Certain ingredients can be pretty polarizing. However, some ingredients create culinary conflict on more severe levels than others. Cilantro is a near-nuclear example.
The divisive herb, more formally known as Coriandrum sativum, has been sending taste buds into retreat down esophageal escape tunnels ever since it first began infiltrating recipes. In this case, though, it isn’t as much a matter of preference, but a true genetic predisposition. These certain “cilantrophobes” are unable to avoid tasting a sensation similar to soap whenever they eat anything containing the herb. Scientifically speaking, this is due to their olfactory receptor genes being able to detect the smell of aldehyde chemicals, which are indeed found in both soap and cilantro.
Still, cilantro sneaks its way into anything and everything, often as an attempt to add an epicurean touch. There are plenty of recipes that do politely include cilantro in the name of the dish, but there are also those that just throw it in the ingredients without warning. These inclusions often seem so unnecessary—almost as if the recipe creators are taunting cilantrophobes. Whether the cilantro is included in stealth mode or as a primary ingredient, here are seven recipes with cilantro inclusions so baffling, you’d probably have to be named Cory Ander to enjoy them.
Bubba’s Sloppy Joes (from AllRecipes.com)
Why, Bubba, why? Sloppy joes are known for their simplicity, so this is especially startling. Granted, gourmet barbeque is usually welcome whenever available. But c’mon, crazily combining Greek seasoning, Italian seasoning, hamburger seasoning and cilantro? Joe himself is famously sloppy; he doesn’t care for your artisan ingredients.
Delicious Sweet Potato Fries (from AllRecipes.com)
Dubbing this dish with such a bold adjective certainly seems like a taunt aimed at those who cower from coriander. This recipe seems on track at first with moderate seasoning (just a teaspoon of cumin, half a teaspoon of garlic powder), but then, right at the end, it calls for two terrifying tablespoons of cilantro. Sure, this ingredient is parenthetically noted as being optional, but if you’re gonna taunt like that, just own it. That’s like holding up a sign with a question mark in one hand as the other hand flips a middle finger.
Cream of Cilantro Soup (from Food.com)
How do you make cilantro even more offensive? Cream it! The directions call for two whole bunches of cilantro to be puréed before adding little more than cream cheese and some seasoning. For cilantrophobes, though, the directions might as well read: “Take two bars of hand soap and place in microwave-safe dish. Heat on HIGH for 2 minutes or until creamy consistency is reached. Stir and serve.”
Apple Fritters/Fries (from Feastie)
Imagine a crisp autumn day filled with frolicking through foliage and sipping on pumpkin spice coffee with your best friend. To top off this perfect day, you stop into a cute little cafe for a foodie fall treat. Apple fritters are the obvious choice here because that appeals to the seasonal senses. As you start to take the first bite of these crunchy, sweet delights, you think, “Wow, I can’t think of a better snack on such a day and OH GOD THERE’S CILANTRO IN THESE.” Your dream day has turned into a nightmare. Chickpea batter sounds great, but avoid the cilantro chutney part.
Healthy Garden Salad (from AllRecipes.com)
Of all the healthy things that grow in gardens…this colorful concoction seems like a wonderful, summery side dish up front. Cherry tomatoes, juiced limes, red wine vinegar and corn kernels are among the favorite tastes of the season found in this recipe. But you can practically hear the beach balls popping and the forks collectively dropping at the sight of the 1/3 cup of fresh cilantro that the recipe calls for. Yes, vibrant presentation is important but, the edamame already has the green part covered. Remember, though, there is a cure for the summertime blues—skip the cilantro.
Andrew Carmellini’s Green Grits (from Serious Eats)
Restaurateur and cookbook author Andrew Carmellini admits in his latest cookbook, American Flavor, that as a lifelong Northerner, he doesn’t really have any business reinventing a signature Southern dish like grits. After seeing what he decided to do with the traditional dish, that initial assessment is undeniably true. Still, the New York City chef decided to go green with his grits, creating a cacophony that includes cheeses, butter and one “heaping cup” of cilantro leaves. This recipe might just ignite a second Civil War.
Cilantro Pesto (from Food52)
This might be one of the wildest examples of just how insane the coriander craze has become. Oddly enough, it might also be the most polite, offering seemingly-sincere sympathy to sufferers of cilantrophobia. Food52 contributor Katherine Martinelli probably comes across quite brash seeing as how she’s encouraging home cooks to tamper with Italian tradition by switching the basil base of pesto for cilantro. However, her author’s note includes an acknowledgement not found in these other cilantro-centric recipes as she writes, “If you have that terrible hereditary thing where cilantro tastes like soap, then, well, I’m sorry for you. Everyone else, you’ll love this.” Martinelli seems to care enough to note the partisanship of people’s palettes, making her dish just a little less offensive to all those likely to become nauseated upon just hearing the name of it. Still, cilantro pesto? Wrong, just wrong.
Trevor Courneen is a freelance writer and a contributor to Paste. He is not a cilantrophobe himself, but his girlfriend does suffer from severe cilantropbia. You can tweet kindness or criticism to him @trevorcourneen.