Taste and Flavor Perceptions of Glucosinolates, Isothiocyanates, and Related Compounds

Mol Nutr Food Res. 2018 Sep;62(18):e1700990. doi: 10.1002/mnfr.201700990. Epub 2018 Apr 30.


Brassicaceae plants are renowned for their taste, aroma and trigeminal characteristics; predominantly bitter taste, sulfurous aroma, and pungency. Compounds responsible for these sensations include the glucosinolates (GSLs) and their hydrolysis products, particularly isothiocyanates (ITCs), but also sulfur-containing volatile compounds. This article reviews the relative importance of taste and flavor perceptions resulting from such compounds; collating evidence from papers where findings are based on sensory analytical correlations, and those that have extracted specific compounds prior to sensory evaluation. Where specific GSLs impart bitterness and many ITCs impart pungency, this is clearly not true for all GSLs and ITCs. Designing crop improvement strategies for sensory traits based on total GSL content would be flawed, as it does not consider the relative differences in sensory characteristics of different GSLs and ITCs, nor the contribution from other GSL hydrolysis products. In addition, some Brassicaceae plants are consumed raw, whilst others are cooked; this affects not only the hydrolysis of GSLs, but also the generation and release of sulfides. Therefore, in breeding new plant varieties, it is prudent to consider the individual GSLs, the typical cooking conditions the plant is subjected to, enzyme stability, and resultant composition of both GSL hydrolysis products (including ITCs) and sulfides.

Keywords: aroma; glucosinolates; isothiocyanates; pungency; sulfide; taste.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brassicaceae / chemistry
  • Consumer Behavior
  • Cooking
  • Glucosinolates / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Isothiocyanates / analysis*
  • Olfactory Perception*
  • Smell
  • Taste*
  • Volatile Organic Compounds / analysis


  • Glucosinolates
  • Isothiocyanates
  • Volatile Organic Compounds