What Is the Difference Between White and Black Truffles: Taste, Texture and Everything in Between

You’d probably love to try a truffle, right?

Anybody would enjoy trying something as famous as these well-known delicacies. But did you know that there are different types of truffles that each have their own distinct tastes?

When you hear the word “truffle,” it could refer to either a black or a white truffle, or any version of the two. Both of these varieties have a lot of similarities and differences, and each one does something different when it comes to cooking.

So how can you know which one is right for you and your needs?

If you’re spending a lot of money trying a truffle for the first time, it’s a good idea to understand just what you’re buying. And that’s where this article comes in! I’m here to help you learn about the difference between white and black truffles so that you can make the right decision for your first truffle taste testing.

Of course, if you’ve had truffles before, you still might have a few questions about what really separates these two very different types of fungus. No matter what you’re looking to learn—or for what reason—I’m here to provide you with plenty of information to teach you about truffles from the ground up!

By the time you’ve finished reading this article, you’ll be able to answer questions like, Black or white truffles which is better?” You’ll also be able to tell the difference between both types of truffles, and you’ll know which ones work best in certain types of foods. You’ll be ready to go online or head to the nearest specialty market and pick up your favorite of the two right away.

If you’ve ever wondered what is the difference between black and white truffles, now’s your chance to learn!

Black Truffles 

White Truffles

  • Black truffles have an earthy flavor that sometimes tastes like chocolate or red wine.
  • Black truffles smell like dirt, seafood, and sometimes chocolate.
  • Black truffles can be cheaper than white truffles, and come in a variety of more affordable types.
  • Black truffles can be found through Europe, and other types can be found in the United States.
  • It’s easy to cook with black truffles, since they can stand up to a lot of heat and other flavors.
  • Black truffles are often served in pasta, on pizza, or even on hot sandwiches.
  • Black truffles are used for truffle butter, jarred truffles, and frozen truffles.
  • White truffles tend to taste like garlic and sometimes have a nutty flavor.
  • White truffles have a strong ammonia flavor that can be likened to body odor.
  • White truffles are the most expensive in the world.
  • White truffles are limited to certain parts of Europe, and in particular, the northern part of Italy.
  • It’s harder to cook with white truffles, since they’re very delicate and can’t be heated much.
  • White truffles are usually grated or shaved and served raw over risotto, pasta, or scrambled eggs.
  • White truffles are usually sold fresh and may be used in truffle oil.

What is a White Truffle?

White truffles are a type of fungus that grows on the roots of specific types of nut trees and can mostly be found throughout Europe. Alba, Piedmont, and Asti in Italy are the most popular places to find white truffles, but they are also available in Croatia and Tuscany, as well as certain parts of France. They are the rarest truffles in the world, and they sell for a large amount of money when they’re found in prime condition.

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It’s almost impossible to grow a white truffle on purpose, which makes them even more costly when found in nature. Although some truffle cultivators have encouraged them to grow on their trees, for the most part, they continue to sprout up whenever and wherever they feel like it. Truffle hunters go to great lengths to dig up white truffles, with the help of dogs or female pigs who are trained to sniff them out.

What is a Black Truffle?

Black truffles are very similar to white truffles, but also differ in many ways. They are also a fungus that grows on the roots of nut trees, and they can also be found throughout Europe. Different varieties of black truffle can be found in locations throughout the rest of the world, and in particular, in Oregon. However, these are not considered true black truffles, and should never be sold as such. Oregon truffles, Chinese truffles, and even summer black truffles that are also found in Europe are not as valuable as winter black truffles. Those found in the Perigord region of France are the most valuable of these many different types.

Black truffles are easier to cultivate on purpose, and can be farmed with the right amount of land and the correct tools. They grow well in climates that experience all four seasons, and they require a very specific pH balance in their soil before they will form. More and more people who have the time, money, and effort to devote to truffle growing are trying their hands at keeping black truffles as a harvestable crop. However, truffle hunters still do their part in digging them up in the wild throughout Europe, with the help of dogs and pigs.

Examining the White Truffle

First, we’ll take a look at the white truffle. This is probably the type of truffle you’re thinking of when you imagine the rare and expensive varieties. Take a look at these eight points of comparison to learn about what makes a white truffle so different from its counterpart.

Taste

  • White truffles have a very delicate flavor befitting of their price and rarity.
  • They aren’t nearly as overwhelming in food as black truffles can be.
  • White truffles have a very musky flavor that is a little bit earthy, but not as much as that of a black truffle.
  • White truffles also tend to taste a little like garlic, and some people think they have a flavor a little bit like a potato.
  • They don’t tend to have a very nutty flavor, although black truffles do.

Aroma

  • White truffles have a pungent smell that stands out even to human noses.
  • Pigs and dogs may not be necessary to help dig up these aromatic truffles.
  • They tend to smell a little bit like body odor, which can be off-putting if you’ve never tasted one before.
  • May smell like ammonia when you first sniff it. This is normal, and isn’t a sign of rot or damage to the truffle itself.

