In the world of cuisine, you often hear a lot about truffles.
A truffle is a type of mushroom that grows underground.
It has incredible flavor and a unique aroma that makes it ideal for sauces or even eating it in its raw form.
The problem with using truffles in a meal is that they’re incredibly expensive.
Black truffles can range anywhere from $250 to $800 a pound whereas white ruffles can even go up to $1,000 a pound.
Here are 10 reasons truffles are so expensive.
Why Is Truffle So Expensive? (Top 10 Reasons)
1. Few Varieties
One of the problems with truffles and what makes them so expensive is that there are very few varieties out there that are worth anything.
In the world of truffles, the two best types are black truffles and white truffles.
Of those two, white truffles are highly prized because they have more flavor and are more aromatic.
Since there are only two varieties of truffle worth anything, it makes those two extremely expensive.
There are other types of truffles, but they don’t have the same kind of flavor or aroma that the black and white truffles offer.
If you stumble upon a truffle in your area, then the chance of it being a black or white truffle is slim.
Since there are only so many in the world, that limits their supply.
Demand is always high for truffles.
With little supply to meet high demand, it makes the price of white and black truffles extremely high.
Truffles are expensive because there are only two varieties, black and white, which are actually worth cooking.
2. Hard To Find
Even if you know you’re in an area where black or white truffles grow, it’s still extremely difficult to find them.
That’s because truffles grow underground.
They’re a type of fungus that prefers certain soil conditions and enjoys growing under certain types of trees.
The human eye can’t easily spot them unless they’re extremely lucky.
Traditionally, humans used pigs to sniff out truffles.
Pigs naturally know how to smell for food underground since they’re foragers.
They often sniff out roots, bugs, and many types of fungi beneath the surface.
They then use their snouts, or in the case of boars, their tusks, to dig up the food source.
Noticing this ability, farmers trained pigs specifically to locate truffles.
Since they have a strong smell, it wasn’t too difficult to have pigs home in on their particular scent.
The problem with using pigs is that they often ate the truffle once they discovered it.
Because of this, farmers have started to switch to dogs.
Dogs can also locate truffles, and they can receive training to keep from eating the mushroom once they find it.
Because finding truffles is so complex, it takes a lot of time.
Unless you’re farming the truffle, you’re looking for them out in the wild.
They could be anywhere beneath your feet.
Thanks to the complicated process of finding truffles, they’re expensive.
3. Harvesting Complications
Once a farmer finds a truffle, that’s only half of the complicated job.
Truffles are expensive because it’s also difficult to harvest them out in the wild.
Once a pig or dog finds a truffle, a harvester can’t be exactly sure of where it’s located since it’s underground.
That requires them to carefully dig around the area.
The last thing they want to do is end up shoveling right into the truffle.
That could waste a ton of money.
Instead, they have to dig around the area, then slowly make their way towards where the dog or pig smelled it.
They also don’t always know the depth.
They may start to dig across only to discover that they dug right into the truffle.
Digging is a slow and mindful process, and it’s usually always done by hand.
Considering that an individual usually needs to dig up several truffles to reach their quota, this entire process takes a long time.
The money they make by selling the truffles reflects how much time they spent hunting them down and digging them up.
Truffles are expensive because harvesting them is a laborious process.
The size of the truffle also determines how expensive it is.
Truffles come in a variety of sizes.
The larger a truffle is, the more expensive it is since it can offer more flavor and chefs can use more of it.
Farmers and foragers never know what size their truffles are going to be or what they’ll find in the wild.
Small truffles are valuable as well, but they don’t add a lot of weight to the overall product.
Most people prefer larger truffles since it adds more to the weight of the entire product.
That means the product costs more.
Most chefs tend to buy their truffles by the pound.
Now and then, for a few select dishes, they may buy them individually.
In most cases, they buy by the pound to ensure they have enough.
Larger truffles are more expensive since they weigh more than others.
If you find a large truffle in the wild, then you can expect it to be more expensive than a small truffle.
5. Short Shelf Life
Another problem that truffles have that also impacts its price is its shelf life.
Shelf life refers to a food’s ability to remain on the shelf before it starts to go bad.
