Ina Garten, the host of Barefoot Contessa on Food Network and author of 12 cookbooks, has been teaching us how to become better cooks for nearly two decades. From creamy dreamy, make-ahead mashed potatoes, to prosciutto e melone, Garten is always delivering her fans their next go-to meal!
But, despite giving her viewers a deeper appreciation of the culinary arts, we also learned that Garten, like some of us, has a picky side. While Garten prefers to use fresh, simple ingredients, there’s one herb she absolutely hates. Even though she recognizes other cooks may like it, she believes it dominates over other flavors in any dish, no matter what you do.
The One Food, That Is Never Good
Garten’s never-eat list is rather small, consisting of just one item. On an episode of Munchies podcast, Garten confessed she hates cilantro. Garten said, “Hate it!” explaining, “I know people love it, and you can add it to the recipe. I just hate it. To me it’s so strong—and it actually tastes like soap to me—but it’s so strong it overpowers every other flavor.”
Garten even expressed disgust with the soapy herb in a TIME interview, saying, “Cilantro. I just won’t go near it.” Though Garten’s dislike of the citrusy, fresh herb may seem extreme to many, it isn’t completely out of place. Besides brightening up tacos, guacamole, and soups, the herb can taste disagreeable depending on who is eating it.
Why Cilantro Tastes Like Soap To Some
“When cilantro is in something, that’s all I can taste. Everything else goes away,” Garten admitted. Garten, therefore, develops recipes that often call for cilantro without it, such as her cilantro-free guacamole salad.
However, before cilantro lovers get too sensitive, they should know Cornell University researchers discovered that, in fact, people can be genetically predisposed to dislike cilantro. In addition, those who have that specific trait will perceive cilantro to taste soapy.
Research has found that people who perceive cilantro as having a soapy flavor have a common smell-receptor gene cluster called OR6A2. If you are interested in finding out if this causes your dislike for cilantro, you can take a simple test. Moreover, the DNA testing service, 23andMe, offers an at-home test that lets you determine if the OR6A2 gene is to blame for the soapy taste of cilantro.
Even so, cilantro can always be easily replaced with other ingredients that help make dishes fresher and more vibrant. When a recipe calls for cilantro, try fresh basil, parsley, or chives. You might also want to add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice.