Why Do Some Cheeses Smell Like Feet?

Why Do Some Cheeses Smell Like Feet? - Cheese Origin

The cheese rind is home to a host of microorganisms such as yeasts, bacteria, and molds.

Some cheeses smell like feet because they have the same bacteria (particularly Brevibacterium linens) living on human feet.

The Brevibacterium linens aka the red yeasts found on cheeses like Limburger, produce methanethiol, a sulfur compound whose volatility and odor are extremely pungent.

Also read: Why Do Some Cheeses Have Holes?

10 Cheeses That Smell Like Feet

Many people indulge in smelly cheeses including us.

These are our top 10 favorite cheeses that smell like feet (I have no idea how to make it sound not weird… but yeah, smell ‘bad’ but taste extremely good):

Cheese NameDescription
LimburgerOriginating from Belgium, this semi-soft cow’s milk cheese is infamous for its foot-like smell. Today, it is mostly produced in Germany and is known for its pungent odor.
EpoissesOne of Napoleon’s favorite cheeses, Epoisses is renowned as one of the smelliest cheeses in the world. Its repulsive odor is a result of the unique bacteria used during fermentation.
Vieux BoulogneThis cheese was named the world’s smelliest cheese by researchers at Cranfield University. It’s even banned from public transportation in France due to its strong odor.
BossaA semi-soft, pasteurized, spreadable cheese with a meaty flavor and floral undertones. Its smell comes from the specific ripening and washing process used in its production.
Boulette d’AvesnesKnown for its pungent smell, this cheese is part of the list of the world’s smelliest cheeses.
Good ThunderA stinky cheese known for its strong odor, Good Thunder is washed in beer during its ripening process, contributing to its unique smell.
HooliganAs the name suggests, this cheese has an unruly, powerful scent. Hooligan is a standout on any list of smelly cheeses.
Stinking BishopMade outside London, this cheese is washed in fermented pear juice, giving it a distinctive, potent smell that’s often compared to feet.
OuleoutThis American cheese is known for its powerful aroma. The smell is a product of the bacterial cultures used in its creation.
U PecorinuA cheese from Corsica, U Pecorinu is known for its strong smell, which comes from the sheep’s milk and the particular ripening process used.

So, while these cheeses might smell like feet, remember that their unique aromas are a big part of what gives them their distinctive flavors. Embrace the stink and enjoy!

What Are Brevibacterium linens?

Brevibacterium linens are harmless bacteria that can be found on people’s skin.

Their role in the human body is crucial because they eat up cell skins that have died.

Normally, these bacteria do not produce much of an odor because there aren’t too many of them.

However, when your feet are warm and moist (imagine wearing your favorite shoes the entire day), your feet sweat.

Sweat contains salt and these bacteria absolutely love munching on salt. It is like a buffet party and mass orgy for bacteria. A perfect breeding ground.

As a result, small numbers of Brevibacterium linens will quickly become a whole army of Brevibacterium linens.

Like any living thing that eats (what goes in has to come out), these bacteria do produce their own waste and it is their waste that ultimately gives off a very pronounced smell.

Is it OK if my cheese smells like feet?

Yes, it’s entirely normal for some cheeses to smell like feet. However, if you notice a change in the smell of your cheese from when you first purchased it, it could be a sign that the cheese is spoiling.

Always check for visible signs of mold (apart from the ones that are supposed to be there, like in blue cheeses), and trust your senses when determining whether a cheese is still safe to eat.

Why Don’t All Cheeses Smell the Same?

Cheeses are made up of many different microorganisms. Different bacteria produce different chemicals which ultimately result in different textures, aromas, and tastes.

To put it another way, cheeses can have major differences in odors and flavors even when made from the exact same milk.

This is what makes every cheese unique and the ‘cheesy’ journey such an interesting endeavor.

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