Why Truffles Are So Irresistible

Truffles are a mushroom-like underground fungi, and most of the truffles that you eat belong to the Tuber family, which are found naturally in forests and cultivated in truffières. The most sought-after black and white truffles are discovered in certain regions of Italy and France, while there are also species that come from the U.S. that are truly irresistible (via The National Wildlife Federation). These include the Oregon truffles, with white and black varieties growing under lush Douglas fir trees (via What's Cooking America). Another renowned truffle from North America is the pecan truffle. It's so-called because it grows just below the ground close to natural and cultivated pecan trees and orchards. This brown-colored truffle has a nutty, earthy flavor that's quite distinctive, and because it's far less expensive than its European truffle varieties, this undoubtedly adds to its appeal (via Noble Research Institute).

Describing the unique truffle taste is tantalizing complex. Truffles taste like their odor, creating an oaky, musky, almost meaty flavor that's reminiscent of the earth, with a sweetness and nuttiness that creates a game-like flavor (via Caviar Star). Back in the Dark Ages, the heady aroma of truffles was regarded as being associated with witchcraft, while Louis XIV's love of truffles put them back on the plates of sophisticated society in 17th-century France (via Today Online). Rare, luxurious, and elusive, with an expensive price tag and an extraordinary taste, it's no wonder that truffles are so irresistible.

Truffles release pheromones that make them irresistible

Truffles aren't just irresistible because they're so full of flavor — there's science behind why they're so alluring to so many people. Truffles release pheromones, making them deliciously desirable to many. An article in Food Pairing notes how research has found that humans perceive odors differently, meaning that certain aromas can be a turn-off to some while positively attracting others. This is certainly the case with truffles, with various species presenting their own specific scent characteristics. Most black truffles contain dimethyl sulfide, which is sulfurous to smell and is what attracts truffle-hunting animals, such as pigs and dogs, to where the rich fungi is hiding underground, tantalizingly out of view, waiting to be discovered.

Meanwhile, truffles also contain the pheromone androstenone, which comes from testosterone, the male sex hormone. In humans, androstenone is produced by perspiration, and research suggests that people react to this scent quite differently. While some find the odor unpleasant to say the least, and some don't really have any particular reaction either way, there are others who simply love it. In terms of truffle allure, some 35% of people find the scent irresistible. However, while the fungi may inspire foodie passion in over a third of people, some 25% are not moved in any way, and 40% are not attracted to truffles at all! It seems that when it comes to truffles, they really are a love-hate food. 

They are the ultimate umami ingredient

There are few foods that exude such an exquisite savory flavor as truffles, giving them high status as an umami ingredient that's hard to resist. If you're wondering what umami is, we're here for you. Basically, it's the fifth taste sensation. It isn't sweet or salty, and it's not sour or bitter. Instead, it has what the Umami Information Center describes as a subtle, tasty flavor of savory wholeness. Discovered in the 1980s, umami is found in foods that have glutamate in them, and MSG may be the purest umami ingredient (via Vox). You may have heard more about umami in recent times, as it's become more widely used and the umami trend is here to stay

Not only are truffles irresistible because their scent inspires animal attraction, nor simply because they taste so indescribably good, but they are also the ultimate umami food (via Yahoo! Life). They have that certain je ne sais quoi in terms of culinary allure. Adding an umami ingredient to a dish is what makes all the difference to the taste, and adding some shaved truffle to a recipe can absolutely transform it. 

Truffles elevate dishes

Truffles are so powerful that they really complement dishes in which the other flavors are not competing. In other words, the truffle aroma needs to shine, and this can elevate recipes that would otherwise be fairly simple, giving them the culinary equivalent of a glow-up. If you think of truffle as the A-list celebrity of a dish, then it's best if the minor ingredients support this starring role (via Gourmet Food Store). Foods that are less flavorful, such as pasta and potatoes, work best at allowing the terrific truffle taste to come through. Truffle also works well with fatty foods such as cream, cheese, and butter. To bring out the full flavor of truffles, it's best to make really thin shavings, serving around 10 grams per person. 

Yummy Mummy Kitchen recommends some other pairing ingredients, including risotto, gnocchi, eggs, and cauliflower. It's no wonder then that some of the best truffle dishes are foods that you know and love, given an upscale truffle twist. Who can resist velvety ribbons of tagliatelle with black truffle? Eataly suggests that instead of adding shavings of the truffle, as you might with white truffle, you can grate black truffles into butter that's been warmed, adding a little garlic and seasoning. The cooked pasta is added to the buttery truffle glaze once cooked. Another Eataly recipe adds shavings of fresh white truffle on the top of a wild and porcini mushroom risotto. 

