Truffles are one of the most highly-sought ingredients around the world. You’ll often find them in only the most elegant cuisine such as Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Italian, French, and English (UK) dishes. Most exotic varieties are definitely price-prohibitive for many people; some costing thousands of dollars per kilogram.
Don’t let this discourage you from adding truffles to your diet. There are many varieties to choose from, at varying price points. They contain trace essential minerals like iron, calcium, and magnesium. Best, truffles are loaded with antioxidants. They also help balance good and bad bacteria in the gut.
Continue reading to learn more about truffle benefits, how to select “real” truffles, and for recommendations on high quality, affordable brands to choose.
What are Truffles?
Truffles are a fungal tuber that grow on a variety of tree roots around the globe. They grow from spores just like mushrooms and other fungal species. While they grow on many types of tree roots (Eg., oak, hazel, poplar, beach), they’re extremely rare since. This is because they require a very specific growing environment, with the perfect ratio of soil conditions, nutrients, temperature, moisture balance, and oxygen (Fun fact: fungi breathe oxygen rather than carbon dioxide).
Once a spore lands in the perfect spot near the roots of a tree, it takes up to seven years for that spore to spread and create the growing medium (mycellium) for the truffles that will eventually grow there. Next, there are several animals, such as wild boars, that also love truffles and have a keen nose for finding them. Last, a tree will only produce truffles for a few decades before the mycellium dies.
How Truffles Became Rare and Expensive
An interesting fact related to the lack of truffles currently is the affect the first two world wars had on their numbers. Prior to the 20th Century, everyone ate truffles, and they were affordable to most of the world’s working population. France was a major hub for “trufficulture” (Ie., the art of growing truffles). The combination a couple of factors decimated truffle production, and would forever alter their price and availability throughout the 20th Century up to today.
WW1 claimed twenty-percent of the male working population of France. Unfortunately, this lead to a combination of less truffle farming in the proceeding years, and a major knowledge gap in the art of farming the delicacy moving forward. Worse, the fact that those wars created unrest and destruction of the people and their countryside spanning over three decades, meant that the truffle plantations planted in the 19th Century had stopped producing post war.
These days, the cost to maintain a desirable and secure growing environment for truffles can cost in excess of $17,000 USD, meaning costs aren’t going to come down anytime soon.
Common Serving Methods:
It’s widely considered a sin to eat truffles on their own, instead adding 5 — 10 grams of shaved truffle to your favorite dishes. This is because they work so well with other flavors, adding complexity to both sweet and savory dishes. There are very few recipes that won’t benefit from the addition of truffles. Italian pasta recipes like traditionally-prepared tagliatelle use truffle-infused sauce for their flavor. Shaved truffles are also a mainstay at many high-end Italian, French, and English restaurants.
Truffles can be shaved fine or course, cut into slivers, or cooked to a cream or pate. A truffle slicer is recommended to get the most aromatic finished product (Note: they double as a chocolate shaver too). A great idea to add some uniqueness to a Christmas or Thanksgiving turkey is to add a few slivers of white or black truffle to the stuffing inside. Don’t worry, you don’t have to use much of a single truffle to get amazing flavor.
One of the most delectable ways to eat truffles is a raw, uncooked truffle dipped in dark or semi-sweet chocolate such as in this recipe. You can also buy chocolate covered truffles ready-made, though prices can be significantly higher than when done at home with your own ingredients. Also, keep in mind that most store-bought “chocolate truffles” do not contain real truffles at all, so read labels carefully.
Truffle oil is another way to add truffle flavor to your favorite dishes. However, keep in mind that most commercially available truffle oils are nothing more than olive oil mixed with “truffle aroma” aka., 2,4-dithiapentane. It’s also worth noting that pure truffle oil, without preservatives added, only has an average shelf life of a fresh truffle — around 5 to 7 days. So it’s really best to make your own fresh truffle oil and use it right away.
For purely health benefits, add a quantity of ground truffle to a shake or smoothie and throw it back — though I wouldn’t recommend telling your chef friends you did this to one of their most prized ingredients!
