Brow Beat

What Do Human Brains Actually Taste Like? The Flavor of Braaaaaaaaains, Explained.    

Brain on plate.

Photo illustration by Sofya Levina. Images by Jacek Chabraszewski/Shutterstock and Jesada Sabai/Shutterstock

On iZombie, plucky, punnily-named protagonist Liv Moore has her share of struggles. Her biggest, of course, is that she’s now undead, but another major bummer is that being a zombie forces her to eat brains. And unlike the mindless noggin-munchers on The Walking Dead, Liv doesn’t think brains taste very good. This inspires numerous (often Sriracha-soaked) creations that range from creatively fascinating (brain pizza) to downright disgusting (brain Mexican hot chocolate). The more she cooks, the more one might wonder: What do human brains taste like, anyway?

Several books about cannibalism, including Geoffrey Sanborn’s The Sign of the Cannibal, describe the consistency of human brains as surprisingly liquidy—a substance you drink more than eat, strictly speaking. Explorer George Von Langsdorff was quoted in Sign of the Cannibal saying that warriors on the Island of Nukahiwa in the early nineteenth century would kill enemies and “swallow the blood and brains upon the spot.” According to the book Among the Cannibals, several cannibalistic tribes have identified the brain as the best-tasting part of the human body. In The Corpse: A History, Christine Quigley writes that Melanesian Islanders, some of whom practiced cannibalism at least through the early twentieth century, considered human brains a particular delicacy, a gourmet dish. 

I asked some biologists to speculate about the exact flavor of these brains, and the verdict was: Just like any other mammal brain, basically. Carol Shoshkes Reiss—who requested that I clarify that she has never eaten brains, but who also does know a thing or two about them as a biology and neural science professor at NYU—said, “The essential constituents in terms of proteins and lipids and nucleic acids are essentially the same, irrespective of species.” In other words, she wouldn’t know firsthand, but there’s no reason a human brain should taste significantly different from any other mammalian brain.

And what do mammalian brains taste like? If you’re wondering about mouth feel, brains are creamy, but hold their shape. One writer for Serious Eats, who sampled scrambled lamb brains and eggs, described brains’ flavor as “animalistic”—“somewhat like a firm fish roe, through without the fishiness, of course.” Scrambled brains and eggs are another dish featured on iZombie—and apparently, egg brain scrambles would not be such a bad idea. Several Redditors in this thread are on the same page—and actually think brains themselves taste a lot like eggs.