Truffles are gourmet food that is often associated with haute cuisine. They are aromatic mushrooms and have been enjoyed for centuries due to their unique flavor and aroma, however, if you have never tasted truffles before, how do you know what to expect when following a recipe? So, here's an overview of what truffles taste according to me.
What is a Truffle?
Truffles are edible fungi that grow underground that have a pungent and potent aroma. There are two main types of truffles - the white truffle also known as "tartufo bianco" is from Italy and the black truffle is from France and Spain. Other varieties include Burgundy, Bianchetto, and black summer truffles.
They are harvested from December to March, and they are considered a rare delicacy, so much so, that truffle hunting is an art in itself.
These underground treats grow near specific trees, such as oaks and hazelnuts, and are usually found by trained dogs or pigs that sniff out their scent emanating.
What Does Truffle Taste Like?
Truffles have a distinctive flavor that is often described as earthy and musky. When tasting truffles, you'll immediately experience a flavor that's unlike anything else, and in most cases, you will either love it or hate it - no halfway, like Marmite.
The taste is usually described as pungent and intensely savory. However, it's difficult to describe the exact taste of truffles as it can vary greatly depending on the type of truffle and the way it's prepared.
- Black truffles tend to have a stronger and more assertive flavor than white truffles. These truffles are often described as having hints of chocolate, nuts, and even tobacco. Black truffles are commonly used in rich dishes such as risotto and truffle pasta.
- White truffles, on the other hand, have a slightly milder flavor with a more delicate aroma. White truffles taste best when eaten fresh, they are often shaved thinly over dishes to add an elegant touch of flavor.
Truffles have a distinct mushroomy flavor that can be overwhelming for some, however, those who appreciate truffles enjoy the complexity of flavors they bring to a dish.
When cooking fresh truffles, it's important to be mindful of the amount added to the dish. Too much truffle can overpower other flavors, while too little can leave the dish lacking in flavor.
Chefs often use truffle oil or shave the fresh truffle thinly over the top of the dish to add flavor without overpowering a dish, however, it can be used in many other ways. For example, in Slovenia, I have often eaten it mixed with cream cheese on top of a slice of toasted bread.
White Truffle vs Black Truffle
Let's explore the origin, taste, and price of white truffle and black truffle.
- White truffles are mainly found in the Piedmont region of northern Italy, while black truffles are typically from France and Spain.
- White truffles are often referred to as "white gold" ("oro bianco") and the "diamonds of the kitchen" ("il diamante della cucina"), because of their rarity and high demand. Black truffles, on the other hand, are more commonly found than white truffles.
- White truffles have a strong, pungent aroma that is earthy and musky, and they have a delicate, nutty flavor with a slightly garlicky taste.
- Black truffles have a more subtle aroma with a musky, woody scent, and they have a rich, earthy flavor that is described as slightly sweet and nutty.
- White truffles are considered the most expensive truffles in the world, with their value reaching up to thousands of dollars per pound. The price of white truffles is due to their rarity, unique flavor and aroma, and limited availability.
- Black truffles are also pricey, but they are more affordable than white truffles, with their price ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars per pound, depending on their quality and availability.
What is Truffle Used For?
There are so many ways truffles can be used, and here are a few of the most common ones. Some of these ready made ingredients can be found in large grocery stores or speciality shops, if you want to give them a try!
1. Truffle Butter
- This ingredient is a simple and straightforward way to add the rich earthy taste of truffles to your dishes.
- To make this butter, you only need two ingredients, just like the name says: unsalted butter and finely chopped truffles. Simply mix the butter and the truffles together until well combined.
- You can use truffle butter to smear on toast, and bagels or add it to steak, seafood, or vegetable dishes. For a richer take on a classic side dish, you can add a little to your creamy mashed potatoes.
2. Truffle Oil
- Truffle oil is a fragrant and versatile ingredient that can be used in many dishes and you can either purchase it or make it by infusing oil with truffle shavings.
- To make truffle oil, all you need to do is simply heat up the oil and add the shavings to it. Let it sit for around 1-2 weeks to infuse and then strain it.
- Use truffle oil as a finishing touch on salads, pasta, and pizzas dishes. For a rich twist, you can use it to prepare spaghetti aglio, olio, e peperoncino!
3. Truffle Salt
- This is a simple yet flavorful seasoning, and you can easily make it at home as all you need to do is mix finely chopped truffles with sea salt in a food processor.
