Truffles are the darling of the culinary world. There’s an air of mystique around them, given their high price tag and acquired taste.
Although they’re often mistaken for a mushroom, truffles are actually a fungus. They are a member of a subterranean family of fungi called Tuberaceae.
Truffles can be tricky to harvest, as they prefer to grow in damp soil. They also have a notoriously short growing season.
Because of their rarity and unique taste, truffles are considered a luxury ingredient around the world!
The Unique Flavor of Truffles
Truffles’ Pungent and Earthy Aroma
Truffles have a famously pungent, earthy aroma. It’s often compared to the muskiness of mushrooms or the sharp savoriness of onions and garlic.
The flavor of truffles is very similar to how it smells. They add a rich, complex flavor to dishes that is almost indescribable.
Truffles actually contain compounds called terpene and geosmin which are also found in pine trees and beets. This can help explain the unique earthy flavor that is released when cooking fresh truffles.
Black vs White Truffles Taste
The most popular varieties of truffles are black and white truffles. There are subtle but distinct differences between the two which determine how they’re used in dishes.
Black truffles are found in Perigord, a region in the southwest of France. Black truffles are less pungent than white truffles but have a longer-lasting flavor.
The best way to describe black truffles is nutty and chocolatey. There are earthy notes as well, similar to a mushroom.
Since black truffles cook better than white truffles, they’re typically added to risotto or sauces. Generally, black truffles are also much less expensive than white truffles (sometimes up to half the price!).
Black truffles should not be confused with black summer truffles. Black truffles are much more pungent, whereas black summer truffles taste similar to white truffles.
White truffles are found in the Piedmont region of northwestern Italy. Although white truffles are more common than black truffles, they warrant a higher price tag.
This is because they have a much more intense earthy truffle smell that fills the senses. This aroma becomes subdued over time, and the flavor is much more subtle.
The flavor itself is very nutty and slightly sweet, similar to pine nuts.
This intense aroma but subtle flavor makes Italian white truffles perfect as a garnish. They’re often shaved over pasta or risotto just before serving.
Generally, white truffle offers a more delicate umami flavor, while black truffle provides a robust flavor that’s best for sauces.
Comparison To Other Commonly Used Ingredients
It can be tricky to pinpoint the exact flavor of truffles! Sometimes it’s helpful to compare it to other ingredients.
Here are some common ingredients that have similar flavor profiles to truffles.
- Mushrooms: Truffles and mushrooms belong to similar families, so it’s natural they have similar flavors. Both have an earthy flavor, but truffles are more pungent and aromatic.
- Garlic: Truffles and garlic are both pungent and packed with flavor. Truffles are milder than garlic and more earthy.
- Onion: Both onions and truffles are pungent and add depth of flavor to dishes. Onions are more sweet and sharp, whereas truffles are more earthy and mild.
The difficulty to describe an exact flavor is a part of the mystery of truffles!
How To Use Truffles in Cooking
Suggestions For Incorporating Truffles
Truffle fries are one of my favorite indulgences, but they’re not the only way to enjoy truffles! If you’re ready to try incorporating that unique truffle taste into your cooking, here are some simple recipes to try.
Serve up a brunch to remember by adding truffles to your omelets, scrambled eggs, or eggs Benedict! You can shave the truffles over top of the finished product, or add them to your Hollandaise sauce.
Truffles and white sauce pasta are a true culinary match made in heaven. You can shave white truffles on top just before serving for a release of earthy aroma and flavor.
You can also add truffle oil or truffle butter to your sauces for greater depth and richness.
Fresh truffles are often added to risotto at the end to impart a deliciously earthy flavor. This pungent aroma pairs perfectly with parmesan cheese and creates a wonderfully rich dish.
Like with pasta, you can also stir truffle oil right into the risotto to help build flavor.
Truffles go bad quickly, so only buy them if you plan to use them immediately. They tend to taste best within 1-2 days of being harvested.
However, there are a few tips and tricks that will help you preserve the flavor of your truffles.
After purchasing truffles, you should wrap them in a moist paper towel and store them in an airtight container. If you’re worried about them getting soggy, you can add some dry rice to absorb moisture.
Always store fresh truffles in the refrigerator until you’re ready to use them. They’ll keep for approximately five days if stored correctly.
If you’re not able to use the truffles right away, you can preserve them in oil. Simply shave the truffles and add them to a jar with olive oil and store them in the refrigerator.
You can also preserve truffles in salt. To do so, shave the truffles and cover them completely with sea salt.
Store this truffle salt in an airtight container in a dry place like your pantry. They will stay preserved for 1-2 months this way.
- Sciencedirect: Chemical composition of truffles