What’s a Great Substitute for Truffle Oil? Everything You Needed to Know

Have you ever heard of truffle oil?

If you’ve been paying attention to cooking trends in recent years, you’ve probably come across truffle oil at some point. But how do you know what to do with it when you find it?

Truffle oil is a popular product, but it can be tricky to work with! It’s also very expensive if you’re looking for a good-quality version, and it’s sometimes hard to come by, depending on where you live and your proximity to specialty markets.

So what do you do when you want to cook with truffle oil, but you can’t?

You substitute, of course!

In this article, I’ll teach you all about the different types of truffle oil substitute you have to choose from. You’ll learn how to work with substitutes that might be a little more expensive as well as those that are more cost-effective. With each substitute, I’ll also let you know what to expect in terms of flavor, availability, and how you’ll need to work with the products listed.

Of course, I’ll also give you a crash course in truffle oil, just in case you need to learn a little before we get started! By the time you’re finished reading, you’ll be able to choose your favorite substitute for truffle oil and you’ll know what you’re doing when you go shopping for the real thing, too.

Let’s get started!

What are Truffles?

You’ve probably heard of truffles, especially if you’ve ever been at a fancy dinner party or gone to eat at an upscale restaurant. Truffles are a well-known rare culinary ingredient, and they have been a popular part of the cooking world for centuries. Although it was once believed that they held healing powers, they are now coveted simply because of their rarity and delicious overall flavor. When you taste a fresh truffle for the first time, you’ll never forget it!

well-known rare culinary ingredient truffle

Truffles are a type of fungus, although calling them a mushroom is a little bit inaccurate. They grow on the roots of certain types of trees and only under certain growing conditions. They can’t be found just anywhere, but through scientific advancements, efforts are being taken to grow them in climates they might not ordinarily have shown up in.

Black Truffles

Black truffles have a few qualities that make them stand out from white truffles. Check out this list for a brief understanding of what makes a black truffle so unique.

  • Black truffles are found throughout France. The most highly prized of these French truffles is the Perigord winter black truffle. This type of truffle only grows in the winter in a specific region of France.
  • Summer black truffles from France are known as Burgundy truffles.
  • Other summer black truffles may be found around the world, including Oregon, Chinese, and pecan truffles.
  • The black truffle has a strong earthy flavor that some people compare to red wine and chocolate.

White Truffles

White truffles are the most highly sought-after truffles in the world. Below, I’ve listed a few of the qualities that make them so popular.

  • White truffles can be found in both France and Italy, but Italian white truffles are the most recognized. The best of these truffles comes from a region called Alba, so they’re called Alba winter white truffles.
  • White truffles found in summer aren’t worth as much as those found in winter.
  • White truffles are not grown in many other places around the world, so they are much rarer overall than black truffles are.
  • The flavor of a white truffle is acidic and somewhat like ammonia. It’s also been compared to shallots, garlic, and even mild cheeses.

What is Truffle Oil?

substitute for truffle oil

Attribution: flickr photo by Sprogz https://flickr.com/photos/sprogz/5985701936 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Although truffles have been around for a long time, truffle oil has only recently become a popular ingredient in upscale cooking. Some celebrity chefs have had a lot of negative things to say about truffle oil, but for the most part, it nevertheless remains a popular ingredient in many kitchens around the United States. It provides an affordable and easy-to-find way to get the taste of truffles in your cooking without having to purchase the real thing.

White Truffle Oil

White truffle oil is a light oil that is infused with the flavor of white truffles. White truffles, which are the rarest type of truffle in the world, are used to infuse high-quality extra-virgin olive oil to create this type of truffle oil. Whole white truffles are never used, but the skins, peelings, and pieces of truffles that were unable to sell on the market because of their size or appearance are used instead. This way, the price of truffle oil can stay fairly low, since it is not made with whole, fresh truffles. White truffle oil has a slightly ammonia flavor and tastes of garlic and shallots.

Black Truffle Oil

Black truffle oil is still light in color, like white truffle oil, but it has much denser flavor overall. It is made from slightly less rare truffles than white truffle oil, but an excellent quality black truffle oil should still be made from Burgundy black truffles. Like white truffle oil, black truffle oil is made by infusing pieces of black truffles in high-quality olive oil. Black truffle oil tastes like meat and earth, and some people have also compared its flavor to red wine or chocolate. It lacks the garlic taste of white truffle oil.

Real vs Faux Truffle Oil

white truffle oil substitute

Unfortunately, truffle oil is not as readily available as you might think—at least, not in good quality. The type of truffle oil you’re likely to find on the shelves at most big box grocery stores is not actually made from real truffles at all. It is instead comprised of an olive oil base that is blended with several different chemicals to create the smell and flavor of a truffle. This faux truffle oil is so packed with chemicals that it’s a far cry from anything like an authentic truffle oil!

