Your Guide to Truffle Mushrooms

Edible truffles are highly regarded in French, Italian, Spanish, and Middle Eastern cuisine. From shaving truffles on top of pasta or french fries to drizzling truffle oil over a dish, truffle mushrooms are an elegant and versatile punch of umami in many meals. What makes truffles so special and unique?

Here’s a complete guide to truffle mushrooms and how to use them in your cooking.

What is a Truffle

Truffles are the fruiting body of a subterranean fungus called ascomycete fungus. The term truffle is derived from the Latin word for “lump” — “tufer.” There are several types of fungi classified as truffles, including Leucangium, Choiromyces, and Peziza, plus hundreds of others.

Where Are Truffles Found

To find the best truffles, you have to know where to look. Often, dogs and pigs help locate truffles in the wilderness. Since truffles grow below the ground, the animals can usually sniff out the truffle scent. Where to find truffles geographically depends on the type and season of the mushroom, but you can primarily find them in the Mediterranean, Pacific Northwest of America, and Australia. However, you can also find truffles in temperate regions across the globe.

Types of Truffle Mushrooms

There are dozens of truffle types, but only a few are edible. Truffles are typically classified based on taste, smell, and appearance. The most common types of truffle are white, black, and truffle carpaccio.

White Truffles: These are the most aromatically intense truffles with a garlicky, earthy taste and smooth texture. White truffles come with a hefty price tag, but you typically only need a pinch to amplify most dishes, whether you’re shaving it on top of a lobster or topping an expensive brunch.

Black Truffle: These truffle variations are often fruitier in aroma and flavor, and their brownish-black exterior covers a white interior. Black truffles are perfect for meats, soups, and sauces.

Truffle Carpaccio: Typically, truffle carpaccio is made from back truffles. It features a burst of umami that comes from sliced truffles that have been marinated in extra virgin olive oil. It can be used as a substitute for fresh truffles in a pinch.

What Truffles Taste Like

Truffles have a unique aroma and flavor that’s a bit challenging to characterize, mainly because there’s no ingredient like a truffle. They’re usually described as having a musky, earthy, or nutty flavor similar to other mushrooms.

Black and white truffles each have a unique flavor. White truffles have more of an amplified depth of flavor with sweetness. Meanwhile, black truffles have specific truffle elements, but the taste is more subtle and smooth. In terms of versatility, the flavor of black truffle is easier to incorporate into more recipes, whereas the white truffle is more specific in its cooking application.

How to Use Truffles

There’s no wrong way to use a truffle, but these are some of the most popular methods of incorporating them into your cooking. They typically pair best with mild foods like:

  • Creamy pasta dishes with white truffles

  • Risottos topped with white or black truffle shavings

  • Poultry seasoned with black truffles

You can also top savory dishes with a truffle mousse for foie gras. Remember — truffles have a robust taste and shouldn’t be the star of any meal. They serve better as a complement as a thin shaving of truffle can go a long way. And when you’re cooking with these unique mushrooms, you should aim to use fresh truffles.

These are only some of the many uses for truffles. Get creative in your kitchen, and try using white or black truffles in your next recipe!

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