Truffles don’t have a massive list of benefits like many of the other superfoods I’ve covered. However, those they do offer make them worth their weight in gold. Particularly, the benefits to one’s soul every time they eat a truffle-infused dish.
This isn’t a benefit you want to place much weight on, given this delicacy’s price per pound. Many sites out there claim truffles to be loaded with vitamins and minerals. In fact, you need to consume a lot of them to get much benefit in this regard. Mushrooms do offer a variety of B vitamins and minerals, when consumed in large amounts. However, truffles cost a lot of money for small doses.
If you were to eat five truffles (4.5g each), you’d be getting:
• 5% D.V. Vitamin A
• 8% D.V. Iron
• 5% D.V. Magnesium
• 4% D.V. Calcium
Obviously, there are much less expensive food choices for obtaining these vitamins and minerals. This doesn’t mean affordable doses of truffle don’t offer significant benefits though.
Carbs can be a big problem for people looking to maintain a lean body weight. They also cause big problems in the bloodstream of diabetics and healthy individuals. High carbohydrate intake causes elevated insulin levels. Insulin is the body’s “fat storage” hormone. Chronically elevated levels also cause good/bad cholesterol imbalance, elevated triglycerides, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
People who decide to embark on a low carb diet will find it difficult to find foods outside meat, seafood, eggs, and salad greens that are low in carbohydrates. Even the truffle’s cousin, mushrooms are relatively high in carbs. All of truffle’s carbs are contained within fiber, meaning they won’t spike blood sugar or cause a significant increase in insulin levels.
High Soluble Fiber Content (gut health)
As mentioned, truffles are full of fiber. Each standard truffle has over three grams of fiber. Most of the fiber they contain are soluble fiber which is helpful for lowering the glycemic load of other foods you might eat with them, since they slow digestion. Soluble fiber is made up of a mixture of pectins, beta-glucans, and guar.
Soluble fiber is also essential for maintaining healthy gut flora and increases the “bulk” and movement of our stools as it absorbs water and swells as it moves through the intestines into the bowel. Truffles are a definite guilt free treat!
Eating more fiber in general has proved to lower several cardiovascular risk factors such as cholesterol imbalance and high triglycerides. However, truffles benefit the heart in other ways via the powerful polyphenols they contain. These polyphenols help to prevent atherosclerosis — hardening of the arteries that leads to early heart disease and death.
Polyphenols protect the heart by balancing good and bad cholesterol, preventing LDL (bad) cholesterol from oxidizing and sticking to the walls inside arteries. Polyphenols also reduce inflammation. Inflammation of the walls of our arteries and heart make for a perfect breeding ground for oxidized cholesterol and triglycerides to cling to.
Truffles contain doses of all 9 essential amino acids, making them a great vegetarian protein source. Truffles of all kinds are generally known to offer up to 30 percent their weight in rich protein.
While nobody is going to eat truffles at every meal for mass-building purposes, the extra protein in addition to the flavor they add to a variety of dishes can help ensure you’re getting all your essential aminos.
Science hasn’t yet determined if the rich amino content of truffles adds to their aphrodisiac qualities. It’s believed they might, but ongoing studies may confirm this in the future. What is known is that a major part of the unique scent of truffles comes from the male pheromone, androstenone.
Androstenone is a musky, almost “sweaty” smell that particularly drives women sexually mad. Truffles are one of three sources of this pheromone in nature, aside from men themselves. They’ve been used as a dinner garnish by lovers around the world for centuries. Boar saliva also contains this compound, which may well be the reason they’re so effective at finding truffles.
Depression & Other Brain Disorders
Tuberosides (aka., polyhydroxy sterol glycoside) found in all mushrooms have been isolated by science and used in the treatment of depression successfully. Tuberosides are polyphenols that act as an antioxidant and noninflammatory, and can cross the blood-brain barrier to protect brain cells and neural pathways. These compounds have been well documented for their ability to help stabilize and reverse mental disorders like depression and Alzheimer’s.
