Want to feel old? Minions have been around for more than a decade.
Despicable Me came out in 2010, and that movie’s banana-loving, bean-shaped villain sidekicks have become ubiquitous in the time since thanks to endless merchandising, with wildly profitable toys, games, memes, theme park attractions, and other spinoffs. Countless explainers have unpacked their design and the gibberish language, Minionese (a mix of English, French, Italian, and Spanish), that helped them gain international popularity. They’re as inescapable as they are sanitized: goofy, inoffensive, and simple enough for a child to draw. In college, the 2015 movie Minions felt like a neutral choice for a movie night with a friend going through a hard breakup. I don’t remember the plot — the Despicable Me movies are like a personal black hole, in that I watch them but don’t retain them. But their cultural significance is unimpeachable.
There’s also so much Minion-themed food. I’ve been confronted by endless Minion products at grocery stores, and they’ve kept me up at night, brooding over the possibilities. What does a Minion taste like? Is it the humble banana, the Minion snack of choice, or another flavor that the color yellow evokes, like lemon or pineapple? Different Minions have different shapes and different numbers of eyes — do they have different flavors? What compels a person to eat the tender flesh of a bean-shaped fellow, in whatever form? And why are so many Minion snacks premised on eating an entire Minion?
I understand, at least from a branding standpoint: The cartoon characters’ simple shape makes it easy to put a whole-ass Minion in both officially branded and DIY cookies, Popsicles and paletas, breakfast cereals, fruit snacks, throat lozenges, and even sprinkle mixes. But other cartoon-branded food items might come in shapes more tangentially related to a character — Spider-Man fruit snacks include masks and web-slinging hands, for example. Minion items are almost always some version of “Eat this whole guy” — or in the case of a fruit-snack pack, several whole guys with different names.
So I thought I would stare into the sun and see whether I could discern any pattern in edible Minions, whether in shape or flavor. There are so many ways to eat a Minion. Let me count the ways.
Looks like a Minion, but does it taste like one?
Journey through the past 12 years of grocery store fare with me. Minions have been featured in brand partnerships with a range of sweet and savory big-box products, like Kraft Macaroni and Cheese and Betty Crocker Fruit Snacks. The former is obviously mac ’n’ cheese flavored, while the fruit snacks are a variety pack of “assorted fruit flavors” (hmmm, mysterious). The limited-release Minion Pop-Tarts were a “wildberry” flavor, and the Minion Tic Tacs (which don’t have individual faces, but the shapes still suggest you’re eating mini-Minions) tasted like banana. Don’t forget about those particular flavors as we continue the Minion taste tour, because they’re a theme.
Minions have been no slouch in the branded-marketing behemoth that is breakfast cereal. In 2015, General Mills launched Minions Banana Berry cereal. “It was surprisingly one of the best-tasting licensed cereals of the past decade,” Dan Goubert, co-host of cereal-focused podcast The Empty Bowl, tells Polygon via email.
2017’s “Minion Made” cereal walked back on those bold flavors in favor of bland vanilla. “A Brown Sugar Vanilla Cereal with Minion-inspired marshmallows, this was a cookie-cutter licensed cereal that dropped the relevant flavoring for a standardized grain ’n’ marbits approach,” Goubert says. “Not terrible-tasting, but far from a memorable heir of its title property.” And then came 2020’s Minions Vanilla Vibe, “a box of absolute tepid trash that reeks of sugar, chemicals, and soullessness. The less said about it, the better.”
Let’s move to the freezer aisle. During the summer of 2020, the Popsicle-brand Minion Ice Pop seemed to be everywhere. I saw them at the grocery store, in ice cream trucks, and on paleta carts during sunny days in the park. I have never tried one — I assumed they’d taste like banana, given Minions’ famous predilection for the fruit, and that isn’t my Popsicle flavor of choice. But in 2022, the Minion Ice Pop flavors are strawberry banana (so they did get the banana in there) and blue raspberry, which seems to be a way of saying “We looked at the blue overalls and decided they’d be raspberry-flavored.” I would eat those Minions.
As I browsed the reviews, I noticed a theme: Some consumers really appreciated that these particular Minions aren’t banana-flavored, and others feel cheated by that choice. There really are two types of people in this world.
