Everything you need to know about truffle mushrooms, from what they are and where to get them to what they taste like and ways to use them!
What are truffle mushrooms?
Truffle mushrooms are edible type of mushroom that grow underground in moist, nutrient-rich soil. You’ll find them near large trees, as the nutrients in a tree’s soil are equally useful for the growth of truffles. They grow all over the world and can be found in America, Europe, Africa, and Asia, though they’re found most in Italy, France, and the Pacific Northwest.
Truffles’ incredibly strong flavor makes them great for use in cooking, and you can find them incorporated into meals through butter, sauces, oils, or even truffle pieces. Though considered mushrooms, they’re much more intense. They do, however, maintain an earthy flavor much like mushrooms do.
The benefits of truffles
Truffles grow in very nutrient-rich soil, so they wind up being heavy in vitamins and minerals themselves! They contain antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, calcium, iron, Vitamin C, protein, fiber, and more, making them a nice addition to any diet.
How are Truffles harvested?
The way that truffles are harvested makes them exceptionally unique. Due to their very specific growing requirements and the fact that they only grow underground, humans don’t make very great truffle gatherers. Instead, pigs or dogs are used to help find them, as they’re able to easily sniff them out!
Because truffles take around 7 (or more) years to grow and require such specific soil and nutrients to do so, they’re a less than ideal option for farmers. That is why a large number of available truffles are just found in the wild! It’s also why they’re not harvested in very large quantities, which makes for a hefty price tag.
Why are truffles so expensive?
Truffles certainly are not cheap. In fact, they’re one of the most expensive foods you can buy!
A tedious growing process, long growth period, and short shelf-life (2 weeks maximum after harvesting) make production, harvesting, and shipping very expensive. It’s not unusual to see small bottles of truffle oil topping $30 or even $40 USD! The purer the ingredients, the more expensive it will be.
And when it comes to purchasing actual truffles, you’re looking at over $100 USD per ounce (and that’s for the cheaper varieties!).
Where to buy truffles
Fresh truffles are often best purchased online (though you may be able to find them at a gourmet food store if your city has one). Alma Gourmet is an online shop with an array of market price truffles (that’s where I purchased mine).
Preserved truffles can also be purchased easily online. These are often preserved in olive oil, making them much more shelf-stable than fresh. They won’t have the same potent flavor as fresh truffles.
Mushroom Truffle Varieties
You’ll often see truffles listed as either white or black, but within each of those broad categories are many various types.
Burgundy: The photos in this post contain burgundy truffles! This variety has red-ish undertones and is great for adding to egg-based recipes or sides like fries. This is the most cost effective variety!
Brumale: Brumale truffles aren’t as dark as burgundy and are typically more unusally shaped. These are another one of the cheaper varieties.
Périgord: These truffles are a rich brown color and are considered to be the best and most delicious, so it’s no surprise that they are often the most expensive. We’re talking 4 digits here, people! Enjoy these raw, added to dishes in small pieces or slivers.
Tuscan: Tuscan truffles are unlike most other varieties in that their outside is brown but their inside is a mix of creamy white and orange. The potency of this variety makes them great for infusing into truffle butters and oils.
Black Summer: This variety is great for using in soups and other hot dishes. Though their outside is jet black, their inside looks like the light brown center of a tree!
White: White truffles are some of the most sought after (and most pricey)! In fact, the most expensive truffle ever sold was a white truffle – $300,000 for a 2.86 lb white truffle!
You may also see truffles referred to as either “summer” or “winter” truffles. This all comes down to when the truffle was harvested! Winter truffles are have a more intense flavor and aroma than summer truffles, with a higher price tag to go with it.
How to use truffles in recipes
You can incorporate truffles into recipes like pasta, risotto, soup, and much more by adding truffle oil or actual chopped truffle pieces! You can even infuse truffles into butter for delectable truffle butter that can be enjoyed with garlic bread, rolls, etc. Here are some recipes that would taste delicious with the addition of truffles!
- Homemade Popcorn Seasoning – Swap the regular butter with truffle butter.
- Veggie Pizza – A bit of truffle oil drizzled on top tastes like a total treat.
- Truffle Mac & Cheese – Sprinkle in oil or tiny chopped truffle pieces for the perfect final touch.
- Truffle French Fries – Spritz your cooked fries with a touch of truffle oil.
How to store them
Truffles have a very short shelf life, making storage practices that much more important. You have a few options for maintaining a fresh taste.
- In rice: Like you see below, placing truffles in a container with rice is a great way to lock in moisture and keep them tasting fresh. Push them down into the rice until they’re covered, and then store the container in the refrigerator.
- Glass jar: If rice isn’t available, store the truffles in a glass jar, gently wrapping each truffle in a paper towel to soak up any excess moisture, and refrigerate.