Truffle oil is usually flavored with chemical compounds that approximate the aroma of real Alba truffles. Photo courtesy D’Artagnan.




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KAREN HOCHMAN is Editorial Director of THE NIBBLE.



December 2006

Last Updated November 2013

Product Reviews / Main Nibbles / Vegetables

Truffle Oil: The Truth

Page 10: Black Truffle Oil, White Truffle Oil


This is Page 10 of a 12-page article. Click on the black links below to visit other pages. See all of our delicious food glossaries.


Truffle Oil

Many of us who can’t afford regular helpings of truffle have been feeding our hunger with truffle oil, which imparts truffle flavor at a price almost anyone can afford. Did you ever wonder why an item that costs $60 an ounce (or more) can be sold as an oil for $1 an ounce, or why black and white truffle oils are sold for the same price when white truffles sell for twice the amount of black? The answer is something that even chefs at good restaurants are surprised to hear: Truffle oil is not flavored with truffles. Zut alors!

Most of us think that the oil is made by infusing olive oil with scraps of truffle—and one or two artisan houses may do this, but their oil costs almost as much as fresh truffles.

The secret, known to everyone in the truffle oil industry, is that aromatic compounds (read: synthetic chemicals) with names like 2,4-dithiapentane emulate the flavor and aroma of truffles. Scientists have approximated the qualities of the truffle as they approximate the scents of fruits and flowers for potpourri and beauty products.

None of this stops us from using truffle oil to scramble an egg  or make truffled mashed potatoes (though we prefer truffle butter for these purposes), toss with pasta, baste chicken or drizzle over beef or game. You can also use it as a knock-out dipping oil; if money is no object, buy 8 ounces of Urbani black truffle oil for $35 or so.

White Truffle Oil
Read the label carefully: Truffle “flavored” oil. Still, $12 or so for 1.7 ounces of oil to
approximate the flavor of white truffles, that cost $200 an ounce, isn’t bad. Learn more about this truffle oil.


Not all truffle oils taste the same, of course. Everybody’s “lab skills” are different, and some of those we’ve tasted do taste like they came from the lab. So it pays to buy the small size, for $10 or less a pop, until you find one you like; or invite your truffle-loving friends to a co-op truffle oil tasting party, where everyone splits the cost of the oils and foods (baguettes, sliced boiled potatoes or more elaborate fare if you wish). You’ll go home drunk on truffle oil—but able to pass any breathalyzer test.

Continue To Page 11: Truffle Recipes

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