Parmesan cheese may taste like pineapple due to methyl butyrate, a natural compound that develops as the cheese ages. This ester can produce a fruity aroma, tricking the taste buds into perceiving a pineapple flavor, especially in high-quality, aged Parmigiano Reggiano.
What Makes Parmesan Taste Like Pineapple?
You may have noticed that sometimes parmesan tastes like pineapple, which is a bit odd and unexpected!
It should have a sharp, tangy flavor with a very distinct smell.
The odor of parmesan cheese sometimes puts people off, as it can be likened to sweaty feet or even vomit!
However, there is a connection between the pineapple taste and the more unpleasant smell.
They are both caused by a chemical compound called methyl butyrate.
It is also known as an ester and is present in many foods.
What smell is present in the parmesan depends on the concentration level of the compound; it is responsible for both odors.
Our sense of smell is connected to our tastebuds.
So, your parmesan does not taste of pineapple; the fruity smell is tricking your brain.
It’s the same with the sweaty feet odor, the parmesan doesn’t taste like that; otherwise, nobody would eat it!
However, you don’t always get that whiff of pineapple, only occasionally.
It depends on the age and the quality of the parmesan.
For example, the highest quality parmesan is Parmigiano Reggiano, and this is more likely to be fruity.
If you were fortunate enough to be able to visit the manufacturing company in Italy, the smell of pineapple would be quite strong.
Particularly when they cut open a wheel of parmesan that has been maturing for several years.
The older the parmesan, the more likely it is to have that perceived pineapple taste.
Do Artificial Chemicals Make Parmesan Taste Like Pineapple?
Having established that it is a chemical compound that makes parmesan taste like pineapple, is there anything else involved?
You may be surprised to learn that there are 50 different chemicals in Parmesan.
Of course, that doesn’t mean they have been introduced artificially.
For example, there are naturally occurring high levels of chloride, potassium, and sodium, and these make the cheese salty.
The ester that adds the pineapple taste can also make parmesan taste like strawberries or other fruits.
There may also be acetyl aldehyde in parmesan, and this would give it a green apple flavor.
We have already mentioned methyl butyrate, also known as butyric acid.
Interestingly it got its name from the Latin word butyrum, meaning butter, as the chemical was first extracted from rancid butter!
It’s a by-product of fermentation, so in other words, it occurs as the parmesan cheese ages.
So, the longer a parmesan cheese is aged, the higher the probability it will taste like pineapple.
You Are Using the Wrong Parmesan Cheese
The taste of pineapple in parmesan cheese is due to the presence of methyl butyrate, or butyric acid.
This is a chemical compound that creates the odor of pineapple (or sweaty feet!) as the cheese ages.
It is more likely to be found in high-quality parmesan, such as Parmigiano Reggiano, which is aged for a long time.
The parmesan does not taste like pineapple; the odor of the cheese tricks the tastebuds.
I do hope you enjoy your fruity parmesan!
Of course, it can also reflect other flavors, such as when Parmesan has a taste of blue cheese.
How does the surprising taste of pineapple in Parmesan cheese affect your perception of its flavor and potential uses in dishes?
Let us know in the comments below!