Truffle Types: A Culinary Exploration of Earth’s Finest Delicacy

While people with a sweet tooth may think of a rich chocolate treat when they hear the term “truffle”, the word was originally used solely to describe a type of edible fungus. Some of these fungi were – and still are – prized for their delicious flavors and have even been described as “the diamond of the kitchen”.

truffle cut in half

There are over 140 truffle species but only a few of them are actually considered valuable in the food market today.

For more on the different types of truffles and their uses, please keep reading.

Different Types Of Truffles Explained

There are many species of truffle that can be found in all kinds of different environments, and they come in a variety of different flavors and textures as well. There are two significant groups that most truffles fall into, though: Black and White.

Each specific type of truffle is defined by its outer color, growing season, and sometimes the region in which it can be found as well.

What Are The Best Truffles?

With so many different species to choose from, then you might be wondering: What’s the best truffle? If you’re not concerned about cost, most chefs will point consumers to the Black Perigord Truffle, or the White Piedmont Truffle.

However, to know which one is truly going to be the best for you, then you need to know the different flavors that are out there, and what kind of taste you are looking for. We’re going to talk about some of the popular and interesting varieties that you are likely to see on the shelves and what sets them apart from the rest.

Most Popular Types of Truffle

Whether you’re looking for seasonal ingredients or you’re shopping for truffle salt or truffle oil, you definitely want to take a look at what species you are actually buying. Fresh truffles can vary in price by a surprising amount so you need to know the difference between Summer White varieties and Black Winter varieties if you want the best taste.

White Truffle (Tuber Magnatum Pico)

Also known as the Piedmont White Truffle, this delicacy from northern Italy is the most expensive truffle you can find, and is widely known as the more popular truffle. Fresh specimens sell for almost $1000 for a single 4 oz tuber. They have firm flesh and pale golden color, with a very knobby texture – unlike the roundish shape that many other truffles have.

This truffle is a Winter White Truffle and it’s known for the delicate aroma of fried sunflower seeds and walnuts that gives a pleasantly pungent odor, along with an almost garlicky flavor that goes well with buttery pasta or rice dishes.

They are often found in the Alba region of Piedmont, Italy, so they are also known as the White Alba Truffle or simply the Alba Truffle.

Bianchetto Truffle (Tuber Borchii)

Although also relatively pale, these are actually known as the “whitish” or Bianchetto truffle, as opposed to a White Summer Truffle or a White Winter Truffle. This is because they have a slightly darker outer layer which appears slightly brown or orange when compared to the Tuber Magnatum varieties – although they actually come in a surprising number of colors.

They tend to be harvestable just after the more famous and expensive White Truffles, between January and March, so they are a good option when those are out of season. They are reasonably common in northern and central Italy, but they grow in a surprising number of European countries – from Finland to Great Britain.

They also have a garlicky flavor and are often referred to as sharp, and they go very well with butter, cheese, chicken, and lobster. Mixed with a bit of olive oil and raw egg, you can make a wonderful White Truffle Aoli with them too.

Burgundy Truffle (Tuber Uncinatum Chatin)

Known by the name “Burgundy Truffle”, this truffle is recognized by the diamond pattern on its dark brown outer later. It’s prized for its earthy flavor of mingled mushrooms and hazelnut.

This truffle is harvested in August, so they are often referred to as Black Autumn Truffles. It’s found in France, Italy, and Spain between September and January. It’s popular not only for its flavor but also for being more affordable than some other types of truffles.

Muscat Truffle (Tuber Brumale Vittadini)

These Black Winter Truffles are commonly known as the Brumale truffle, and they are generally harvested between November and mid-March. They have really dark skin that almost appears black, and they have thin white veins that run through their flesh. They can grow to be larger than a hen’s egg.

They grow mainly in deciduous woodland areas, particularly around oak trees and in calcareous soils. Their characteristic taste is strong with a hint of almond or nutmeg, they have a musky aroma, and they’re often used for pasta and rice dishes.

Périgord truffle (Tuber Melanosporum Vittadini)

These are often referred to as the Prized Black Truffle, the Périgord Truffle, or even “the king of the table”, and they are among the more expensive of the Winter Black Truffles. They are particularly favored in France, but they are also relatively easy to find in Italy and Spain as well.

This Winter Black Truffle is gathered across the whole winter period but is more commonly seen in January and February. They have a brownish-grey or reddish-black color and are filled with small white veins with many branches. They can actually grow to be the size of an apple, if not bigger.

Black Summer Truffle (Tuber Aestivum Vittadini)

Also given the name Summer Black Truffle, Black Summer Truffle, or “Scorzone”, these have a light brown color that can even be quite pinkish, and they are also covered in thin white veins. They can be very large in size and are one of the most common species around, being found almost all year long under a variety of different trees in many different countries around Europe.

Like other summer truffles, their aroma is quite light and slightly earthy, and they have a slightly more mellow and subtle taste than you get with a lot of the more expensive types.

Chinese Black Truffle (Tuber Indicum)

These are a whole other variety of truffles from a whole other part of the world – known as the Asian Black Truffle, or the Chinese Black Truffle. They are a kind of Winter Black Truffle as they ripen between November and March and are the main commercial truffle found in China.

It is very similar to the Tuber Melanosporum truffle that is grown in Europe, although the taste and aroma are not as highly sought-after.

The harvesting and farming methods for these truffles are slightly different than the traditions in European countries, and the tools used are thought to lower the quality of the harvest by reducing their size and the intensity of their flavor.

Oregon Black Truffle (Leucangium Carthusianum)

It’s not only in Europe and China where truffles are found. The Leucangium Carthusianum truffle is actually found in North America, and they are known as the Oregon Black Truffle. They have a unique fruity aroma and mild taste when compared to that of the European varieties, which makes them suitable to be consumed raw or shaved over prepared dishes.

They often have a chocolate brown color, although they can be darker brown or even slightly grey, and they have a roundish shape and rough skin surface.

In North America, you can also find Oregon Winter White Truffles (Tuber Oregonense), Oregon Spring White Truffles (Tuber Gibbosum), and Oregon Brown Truffles (Kalapuya Brunnea)

Summary: What Is The Best Truffle Variety?

Whether you’re looking at Black Summer Truffles, White Winter Truffles, Chinese Black Truffles, or even Oregan Truffles, it can still be hard to tell what the best option for you is going to be without giving them a try yourself. There are, however, a few key things to keep in mind.

White Truffles are rarer and more delicate in flavor than Black Truffles, so they are generally the preferred option for eating raw instead of cooking. The musky aroma and distinct flavor of Black Truffles make them a good choice for cooking in dishes, and they are usually cheaper as well.

If you want the cream of the crop, though, then the Piedmont White Truffle and the Périgord Black Truffle are generally the most highly sought-after varieties.

Andrea Arthur