Strange But True: Bitter Aftertaste from Pine Nuts?

updated May 2, 2019
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Post Image
(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

We’ve been fascinated by a post David Lebovitz recently wrote describing a strange bitter taste every time he ate or drank. The culprit? Some pine nuts he’d eaten days earlier, of all things! Has this ever happened to you?

We’d never heard of this before, but apparently it’s a fairly widespread phenomenon referred to as “pine mouth.” Eat the wrong batch of pine nuts and you’ll taste a phantom bitter or soapy off-flavor in all your foods and beverages. It can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, but doesn’t seem to have any harmful health effects – other than making food taste wrong, of course.

The kicker is that no one seems to know how or why this happens. And why it happens with some pine nuts and not others. Some people point a finger at Chinese pine nuts, a particular variety of pine nut with a higher oil content (according to On Food and Cooking), but there’s no actual evidence supporting this. It’s also possible that the funky pine nuts are old or have oxidized, but again, research has been inconclusive.

It’s also doesn’t seem to be caused by any of the following: food allergies, heavy metals, pesticides, or fungal contamination. Good to know!

While we aren’t exactly thrilled to be rolling the dice every time we eat pine nuts, we also aren’t likely to stop eating them any time soon! Hopefully a research scientist will take pity on all of us poor pine nut lovers and figure out the mystery.

Here are a few more stories about “pine mouth”:

Pine Nut Syndrome on David Lebovitz
Taste Disturbances after Pine Nut Consumption (abstract) from the European Journal of Emergency Medicine
Pine Mouth Revisited on Epicurious
Pine Mouth Puzzle on Mail Online

Do you have a pine nut horror story to share?

(Image: Flickr member Jason Hutchens licensed under Creative Commons)