Truffles are synonymous with decadence and fine cuisine, but in the modern age, they’re much more accessible and available to the home cook or foodie. This mushroom-like fungus can be added to virtually any dish or snack as a way to elevate the flavor and presentation.
There are two main kinds of truffles that are widely used in the culinary industry: black and white truffles. While they’re very similar, there are several distinctive factors that separate the two.
So what is the difference between white and black truffles? There are actually a few. Keep reading for a breakdown of the differences between white and black truffles and how to choose between them in the kitchen.
What Are Black Truffles?
Black truffles are a type of edible fungus that grow in Mediterranean climates. There are several varieties of black truffles and the appearance can range from knobby or spikey to smooth. They have a musky, earthy flavor and can be cooked, infused, or eaten raw.
What Are White Truffles?
White truffles, like black truffles, are a type of fungi, but they’re a different species than black truffles. They’re smaller in size than black truffles with a knobby appearance and a more pronounced aroma. They’re typically eaten raw and shaved finely.
Key Differences Between Black and White Truffles
One key difference between white and black truffles is the price point. Black truffles are typically more affordable than white truffles because they’re a little easier to source. Black truffles fetch an average price of around $3,000 per pound in the United States, while a pound of white truffles can cost upwards of $4,000.
White and black truffles also vary by season. Black truffles have a longer harvest season, available throughout the year in different forms (summer and winter black truffles). White truffles are generally only in season from September to December.
White truffles have a more complex, lighter, and more subtle flavor than black truffles. They have a more pungent flavor to them, often likened to raw garlic. Black truffles are more earthy and nutty, similar to a mushroom.
When to Use White or Black Truffles
Typically, the rule of thumb is to use white truffles in lighter dishes and incorporate black truffles in heavier, richer, heartier dishes.
White truffles are usually consumed raw, sliced thinly or shaved over salads, vegetable dishes, fish, and some pastas. It pairs well with Parmesan cheese, butter, and other creamy sauces, so it’s perfect for pastas with a white sauce or brothy dishes.
Black truffles are favored for dishes with red meat, heavier pasta dishes, hearty seafood dishes, or even chocolate-based desserts!
Ultimately, it might come down to a matter of preference–you can decide which truffle you’d rather use based on the situation and your personal taste. There are several dishes where black and white truffles can be used interchangeably depending on which type you like best (many pastas and seafood dishes will be complimented by either type), so use your judgement.