(Cilantro) Black Bean and Lime Chili

Craving something, anything that doesn’t involve poultry and gravy after yesterday’s carb-fest? Contributor Christine Miksis comes to the rescue with a controversial chili.

Who knew the question “Do you like cilantro?” would stir up such a commotion? Certainly not a cilantro lover like me. “Ugh, it tastes like soap. Please don’t put it anywhere near me, let alone in the chili!” one friend sneered upon answering the question. After this open declaration of repulsion towards the Chinese parsley, I started to frequently notice more and more haters.

I was intrigued, and so I Googled. What I found was that the cilantro segregation was much greater than what I had actually suspected. Upon my surprise, writers from the Wall Street Journal, NPR and the New York Times were also intrigued and covered the controversial topic fairly recently due to findings at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, where scientific research on smell and taste is conducted.

Scientists there began a study on the smell and taste of cilantro to figure out why there’s such a fuss over the herb. They were able to separate the different scent components of cilantro for study participants to smell individually, and found that people who dislike cilantro are unable to detect the “pleasant” scent component that those who love cilantro can sniff.

However, people who like cilantro are still able to smell the “soapy, unpleasant” scent component, yet still have an affinity towards the herb. The study concluded that generally the smell determines whether we like or dislike the herb. Specifically, the inability to detect the pleasant scent component of cilantro and only detect the unpleasant soapy one is the reason why certain individuals dislike it.

Whether you’re averse or not, cilantro is a common ingredient on menus in Latin America and Asia. Lovers appreciate its citrusy bite and clean, fresh scent. In the U.S., it is usually associated with Mexican and Southwestern dishes enjoyed in the summer with margaritas. However, I’m happy to pack up the cilantro and transition it over to Snuggie season this November, as I’ve recently discovered it also goes quite well with chili.

cilantro black bean lime chili
My chili recipe has been tweaked and edited over the past two years, but I just recently discovered the addition of cilantro made it perfect. However, this chili can certainly stand alone for those who are anti-cilantro. If you really like the herb, the ingredient combined with a squeeze of lime juice lends a summery dimension to the fall/winter comfort staple, not to mention a pretty pop of color for presentation as well.

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  1. says

    It’s true–people either seem to love or hate cilantro, my father-in-law hates it, but count me in the love category. This recipe looks great. We eat black beans at least twice a week.

  2. says

    I don’t go a week without it. I try to grow it but fail miserably, so I rely on the supermarket. I find the international markets have the best quality and the best price, but I’ll take it wherever I can get it and for all kinds of dishes — from just about any continent. Since I began reading about the love-hate relationship with the herb I have noticed a soapy kind of aroma, but it doesn’t offend me.

    I probably notice it because it’s made so much press in recent months. Otherwise I probably never would have taken notice.

    The chili recipe looks darn good!

  3. says

    I always seem to be out of cilantro. Such a shame too. I always need it for spring rolls and curries, and for the occasional bowl of chili.

  4. says

    Cilantro and coriander are from the same plant. In the US, cilantro is the word used for the leaves and coriander for the seeds. Here in New Zealand, they call all of it coriander, which confused me no end my first few months here. I love a good hit, whatever you call it.

  5. says

    I read somewhere that cilantro is good for you. I love cilantro with chili. Will try this recipe, thanks. And, you are right about enough turkey already …