White vs. Black Truffle Oil: What’s the Difference?

The primary difference between black truffle oil and white truffle oil is the fragrance. Black truffle oil is stronger and earthier compared to the more delicate, onion/garlic fragrance found in white truffle oil.

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Neither should be used as cooking oils. They’re used to “finish” a dish with a light drizzle or mixing in at the very end. And they’re also very expensive. So, learning which to choose and how you use it will make the most of your truffle oil investment.

What Is Truffle Oil?

Truffle oil is made from a base of olive oil which has been infused with flavors of either black or white truffles. Most truffles come from Europe but there are Chinese and US varieties as well.

The traditional way to make it is by seeping chunks of truffles in the oil to incorporate their flavor into the oil. But truffle oil is also manufactured using synthetically produced truffle flavoring.

While you can find natural truffle oils, they come with a hefty price tag. For the price, you’ll find a better-balanced more complex flavor versus synthetically-made truffle oil which tends to focus on one flavor note.

Synthetic vs. Natural Truffle Oil?

Price isn’t necessarily a good guide, as just putting “truffle” as the type of oil commands a higher price, so you’ll need to look in the ingredients for clues. Natural truffle oil will state the type of truffle and its country of origin. Artificially flavored truffle oils commonly use terms like the aroma of truffle or truffle essence. Both natural and synthetic oil will typically include real truffle pieces at the bottom.

Since neither lasts long after opening, unless you’re a truffle oil addict, buy the smallest size you can find.

What Is Black Truffle Oil?

Black truffle oil is infused with the rich flavors of black truffles. They have a strong earthy, butter-like taste. Most of the flavor of this oil comes from dimethyl sulfide, a flavor that lingers for a long time, making a strong impact.

The most popular black truffle is the Black Perigold. This is the one used by high end restaurants. Other varieties include Burgundy (light and nutty) and Garlic. Chinese black truffles are abundant and a fraction of the cost of other black truffles. They’re also less flavorful, essentially a much milder version of Black Perigold.

Black truffle oil is generally used at the end of the cooking as a finishing oil. Drizzle a little on dishes with bold flavors such as pizza, roasted meat dishes, flat breads or dips. Or mix into full bodied dishes like potatoes, pasta, rice or soups before serving.

What Is White Truffle Oil?

White truffle oil is made from white truffles or flavors of white truffles. The main compound that provides white truffle its signature fragrance is biomethane. It produces a slightly spicy and sulfurous flavor often compared to onion or garlic.

Traditional Italian White truffles, the most expensive of all types of truffles, have the familiar garlic and onion scent. The Pecan truffle, while still expensive, is found in the US and has a light, nutty taste.

Because of its delicate flavor, white truffle oil should not be cooked. Use it for finishing only on dishes like pasta, breads or dips.

Black Truffle Oil vs. White Truffle Oil – Which One Is Better?

It’s not a matter of better – it’s a matter of taste. Some find the strong flavor of black truffle oil overbearing while others can’t get enough. While white truffle oil isn’t as flavor forward, the underlying mushroom flavor doesn’t appeal to everyone.

In general, white truffle oil is better for light and creamy dishes, whereas black truffle oils are better for stronger and heartier recipes.

Whichever you choose, it’s best to use a light hand with truffle oils. You want the oil to enhance the other flavors not mask them.

Can You Use White Truffle Oil for Black Truffle Oil (and visa-versa)?

While the flavor overtones are different, both still have that umami/mushroom base flavor. Since black truffle oil has a stronger, earthier flavor, if the recipe calls for white truffle oil and all you have is black truffle oil, start with quarter the amount called for. Add small amounts and taste, repeating until you have the flavor you want.

When using white as a substitute for black truffle oil, use the same amount called for in the recipe. Don’t think you need to add more! Depending on what you’re making, too much oil can make the dish a greasy mess.

What Is the Shelf Life of Truffle Oil?

Each truffle oil bottle comes with a best-before date stamped on it. If you wait until after that date to open, the oil may have degraded. What does that mean? The flavor won’t be as potent or the taste is altered or, if you waited a really long time, the oil has become rancid. Throw it out if it’s rancid but it’s up to you if any taste changes are acceptable.

After opening, it’s recommended that you store truffle oils in a dark, cool place for up to 3 months. You can refrigerate truffle oil for up to 8 months, but expect some of the dreaded degradation. Additionally, the oil will become cloudy, so take it out before using again.

How Much Does Truffle Oil Cost?