Expense

  • When you hear about truffles that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per pound, you’re hearing about white truffles.
  • These are by far the most expensive truffles in the world, and arguably, they are the priciest food ingredients in the world as well.
  • The most valuable type of white truffle comes from Alba, a region in northern Italy.
  • Alba white truffles that are large, perfect specimens harvested at precisely the right time can sell for very large sums of money.
  • The most expensive truffle ever sold was an Alba white truffle, which weighed a little over three pounds and sold for over three hundred thousand dollars.

Rarity

  • White truffles are incredibly rare, which has a lot to do with their price.
  • They must be harvested at the peak of their season, which is in the very late fall or the beginning of winter.
  • They might actually taste better when harvested later in the winter when they’ve had a longer time to sit beneath the soil, but it can be difficult to grab them at this time of the year before the ground becomes too frozen to dig them up.
  • Although they can be found in other parts of Europe, Alba white truffles remain the most popular, but also the most difficult to find.

Cooking Difficulty

Attribution: flickr photo by saragoldsmith https://flickr.com/photos/saragoldsmith/3098334549 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

  • It can be very tough to learn how to cook with white truffles. Part of the difficulty comes from not wanting to risk making a mistake with such an expensive ingredient!
  • Chefs who have never used white truffles before might be better off practicing with more affordable black truffles instead.
  • Even if you’re a beginner with truffle cooking, you can learn how to work with white truffles by reading up on recipes, tips and tricks.
  • It’s important to pay attention to how much truffle you should use in a recipe when working with white truffles. There’s no need to waste a lot of your expensive ingredient when a pinch or two will do.
  • If you can use a white truffle raw and unheated, do so.

Popularity

  • Although white truffles are very well-known for their price and value, they’re not as popular when it comes to cooking.
  • Very high-class chefs tend to use white truffles more often than black truffles, and of course, in the parts of Europe where these mushrooms are found, many restaurants serve them while they’re in season.
  • Around the rest of the world, chefs tend to rely more heavily on the more affordable black truffle.
  • With that said, connoisseurs of truffles and other fine dining ingredients flock to the white truffle, and consider it one of the most impressive things to eat in the world.

Most Popular Dishes

  • It’s most common to use white truffles in very simple dishes.
  • Because their flavor is so delicate and so impressive, it’s important not to overpower it with other ingredients.
  • The truffle is the most expensive part of the meal, and it should really shine!
  • White truffles are usually served grated or shaved on top of simple buttery noodles, mild risotto, or simply with soft bread and high-quality olive oil.
  • White truffles should never be cooked fully. They can be heated, but they do best when served raw.

Most Common Uses

  • It’s most common to see white truffles thinly shaved or grated on top of warm, comforting dishes.
  • It’s also possible to encounter them chopped and mixed into pasta, although this uses up a lot of the truffle and can cost quite a lot of money to prepare.
  • White truffles are also sometimes grated and served alongside simple table crackers or fresh bread.
  • At upscale dinner parties, grated white truffle is often available as a topping to sprinkle lightly over just about anything on the menu.

Examining the Black Truffle

Now it’s time to look at black truffles instead. We’ll use the same eight points of comparison to help you understand the difference between black and white truffles from this perspective. Although white truffles are more commonly associated with the word “truffle,” black truffles are a little easier to find, and may be the type you’re more likely to encounter.

Taste

  • The black truffle has a much earthier taste than the white truffle does.
  • Even when it’s been thoroughly cleaned, it’s pretty easy to taste the dirt a black truffle has come from!
  • Since black truffles grow on the roots of various types of nut trees, they tend to take on a little bit of the taste of the tree as well.
  • They also taste a lot more like a traditional mushroom than white truffles do, and their overall flavor is much more powerful than a white truffle’s.
  • Some people also believe black truffles taste like red wine or chocolate, or a combination of the two.

Aroma

  • The smell of a black truffle isn’t much different from its taste, but you might be surprised at how complex the aroma can really be.
  • Before you even cut through the skin, you’ll be hit with a smell of mud and earth, and you’re likely to be reminded of the deep forest.
  • You might also find it smells like fallen leaves or even moss.
  • Some people believe black truffles smell like chocolate, and some believe they have a very pungent smell, not unlike body odor.
  • Still others find the aroma to be a little bit like seafood.
  • In the end, the most important quality to remember about the aroma of a black truffle is that it’s very strong and very enticing to most.

