The Chemistry of Food Aromas

Plant-Chem-2 aromas-v5

All the complex aromas associated with cooking are caused by an ensemble of volatile (small) organic molecules that typically arise from plant material or cooking. As can be seen in the figure above, characteristic aromas arise from small organic molecules with a characteristic functional group: e.g. “fruity” = lactones; “green” = long chain-aldehydes or alcohols; “spicy” = phenols; etc.


  1. McGee, Harold. 1984. On Food and Cooking. New York, NY. Scribner pp. 272-274,389-400.
  2. Potter, Jeff. 2010. Cooking for Geeks: Real Science, Great Hacks, and Good Food. O’Reilly Media



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