If you want to use a real, true truffle oil, pay close attention to the ingredients listed on the bottle. A real truffle oil might still contain some chemical ingredients, like preservatives, but it should also list real truffle pieces as one of the top ingredients. Most oils that contain real truffle pieces are proud of this fact, so the label probably says something on the front about it, too.

Substitutes

If you’re looking to substitute truffle oil with some other type of ingredient, you have a few different options to help you get started. Don’t skip by a great recipe you’re excited to try just because you can’t get your hands on truffle oil! With the ideas listed below, you’ll be substituting in no time, and you won’t even be able to tell the difference.

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

substitute for white truffle oil

Extra-virgin olive oil is probably the most common white truffle oil substitute in just about any recipe. Since the two have roughly the same consistency and texture, they can easily be replaced on a 1:1 ratio without affecting the recipe much at all.

How is it used?

Most of the time, extra-virgin olive oil in recipes is used for sautéing vegetable ingredients, browning meat ingredients, or cooking into sauces. This is a very common addition to just about every Italian dish, but it shows up in many other types of cooking as well.

How does it work in place of truffle oil?

When a recipe calls for truffle oil to be drizzled over ingredients as they cook or even added to sauces at the last minute for flavor, extra-virgin olive oil can usually get the job done for a fraction of the cost. You don’t have to change the ratio of oil since most truffle oil recipes don’t use a lot in the first place.

Where can it be found?

Extra-virgin olive oil can be purchased in just about any grocery store. However, be careful not to buy a type of olive oil that’s very low-quality, since it will be too watery and thin and may not have the kind of flavor needed to mimic the use of truffle oil. The better the quality of oil you can get, the easier it will be for you to get the truffle oil taste throughout your cooking. Take note that high-quality olive oil can get almost as expensive as truffle oil, so you might want to weigh your options when shopping.

Can it be used as-is?

You can use extra-virgin olive oil in place of truffle oil as-is, but you might want to do a little more to it to give it an even better flavor. If you infuse it with garlic and shallots overnight before using it—or purchase a high-quality oil that has already been seasoned similarly—you’ll be able to pull off a similar truffle oil flavor that will fool all of your friends and family. Don’t be afraid to try out other seasonings to bring some life into your olive oil.

Will this change the flavor?

Using extra-virgin olive oil in place of truffle oil will change the flavor, but not considerably so. Truffle oil and olive oil have similar tastes, and especially if you infuse your oil with garlic before using it, you’ll be able to get the taste of truffle oil pretty easily. Just remember that, in the end, the tastes are bound to be slightly different.

Truffle Salt

Truffle salt is a unique ingredient that can sometimes be used in place of truffle oil in certain recipes. This is usually a high-quality type of sea salt that is mixed with small shaved or minced pieces of real truffles. It comes in either black or white truffle varieties to help you get the flavor you need most. This is a popular substitute for white truffle oil since it’s so light.

truffle salts

How is it used?

When used in recipes that initially call for truffle salt, this product is generally sprinkled over food at the last minute to give it a burst of flavor all the way through. However, when used in place of truffle oil, it may be incorporated a little bit differently. Since it’s a salt, it can be used in much the same way as any other type of salt. Season meat and vegetables with it, or even consider throwing it into the boiling water when you’re cooking pasta.

How does it work in place of truffle oil?

You can’t substitute truffle salt at a 1:1 ratio with truffle oil since this would make your dish much too salty overall. The best way to use truffle salt to mimic the taste of truffle oil is to use it along with olive or other types of cooking oil. You won’t necessarily need a high-quality or infused olive oil when you’re able to get the truffle flavor from truffle salt instead. Add a pinch or two to your sauces, main ingredients, or pasta, but don’t go too overboard.

Where can it be found?

Truffle salt is found at many specialty grocery stores. You won’t find it on the shelves at big-box groceries, but you can find it in markets like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s easily. You can also order it online from companies that specialize in truffles or truffle products. It is much cheaper than authentic truffle oil and may be cheaper than high-quality olive oil, too.

Can it be used as-is?

Yes, truffle salt can be used as-is if you’re trying to get the taste of truffles into your dishes. You don’t need to add anything to it to build up the flavor you’re looking for, but you might want to combine it with olive oil to get the same texture in your food. You might also consider pairing it with garlic and shallots to add to the overall truffle effect.

Will this change the flavor?

Using truffle salt is likely to change the flavor of your cooking, but not by too much. Where truffle oil will provide an earthy, meat-like taste along with the slight acidity of oil, truffle salt can give you the same flavor with sea salt on the back notes. Be careful not to overdo it with truffle salt, since it absolutely will overpower your cooking and make it hard to enjoy if you use too much.

