Vietnamese and Thai dishes would taste like they were missing something to me without that hint of accidental industrial metal shavings.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:56 AM on September 12, 2016 [14 favorites]

My dad recently discovered he's a cilantro soap taster, having never had it before, I guess. He immediately identified it as "tasting soapy," but had never heard of the cilantro soap thing before, which tells me you'd probably know immediately. He thought the dishes hadn't been rinsed thoroughly, so I imagine that's what it's like.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:57 AM on September 12, 2016

I *really* dislike cilantro, and unfortunately generally throw up before I can identify whether it tastes "like soap." I don't eat soap and don't understand how I'd be able to identify its flavor. So I've always assumed I have the "cilantro soap" gene without the "describing things as soapy" gene.
posted by cogitron at 9:00 AM on September 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

My husband hates cilantro, he says it stinks of stink bugs (pentatomidea) when you rub the leaves and he detects minute amounts.
posted by 15L06 at 9:03 AM on September 12, 2016 [6 favorites]

This NYTimes article has some of the science (as of 2010)
Flavor chemists have found that cilantro aroma is created by a half-dozen or so substances, and most of these are modified fragments of fat molecules called aldehydes. The same or similar aldehydes are also found in soaps and lotions and the bug family of insects.
You'd know the unpleasant taste in an instant. Note when people say "soapy" they don't mean "perfumed soap", they mean plain soap itself.

Weirdly I went through a year or two of finding cilantro objectionably soap-like, I think around puberty (which may or may not be related). Now I love it. The NYT article suggests that perhaps cilantro is both soapy and delicious and that one's response is conditioned and changeable.
posted by Nelson at 9:08 AM on September 12, 2016 [12 favorites]

Cilantro fan here. To me it tastes citrusy, which is a common soap smell, so i think that's why people make that connection.

And yeah, if you were a soap taster, more than likely you would find it send that taco back, don't let it near me repulsive. It is a pretty strong aversion for the people i know that hate it.
posted by domino at 9:09 AM on September 12, 2016

Cilantro used taste like soap to me, but as a chef I had to use it anyway...

It has a soap front end, and a hint at mint back-end, but like, what's refreshing about mint. So the quality of mint on your palate, not the flavor of mint.

I'm pretty sure if soap tasters ate more cilantro, the effect would become something else, as it has with me. Even as soap, I knew when a dish needed cilantro and didn't think it was optional to a recipe.

That said, I don't ever ever buy cilantro to cook with at home!

But do I think cilantro haters should eat cilantro anyway? Yes, yes I do. Because after a while your experience of cilantro changes. I swear. I'm aware there's a gene that determines the soap thing. Meh. I still think as a soap flavor it's an enjoyable, if an acquired, taste!!
posted by jbenben at 9:12 AM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

I find cilantro to be a very strong, overpowering flavour and I hate it when indian restaurants use it as a garnish - its not fucking parsley!

I find that the flavour totally overtakes the dish when they do that BUT it doesn't taste like soap to me. I've read that if you're not a soapy cilantro taster that it tastes vaguely citrusy but it doesn't taste citrusy to me either. Its really hard to describe how it tastes, other than not soap and not citrus. It tastes like cilantro.
posted by missmagenta at 9:13 AM on September 12, 2016

Reading Nelson's comment and article extract -- that's EXACTLY my experience. Cilantro is really important where it's important and I would not leave it out of a recipe if it was part of the dish. Also confirming that it is very strong, so less is more. But you can't do without in some cuisines and that's that.
posted by jbenben at 9:16 AM on September 12, 2016

Think Ivory soap, are you familiar with it? Think about the way it smells, think about the taste being similar to the smell. Better yet, get a bar of it and take a quick lick.

Of course it might not taste the same to you as it would to me. Maybe you would like the taste if you like cilantro?

