Answer: It depends.
Original truffle oil is supposed to be made by infusing real black or white truffles with oils like olive, sunflower, etc. The market, though, is saturated with knock offs of the real version of truffle oil since truffles are crazy expensive.
So the chances of you having a real truffle-infused oil are pretty slim, especially if you got yours from a local market.
Since truffles are fungi that are grown in specific conditions, they themselves are vegan-friendly. However, the process may not be up to the vegan standards since animals are involved when harvesting them.
The widely available synthetic truffle oil is mostly made up of chemically treated oil that acquires an aroma and taste similar to truffles.
Real truffle oil is technically vegan, but the process of acquiring it may not sit well with some vegans. Whether you consider real truffle oil vegan or not depends entirely upon you.
What Is Truffle Oil?
You will find chefs and restaurants that swear by the magic of truffle oil. That a little dash of it will enhance your food, whether pasta, steak, fries, or salads, and take it to another heavenly level.
Truffles cost an exorbitant amount. Their price can range up to thousands of dollars for an ounce. So real truffle oil would also cost a pretty penny. Luckily, since they were all the rage back in the 90s and are still very popular, affordable truffles are also available.
But this affordable version of the truffle oil rarely contains any actual truffle. Since it has no truffle, the confusion surrounding the vegan nature of truffle gets canceled out. Truffle oils, the synthetic kinds made in the labs, are totally vegan.
This truffle oil is made with 2,4-dithiapentane, an aromatic substance that gives truffle oil its distinct taste and smell.
What Does Truffle Oil Taste Like?
It’s to be noted that these chemical truffle oils don’t have the layers and complexity of flavors that real truffles give. Sure, they very nicely mimic the smell and taste. Still, they also have chemical undertones that are missing in genuine truffle oils. There are also ways to distinguish between real and fake truffle oil, should you want to know. Synthetic truffle oil will have a powerful chemical aroma or smell, mostly olive oil with very subtle truffle undertones. There will also be no tiny piece of real truffle floating in the bottle. The taste, too, will differ considerably.
Real truffle oil will have an earthy, garlicky taste with subtle notes of shallots, ammonia, and onions. Fake ones will mostly have a musky and earthy smell and will very much give you chemical undertones. You can also tell them apart by looking at the ingredient. If it doesn’t explicitly include truffles, chances are, you are getting a chemically flavored oil that uses “natural ingredients” that aren’t very natural.
Where To Use Truffle Oil?
You can add them to anything you’d like, just as you would use olive oil. Although the heating point of truffle oil is high and the heat may alter it to a certain degree, the best way to use it would be to sprinkle some on cooked food. They’re very popularly used on pasta, pizzas, salads, fries, and popcorn, too. You might find truffle oil items on the menu, and the restaurants often charge extra for the addition of truffle oil.
You can even add them to your vegetables, mac and cheese, hummus, and anywhere else where you would use a finishing oil. Remember, truffle oil shouldn’t be used for cooking food on high heat. It’s just a finishing oil so use it accordingly.
In high-end diners and restaurants, you can find dishes decadently paired with truffle oil.
The hype around the truffle oils and the truffles, their incredibly rare and expensive nature, is very exhaustively marketed today. The industry is even said to globally grow over 6 billion dollars in the next two decades.
Are Truffles Vegan?
If you have noticed the hype around truffles (sadly the non-chocolate kind) and truffle products, you might have wondered what they are.
When you find out that they’re fungi that grow underground near tree roots and are edible fungi, like mushrooms, but are quite different in both taste and look than mushrooms. They’re fickle to find, and that’s why they’re so rare. They’re also not grown everywhere.
High-quality black truffles are found in France, and the coveted white truffles are even rarer and mostly harvested in Italy. So then, since they’re edible fungi, they should be vegan, right?
Well, yes and no. While their production and occurrence are entirely natural and plant-based, some don’t consider it entirely fit for vegan standards. That’s because of the process of their harvesting.
Often pigs and dogs were used to harvest them since they’re so hard to find. The animals were used to sniff out the truffles, but pigs are not very commonly used anymore since they tend to destroy the truffle in the process of locating it.
Dogs are still widely used to find truffles, and no one can be sure of the treatment of these animals and if they’re kept humanely or not. This dubiousness around the process of its harvesting makes it not fit for vegan standards by many.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide whether you would use real truffles and authentic truffle oil and whether you consider them vegan or not.
Why Are Truffles So Expensive?
Today, synthetic and artificially flavored truffle oils are widely available. But even the knock offs don’t come cheap. Truffle, in general, is associated with everything expensive and luxurious. Real truffles are very hard to come by, and since they grow underneath the ground, they’re even harder to find.
The process of harvesting is not cheap, and they don’t just grow anywhere.
Truffles require a particular type of climate and weather conditions to grow. They need cold weather, but the dry winter without any frost. They also require warm surroundings but not too hot and humid. The authentic and organic black truffles are famously produced in France and harvested there. Other European countries and even the US have truffle productions, but the most coveted and premium ones come from France. And of course, they don’t come cheap.
Both black and white truffles are sinfully costly, with their price going up as high as thousands of dollars for one single ounce of truffles.
They are incredibly hard to grow but frustrating to store as well. Truffles tend to lose their aroma, which is the primary source of their taste, within a week or ten days. Pretty inconvenient, huh?
Since they’re so sought out but lose their distinct aroma so quickly, their storages and productions aren’t cheap, hence their outrageous costs.
Is Truffle Oil Healthy?
Now that you have your answer to the question of “Is truffle oil vegan?” you might now wonder if the truffle oil is healthy.
Sure, they cost a lot and are associated with delicacies, and have a gourmet reputation, but that doesn’t necessarily make them healthy. Especially if your truffle oil, even if it’s vegan, is simply a concoction of chemicals.
So, is truffle oil really healthy?
Well, the authentic truffle oil definitely is since it’s made using the real deal, and it’s infused with olive oil or other vegetable oils. If other chemicals or toxins aren’t used in the process, it’s relatively healthy. It’s high in antioxidants and includes several essential nutrients like protein, calcium, vitamins, iron, and more. It’s also known to kill cancerous cells and reduce inflammation as it contains antibacterial properties.
The not so original and authentic truffle oil, though, is not an exceptionally healthy option. It contains all the goodness of olive oil, like its high monounsaturated fats content, if that’s the truffle oil base and nothing much besides that.
Unfortunately, the chemical flavoring of truffles doesn’t bring with it the properties of real truffles.
Now that you know that most truffle oils available in the market are vegan, you can go ahead and get yourself some. They are an excellent addition for extra flavoring, but it is essential to use them in small amounts.
They can alter your taste considerably, which is why many chefs discourage its use. But regardless of the various controversies surrounding both truffle oil and truffles, you cannot deny that they are still considered a delicacy, rare and expensive one.