Fishy Cheese? The Surprising Secret of Mozzarella’s Aroma

Decoding the Aroma: When Mozzarella Smells Like Fish

Mozzarella smells fishy due to bacterial breakdown releasing trimethylamine, a compound also found in fish. This usually indicates spoilage, especially if the cheese has been improperly stored or aged, making it unsafe to eat. Fresh mozzarella typically has little to no odor, so a fishy smell is a sign of contamination. Proper storage is crucial to prevent this issue.

What Causes Mozzarella to Smell Like Fish?

If your mozzarella smells like fish, then, unfortunately, that’s never a good sign!

Mozzarella has very little odor at all.

Mozzarella is classed as fresh cheese, it has not been aged.

Some people might even say it tastes of nothing, as well!

At most, the mozzarella would have a slightly salty smell.

But that will have come from the brine it is stored in.

So, if your mozzarella has a very distinctive smell, such as fish or sour milk, it means it has gone bad.

Even if you can’t see any obvious signs of mold, don’t be tempted to eat it.

🧀 Mozzarella Spoilage Timeline 🕒

At Room Temperature2-4 hoursStarts losing freshness quickly
In the Fridge (unopened)Up to 2 weeksBest if consumed within a week
In the Fridge (opened)3-7 daysKeep in an airtight container
Freezer1-2 monthsTexture may change upon thawing
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Not all bacteria are visible to the naked eye.

If you do see any mold, don’t cut off that part and assume that the rest of the cheese will be fine.

Typically, it’s fine to do that with a harder cheese such as Cheddar.

But with mozzarella being such a soft cheese, the bacteria will quickly find its way inside.

You shouldn’t even really take a deep sniff of mozzarella or any other cheese if you suspect it has gone off.

It may have loose bacterial spores, which could go up your nose and cause an upset stomach.

The fish smell is released by the bacteria as it penetrates the cheese and increases in intensity as it takes more hold. 

So, in effect, the bacteria is releasing a gas with an unpleasant smell. 

Can Mozzarella Absorb Odors from Other Food? 

Most cheeses, including mozzarella, can absorb the smell of other foods.

It’s not just food, cheese can take on the smell and taste of laundry products too.

So, the storage of your mozzarella is a key issue.

Unopened mozzarella can last for up to six months.

But once you open the packet, you introduce air and the possibility of bacterial infection.

And now, the cheese can breathe and absorb any smells from its immediate vicinity.

So, if you have any items in your refrigerator that smell of fish, the mozzarella will soon begin to take up that aroma too.

The key to avoiding this is to either wrap the mozzarella very tightly or keep it in an air-tight container.

But how do you know whether the fish smell is from the cheese going bad or simply from being stored near other food?

Well, that’s down to your judgment, sorry to say!

A picturesque oil painting of a plate with fresh mozzarella

Spotting Spoiled Mozzarella: A Guide

Knowing how to tell if mozzarella has gone bad is crucial to enjoying this beloved cheese safely.

The question “How do I know if mozzarella is bad?” often arises when you find a forgotten package in the fridge.

The first indicator is the smell.

Fresh mozzarella should have a mildly milky and creamy aroma.

If you detect a sour or fishy odor, it’s a clear sign that the mozzarella is no longer good.

This is because harmful bacteria, responsible for spoilage, produce gases and chemicals that alter the cheese’s natural scent.

Another method to determine how to tell if mozzarella is bad is by examining its appearance.

Fresh mozzarella is moist, with a soft, slightly elastic texture.

If you notice any mold, a slimy surface, or a yellowish tint, it’s time to throw it away.

While hard cheeses can sometimes be salvaged by cutting away the moldy part, this isn’t safe with soft cheeses like mozzarella, as bacteria can easily spread throughout the cheese.

Lastly, consider the cheese’s taste.

If it’s sour, overly salty, or just tastes ‘off,’ it’s best not to consume it.

Remember, consuming spoiled mozzarella can lead to foodborne illnesses, so when in doubt, it’s safer to discard it.

Being vigilant about these signs ensures you enjoy mozzarella at its best and safeguard your health.

Why Does Cheese Stink?

Final Thoughts

  • Mozzarella can develop a fishy smell due to bacterial infection or when it has gone bad, as fresh mozzarella should have little to no odor, only a slight hint of salt from its brine.
  • The fishy smell in mozzarella is a result of bacterial activity, where bacteria release gases that create an unpleasant odor. This is a clear indication that the cheese should not be consumed.
  • Unlike harder cheeses like cheddar, where you can cut off the moldy part and eat the rest, mozzarella’s soft nature allows bacteria to permeate throughout, making it unsafe to consume even if the mold isn’t visible.
  • Mozzarella can absorb odors from other foods in the refrigerator, including fish, due to its porous nature. Proper storage, such as tight wrapping or using an air-tight container, is essential to prevent this.
  • If mozzarella smells fishy, it’s best to err on the side of caution and discard it to avoid food poisoning, regardless of whether the smell comes from bacterial spoilage or absorption of external odors.

Mozzarella cheese should have no aroma other than a hint of salt.

If it smells of fish, this is an indication that the mozzarella has gone bad.

The cheese needs to be thrown away to avoid food poisoning.

However, mozzarella can also absorb odors from other food.

So, always bear in mind the possibility that it has acquired the smell of fish products in the refrigerator.

To avoid bacterial infection and the absorption of other odors, always wrap the mozzarella tightly when opened.

If in doubt, throw it away.

Stay safe and enjoy your mozzarella responsibly!

If you notice another odor, then check out my article on why mozzarella smells like vinegar.

What will you do next to ensure your mozzarella stays fresh and odor-free?

How do you think this article affects your approach to buying, storing, and consuming mozzarella?

Let us know in the comments below!

A vibrant illustration of a plate with fresh mozzarella


Q: Is it normal for mozzarella to have a fishy smell?
A: No, fresh mozzarella should have a mild, milky scent. A fishy smell indicates spoilage or bacterial infection and should not be consumed.

Q: What causes mozzarella to smell like fish?
A: The fishy smell in mozzarella is often caused by bacterial activity, where gases released by bacteria give off an unpleasant odor. It can also result from absorbing odors from other foods in the fridge.

Q: Can I eat mozzarella that smells slightly fishy?
A: It’s not advisable to eat mozzarella that smells fishy. This is a sign of spoilage, and consuming it can lead to food poisoning.

Q: How should I store mozzarella to prevent it from smelling like fish?
A: Store mozzarella in an air-tight container or tightly wrapped in the fridge to prevent it from absorbing odors from other foods, especially strong-smelling items like fish.

Q: What should I do if my mozzarella smells like fish?
A: If your mozzarella smells fishy, it’s best to discard it. This smell indicates that the cheese is no longer safe to eat.

Q: Can I just cut off the smelly part and eat the rest of the mozzarella?
A: Unlike hard cheeses, mozzarella’s soft texture allows bacteria to spread throughout. It’s not safe to eat any part of a mozzarella that smells off, even if you cut away the affected area.

Q: Does mozzarella’s fishy smell mean it’s contaminated with fish products?
A: No, the fishy smell doesn’t mean the mozzarella is contaminated with fish. It’s a result of bacterial activity or odor absorption from other foods.

A sophisticated black and white photograph of a plate with fresh mozzarella

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