I must have licked a bit of soap when I was younger just to see what it would taste like, because I had heard or read about adults washing childrens' mouths out with soap for cursing or otherwise saying things adults disliked.
posted by mareli at 9:17 AM on September 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Cilantro tastes both like soap and like how dirty socks smell to me. (I've tasted actual soap and I mean the plainest bar soap like Dial or something.)

I wish I liked it because it seems like one of those easy "add this and now it tastes great!" sort of things.

Sometimes I can eat salsa that has cilantro as an ingredient, but not too much and I quickly tire of it.
posted by purple_bird at 9:19 AM on September 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

Tastes like eating from a soapy dish.

I trained myself to like it. It still tastes "soapy" but now I can disassociate it from the taste of soap and I get more of the subtleties.
posted by tippy at 9:21 AM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

I really like cilantro and to me it tastes metallic and grassy (but somehow in a good way because I normally hate the smell of grass) and I would describe it tastes "refreshing" when it is combined with lime. I mainly associate it with Thai and Mexican food, both of which I love and some key dishes taste flat to me without it (ie pad thai, salsa).
posted by like_neon at 9:23 AM on September 12, 2016

Cilantro fan here. To me it tastes citrusy, which is a common soap smell, so i think that's why people make that connection.

Nope, no, not at all. It tastes exactly like someone forgot to rinse the plain, unscented Ivory dishsoap off of the plate your meal was served to you on, citrous is nowhere to be found.

"That vile weed" - Julia Child. I concur.
posted by Cosine at 9:24 AM on September 12, 2016 [12 favorites]

To me it tastes a bit like the way an astray smells, yet I like this herb so much. I must not be able to taste the soapy flavor because cilantro's taste doesn't permeate dishes for me and I don't like soap.
posted by pickles_have_souls at 9:28 AM on September 12, 2016

Nthing the tastes like a badly rinsed dish. Which is exactly what I thought I did the first time I cooked with it until my roommate proclaimed it delicious.
posted by platypus of the universe at 9:28 AM on September 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

in my palate it's a flippable bit. it can either taste good or soapy depending on context and other ineffables.

nelson's link above provides clear evidence for molecular commonality between cilantro and soap and seems to me to provide a definitive explanation of the taste and characterization: it tastes soapy to some people because it contains molecules either similar to or in common with soap.
posted by mwhybark at 9:33 AM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

I used to taste cilantro like soap, I no longer do and now like it. Have no idea what changed. But, yeah: Carve off a piece of Ivory, stick that in your mouth. It's like that.
posted by straw at 9:35 AM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

I don't believe eating cilantro will change my experience . I believe eating more of it will make me hate it even more. It tastes like skanky dirt rolled in soap.. The skank is the aftertaste.
posted by cairnoflore at 9:36 AM on September 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

I do think cilantro is one of the ultimate "acquired tastes", since so many of us come to terms with it rather than just come to like it eventually without any real reservations - the latter of which I have done with many many foods, like raw tomatoes or brussels sprouts. And for some people, the taste is clearly so pungent it's not ever going to happen.

(About five years ago something happened to me with regards to thyme and it's a complete "fuck, I cannot eat this" situation at this point. I used to grow it, used it all the time, didn't consider it either terribly strong or offensive and then I spent most of a year, about a year ago, trying to figure out what it was making certain foods inedible, and eventually thanks to Blue Apron I was able to identify the actual culprit.)
posted by Lyn Never at 9:40 AM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

I don't like cilantro but to me it always tasted like black licorice (which I also don't like). I don't know what soap tastes like so I never did get what was meant by that.
posted by LizBoBiz at 9:45 AM on September 12, 2016

I never used to feel one way or the other about it until I saw it described here on mefi, repeatedly, as soapy. I then became repulsed by it and couldn't eat it. I tried it again last year and now love it. It's fresh and bright and acidic and citrusy and herbaceous. I add scads to my white bean chicken chili and love it fresh on lots of different things. It's great in salsa verde. Maybe I should try some Ivory soap next. I could grate it over my rice.