Consulting the professionals
I was starting to sense a pattern, but I wanted to get a professional opinion on this important matter. So I reached out to a handful of flavor chemists, food scientists, and researchers, and even a governing body of flavor chemistry.
Sadly, none of the sources I reached out to wanted to talk to me about what Minions taste like. Most of the professors I reached out to did not respond, and the one who did, from a university’s Food, Science, and Technology department, politely declined my request, stating: “Thanks for reaching out. Unfortunately, I’m afraid I don’t have much to say on that topic.” None of the flavor chemists I contacted got back to me either. I began to wonder: Do people hate talking about eating Minions? Even my friends tended to immediately change the subject when I mentioned sinking my teeth into Minions’ tender yellow flesh.
Elsa Howerth, the website chair for the Society of Flavor Chemists, offered more context. She explained via email that flavor chemistry is a “competitive space,” and “finding someone who can answer questions is a bit of a challenge, as many of us are not comfortable about questions that might be too revealing.” She asked if I could share my queries, and mentioned that she might be able to find a consultant to speak to these pressing Minion-flavor mysteries. I will update this article if I get a response.
I’ll leave you with the opinion of one cereal expert. “So what would a real Minion taste like? If the marked devolution of their cereal quality over the years has taught me anything, it’s that, like a tender cut of veal or lamb, you have to eat them young,” Goubert tells Polygon. “The Minions of today are way past peak ripeness and have likely turned rancid, gamey, and as stale as their milked-dry movie franchise.”
Where does that leave us?
Even if the experts don’t want to weigh in, manufacturers are putting their own spin on what counts as “Minion flavor.” There’s candy, where flavors run an even broader gamut — from mango soda gummies to Minion Pez dispensers. (You can stick any Pez flavor in there.) Some of these lean fully Dadaist, with flavors inspired by the antics in the Minions films. There’s the Despicable Me 3 edition of “BeanBoozled” Jelly Belly, a candy “game” where any given color is one of two flavors, one sweet, one bizarre. In this edition, a bright-green jelly bean might be “sour apple” or “Minion fart.” I don’t know what Minion fart tastes like, and I don’t want to learn!
For people who make DIY Minion treats, approximating a Minion seems to come down to shape and look more than flavor. Complex icing really nails the likeness — with decorations that emulate Minions on sugar cookies, cupcakes, Twinkies, and even cupcakes with Twinkies stuck inside them. And then there’s my favorite, the king of them all: homemade Minion snack mix, which I like to call “deconstructed Minion” or “Minion burrito bowl.” To make it, you add some yellow and blue M&Ms to a regular-degular bag of Chex Mix, for a salty-meets-sweet combination. (You could also say this characterizes the Minion id.)
This also happens to be my favorite flavor and texture combination — that nice salty crunch, mixed in with pops of sweetness that really bring out the flavor. Though I always imagined Minion mouthfeel to be more Peep-like, in a way that lets you avoid the bones. And by the way, if you’d like some Minion Peeps, you’re in luck — here they are!
I’d be remiss not to point out some final branded collaborations that moved me, and made me think, Yes, I’d eat that Minion! In 2017, some of Singapore’s McDonald’s franchise outlets sold Minion-themed menu items. Some of these were, understandably, Happy Meal toys. I would not eat those. There was also a banana pie. But you could also get special french fries, which were in fact hash browns cut in the shape of Minions. I would absolutely eat that, as I would eat just about any shape of fried potato. While the McDonald’s promotion is over, IHOP is currently serving a Minion-themed menu featuring “banana pudding” waffles, alongside other classic breakfast items like bacon and sausage, which are definitely not made of Minion. Minions aren’t made of real meat. They are made of animation.
While actual Minions would almost certainly be banana-flavored, all of this leads me to conclude that the flavor of Minion is simply how you want it to taste, and probably even what you would already be willing to eat. For me, that probably leans salty and crunchy, though I know that doesn’t seem like the natural choice for the Minion’s svelte form. But I will not let my dreams be dreams — and neither should you. Be the eater you want to see in the world, and eat a Minion today.