Why Parmesan Cheese Smells Like Vomit?

Many people find that Parmesan cheese smells like vomit. But what makes it smell that way?

One possible explanation for the vomit-like smell of Parmesan cheese or Parmigiano Reggiano is that it contains high levels of butyric acid. Butyric acid is a compound that has a strong, unpleasant odor and can often be detected in vomit.

The older parmesan will have more butyric acid due to lipolysis (1). For example, the 24 months of parmesan will have more than double the amount of butyric acid than the 12 months aging parmesan.

In particular, the complexity of the bacteria population in parmesan plays an important part in aroma compounds.

What Poison Smells Like Almonds?
What Poison Smells Like Almonds?

It leads to the production of free fatty acids, such as Butanoic, hexanoic, and octanoic acids. These compounds are described as rancid, body sweat, or cheesy smell.

Another reason Parmesan cheese may smell bad is that it contains ammonia.

When the protein breakdown, ammonia may derive from the deamination of amino acids. Ammonia has an intense, pungent smell that is often associated with urine and vomit.


While Parmesan cheese does have a strong odor, it doesn’t always taste bad. In fact, some people say it tastes like pineapple. The reason for this unusual taste may be due to the presence of a compound called furaneol. Furaneol is known for its pineapple or strawberry-like flavor and is often used as a flavoring agent in food.

Despite its strong odor, Parmesan cheese can be a delicious addition to many dishes. If you’re still not sure about trying it, consider opting for a milder variety of cheese such as mozzarella or asiago.

Why does Parmesan cheese smell like plastic?

Fresh parmesan doesn’t normally smell anything like plastic. The cheese might likely be stored for too long in the fridge, contaminated, or spoiled. Please check the signs of parmesan gone bad.


  1. Science Direct – Cheese Aroma
  2. Cheese Science Toolkit – Caramel
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