I don't like cilantro but to me it always tasted like black licorice
That's what tarragon (and anise of course) tastes like to me...black licorice. LOVE it. I'm pretty much world famous because of my tarragon chicken salad. And by "world" I mean my house and the house next door.
posted by the webmistress at 9:52 AM on September 12, 2016 [5 favorites]

The first time I, and the rest of my family (mom was trying a new recipe), had cilantro we all thought my mom had forgotten to rinse out and left soap residue in. She even second guessed herself. I had never heard of the soap thing before (or really heard of cilantro). It's not like we eat soap as a family, so I guess it's just a you know it when you taste it.

Supposedly if you make a pesto with it, the "soap" trigger won't be as overwhelming, and you can adjust and eventually enjoy it. But if you just don't like it vs it tastes soap, I don't think that would help.

I've gotten sort of used to it if it's been manhandled a bit: it doesn't bother me so much anymore in pico as long as it's not just made. If I have the pico right after it's made it's still soapy.
posted by ghost phoneme at 9:54 AM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Gastropod did an interesting episode on this, including why people from cultures who use a lot of cilantro don't get the soap thing as much.
posted by jeather at 9:54 AM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

They mean that it tastes like soap tastes. The "soapy" descriptor has nothing to do with the kind of fragrances that are typically added to soap — floral, or citrusy, or anything like that.

No, cilantro tastes like animal fat boiled in a kettle with lye. It's bitter!

That said, I actually like it. I acquired the taste, I guess. The first time I tasted it, I honestly thought that my food had been contaminated with some kind of cleaning product. It was utterly inedible.

But that was when I was a kid. Now, I'm accustomed to it and I can also perceive the grassy, minty, citrusy elements that others taste in the herb. I love it, in fact. It still tastes like soap, it's still bitter, but it's enjoyable, in the same way dark chocolate or black coffee can be enjoyable. I cook with it frequently.
posted by a mirror and an encyclopedia at 9:54 AM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

I love cilantro. My dad hates it, but I'm not sure he's a soap-taster because he will tolerate small amounts in good Mexican food and the soap-tasters I have known reject the dishes my dad likes in spite of their cilantro content. So I don't think it's 100% love or hate.

When I've discussed this with my dad he uses the terms "bitter" "raw" and "wrong", like to him it tastes like something that is absolutely not food and never was, unlike fermented stinky cheeses or something, more like a rock or gasoline or something.

Although I love cilantro I can sort of see where he gets this. I taste plenty of bitterness but it's the good herbal kind, totally lacking in tannins like you'd find in spinach so it's smooth on my palate. And it tastes raw to me in the fresh, grassy way, whereas I think my dad means it like the "flesh wound" way.

To me cilantro is yummy because it has such a long flavor that changes as I eat it, beginning with a grassy taste, getting kind of lemony almost, some metallic notes, a long undercurrent of bitterness and then a lingering savory flavor, almost how salt makes other flavors taste more themselves, I feel like cilantro does that too. So although I can taste most of the things in cilantro my dad finds so objectionable, they are lessened to the extent that I can appreciate everything else it tastes like. Or maybe it's that I can taste more things and the yucky bits aren't lessened at all? Who knows. Now I want a banh mi!
posted by Mizu at 10:01 AM on September 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

Nthing that you would know. It is repulsive, bitter, and tastes not edible at all--rather like if you somehow added plastic to your food? It makes me shudder and feel nauseous. You would definitely know.
posted by epanalepsis at 10:03 AM on September 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

I associate the taste of cilantro with surgery for some reason - metallic with a weird gross organic element. I've tried and tried to acclimate myself to it, because it's in so many things I like, but my brain just goes Warning! This is not an edible food!

