Why some people like coriander and others think it tastes like soap, according to science

While Marmite is known for its slogan – you either love it or hate it – there seems to be one other ingredient that divides foodies just as much, if not more.

And that, my friends, is coriander.

While some enjoy adding the herb to as many meals as possible, others are disgusted by the stuff and believe it ruins any dish it’s in, making it taste soapy and inedible.

I am firmly in the latter category, being a coriander hater, which may make you think I’m a ‘fussy eater’, but it turns out this actually isn’t the case.

Apparently, there’s a scientific reason why some people dislike coriander (or cilantro, as it’s also known) and it’s partly to do with their genes.

Back in 2012, statistical geneticist Nicholas Eriksson and his team discovered that there’s a “genetic component to cilantro taste perception and suggest that cilantro dislike may stem from genetic variants in olfactory receptors”.

This research was published by Cornell University and concluded that receptor genes known as the OR6A2 cluster could be contributing to the “detection of a soapy smell from cilantro”.

Following this, DNA testing company, 23andme did some research into whether or not loving coriander (known as cilantro in the US) is a “genetic trait”.

They asked around 50,000 of their customers whether they liked or disliked the taste of coriander.

The company then compared the DNA of those who liked and disliked and agreed a genetic variation they believe to be associated with those who consider it soapy-tasting.

They shared their findings in a blog post, writing: “Cilantro’s aromatic qualities primarily depend on a group of compounds known as aldehydes. One type of aldehyde has been described as being ‘fruity’ and ‘green’ and another type as being ‘soapy’ and ‘pungent’.

“One of the eight genes near the SNP we identified codes for a receptor called OR6A2, which is known to detect aldehydes such as those found in cilantro. Although this finding provides evidence that genetic variation in olfactory receptors is involved in cilantro taste perception, common genetic variants explain only a very small part of the difference – a half per cent – between 23andMe customers for this trait.”

According to The Telegraph, around 10 per cent of the population are affected by the OR6AC gene variant and it is thought to be more common in women and those of European descent.

If all of this wasn’t enough to convince you, Professor Russell Keast, who specialises in sensory and food science at Deakin University’s School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences, has also shared his thoughts on our genetic make-up and the coriander love/hate debate.

In a post on the university’s website, he explained: “We have smell receptors in our nose that are responsible for identifying volatile compounds in the atmosphere, including volatile compounds released from potential foods.

“Sense of smell is highly variable between people, so what I experience may not be what you experience, and this can be due to quantity, type and natural variations with smell receptors.”

So there you have it, folks. You’re not necessarily being picky when it comes to coriander – there could be a legitimate scientific reason for your hatred.

I, for one, feel pretty vindicated.