Natural truffle oil is more expensive than synthetic truffle oil due to the cost of the truffles used in the natural oils. Additionally, there’s a big difference between natural white and natural black truffle oils. White Italian truffles are in the $200 per ounce range while black truffles range from $5 to $25 per ounce.

For synthetic oils, the cost is similar for either black and white truffle oil. This is like because synthetic oils use similar chemicals to provide the truffle flavor.

Here is a table of the price averages for top 5 natural and synthetic brands as of October 2021.

Truffle OilsAvg. Per MLAvg. Per Bottle
Synthetic White$0.0958/ml$15.77
Synthetic Black$0.0968/ml$14.19
Natural White$0.2164/ml$28.32
Natural Black$0.1763/ml$26.23

What Are the Best Substitutes for Truffle Oil?

There’s really no substitute for either white or black truffle oil but if you need something to finish a dish, extra-virgin olive oil (EVO) has a consistency similar to truffle oils. You can also find flavored olive oils if you don’t like the pungent, slightly green taste of EVO.

To get the truffle flavor, you can find truffle powder at specialty stores or online. Mix with a clean tasting oil (like canola) for finishing or add a shake to your recipes. One advantage to the powder is that it lasts longer.

Another option is to finish any meals with truffle infused salts and use extra-virgin olive oil.

How to Make Your Own Truffle Oil

You can make your own truffle oil at home. Fresh truffles will give you the best flavor, but if you can’t find them, you can use dried or brined truffles. Choose fresh truffles that are firm, relatively heavy and have a good odor. Broken pieces are fine as long as they meet those criteria.

You’ll also need some good extra virgin olive oil, a candy/liquid thermometer and a glass jar (dark colored if you can find one).

For each cup of olive oil, use 1 teaspoon of finely chopped fresh or brined truffle or ½ teaspoon of dried truffles. Clean and dry fresh truffles first. If using brined truffles, drain and dry. Note that you can “half” this recipe if you want to make a smaller batch.

Heat the oil in a saucepan to 365F/180C. Add the truffles and cook for 5 minutes, gently stirring. Remove from heat and let cool before pouring into a clean glass jar. You can strain the oil first or leave the truffle bits in the oil.

Store in a dark, cool place or refrigerator for up to 3 months.

Key Takeaways

  • Truffle oils are not for cooking. They’re used a finishing oil to sprinkle on dishes or mix into foods before serving.
  • Most black truffle oils are earthy and rich. Choose white truffle oils for a lighter taste.
  • Fresh truffle oils are more expensive but provide the best taste and aroma. Synthetic truffle oils are not as flavorful but their lower price lets you test the different flavors or add a novel taste boost to your dishes.
  • Truffle oils don’t last long, so plan to use them in 3-6 months.
Is truffle oil good for you?

In moderation, yes. Truffle oil is primarily made of olive oil, which is loaded with good fats. There have been numerous clinical studies showing health benefits and even the potential at preventing certain cancers. However, further clinical research is needed to fully understand the beneficial effects of olive oil.

You can overdo it though like any other fatty food. For example, chugging olive oil like a soda, that might not be the best idea for your health.

Is truffle oil vegan?

In short, yes, truffle oil is vegan. Truffles are fungi which are generally considered vegetables. Olive oil is made from olives which are fruits. Any artificial flavoring is generally not made with the help of any animal parts.

Something to be aware of is that pigs or dogs are used to find the truffles. The animals are generally not harmed in the process, usually they are given treats whenever they find a truffle.

What kind of truffle oil is best for pasta?

White truffle oil is best if you want a lighter pasta. Black truffle oil is best if you want to compliment a heavier or earthier tasting pasta.

What kind of truffle oil is best for fries?

White truffle oil is generally best to finish french fries as they are rich already and generally the fries are complimented with cheese. Black truffle oil is used as well.

What kind of truffle oil is best for popcorn?

White truffle oil is better with pop corn is it is a lighter dish.

What kind of truffle oil is best for steak?

Black truffle oil is generally better for steak as the earthy bold flavor of black truffle compliments beef very well.

What kind of truffle oil is best for mashed potatoes?

Black truffle oil is best as mashed potatoes are generally eaten hot and the flavor of white truffle oil rapidly dissipates with heat.

What kind of truffle oil is best for pizza?

Black truffle oil is best for most pizzas. White truffle oil would work great with a cold pizza.

What kind of truffle oil is best for sandwiches?

If you have a hot sandwich black truffle oil is the best choice. If you have a cold sandwich, white truffle oil is best.

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