There are other flavors that I personally enjoy, but seem like they have high potential to trip people's "not food" switch: licorice, ginger, floral flavors, artificial banana. None of those taste like cilantro to me, but I think of them all as having the same sort of confusing weirdness.
posted by Metroid Baby at 10:09 AM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

My friends with Scottish ancestry cannot eat cilantro because of the soap taste. I don't experience it that way, but supposedly it has saponins that help break down cholesterol. There is some functional reason for sensing them. I have always loved the smell of it, such a fresh smell!
posted by Oyéah at 10:11 AM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

You can totally dislike the taste of cilantro without being a soap person. Soap people know. Soap isn't food and you'd know if you were eating something that didn't register as food.

I am not the biggest cilantro fan but to me it tastes like something overpoweringly green, only okay in moderation with the right balance of other flavors-- not like I forgot to rinse the dishes.

Cilantro mild-dislikers but not for soap reasons, unite.
posted by kapers at 10:16 AM on September 12, 2016 [4 favorites]

It's always been a combination of dirty hair and perfume to my palate, but I think I'm among the "like soap" tasters.
posted by goggie at 10:17 AM on September 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

I love cilantro. I also like the smell of Ivory soap, which is the soap we normally use. (Though I wonder if they've changed the formula of it a little since I was younger. I'm not sure it has quite the same smell it used to.) Out of curiosity, I just tried licking Ivory soap. I was surprised to find that it had very little taste and what it had wasn't offensive. Then I tried breaking off a small sliver and putting it in my mouth. That was less pleasant - a little too perfumy. But it tasted nothing at all like cilantro. No similarity at all.

I also ate a bit of cilantro to see if I could figure out how to describe the taste, but I couldn't. "Grassy" does seem somewhat accurate, but there's a lot more to it than that. It's not bitter to me and I'm not sure "citrusy" seems accurate either. But it definitely does not taste like soap. It just tastes like cilantro. Yum.
posted by Redstart at 10:18 AM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'm truly amazed at the people that have never tasted soap. I mean, do you not ever get a teeny bit of suds in your mouth in the shower or while washing your face?

It tastes like parsley + soap. It does have its own flavor, which I can appreciate and would be perfectly fine without the added soapy part. I completely agree with the Warning! This is not an edible food! feeling. I also get that with almost all types of alcohol as well.
posted by Rock Steady at 10:21 AM on September 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

There is some evidence of a genetic association with cilantro tasting like soap. See "A genetic variant near olfactory receptor genes influences cilantro preference" in the journal Flavour.
posted by grouse at 10:21 AM on September 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

Licking a bar of soap wont kill you, you can do your own comparison test.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 10:28 AM on September 12, 2016 [4 favorites]

I like cilantro most of the time. But sometimes it tastes weird to me. But the weird taste is not soap, it's kind of like what "wet dog" smells like.
posted by Coatlicue at 10:29 AM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

I don't have the "soap gene". It tastes fresh and bright and herbal. Not terribly dissimilar to parsley or basil. (I'd probably rank it somewhere between the two in terms of intensity of flavor.) It has absolutely no resemblance to soap, to me.

I understand intellectually that it tastes like soap/not food to certain people because genetics, but no, in my book it's not an acquired taste or something that people who had actually tasted well-seasoned food before would dislike without that particular gene. I suppose it's possible to dislike all herbs, but yeah, if you have a particular aversion to cilantro, you probably have The Gene.
posted by Sara C. at 10:30 AM on September 12, 2016

I love cilantro. Both of my parents taste cilantro as soapy. They were once at a restaurant and couldn't figure out why the soup tasted like the bowls weren't rinsed clean of soap. It contained cilantro.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 10:31 AM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

To this cilantro lover, cilantro does not taste at all like licorice. I despise the sickening taste of licorice and anise. Cilantro is lovely and completely different.
posted by Redstart at 10:39 AM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

I actually LIKE cilantro in some dishes and still think it tastes somewhat soapy, although I've been able to get rid of that association somewhat over time. It's not that it tastes different, but I'm able to think of it more as "soapy dishes taste kind of like cilantro" rather than the other way around. I am from a culture that tends to use more cilantro and it's seriously inconvenient to avoid it. Getting used to it literally took years, starting from Chipotle's lime-cilantro rice and working up from there? It's been weird. I would never eat it alone, but in decent Mexican food it blends well enough with everything else.