Worcestershire Sauce and Mushrooms

This is a unique way to work around a lack of truffle oil. It’s most commonly used to mimic black truffle oil since the taste of Worcestershire sauce may be a little bit too strong to substitute for white truffle oil. However, this variation includes plenty of ingredients you’re likely to already have on hand.

truffle oil substitute

How is it used?

Worcestershire sauce and mushrooms are combined with olive oil to create a taste that is remarkably similar to black truffle oil. You can use it in just about any situation when you might otherwise use truffle oil, but remember that Worcestershire sauce is more likely to boil than oil is, so you’ll need to keep a close eye on it if you’re using this combination for sautéing. The mushrooms will need to be cooked along with the sauce and oil to infuse the entire mixture.

How does it work in place of truffle oil?

This combination works great if you’re looking for a comparable flavor to substitute in place of oil for cooking. Cook vegetables or meat in Worcestershire sauce with a little bit of olive oil, and be sure to cook the mushrooms along with your other ingredients. This will give you a deep, robust flavor with a vinegary aroma and taste that’s sure to remind you of black truffles. The mushrooms help bring about the overall fungus flavor you expect from truffle oil.

Where can it be found?

Worcestershire sauce and mushrooms can be found in just about any grocery store. You don’t have to purchase an expensive or elaborate type of Worcestershire sauce, and you don’t need to select mushrooms that are out of the ordinary, either. As for the bit of olive oil you’ll need to pull this off, feel free to use a lower-quality version that won’t break the bank. This is one of the most affordable ways to get the taste of truffle oil in your cooking.

Can it be used as-is?

You can’t use Worcestershire sauce alone in your cooking and expect it to taste like truffles, but it’s easy to get the flavors to combine. Add a teaspoon or so of olive oil to a tablespoon or so of Worcestershire sauce, and use this to sauté minced white button mushrooms. The flavors from the mushrooms will work together with those from the oil and sauce, and you’ll be ready to start your dish in no time.

Will this change the flavor?

This will make for a different overall flavor than using real truffle oil. The taste is likely to be more vinegary than you’re expecting, so you might want to add some garlic or other ingredients to help mellow it out even more. Worcestershire sauce is also a bit on the salty side, so be careful not to over-salt your food if you use this substitute.

Mushroom Pesto

Pesto is a popular addition to many different Italian style dishes, and it’s beginning to find its way into other types of cooking as well. If the dish you’ll be preparing is very Italian in nature, you can substitute mushroom pesto in place of truffle oil to get much of the same flavor you’re looking for. You can even find truffle pesto in some places if you’re looking for even more authentic flavor.

substitute for truffle oil

How is it used?

Pesto is a sauce, so it’s best used when incorporated near the end of a dish or mixed into some cream or other ingredients to make an even more elaborate sauce. Mushroom pesto is no different. This isn’t an ingredient you can use for sautéing vegetables or meat, but you can sometimes blend it with your meat, depending on what you’re cooking.

How does it work in place of truffle oil?

Since pesto contains oil as one of its main ingredients, it has a similar texture for cooking to straight truffle oil. However, it includes a lot of other ingredients that give it a chunky, minced texture overall, so it can’t be used in exactly the same way truffle oil might be. It’s best used as a topping for your food or a mix-in for your noodles.

Where can it be found?

Mushroom pesto can be found in most grocery stores. Check the same aisles where you might find canned or jarred black olives or jarred sun-dried tomatoes. You can usually come across sauces like pesto in the same place. If you’re looking for truffle pesto, however, you’ll need to check online. Shops that specialize in authentic truffles and truffle products almost always carry this product, though it may also be labeled as truffle sauce.

Can it be used as-is?

You can use mushroom pesto as-is in your cooking. You don’t need to add anything to it to make it taste similar to truffle oil. It probably already contains garlic and shallots, but if the pesto you choose doesn’t, you can always add them to the mix to increase the overall similarity in flavors. You can also combine pesto with other ingredients to create a thicker sauce.

Will this change the flavor?

The flavor your dish won’t change much if you use mushroom or truffle pesto in place of truffle oil. However, you’ll be able to tell a difference between the two ingredients. The texture will also change considerably, and you won’t be able to use pesto for sautéing purposes.

Conclusion

You’ve got a few choices when it comes to substituting other products for truffle oil! You don’t have to feel left out from making delicious recipes that call for truffle oil simply because you can’t find this product on your local grocery shelves. Depending on what you’ve got available, you can go for something easier and more affordable or choose a product that might be more expensive but closer in taste overall.

Of course, the best choice you have is still to try a good-quality truffle oil when you can. It’s easy to work with substitutes, but nothing can quite compare to the flavor of an excellent white or black truffle oil in your Italian, French, or other types of cooking. When you have a chance, be sure to give this great ingredient a try. You’re sure to love it!

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