The Smelliest Foods in the World

May 13, 2020

Here are some edibles you may not have heard of…and may not want to go anywhere near.


Native to parts of Asia, the durian is so rank that passengers aren’t allowed to bring them onto the Singapore Mass Transit. With a spiky skin and a taste that’s been likened to fruit-flavored ice cream, the durian’s smell is far worse than its appearance or flavor would let on. Those who know say it smells like a combination of paint thinner, onions, body odor, bad breath, skunk spray, burnt metal, garlic, cheese, honey, and rotting corpses.


This traditional, centuries-old Swedish dish is comprised primarily of herring caught in the Baltic Sea, which has been salted and fermented. Just enough salt is used to prevent the fish from outright rotting, but it apparently certainly still smells like its rotten. Surströmming is left to ferment for six months, concentrating both its acidic taste and powerful odor of fish that has gone very, very bad.


Comparing something odiferous to limburger cheese was a clichéd joke in mid-20th century movies, TV, and stage shows, and with good reason. It ripens from the outside in, making the pungent smell (of cheese and yeast) all the worse. Limburger isn’t as popular as it once was, and a single plant in Monroe, Wisconsin, makes the U.S.’s entire stock of limburger (imagine what that place smells like), which is primarily used for the Midwestern delicacy of a sandwich on pumpernickel bread topped with a mountain of raw onions.

Vieux Boulogne

Amazingly, limburger isn’t even the worst-smelling cheese out there, according to science. An electronic nose is used in clinical and diagnostic situations to check for telltale (and often foul) of urinary tract infections and tuberculosis. One scientist used an electronic nose on Vieux Boulogne, a French cheese made since the 1980s. It tested positive for both of those medical conditions. (Generally, it’s odor is described as evocative of a cow pie.)

Want more stinky stuff? And other superlatively ranked things from around the world? Then you’re going to love The World’s Fastest, Spookiest, Smelliest, Strongest Book, available now from Portable Press.