It definitely tastes like soap tastes, not like how soap smells.
posted by Sequence at 10:41 AM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Wow. I can't say as I've had anyone's experiences with cilantro as written here!

To me it tastes like spicy watermelon if watermelon were just a little pinch of spicy and watery instead of really sweet and watery. It smells nothing like soap to me. Like not even close. To me it smells fresh, crisp, and like something delicious will be in my mouth soon but not soon enough!
posted by zizzle at 10:52 AM on September 12, 2016

I LOVE cilantro, but I can't really compare it to anything else. It just has this amazing, wonderful full-bodied taste. To me there is no such thing as too much cilantro.
posted by MsMolly at 10:54 AM on September 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

I assume I have the soap-taste gene because I can detect the smallest amount of cilantro in any dish and I absolutely hate it. I can't eat something if it has even just a small amount of cilantro in it, it really does ruin the whole thing for me. My mom is the same. We once went to a restaurant and ordered fajitas. Both the rice and salsa had cilantro in them (not mentioned in the menu) and we both ended up not eating at all, it made us feel that gross.

Ugh. I would rather eat soap.
posted by gursky at 10:55 AM on September 12, 2016

It's never tasted soapy to me. I adore it, can't get enough. Fortunately, my close friends all feel the same, because I use it a lot in cooking. To me, it just tastes very green, fresh, a bit zesty, and it pairs great with lime. It's the same plant coriander comes from, so maybe a bit of that spice, too.
posted by mmw at 11:10 AM on September 12, 2016

I am Hispanic and have the soap gene and it is AWFUL to be repulsed by so much of your ethnicity's cuisine due to just 1 ingredient.

Cilantro is the intersection of all the worst flavor (and smell) profiles that make up anise, bug spray, and soap.

I cannot suss out the "citrus parsley" taste that is so often described to me, despite enjoying both of those individual components and having an otherwise pretty refined and wide palette/ sense of smell.
posted by Wossname at 11:22 AM on September 12, 2016 [3 favorites]

I used to hate cilantro as a kid, even though I was never a particularly picky eater and ate mostly everything. I'm also half Indo-Pak, so cilantro was EVERYWHERE - I was sensitive to the taste/smell and hated it so, so much. It never tasted soapy to me though - just strong and kind of spicy. More "gross earthy dirty zesty spicy" rather than spicy-spicy. It has never tasted bitter to my buds, as I've never really liked bitter things (tomatoes and grapefruits are things I classify as "bitter" and don't like for those reasons).

Somehow my tatebuds changed, and now I love cilantro! Cilantro can get in my belly any time it wants to and I'll welcome it always.
posted by raztaj at 11:26 AM on September 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Thank you the person who said plastic upthread! I just described to my non-soap-gene partner how it tastes to soap-gene me: like if you had a plastic bag of salad and you washed it, except you washed the actual bag with dish soap and then ate that instead of the leaves. Definitely not food.
posted by lokta at 11:35 AM on September 12, 2016 [5 favorites]

To me cilantro just has a distinct taste of "not-food". Not exactly like soap or perfume, but triggers the same response as when you get a bit of one of those in your mouth.

