7 Foods that Smell Awful But Taste So Good

Get ready to explore a surprising array of aromatic delights as we uncover seven smelly foods that offer unexpected health benefits. While their pungent odors may be off-putting to some, these culinary treasures pack a punch when it comes to nourishing the body and enhancing overall well-being. Take a deep breath (and maybe hold it for a second), because these odorous offerings might just become your new favorite health allies!


Durian, revered as the “King of Fruits,” is a beloved delicacy in Southeast Asia, particularly in countries like China, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia. Despite its strong odor, which has been described as similar to rotting onions or turpentine, durian enjoys widespread popularity for its creamy texture and complex flavor profile. Durian is often used in cooking, where it’s added to savory dishes such as curries or stir-fries to impart its unique flavor. Additionally, durian can be blended into smoothies, incorporated into desserts like ice cream or custard, or even used to flavor candies and pastries. Rich in nutrients like vitamin C, potassium, and fiber, durian is believed to support immune function, improve digestion, and promote cardiovascular health.

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Limburger cheese

Hailing from the border regions of Belgium, Netherlands, and Germany, Limburger cheese is notorious for its pungent aroma, a result of the Brevibacterium linens bacteria, the same culprit behind foot odor. This soft cheese is matured in a brine solution, encouraging the growth of this bacteria on its rind. Despite the olfactory challenge, Limburger boasts a creamy texture and a surprisingly mild, slightly nutty flavor. Like many strong cheeses, it’s a good source of protein and calcium, and may even contain probiotics that contribute to gut health. So, if you can overcome the initial hurdle of its smell, Limburger offers a rewarding combination of taste and potential health benefits.

Stinky Tofu

Stinky tofu, a staple of Asian cuisine, is particularly popular in Taiwan, China, and parts of Southeast Asia. Its notorious odor stems from the fermentation process, during which tofu is soaked in a brine containing various ingredients like vegetables, meat, and seafood, allowing beneficial bacteria to develop. Pungent smell aside, stinky tofu is a nutritious food rich in protein, calcium, and beneficial probiotics. It frequently comes fried or steamed and offers a distinct savory flavor and crispy texture that adventurous eaters adore.


Brace yourself for the king of olfactory offenses: Surströmming is a fermented Baltic herring dish from Sweden. This pungent delicacy involves herring being preserved for months in brine, then canned, where the real magic (or horror, depending on your perspective) occurs. Fermentation creates a potent gas that bulges the cans—a warning sign for the adventurous eater! The resulting smell is often likened to rotten eggs or garbage. Its aroma might be overpowering, but Surströmming is very good for you if you care to be brave. It’s packed with protein, vitamin D, and healthy omega-3 fatty acids. However, consuming it requires a strong stomach and a well-ventilated environment—perhaps outdoors, far from any unsuspecting noses!


Kimchi, a traditional Korean dish, holds a cherished place in Korean cuisine and is enjoyed worldwide for its distinctive flavor and health benefits. Made by fermenting vegetables, typically napa cabbage or radishes, with spices like chili pepper, garlic, and ginger, kimchi boasts a tangy, spicy taste. Its fermentation process not only gives kimchi its signature flavor but also enhances its nutritional value, providing a rich source of vitamins, minerals, and probiotics that support gut health and immune function.

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Tempeh, a fermented soybean cake originating in Indonesia, offers a surprising paradox: a mild, nutty flavor nestled within a slightly earthy, almost mushroom-like aroma. Unlike its pungent cheese and fish counterparts, tempeh’s fermentation process utilizes a controlled mold (Rhizopus oligosporus) that doesn’t produce overpowering smells. This gentle fermentation process not only enhances tempeh’s digestibility but also unlocks valuable nutrients. Tempeh is a complete protein source, containing all nine essential amino acids, and boasts a good amount of fiber and prebiotics, promoting gut health. For those seeking a protein-rich, plant-based alternative with a more approachable aroma, tempeh offers a delicious and nutritious option.

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Thai Pla ra

Pla ra is a fermented fish condiment that adds a unique punch to Thai cuisine. Unlike the pungent cheeses or the in-your-face aroma of Surströmming, Pla ra’s smell is more complex. The fermentation process, involving fish, rice bran or roasted rice flour, and salt, creates a pungent but strangely intriguing aroma, often described as funky or fishy with hints of sourness. Despite the bold smell, Pla ra’s flavor profile is surprisingly balanced, offering a salty and umami depth to dishes. This traditional condiment boasts hidden health benefits too. Fermentation enhances protein absorption and may introduce beneficial probiotics that contribute to gut health. Next time you’re feeling bold, explore the intriguing world of Pla ra, a potent package of flavor and potential health benefits.