The Quick Report

Everyone Agrees: The 10 Most Offensive Food Smells

Blue Cheese - Adobe Stock
Blue Cheese – Adobe Stock

Who doesn’t love the smell of stinky cheese or rotten eggs before dinner?! Our sense of smell is a powerful tool, capable of evoking strong emotions and memories. But, while many foods delight the senses, there are certain odors that can certainly deter even the bravest of eaters. From the pungent to the putrid, here are the 10 most offensive food smells out there.


Durian - Adobe Stock
Durian – Adobe Stock

The durian, known as the “king of fruits,” smells like a mixture of onions and gym socks. Sounds delightful, right?! In fact, while some adore its custardy flesh, others are repelled by its overpowering stench. Did you know there are bans on durian in public transportation and hotels in certain regions?!


Surströmming - Wikipedia
Surströmming – Wikipedia

Hailing from Sweden, surströmming is a fermented Baltic herring known for its incredibly pungent odor. Described as a mix of rotten eggs, ammonia, and pungent cheese, even seasoned foodies may find its aroma challenging to endure.


Natto - Adobe Stock
Natto – Adobe Stock

A traditional Japanese dish made from fermented soybeans, natto’s distinctive smell has been likened to a combination of ammonia and old socks. While beloved by some for its unique flavor and health benefits, its intense smell can be off-putting to the uninitiated.

Limburger Cheese

Limburger Cheese - Adobe Stock
Limburger Cheese – Adobe Stock

Originating from Belgium, Limburger cheese is notorious for its very strong smell, often described as something between sweaty feet or dirty socks. But, despite its assertive smell, some cheese lovers appreciate its creamy texture and tangy flavor.

Century Egg

Century Egg - Adobe Stock
Century Egg – Adobe Stock

A delicacy in Chinese cuisine, century eggs are preserved in a mixture of clay, ash, salt, quicklime, and rice hulls for up to several months. It then turns into a gelatinous egg with a strong odor of sulfur and ammonia. Yeah, I think I’ll pass.


Balut - Adobe Stock
Balut – Adobe Stock

A popular street food in the Philippines, balut is a fertilized duck egg containing a partially developed embryo. No, I’m not kidding! While some love it for its rich flavor and texture, the smell can be off-putting to those unaccustomed to its unique scent.


Hákarl - Adobe Stock
Hákarl – Adobe Stock

Considered a delicacy in Iceland, hákarl is fermented shark meat with a smell reminiscent of ammonia and urine. Gross! The smell is actually a result of a traditional preservation process that involves burying the shark meat underground for several months.


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Blue Cheese

Blue Cheese - Adobe Stock
Blue Cheese – Adobe Stock

Known for its distinctive blue veins and pungent aroma, blue cheese is a divisive delicacy beloved by some and reviled by others. Its strong smell, reminiscent of mold, is the result of the mold cultures used in its production.

Stinky Tofu

Stinky Tofu - Adobe Stock
Stinky Tofu – Adobe Stock

A popular street food in many East Asian countries, stinky tofu is fermented tofu with a strong, smell of rotting garbage and sewage. But, despite its off-putting scent, its crispy exterior and creamy interior are prized by those who appreciate its unique flavor.

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Fermented Fish

Fermented Fish - Adobe Stock
Fermented Fish – Adobe Stock

Found in various forms across different cultures, fermented fish dishes are known for smelling of rotting seafood and ammonia. While beloved by some for their umami-rich flavor, the intense smell of fermented fish can be overwhelming to those unaccustomed to it.

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