It’s basically its lifespan before it becomes moldy, rotten, or inedible.
In the case of truffles, they have extremely short shelf lives.
They can last one to two weeks before they lose their flavor and start to rot.
Because their shelf life is so short, storing them is difficult.
Chefs need to use them as soon as they arrive.
That also means that they can’t have a reliable supply.
Since they’re not reliable, it makes the market for them unstable.
They’re always in demand and supply is always limited.
Thanks to their short shelf life, truffles are difficult to maintain and keep and thus are expensive.
6. Difficulty In Farming
Perhaps one of the biggest reasons truffles are so expensive is that they’re difficult to farm.
Many farmers have tried to plant truffles only for the crop to fail.
That’s because truffles require a very specific type of condition in which to grow.
This condition is difficult to replicate in an artificial environment.
Truffles grow best in well-drained soil and in mild temperatures.
That means most farmers that experience winters can’t grow them.
Frost will kill the truffle.
Even farmers in milder temperatures may have difficulty growing them.
Even the slightest change of temperature that makes it too cold or too hot can make it impossible for the truffle to grow.
It also requires certain nutrients that only certain types of soil can provide.
Finally, some truffles also prefer to grow only under certain trees.
Some of these trees include:
If those trees don’t grow natively in the area, then it’s unlikely that the truffle will enjoy growing there either.
Because of their complexity, most truffles come from the wild.
Those who do manage to successfully grow truffles on a farm often have to spend a lot of money to maintain the right conditions.
To make up for the costs, they have to put a high price on the truffle.
Truffles are expensive because farming them is expensive and difficult.
There’s no question that there are specific areas where the best truffles come from.
The best white truffles come from the Piedmont region in Italy.
There are other areas in Italy where white truffles grow as well, but the ones from the Piedmont region have a reputation for providing incredible flavor and aroma.
The best black truffles come from the Périgord region in France.
This area has a lot of oak trees that the truffles like to grow under.
The reason this makes truffles expensive is that it limits the availability of truffles.
Those areas likely belong to a certain company or have restrictions based on how many truffles can leave it.
That creates even more scarcity in the market.
With the best truffles in the world only coming from two areas, it makes the demand for those specific truffles extremely high.
Supply is either limited or non-existent.
If truffles of similar quality were more widespread, then it would increase its supply and make the price more affordable.
Unfortunately, that isn’t the case, so truffles from those regions carry a high price tag.
If finding truffles weren’t already difficult enough, truffles are only around for a small portion of the year.
White truffles in Italy, for example, only sprout for a few weeks in December and into January.
That gives hunters less than a month to find the best truffles in the world.
That also means those specific truffles are even more scarce.
If they’re unable to find truffles during that time, or only a small amount, then they’re out of luck once they stop blooming.
They have to try again next year.
Black truffles have a slightly wider window of opportunity.
They’re in season from September to December.
This gives hunters a few months to carefully go over the area and find them.
All the same, because they’re not available year-round or have a lot of time within the year when they’re blooming, truffles are scarce.
Their seasonal blooming creates a scarcity in the market which drives up the price of truffles.
9. Luxury Food
Because of their flavor and rarity, truffles are a luxury item.
Most dishes don’t need them.
They taste fine without them.
However, those that do include truffles come with its reputation.
It’s restricted to a certain type of class and cuisine.
Not everyone can afford a dish that uses truffle.
Fewer still can afford the price of eating a raw white truffle straight from Italy.
Because many see truffles as a luxury food item, it carries with it a luxury price.
It’s expensive because people expect it to be since it’s a rarity.
Like most luxury items, it enhances an experience, but it isn’t a requirement for survival.
Truffles are expensive because they’re viewed as a luxury item.
10. Shipping Costs
Finally, truffles are expensive because of the cost of shipping.
Since the best truffles come from Italy and France, anyone who wants to use them in the United States is going to have to pay a hefty shipping fee.
That’s because there’s a lot of regulation when it comes to shipping food.
Since truffles have a poor shelf life, it’s even harder to ship them overseas.
The producers need to ensure that the truffles arrive fresh and ready to use.
