Why Does Brie Smell Like Cabbage? (Explained!)

Brie is undoubtedly a popular cheese and one of my particular favorites.

But occasionally, you may have noticed something peculiar about it – the smell of cabbage!

Clearly, that’s not normal for cheese, so what is happening here?

What causes brie to smell like cabbage or, sometimes, broccoli or cauliflower?

Is it some kind of bacteria or chemical?

Or does it develop naturally, and is it actually a good thing?

Can we still eat brie if it has the odor of cabbage, or does it mean it has gone off?

Let’s get to the smelly truth about brie and cabbage!

The smell of cabbage emanating from brie is perfectly normal and develops during the aging process. It can also be compared to the odor of broccoli or cauliflower. It does not mean that the brie has gone off; it is still safe to consume. The smell intensifies when the cheese is wrapped and may lessen when exposed to air. Unless the brie smells of ammonia, which indicates it has gone bad, any other odor is acceptable. Connoisseurs of cheese actively seek out brie that smells of cabbage, as it can indicate that the chees has been made with raw milk and not pasteurized.   

Why Does Brie Smell?

Brie, much like other cheeses, does have its own peculiar smell.

If you typically buy your cheese from the supermarket, it will perhaps be not as strong and have a buttery, earthy smell.

But many people would argue that this is not true brie, as found in France.

It will have been pasteurized to meet overseas regulations and not have been processed the traditional way with raw milk.

So, any smell from the brie won’t be overly offensive.

But a true brie should smell of cabbage, it is perfectly natural.

Or perhaps of cauliflower or broccoli, they are all from the same family.

Bacteria are often added during the cheesemaking process, which can account for the smell, and this is certainly the case with brie.

As you will be aware, brie has a fluffy, white rind, and this is a result of the addition of Penicillium candidum, which encourages mold to develop. 

This bacteria also contribute to the odor of the brie, as it produces compounds such as ammonia, alcohols, and aldehydes.

If too much is added, it takes the smell from being flavorsome to deeply unpleasant.

And if there is an overpowering odor of ammonia, then the brie could have gone off and should not be consumed.

Sulfur compounds will also be present, and we all know how bad that type of smell can be, particularly if eating cabbage or onions gives you an unfortunate side effect!

Brie Pairings and Serving Suggestions

Of course, if your brie is meant to smell of cabbage, how can you pair it with other foods?

Surely, it will overpower everything with its pungent odor?

Surprisingly, brie works well with many different food items, especially when served as part of a cheese board.

It goes without saying that you can serve brie with crackers, fruit, and nuts. 

How about cooking brie, it is delicious when served warm!

I actually prefer it to baked Camembert.

A great alternative lunch is to pop the brie inside filo pastry to give a nice contrast between the crunch and the soft cheese.

Cheese 101: All About Brie

My Thoughts

  • It’s not a problem if brie smells of cabbage or other vegetables, such as cauliflower or broccoli
  • Despite the odor, it is safe to consume and is actually a desirable characteristic of the cheese
  • The smell develops as part of the aging process when bacteria are added
  • Keeping the brie wrapped intensifies the smell, and it lessens on exposure to air
  • An overpowering odor of ammonia means that the cheese has gone bad 

Let me know what you think, would the smell of cabbage put you off eating the brie?

And on a similar subject, you may wish to find out about the smell of feta cheese!

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