By now, you might have heard about the positive effects that psilocybin from magic mushrooms have on curing depression. Being from the same family, magic truffles can hold the same benefits, even though purchasing them legally online is still skating a fine line with the law for many of you reading this.
This variety of truffles is the most popular form of curing mental disorders like depression. Microdosing, where only a small amount of magic truffle is used, appears to hold the most cognitive benefit for users.
The antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of truffles make them a definite candidate for cancer prevention and treatment. Sadly, due to their price, there aren’t any studies that have been done specifically on truffles themselves in this area.
However, just like the healthiest fruits on the planet that also contain antioxidant plant sterols, truffles must have some benefit in this area and are a cult favorite among cancer sufferers seeking remission.
There are sources out there that claim truffles contain vitamin D. This isn’t true, and you shouldn’t consume them for this health benefit.
What to Look for When Buying Truffles and Truffle Oil
• Black truffles average around $100 per ounce.
• White truffles are almost double that at around $180/oz.
• Pure truffle oil varies in price related to the concentration listed on the bottle. Eight ounces generally ranges from $30 — $150 dollars online and from specialty retailers.
Fresh truffles are only good for a maximum of two weeks from the date they’re harvested. Keep in mind that the maximum isn’t considered ideal for taste either — flavor and aroma begin degrading the minute the truffle is pulled from the ground. This is the reason most people purchase vacuum sealed truffles, or opt for dehydrated varieties, or whole or part truffles preserved in virgin olive oil.
Choose truffle oil carefully for the intended purpose. Fresh, pure truffle oil is best for special occasions where you’ll use it all in one sitting. Fake truffle oil can keep for up to a year in the fridge, and unless you’ve eaten pounds of fresh truffles throughout your life, you’ll likely never know the difference from the real thing.
There are two main types of truffle that are considered true truffles by culinary snobs around the world. Black and white. Variations of each grown in different geographical regions of Europe are claimed to have vastly different flavor profiles, but the health benefits are considered the same.
Black truffles have an earthier flavor, while white are often more prized for having a cleaner, more instantly palatable flavor profile. Black truffles can also be sourced from Oregon (called “Oregon Black Truffle”) and are less expensive as purists prefer European-grown truffles.
Pecan truffles found near pecan trees in the Southwest United States are also considered a delicacy with proven health benefits. They’re considered a lesser form by purists, and sell for hundreds of dollars less per pound than black or white varieties.
Time of year harvested:
Late fall/early winter truffles are widely considered the most flavor-filled. On that same note, distributors will often sell this variety for double the price over truffles picked at other times of the year. I’d recommend being wary of anything other than fresh whole truffle purported to be picked late fall/early winter, unless you have a discerning palette and can tell the difference.
Fake or not?:
“Thioether” is used to flavor olive oil in many so-called “truffle oil” products found on the market. This ingredient is used in fake truffle oil and truffle-flavored foods because it’s the main constituent that hits the nose and palette when consuming the real thing. Fake truffle products aren’t necessarily the worst thing in the world you can buy, if you enjoy the flavor profile of truffles, yet can’t stomach the cost of the real thing.
However, it becomes important to read labels to determine if the product you’re buying is artificially flavored or not. Fake truffle oil shouldn’t cost more than a bottle of vegetable oil in the supermarket. Same with other flavored products. Real truffles cost money and the higher price should reflect the truffle content in foods you buy.
Recommended Truffle Brands
TruffleHunter is a brand that largely dominates the online market for truffles and truffle-infused products. If you’re looking for high quality whole truffles or slices, you can’t go wrong with this company. In the list below, I’ve offered a variety of different truffle products, such as truffle slices, truffle oil, truffle pate, etcetera, for people who want to experiment. All products meet USDA organic certification and are source responsibly.
Lindt LINDOR Milk Chocolate Truffles
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“Lindt Chocolate uses only the finest ingredients, and is one of the few chocolate manufacturers that control the entire production process – from roasting the cacao beans to producing the chocolate.”
