Feta Cheese: A Sour Experience or a Delicious Delight? (Our Investigation Reveals All)

  • Feta cheese’s distinct sour smell, often described as mildly acidic, does not indicate spoilage and is generally safe to consume, although a strong vinegar-like odor may suggest otherwise
  • The sour odor of feta cheese results from fermentation, where bacteria introduced during its production break down proteins, releasing gas that contributes to its unique smell
  • The type of milk used in making feta (sheep, goat, or cow) can influence the strength of its smell, with goat’s milk leading to a stronger scent
  • Yeast also plays a role in contributing to feta’s aroma by feeding on the cheese’s fatty components and proteins, adding to its distinctive smell
  • Despite its off-putting odor, likened by some to sweaty feet or vomit, feta cheese is perfectly safe to eat and features a creamy, salty taste

What Does Feta Cheese Smell Like?

You must have noticed that feta cheese has a very distinctive smell. 

Some people won’t even try it because the smell is so off-putting.

Or they assume it has gone bad.

It has been variously compared to vomit, smelly socks, or unwashed feet.

Doesn’t exactly make you want to rush out and sprinkle it all over your salad!

However, feta cheese should just have a mildly acidic smell.

And this doesn’t affect the taste, which will be creamy and salty, almost savory. 

It is unlikely to have gone off, as it can last several months in the fridge if unopened.

Or up to five days once opened.

If there is a distinct smell of the vinegar, then this may indicate a problem. 

Always check the use-by date and trust your instinct.

Why Does Feta Cheese Smell Sour?

Many kinds of cheese have their unique smell, but feta is undoubtedly near the top of the list when it comes to unpleasant odors.

So, what causes feta cheese to smell sour?

Feta is a fermented cheese, and that means bacteria are deliberately introduced when it is made.

The bacteria break down the proteins in the cheese, and this, in turn, releases gas. 

It is the gas that smells, not the cheese itself.

The specific bacteria is called brevibacterium linens.

It is similar to Brevibacterium epidermidis, and this is responsible for sweaty armpits and smelly feet!

So, you can see why people make the comparison to how feta smells!

The strength of the smell of feta cheese can also be influenced by which type of milk has been used. 

Traditionally, it should be made with sheep’s milk.

However, if goat’s milk is used, then the smell will be stronger, particularly if it’s something you are not used to. 

In the US, cow’s milk can also be used when making feta, and this will have a much milder smell.

The final element that contributes to the smell of feta cheese is yeast.

The yeast feeds on the fatty components and the proteins in the cheese and releases a peculiar smell.

So, a combination of bacteria, yeast, and unfamiliar milk all add up to give you that unwelcome vomit smell!

Does Cheese Smell Like Body Odor?

My Final Thoughts

Feta cheese has an unusual smell that many people find unpleasant.

It has been compared to sweaty feet or vomit.

However, it is perfectly safe to eat.

The smell is caused by the presence of bacteria.

The type of milk can also affect the smell, particularly if goat’s milk has been used. 

Yeast feeds on the proteins and fats in feta cheese, and again this contributes to the sour odor.

If in doubt as to whether it should be eaten, always check the Use By date.

If the smell has been putting you off, just give it a go!

You may be pleasantly surprised!

If cheesy odors fascinate you, take a look at why mozzarella has a fishy smell.

How do you feel about the odors associated with different cheeses?

Let us know in the comments below!

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