White and black truffles are deliciously different

According to Taste, Italy is home to white truffles, and the fungi usually grows in the Piedmont region. The most famous white truffle is the Alba. With a more intense odor than black truffles, white truffles have an earthy aroma. Because of this, white truffles are ordinarily used as a garnish, and while the scent is strong, it soon mellows and the taste becomes a lot less powerful. You may see white truffle shavings on pasta. White truffles can taste garlicky, often have an ammonia flavor, and are sometimes a bit nutty. They only grow naturally and cannot be cultivated, making them extremely rare (via Truffle Addict).

On the other hand, black truffles traditionally flourish in France, in the region of Périgord (via Taste). While the odor is not quite as pungent as that of white truffles, it does linger, and this makes this fungi great for adding to sauces or butters. They are less expensive than the white variety too. Black truffles have an earthy, almost chocolate-like taste. Less delicate than white truffles, the black variety are easier to cook with because they can withstand more heat. Burgundy truffles, the most common black truffle (and less-expensive than the Périgord, with the same bumpy surface), are known as tartufo nero di Fragno in Italian and truffe de Bourgogne in French. Autumnal truffles, they have a light hazelnut flavor (via Specialty Produce).

Tantalizing truffle dishes

Truffles are so desirable that they not only elevate dishes, they are the inspiration behind them, becoming the star of any culinary show. Examples of extravagant truffle recipes include one from Great British Chefs for lobster tail, cauliflower, and black truffle, where the truffle is chopped up and added to a rich sauce, with shavings on top too. Meanwhile, HuffPost suggests that if you want to cook with real truffle, some standout dishes to try include seared scallops with truffle and butter sauce, a truffle fondue, and chickpeas with chanterelles and black truffles. Table + Teaspoon tempts with a mushroom bisque with truffle foam, which is served in cappuccino cups. To make the truffle foam, which can be used for different recipes, you can mix two tablespoons of truffle oil and half a cup of heavy cream for whipping, and microwave this for 40 seconds. You then need to beat this mixture with a milk frother. 

Truffle has certainly been the main attraction for years, and was served up by innovative French chef, Paul Bocuse, who created a spectacular black truffle soup for the French president in 1975 (via Food 52). In this recipe, freshly shaved black truffles are added to a clarified consommé with chicken, while a puff pastry lid is added to individual pots, turning what could be a chicken pot pie-style recipe into a truffle extravaganza.

They are a luxurious delicacy

The fact that truffles are so expensive undoubtedly adds to their status as a decadent, indulgent food. For those who find rare, high-end ingredients irresistible, truffles are definitely up there. Certain truffles are so sought after that the price tags are eye-watering. For example, according to a CBS reportage, white truffles from Europe can fetch $3,600 per pound, while the article states that one truffle that was a couple of pounds in weight had been sold for more than $300,000. The purchaser of this Italian white truffle, Hong Kong billionaire businessman Stanley Ho, also bought a slightly bigger white Tuscan truffle for the same price of $330,000, as well as paying out $200,000 for another Italian white truffle (via Worthly).

Truffles from Europe are the most valuable, with French black truffles, called Périgord truffles, being among the most coveted — they are also called Black Diamonds, which just goes to show how much they're valued as a culinary gem. While the fungi is cultivated outside of these European countries, such as in the U.S., the environment in Europe is ideal for this prized produce, and truffle hunters are really looking for hidden treasure when they search for truffles, trying to unearth culinary gold to satisfy the clamor for what has to be one of the world's most luxurious, and certainly the most expensive, delicacies.

The taste goes perfectly with simple comfort foods

While truffles may be a high-end delicacy featuring on upmarket menus, what also makes them so alluring is that they go so darned well with simple comfort foods — and this includes fast food. Think truffle fries, truffle mash, and truffle pizza, plus truffle burgers! Shake Shack may not be the first place you'd think of popping into if you wanted a truffle taste fix, but recently the chain introduced its Black Truffle Burger along with its Parmesan Garlic Fries with Black Truffle Sauce. Meanwhile, in 2019 Carl's Jr. added a Bacon Truffle Angus Burger and Bacon Truffle Cheese Fries, both of which are made with a truffle-infused white cheese sauce (via QSR Magazine). Domino's has also joined the truffle fan club with a truffle cheese sauce pizza, available for a limited time in 2022 (via Confirm Good).  

Meanwhile, you could try creating some truffle-inspired snacks of your own, such as fancy-schmancy popcorn made with truffle, parmesan, and duck fat (via D'Artagnan). All you need is three tablespoons of melted truffle butter, to which you add two tablespoons of truffle oil. After cooking half a cup of kernels in three tablespoons of duck fat, you can pour half the popcorn into a bowl and add a quarter of a cup of very finely grated parmesan, a pinch of herbs de Provence, and half of the truffle butter mix. Add the rest of the popcorn and repeat with the same amount of cheese, herbs, and truffle sauce.