Expense

  • Black truffles don’t cost quite as much as white truffles, although they can still be very expensive.
  • Perigord black truffles, which are the most prized variety and can be found in the Perigord region of France, fetch the highest price.
  • If you’re willing to try a lesser quality truffle, choosing a summer black truffle, a Chinese black truffle or an Oregon black truffle can help save you some money. This gives you the option to spend a little less and still enjoy the flavor of a truffle without all the prestige surrounding the Perigord winter black variety.
  • Bear in mind, however, that price does signify how good a truffle is likely to taste.
  • Oregon black truffles are generally a better quality than Chinese black truffles, and summer black truffles from Europe are usually a little bit better than Oregon varieties.
  • In other words, the ranking of black truffle quality from highest quality to lowest is Perigord, winter black European truffles, summer black European truffles, Oregon, and Chinese.

Rarity

  • Perigord winter black truffles are very rare and are in fact almost as rare as many types of white truffles.
  • They are only available during the late fall and early winter, and they can only be found in a specific region of France.
  • With that said, however, there are other winter black truffles available throughout Europe, and they are slightly more common than the most valuable Perigord variety.
  • Chinese and Oregon black truffles are very common and are pretty easy to get your hands on.
  • Summer black truffles fall in between the two but are much easier to find than the winter variety.
  • Summer truffles are actually harvested in the late spring in most cases, or in the very early parts of summer.
  • By late summer, they may be over-ripe.

Cooking Difficulty

Attribution: flickr photo by T.Tseng https://flickr.com/photos/68147320@N02/13639088393 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

  • It’s not hard to cook with black truffles, in comparison to white truffles.
  • However, they do require a lot more work than a standard mushroom.
  • You’ll need to understand how to properly peel a black truffle in order to remove the skin without damaging any of the edible part underneath.
  • It’s a good idea to save those skins for use in flavoring other dishes down the line, too!
  • From there, you can slice, grate, shave, or chop your truffle, and mix it into just about anything.
  • Its pungent flavor is hard to overpower with much, and it can stand up to cooking at higher temperatures as well.

Popularity

  • Winter black truffles are actually more popular overall than white truffles are, simply because they’re slightly easier to come by.
  • More chefs tend to use them in their cooking, too, because they can stand up to heat a lot better than white truffles can.
  • Summer black truffles may in fact by the most popular of all truffles, because they’re affordable, easy to find, and easy to cook with.
  • However, the Perigord winter black truffle and other winter varieties remain the most popular in terms of value.

Most Popular Dishes

  • Black truffles are very popular when incorporated into many different types of Italian dishes.
  • They can be sliced and served on top of hot sandwiches, or they might be grated or shaved and mixed into pasta.
  • Sometimes, they are sliced thick and laid on top of a pasta dish, or they might even serve as the base for something as classic as macaroni and cheese.
  • They’ve also become quite popular on pizzas, as they make a great topping with tons of flavor that won’t get lose when cooked at high temperatures.
  • Black truffles balance well with most types of grains.

Most Common Uses

  • Black truffles are usually incorporated into recipes, but they do have other uses.
  • Most of the time, if you come across truffle butter, it has either been infused with or mixed with black truffle pieces.
  • A black truffle that isn’t quality enough to be sold on its own can be chopped up and mixed into truffle butter, or it might also be sliced and packaged in a jar.
  • Lesser quality pieces of black truffles are sometimes also flash frozen, although it’s less likely to find a flash frozen black truffle as it is to find a white version.

Conclusion

So, have your questions about black and white truffle been answered? By now, you should be armed with plenty of information to make the right purchase, no matter what you’re looking for out of your truffle. You’ll be able to head to the local market or go online and pick the perfect truffle for your needs without so much as a single concern. Best of all, you’ll know exactly how to use your unique new ingredient when you bring it home.

But how can you know for sure which are the best ways to make the most of your truffles? Sure, there are plenty of different recipes and other ways in which both truffles are incorporated into food (and sometimes, even into face creams!), but what’s the best use for a truffle when you’ve never practiced cooking with one before?

If you’re using a white truffle, try grating it into something very simple to start with, and see how you feel from there. Remember that you shouldn’t fully cook a white truffle, but that it’s okay to heat it through very quickly. Grating it and stirring it into scrambled eggs is a popular way to enjoy the incredible flavors of a white truffle without overpowering its delicate taste. This is also one of the simplest truffle recipes you can try at home without having to know a ton about cooking with these ingredients.

Black truffles, on the other hand, can stand up to a little bit more when it comes to cooking, so there’s much more you can do with them. One of the most popular modern ways to enjoy black truffles is to slice them up on top of a simple homemade pizza along with a fresh sauce and a perfectly baked crust. You can also chop them and cook them into pasta. Both of these options are great for the truffle beginner looking to enjoy the flavor of black truffles with ease.

Remember that there are many other truffle products you can use aside from fresh or flash-frozen options. You can also incorporate truffle butter or truffle oil into your cooking, and both of these products sometimes contain either black or white truffles. Pay close attention when you buy them, however, to be sure that they really have truffles as an ingredient and aren’t just chemically flavored to taste like truffles.

Now that you know everything there is to know about black and white truffles, you’ll be able to add some class and plenty of flavor to your next dinner party, all without having to second-guess your truffle shopping choices!

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