White Truffles vs. Black Truffles
Among the most expensive fungi on the market, white truffles (Tuber magnatum) and black truffles (Tuber melanosporum) are prized by chefs, gourmets, and foragers around the world. Why are they so valued, though, and what is the difference? White truffles sell for significantly higher prices than black truffles. Is the flavor worth it?
What is the difference between white and black truffles?
Besides the obvious color difference, there are other variances between white and black truffles.
Black truffles are more common than white truffles. White truffles only grow in 3-4 regions in Europe, including northern Italy, parts of Slovenia and Croatia, and one place in France. Black truffles are widely foraged in Italy, Spain, and France. The rarity of the white truffle is one of the main reasons it sells for so much more. Black truffles are also commercially cultivated around the world. White truffles have not been reliably cultivated, yet.
Flavor, Smell, & Use
The flavor of the black truffle is earthy, robust, and nutty. Its character is more classically mushroom-like. The smell is equated to red wine or chocolate. White truffles are pungent, musky, and earthy. Their flavor is garlicky and powerful, and they smell like ammonia or body odor. The white truffle’s flavor fades quickly, unlike the black truffle, which retains its flavor and smell longer.
White truffles are best served raw because that is when their flavor is most potent. When they are cooked, their prized pungency dissipates. Black truffles, on the other hand, don’t deteriorate in flavor when cooked.
For this reason, black truffles have more use in the culinary world. Black truffles are used in egg dishes, to top pizza, to make truffle butter, and in pasta. White truffles are used as an accompaniment; they are lightly shaved and served raw on top of a fully cooked dish like pasta, eggs, or risotto.
Because they are versatile and less expensive, black truffles are more commonly used in restaurants.
Black truffles are commercially grown successfully around the globe, including Australia, Italy, France, North America, South America, New Zealand, and South Africa. The growing of black truffles isn’t easy, though, since it requires specific trees, perfect soil conditions, and accommodating weather.
But, the successful growth of black truffles means they are not as rare as they once were and, therefore, aren’t as expensive. However, they are still quite pricey! White truffles, on the other hand, have not been commercially cultivated. That, in addition to their limited growing area, makes them rare and extremely expensive.
Due to their rarity, fragile flavor, and inability to be cultivated, it will come as no surprise that white truffles are significantly more expensive than black truffles. Black truffles average $250-800 per pound while white truffles average $2,000-4,000 per pound. That’s quite a difference!
If you are fortunate enough to find yourself in a fancy restaurant with money to spare, give these gems a try, and see if you can tell the difference. And, whether it is worth it!