Otherwise, those buying the truffles will receive rotten ones that they spent a good deal of money on.
To ensure the truffles make it to their destinations, the producers have to invest in high-quality shipping measures.
That means climate-controlled shipping containers and expedited delivery.
Even a delay of a single day can impact the value of their truffles.
Thanks to a lot of investment in shipping, the cost of buying truffles is higher.
Whether you’re buying a truffle from someone in the United States or buying a meal that has truffle in it, you can expect to have to pay for some of the costs associated with it.
Truffles are expensive because it’s expensive to ship them overseas.
How To Save Money On Truffles
The very best truffles cost tons of money if you’re buying them by the pound, but there are a few ways you can make them cheaper.
Here are a few tips on how to save money on truffles.
1. Buy Other Varieties
While black and white truffles are the most expensive, there’s another type of truffle that is cheaper.
It’s called a burgundy truffle.
It receives its name for its dark-brown color.
Although it’s a variety of black truffle, it’s different enough to get its own name.
Burgundy truffles grow during the summer and last a bit longer than the other two varieties.
The main difference is in the flavor.
It has a milder flavor which is why it isn’t as popular among chefs.
However, that means it’s a lot cheaper since there’s less demand for it.
2. Grow Your Own
If you think you live in the right conditions for growing truffles, then you can always attempt your own backyard farm.
You’ll need to be able to provide a climate that has mild temperatures and well-drained soil.
It doesn’t hurt to plant an oak or hazel tree in your backyard either to give the truffle the exact conditions that it prefers.
Several independent farmers are trying to grow their own truffles in their backyards or even in a greenhouse.
While your attempts may not be successful, the risk won’t cost you much.
If you’re successful, then you have your very own truffle farm and a supply of truffles whenever you want them.
You may even be able to see them if they have excellent flavor and aroma.
Growing your own truffles can make satisfying your truffle craving a lot cheaper.
3. Buy Locally
One of the reasons truffles are expensive is that you’re buying them from out of the country.
When you buy an imported good, it has several costs associated with it.
Truffles are even more expensive to buy when they come from abroad.
The best way to make buying truffles cheaper is to look for local farmers and hunters.
You’ll only need to pay for the time they spent looking or growing them and nothing else.
Buying locally is always cheaper than buying imported goods when it comes to produce.
4. Buy Derivatives
If you want to give truffles a go but don’t want to pay for a dish that uses truffles in it, then you can try derivatives of truffles first.
The two best examples are truffle oil and truffle salt.
Truffle oil contains truffle essence within the oil.
In most cases, the oil is olive oil which is then enhanced with truffle essence.
It gives you the flavor of truffle but is still cheaper than an actual truffle dish.
The same goes for truffle salt.
It’s standard salt, but it has truffle shavings in it which makes the salt taste like truffle.
While this type of salt is more expensive than standard salt, it’s still cheaper than buying a truffle dish at an expensive restaurant or an actual truffle.
You also get more out of it.
One thing to be aware of, however, is that both truffle oil and salt have even cheaper varieties.
These varieties don’t actually use truffle in them.
Instead, they use chemicals that create a synthetic truffle flavor.
If you want the real deal, then you need to check the ingredient list to ensure they use actual truffles in their product.
What Do Truffles Taste Like?
Considering how expensive they are, you may wonder what truffles taste like and why they’re such a big deal.
Many describe the flavor of truffle as earthy with an underlying tone of garlic.
Because they’re mushrooms, truffles also share that sense of a deep-earth taste, but it’s entirely unique.
One of the reasons it’s unique is that it also manages to have a nutty flavor to it.
It also has a meaty richness to it which is why many prefer to eat white truffles raw.
If you like the taste of mushrooms, then you’re likely going to enjoy the flavor of truffles since it’s very intense.
Those who don’t enjoy the flavor of mushrooms may not find truffles all that great.
Truffles are expensive because they’re very rare and difficult to find.
Farming them is almost impossible which makes them even more scarce.
Because of their rarity and high demand, it makes the price of truffles skyrocket.
There are ways to make enjoying truffles a bit cheaper, but it’s best left alone if you’re not a fan of the earthy flavor of mushrooms.