I also think I read somewhere that whether you get the anti-cilantro gene from one or both parents affects how strong the reaction is. I assume it's only one parent for me, because I can tolerate it, but do NOT enjoy it. (I always forget to ask my parents their opinions on cilantro.)
posted by catatethebird at 11:38 AM on September 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

Tastes like copper and soap. Blech. I can't even stand the smell of cilantro.
posted by Stonkle at 11:48 AM on September 12, 2016 [2 favorites]

The first time I had cilantro was over 15 years ago, in homemade salsa at a friend's place. I was about to spit it out and say that the dish had gone moldy - I had the same immediate reaction as I would have had if I'd bitten into a piece of cheese or bread that had gone off. But everyone around the table was raving about how fresh and zesty the salsa was, so I shut up and washed it down with an extra beer. I've managed to tune down my revulsion in the years since, but the whole DO NOT WANT reaction is just wired into my brain.

Yet I love all sorts of blue cheese. How does that work?
posted by hangashore at 12:29 PM on September 12, 2016

I think cilantro is vile and I can see why people call it "soapy" but that's not what it tastes like to me. To me it's aggressively grassy and kinda sour, to the point of almost being chemical or metallic. Yes, I see why the lovers call it "zesty" and "fresh", but to me it's like an experimental "zestyfresh" flavour that was designed in an evil lab. Kind of like chewing on a handful of grass, tinfoil, pennies, scary beetles, and a spritz of lemon. I can taste just the smallest fragment of it, and it pretty much ruins everything
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:35 PM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

It tastes like a poisonous weed (jimpson weed, smart weed, etc) smells.
posted by 445supermag at 12:44 PM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Cilantro tastes like soap and my body reacts to it like it's a mild poison. The taste is like, "what the f are you doing eating this poisonous non-food?" and then I get bloating and abdominal pains. I hate the vile weed. Hate. Hate. I understand that others love it, and good for them! Yay! But for me, nooooooooo.
posted by Pearl928 at 12:44 PM on September 12, 2016

It tastes like soap in the same way as if you liberally spritzed the dish with bathwater that five-year-old you had turned milky with a bar of Ivory soap pretending it was a battleship.

I wish it didn't.
posted by skyl1n3 at 1:35 PM on September 12, 2016

I noticed it in my food in Thailand (years ago) and, wow, what's this soapy stuff? But, gradually I stopped noticing it and shortly thereafter I realized I LOVE the taste. I'll eat it by itself--if only it wasn't so difficult to grow! But one of my favorite meals is boiling a chicken for broth with carrots and a whole fistful of cilantro.

So it's possible to grow to like it.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 1:35 PM on September 12, 2016

I absolutely hate the taste of it, but wouldn't describe it as soap-like. It doesn't taste like anything else to me. Just horribleness. If you have your DNA analysed on 23andme.com, one of the things they test for is the "cilantro tastes like soap" gene. Mine was negative.
posted by intensitymultiply at 1:46 PM on September 12, 2016

I love cilantro. To me it tastes very very fresh, but in a way that doesn't really taste like food. It tastes like my swimming pool growing up would smell when I first jumped into the water. I love it.
posted by ilovewinter at 2:23 PM on September 12, 2016

Oh, how I love cilantro. As much as I really dislike black licorice, which it resembles not at all. (I do like milder licorice like tastes such as anise and fennel, but not a lot.)

Nor does cilantro taste the least like soap.

I think this description from an earlier commenter is good to summarize cilantro's flavor in my mouth: a long flavor that changes as I eat it, beginning with a grassy taste, getting kind of lemony almost, some metallic notes, a long undercurrent of bitterness and then a lingering savory flavor, almost how salt makes other flavors taste more themselves

But much as I like bitter, I don't pick up the undercurrent of bitterness. I'd say cilantro tastes of grass and mint, with a lemony tang mixed with metal, and a final savoriness/sourness. And it is an indispensable addition, for those of us who love it, to many dishes. I just added it last night to a truly wonderful spicy hot Thai shrimp vegetable stew. It is perfect with Vietnamese food, a lot of Mexican food, and much much more.

I am always respectful of those who hate cilantro, as I know they don't taste what I do, but if you like it, what a wonderful herb.
posted by bearwife at 2:30 PM on September 12, 2016 [1 favorite]

Pretty much tastes to me like if you just washed your hands, didn't realize you didn't get all the soap off, and then decided to eat a fry or something. Weird filmy aftertaste.

