Chicken Cilantro Disaster

The friendliest place on the web for anyone that enjoys cooking.
If you have answers, please help by responding to the unanswered posts.


Senior Cook
Apr 11, 2010
Tarlac City, Philippines
So it happened tonight......

It doesn't happen often. Most of the time when I try something new, experiment and alter recipes on the fly the results range from acceptable to outstanding. But every once in a while, like 2 times a year on average, I try something that just totally and completely bombs. So bad that my husband can't even finish it. :LOL:

I don't know what happened, I have a couple theories about what's wrong with this recipe. I happened to find fresh cilantro in the store tonight, something I've been hunting since my arrival in the Philippines. So I bought a bundle to use for some fresh guacamole. But I had more than I needed for that and knew it would spoil quickly, so I looked up a recipe to try. I went for this:

Creamy Cilantro Chicken with a Kick Recipe -

Now, for starters, the sauce (which I made exactly as prescribed except I added more garlic because....well....yeah) did not look ANYTHING like this picture, it was bright green. But I taste tested it before I put in the chicken for marinade and it seemed flavorful, didn't think there was any problem except that it was, perhaps, a bit sweet.

The only thing I added to the recipe apart from extra garlic was some diced tomatoes and fresh sliced advocado (I had cut some up the other day that wasn't quite ripe enough for guac but I didn't want to waste it and thought it would work in this capacity). I've made pasta dishes with chicken, advocado and tomatoes before and it's super tasty, so I didn't think this would be a problem.

On first bite it was pretty good, but after a few bites a terrible bitter aftertaste formed. Hubby suspects the "not ready for prime time advocado", I suspect it was both the advocado and the coconut milk the recipe calls for.

The seasonings would've been very good if I'd just tossed the chicken with some olive oil, I think. But the coconut milk seemed to interact badly with one or more ingredients.

What do you guys think? And if I had to make this again, what would you recommend as the "base" for the marinade besides the coconut milk? Seems like something "citrusy" would do better, but not sure what.
As far as the bitterness is concerned, is there any chance your grated lime zest had a bit of pith?
As far as the bitterness is concerned, is there any chance your grated lime zest had a bit of pith?
Possible, but, I can't get limes here and used some calamansi from my garden, which are these tiny round fruits that look like baby oranges but are tart like lemons & limes and used as such. I actually couldn't get much zest out of it. I did squeeze the juice into it to make up for the missing zest.....but we're talking about something that's the size of a large grape. Could that have been enough to make the whole mix bitter?
In that case I would be less inclined to believe that was the cause of the bitterness. Stil a light possibility, but probably not.
I think it's too much cilantro. I thought I liked it until I added too much once and it completely turned me off of using it at all.

I've never gotten too much parsley, so I stick with that.
Sometimes cilantro can have an unpleasantly bitter taste, particularly when cooked. My guess would be too much cilantro and/or overcooking it. I always add cilantro at or near the end of the cooking process. I note that your recipe called for simmering the marinade for only 5 minutes to make the sauce. Did you cook it for longer than this?
I bet one of ingredients simply was not good. Because the recipe sounds good, ok I would not cook chicken breast that long. Did I read recipe right, is it what it's called for, but that has nothing to do with bitterness.
Cooked avocados absolutely can be bitter, so that would be my first guess.

I've never found cilantro to be bitter ever, even when cooked and I cook with it A LOT.

Other things than can sometimes be bitter are garlic and citrus juice, depending on how old they are. I try to taste my garlic and my lime juice before I dump them in (when I remember).

If you have the inclination, try making it again and add the avocado in at the very end, just to warm up. Or use it as a garnish.
I bet one of ingredients simply was not good. Because the recipe sounds good, ok I would not cook chicken breast that long. Did I read recipe right, is it what it's called for, but that has nothing to do with bitterness.

Recipe called for thighs.;)

Try making it without your "add ins". That will give you a basis for comparison. I know you cant get limes and I nave no substitute to suggest. Other than a bad ingredient as others have mentioned, making the "original" recipe should boil it down to the "add ins" if it turns out good.

Okay I'm thinking it was either the avocados or the cilantro being cooked too long. I'll try it again without the extras as suggested and see how it comes out. Not sure I can convince hubby to give it a second try though. :LOL:

Maybe I can trick him....:glare:

Side note: When he saw the dish last night he thought it was green curry because of the color. To make up for the disaster I made curry for lunch today....extra extra extra spicy like he likes it. :LOL:
Cooking cilantro for 5 min really isn't that long. I cook it in chili practically every weekend in the winter (my SIL needs a turkey chili intervention) and very often in soups and it changes in taste but never to bitter.

Ooh, I just thought of something ... Citrus juice can get bitter if cooked which is why it's added at the end after cooking in so many recipes.

If you have the ingredients, you could make extra marinade and reserve some so that it doesn't touch the chicken to use as a sauce. That way it doesn't have to be cooked.
I am not sure what caused the bitterness (could be an imbalance in the ingredients - soy sauce, cilantro, coconut milk, avacados - seem like a pretty mish mush of stuff to be honest).

I agree with the others that try it as is and then experiment by adding things to it.

Also I make a chicken with cilantro, cream, cashews, garlic, chilies, lime zest, lime juice and ginger and I cook it for a long time and nothing ever goes bitter on me. I have also made curries using cilantro and coconut milk without an issue ever.
The avocados were the only addition to the original recipe, but I too thought the cilantro, soy sauce and coconut milk was an odd combo. The recipe is highly rated, though, and the comments were favorable, so I gave it a shot.

I've reached the conclusion that the cilantro was the culprit, though not necessarily from cooking. I used the same cilantro in a batch of guacamole I made the same evening, which tasted okay (though not as good as batches I've made without cilantro when I wasn't able to buy it). By the next day, however, the guac was forming the same bitter aftertaste that the chicken dish had. The cilantro was the only common ingredient as the avos I used for the guac were purchased on a different day and were all ripe and ready for making guac. The cilantro I used came from the same batch that went into the chicken dish. So whether it was cooking too long or just a bad batch, I feel pretty confident the cilantro was to blame. Maybe I just used too much, dunno. I used the amount called for in the chicken recipe so I'm leaning towards bad batch.
Cilantro, soy sauce and coconut milk is a very common combination in SE Asian recipes. Which is what you made.

Interesting that both the chix and guac were bitter...
I've never had garlic go bitter on me and I cook a LOT of it. This definitely wasn't burned either way. Since the cilantro was producing the same aftertaste in the guac I'm certain it's the culprit, but I still plan on trying it again without the avos and tomatoes added.

Latest posts

Top Bottom