Chefs showcase their love of truffles

What's more tantalizing than a gourmet dish created by a top chef? Chefs from around the world showcase truffles in some mouthwatering dishes, creating amazing culinary temptations and adding to the desirability of this luxe ingredient. The way that professional cooks use truffles really adds to their allure, as highlighted by Christina Wilson, Executive Chef for Gordon Ramsay's U.S. restaurants. In an article about truffles on the Gordon Ramsay Restaurants website, she describes her favorite restaurant creation using this ingredient: "For Elton John's Oscar party a few years ago, we did a hamachi crudo (marinated fish) with the most amazing white truffles shaved over the top."

Renowned Italian chef Giorgio Locatelli creates truffle dishes at his Michelin-starred London restaurant, Locanda Locatelli. Examples include mushroom and potato gnocchi with black truffle and roasted fillet of brill with potatoes and Norcino black truffle crust. A meat course of roast breast of guinea fowl, is served with glazed carrots, liver crostini, and black truffle. In an interview in The Restaurant Co., the so-called king of truffles recommends storing black truffles in an airtight container in the fridge, taking them out an hour before they're used, cleaning truffles with a small brush, and never rinsing them under running water. 

Truffle products are a must-have for any kitchen

According to an article in Bon Appétit, rumor has it that media and business empire queen Oprah Winfrey won't stay anywhere unless there's some truffle salt on hand. While fresh truffles are the bomb, there are many different truffle-based must-have products that you can get in for your kitchen, just in case a perfect Périgord or white Alba is out of your price range. These include truffle oils and truffle salts, and you can even sample honey with a truffle infusion. You can also source black truffle puree, which is perfect to add to a pasta or add a luxurious finishing touch to a frittata (via Gourmet Warehouse).

Another possible condiment is truffle mayonnaise, and it's pretty easy to make yourself (via Lisa's Lemony Kitchen). As with many truffle recipes, it's all about letting the truffle taste sing without too much background noise from other ingredients. First off, add 100 milliliters of canola oil to a jug and add a tablespoon of truffle oil, three teaspoons of lemon juice, and half a teaspoon of salt. Next add an egg. All you need to do now is blend with a stick blender until the mixture thickens and you can store your truffle mayonnaise in an air-tight container.

Truffles are not the same as chocolate truffles

Chocolate truffles are not truffles that grow in the ground, so why are they called truffles too, and what are they? As it turns out, sweet truffles — those beautifully round, bitesize, chocolatey indulgences — are so-called because of they look a little like savory truffles (via The Cookful). 

In the same way that the taste of white or black truffles is irresistibly delicious, there's something equally indescribable and wonderful about the chocolate variety. Originating in France, sweet truffles are made from ganache, which is a mixture of cream and chocolate. This is the core element of a truffle. This mixture is made into balls and these are then rolled in cocoa powder. The ganache can also have liqueur added to it, or even Champagne, as well as nuts and white sugar. Today, truffles are sometimes made into square shapes, and they can be encrusted with other ingredients from peppercorns to paprika, but the center always has to be ganache to be defined as a true truffle (via The Nibble). Why not try a truffle dish as an entrée followed by some chocolate truffles for dessert? 

Truffle cheese is a divine food combination

Truffle cheese is an indulgence that once experienced is never forgotten. The Spruce Eats highlights some truffle cheeses produced in the U.S. too. Soft Truffle Tremor is described by Californian cheesemakers Cypress Grove as having "heavy floral, herbaceous, and mushroom notes," and being a ripened goat cheese masterpiece. Vermont producers Grafton Village Cheese suggest eating their truffle and truffle-oil-infused Truffle Cheddar Cheese with roasted hazelnuts and a drizzle of raw honey, or using it to make "a simple grilled cheese sandwich or a rich potato gratin." The Ballard Family Dairy and Cheese based in Idaho are the creators of Truffle & Salt Cheddar, which combines a naturally aged cheese with Italian Black Truffle of Casina Rossa Salt

If you're tempted to make your own truffle cheese, then what about following this Grilled Cheese Social recipe for truffle brie? In a bowl, stir truffle paste and a cup of mascarpone, adding a tablespoon at a time of the paste, up to about three spoonfuls, to suit your taste. Add a few pinches of kosher salt. Slice a wheel of brie horizontally, so it's split in half. Spread on your mascarpone-truffle mix so that it's around half an inch thick. Put the two halves back together, plastic wrap, and put in the fridge for at least half an hour before serving (it can keep up to seven days). Don't forget to take the cheese out of the chiller so it "melts" at room temperature a little before serving. Enjoy!