I can stand to eat the stuff if I have to in mild amounts, but anything super filled with it is like eating the soap bar entirely.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:38 PM on September 12, 2016

I am a cilantro soap taster, although I can tolerate it in small amounts, in large amounts it genuinely tastes like someone didn't rinse the soap off the dish or pot it's in. As in it literally tastes like soap.
posted by biscotti at 5:40 PM on September 12, 2016

Slightly late to the party, but here's my experience:

Cilantro doesn't taste like *soap* to me, per se. Or at least not Dove or any kind of soap you put on your body. It's more... fume-y. The taste/smell wafts into my sinus cavity and actually kind of burns. Like, when you walk into a recently cleaned public bathroom and you can tell they didn't dilute their cleaning fluid. Or what I imagine taking a big huff of bleach would be. It makes your eyes water.

I've also likened it to the sensation of when you get a surprise pop on the nose. Or, best case, a particularly stubborn sneeze. For a few milliseconds you're pins and needles waiting for the pain or the sneeze. But the pain or sneeze of Cilantro never comes—rather it just kind of wears off. No climatic event!

Now make that feeling vaguely herbal-smelling.

So yeah, it doesn't really have a flavor so much as an overwhelming... fume-like sensation, very much in my sinuses.

Argh, it's the worst.
posted by functionequalsform at 6:32 PM on September 12, 2016

I mildly dislike cilantro. It tastes metallic. I'll eat dishes with it included but don't use it when I cook. My parents used it in many recipes when I was growing up.
posted by azalea_chant at 7:09 PM on September 12, 2016

Nthing that it tastes like soap to me, as if you took shavings off a bar of soap and sprinkled it in. I can tolerate it in dishes where it's not the main flavor, but I always prefer without, even in dishes that "need" it. If it's the dominant flavor, I cannot eat it.
posted by Aleyn at 9:47 PM on September 12, 2016

A friend of mine insists it tastes like battery acid (after having unfortunately tasted battery acid when much younger & somehowmaking a connection there). Interesting to see the discussions about the soapy flavour!
posted by Under the Sea at 5:25 AM on September 13, 2016

Chiming in to second the stinkbug comment upthread, not a descriptor I see too often but that's exactly it for me. We are not alone!
posted by miratime at 1:06 PM on September 13, 2016

Fourth-ing that you would know it if it tasted "soapy."

I find that fresh cilantro tastes extremely soapy to me. Approx like parsley + the bitter taste of unscented Ivory soap + a tiny metallic hint to it. BUT, if it's been crushed up and has sat out for a while (i.e. in guacamole), it LOSES the soap taste to me. In this state it tastes completely different. The only way I can describe it is richly vegetal with a touch of bright parsley flavor. These nuances are completely overwhelmed by the soapy metal taste when fresh though.
posted by Chicoreus at 3:40 PM on September 14, 2016

My Italian neighbors mentioned that their family can't stand the smell of cilantro because when they smelled it for the first time, they were reminded of the odor of the cimice ("chimi-chay") beetle back home in Verona. They did not mention soap. When I look up that insect, I get results for this one, Palomena Prasina.

I have to wonder if "cimice" is the root of the cilantro-dependent "chimichurri," sauce. It sounds more plausible than it being from the Basque for "mix of things in no particular order."
posted by oxisos at 5:30 PM on September 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

My dad hates it, but I'm not sure he's a soap-taster because he will tolerate small amounts in good Mexican food and the soap-tasters I have known reject the dishes my dad likes in spite of their cilantro content.

He still might be. I am definitely a soap-taster, yet over time I have come to tolerate — tolerate —small amounts of it. I never think anything is better with cilantro than it would be without, but I've gotten to the point that small amounts of cilantro don't make a dish completely inedible.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:44 AM on September 18, 2016

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