What Is Truffle Oil?

I know this is more formal than I usually am with you but I wrote this as an article for one of my other sites. I decided to delete it there and publish it here because I figured you guys would be interested. :) 

With the popularity of food shows, food reality television, and celebrity chefs more home-cooks are using exotic ingredients than ever before. Saffron, wild caught salmon, and truffles used to be ingredients found only in five star kitchens but today these ingredients, and thousands more, are available to almost everyone.

Truffle oil, French truffle oil, black truffle oil, and white truffle oil are all similar oils that have been infused with the taste of truffle, a fungus much like a mushroom that grows underground.

What Is a Truffle?

Simply put, a truffle is a fungus like a mushroom but it grows underground near certain species of trees. The type of truffle is dependent on the type of tree it grows by. It reproduces by spores like other fungi, however since the spores of a truffle cannot be released underground the spores are spread in the feces of the animals that eat the truffles.

Finding truffles is traditionally done with a “truffle hog”.  This is a female pig that naturally searches for truffles as part of her diet. Recently dogs have begun to be trained to sniff out this delicacy because it is difficult to keep the pigs from eating the harvest.

Truffles can sell for as much as $30.00 USD an ounce.

Varieties of Truffles

Truffles come in several varieties. Most truffles are considered either white or black, although is a variety of truffle that is considered red because its flavor is reminiscent of berries. Some truffle varieties are:

Black Perigord

This is the black truffle on the menu of many gourmet restaurants. It grows by oak and hazelnut trees and can reach weights of up to 4 ounces each. They grow primarily in France, although some other European countries have them, and are harvested in the autumn and winter months.

Burgundy Truffle

The burgundy truffle is a type of black truffle and has been well known in the world of the gourmand since medieval times. It has a coffee colored interior and smells a bit like cornmeal. It is most often used with fresh vegetables.

Chinese Truffle

These black truffles have a hard shell and dark flesh with veins of white running throughout. It has a light scent and delicate flavor and is very inexpensive. Oils made with this truffle will not have the rich flavor of other truffle oils and this is what you most often find at your grocers.

Garlic Truffle

This species of black truffle has a garlicky scent and a smooth surface skin dotted with warts.

Hungarian Dessert Truffle

This is a uniquely sweet truffle that is found in Hungary. This member of the white truffle family it is found near black locust trees. It is often used in desserts and ice creams.

Italian White

The Italian white truffle is considered to be the most luxurious truffle of all. It has a flavor that combines garlic and shallots with an earthy mushroom flavor and scent.

Pecan Truffle

Pecan truffles grow in the Southern United States around pecan trees. They are only just starting to be used in commercial kitchens but sell for about $100.00 USD a pound.

Truffle Oil

Truffle oil originated as a way to add the luxurious flavor of truffles to their dishes without the extreme cost of the fresh truffle. In order to make truffle oil a light oil is infused with pieces of truffle until the oil carries both the flavor and scent of the fungus. Le the buyer beware, however. Much of the inexpensive truffle oil found at your local market is a cheap imitation, made with oil and a chemical that is naturally found in the truffle. It contains no real truffle at all.

Using Truffle Oil in Recipes

Often truffle oil is lightly sprinkled over a dish just before serving. This allows the aroma to be at its peak. Foods that benefit from this oil are:

  • Fish
  • Lobster
  • Poultry
  • Soups
  • Steaks
  • Stews
  • Garlic bread
  • Risotto
  • Vegetables

How to Make Truffle Oil

For the best flavor, and to ensure that you are using the real thing, you can make your own truffle oil with any type of truffle you prefer. The black truffle tends to have a richer flavor while the white is more delicate.

Use any oil that you like, including a good olive oil.

Truffle Oil Recipe (Read Warning Below)
A fresh, homemade truffle oil that will add flavor to almost any recipe. Use sparingly!
Serves: 1 pint
  • 1 teaspoon fresh truffle shavings (you can also use ½ teaspoon of dried, or 1 teaspoon of brined – just make sure to drain thoroughly)
  • 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 sterilized pint jar with sterile screw on lid
  1. Chop the truffle into small pieces.
  2. Add to the oil.
  3. Add the mixture to the jar.
  4. Shake the jar well and store in a cool, dark place.
  5. Shake daily for one week.
  6. The oil will be good to use at the end of a week but will continue to strengthen as it sits.
  7. Once opened keep in the refrigerator for up to one month.
*Warning! Although many people make their own truffle oil successfully, and have done for decades, there is recent concern that botulism can develop in the oil. Be sure to research for yourself, read the recommendations and come to your own, educated conclusions.

Where to Buy Truffles

You will probably have to use an Internet source for truffles if you decide to buy them. They are expensive but a little goes a long way, whether in oils or for fresh use. Some of the sites that sell fresh truffles are:

Marx Foods

Gourmet Food Store

You can also find dried and brined truffles at your local gourmet foods shop or on Amazon.

Add Five Star Flavor

There are many that will scoff the use of this expensive ingredient and say that it does not make that much difference in food. Perhaps a cheap, chemical based oil does nothing for a dish but when you buy the real thing you will soon realize that it only takes a few drops to create an incredible dining experience.

photo credit: sxc

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  1. says

    For all the info in this article I laud you. most people havent the foggiest on what true truffles are… let alone what the oil is. The difference in homemade truffle oil compared to storebought is the same as almost anything… homemade wins hands down!!! Every time! Love the article! Namaste 😉

  2. says

    Hello everyone. Thought you may be interested to know that our family has made truffle oil for generations. Add thyme and sage to the oil to lengthen its shelf life. You can also heat the truffle in the oil, allow to reach room temperature then pack and refridgerate. The flavour and aryoma changes slightly. Kindest Chris

  3. says

    This is extremely dangerous post, you cannot make truffle oil like this as you are creating a clostridium risk,. I suggest you research this, and remove your post before you kill someone.

      • says

        Hi Marye, have you seen anything scientific that suggests anywhere that this is not creating a botulism risk ? If so I would really love to know. All my research tells me that as truffles are low acid food, and as chlostridium is soil based bacteria killed only by cooking at high temperatures, then this is serious botulism risk. You can research a significant amount of information about garlic infused oil creating the same risks, with known deaths resulting. Clostridium botulinim is one of the most deadly know toxins in the world. If you know something different please tell me I would love to be wrong in this !

        • says

          Nigel, I am not going to dance. Some people make it on their own, some don’t. Some people can tomatoes, some don’t because there is a botulism risk. I think my readers are mature and intelligent enough to research and decide what they want to do.I have made it clear there is a risk. Making garlic and other flavored oil is supposed to be a botulism risk but many people do that as well.

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