- You can then use the truffle salt to season your dishes or sprinkle it over popcorn or fries [next on this list!].
4. Truffle Fries
- If you love fries [who doesn't!] then truffle fries will undoubtedly take them to the next level!
- To make this dish, you need freshly cut and fried fries or pre-bought straight from the store. Drizzle truffle oil or salt over the fries for a fragrant twist or even add truffle aioli [next on this list] or parmesan for a creamy texture and rich taste. Personally, truffle oil and Parmesan win the top spot for me!
5. Truffle Aioli
- Truffle aioli is a delicious dipping sauce that pairs well with vegetable, burger, and seafood dishes or as a spread on sandwiches.
- To make truffle aioli, you need mayonnaise, finely chopped truffle, garlic, and lemon juice. Simply combine all the ingredients and mix until you get a creamy consistency.
6. Truffle Popcorn
- Picture the scene: it's movie night, and you want to enjoy your popcorn with a little twist. Truffle popcorn is a straightforward dish to make that can spice up your snacking game!
- All you need is to pop some popcorn and drizzle truffle oil over it. You can even sprinkle black truffle salt for an added crunch and flavor.
7. Truffle Cream Cheese
- Although not very common, I had to add this, as I often enjoy it in Slovenia.
- To prepare it, simply mix cream cheese, salt and pepper, and a little truffle oil until well combined together. You can also add a little sour cream for a little tang!
- Use this spread on bruschetta, in Italian tramezzini, to make a creamy pasta sauce, or to have with some roasted potatoes. Delicious food, yet so simple!
How To Buy and Store Truffles
Fresh truffles are expensive, but you can purchase them from online stores, specialty shops, or even your local farmers' markets.
When selecting truffles, it's crucial to seek out firms that are reputable and transparent. A trustworthy source should be able to provide you with detailed information about the truffles' origin, age, grade, and seasonality.
Fresh truffles must be stored in airtight containers and kept in the refrigerator. They are best consumed within five days of purchase.
You can add rice to the container, which will help absorb any excess moisture to preserve them for longer. Additionally, truffles can be freeze-dried, which can extend their shelf life up to a year.
People Also Ask [FAQs]
Truffles typically grow underground near or beneath the roots of trees such as oak, beech, birch, poplars, and pine, in what is known as a symbiotic relationship where both the tree and truffle benefit from nutrients and sugars.
No, truffles are not mushrooms. Truffles are a type of fungi that grow near the roots of trees, underground, while mushrooms grow above ground in a variety of environments.
Truffles have a unique and complex aroma, typically described as an earthy, nutty scent with hints of oak, sulfur, and sweetness. This distinctive smell is due to the presence of certain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in their composition.
Truffles are expensive due to their scarcity, short shelf life, and the specific climate needed for them to grow.
Wrap Up: What Do Truffles Taste Like?
- Truffles are rare and expensive delicacies that have a distinct flavor and aroma.
- White truffles are considered the most valuable of all types due to their rarity, individual flavor, and limited availability.
- Black truffles also offer an earthy and musky taste but at more affordable prices than white truffles.
- Both can be used in various forms such as butter, oil, salt, and even popcorn.
- When selecting truffles it's important to seek out reputable sources that provide detailed information about their origin, age, grade, and seasonality.
- Finally, for storage purposes, store fresh truffles in an airtight container and keep them in the refrigerator. You can also freeze-dry and can them for a longer shelf life of up to a year.
Delicious Truffle Butter
- 1 cup unsalted butter (½ pound) preferably room temperature
- 3 tablespoons truffle oil
- 1 tablespoon minced black truffles (fresh or canned)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or to taste (optional)
- In a mixing bowl, add the butter along with truffle oil and salt, then, gently fold in the minced black truffles.
- Sprinkle freshly ground black pepper and mix everything evenly. Your flavored butter is ready to be stored in the fridge, however, for ease of use, follow the next steps too.
- Take a plastic wrap or parchment paper and spoon the butter on it. Shape the butter into a log form, about 1 ½ inches in diameter.
- Chill the log for several hours, or until it becomes firm.
- Once the butter is firm, you can remove it from the plastic wrap and slice the butter log according to your preference.
- Serve the deliciously appetizing truffle butter with bread, crackers, vegetables, meats, or melted over hot soup or mashed potatoes.
- Use high-quality ingredients for the best results.
- Chilling is important because it blends the flavors and allows the butter to set.
- You can store truffle butter in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or freeze it for a longer lifespan.