Ferrero Rocher, Hazlenut,
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“A tempting combination of smooth chocolaty cream surrounding a whole hazelnut within a delicate, crisp wafer all enveloped in milk chocolate and finely chopped hazelnuts.”
Sabatino Truffle Zest
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Oprah Winfrey recommended this product to her legion of millions of followers on her show. Sabatino truffle zest goes well with virtually any food you can imagine and is more versatile than truffle oil, which can get messy when adding to meats and snack foods like popcorn. I can’t honestly say you should expect any of the truffle benefits from this product, but the amazing truffle taste is frequently mentioned in the reviews of this product.
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Fresh truffles come at a definite premium. When you’re entering the world of truffle consumption, it’s best to start out slow to determine whether you like them or not. As mentioned earlier, truffles don’t tend to last beyond a week or two without being preserved. TruffleHunter offers this 1.74 ounce jar of fresh sliced black truffles immersed in olive oil, to make them last up to a year and a half. You can eat these straight out of the jar or dice them into your favorite dishes.
La Rustichella White and Black Truffle Variety Pack
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This variety pack of carefully preserved white and black truffles is an amazing deal, and about as close as you can come to a truffle plucked fresh from the ground. Hailing from Italy, this truffle pate is ready to go. You don’t need to grind it and it will taste great on everything from a scrambled egg breakfast to a fresh-caught salmon steak for dinner. I have a friend who practically buys this product by the case and tops mini toast crackers with it.
Garzizi White Truffle Cream
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Straight from the Abruzzo, Italy, this truffle cream is made using a delicate cooking process to preserve the taste and texture of the white truffle. Garzizi white truffle cream is labeled as being made for the “discerning palette.” A pretty big claim in an industry with so many big players. Garzizi makes great 100% natural products that are sure to please.
Vigorous Mountains Dried Slices
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This jar of sliced black truffles from Vigorous Mountains is one of the best deals you’re going to find anywhere. Most packaged truffle products only come with an ounce or two of product. While a little can go a long way, buying a larger package like this ensures you won’t run out after treating your friends or family to a proper truffle topped meal. Vigorous Mountains have several quality health food products on the market, and are located in the mountains of China.
Urbani White Truffle Oil
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White truffles are prized for their mellow taste. Few truffle oils on the market contain real truffles. This offering from Urbani is a great deal. Made with olive oil and real white truffle pieces, it’s one of the most delicious and nutritious truffle oils you’ll find. While this oil is great for topping pasta and fish dishes, you’ll be blown away the minute you use it to top a garden salad — the flavor and aroma are to die for!
TruffleHunter Oil Selection
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This is an amazing three-pack 3.2 ounce truffle oils from TruffleHunter. Black, white, and English truffle oil are all included in this mix pack. You’ll note the price on this product is only a few bucks more than a single same-sized bottle of the Urbani listed last. This is because TruffleHunter has made this product to appeal to the masses, rather than only wealthy people who can afford to spend $30 for a small bottle of truffle oil. They’ve used a mix of artificial and real truffle in order to make it affordable. Look at the hundreds of reviews and it’s obvious the taste won’t disappoint.
TruffleHunter Minced Black Truffle
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This minced European black truffle product is another great offering from the TruffleHunter crew. Just like the slices listed at the top of this list, the truffles are processed fresh, dipped in salt, and preserved in cold-pressed olive oil to preserve their taste and shelf life.
Chef Jean-Pierre’s Super Concentrated White Truffle Oil
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World famous Parisian chef, Jean-Pierre understands the complexity of cooking. This super concentrated white truffle oil has a lot going for it. The early winter white truffle flakes are steeped in extra virgin olive oil right after they’re harvested. The label states that zero artificial flavorings or preservatives are used in the making of the oil.
Truffles aren’t just nutritious, they’re extremely delicious. They are indeed considered a favorite for the wealthy and rich, but as you’ve learned from the product section, there’s a truffle product to suit any budget. Personally, black winter truffles are my favorite, but you might find you prefer white. Everybody’s different.
I hope you’ve learned a lot from this post and that you’ll give truffles a chance.