Truffle oil has acquired an unfortunate reputation in recent years despite being immensely popular in the 1980s and 90s. The problem has to do with the fact that it doesn’t always do a good job of replicating the truffle flavor. Here are a few truffle oil substitutes that you may want to try:
Your best bet: Truffle salt
If your dish can benefit from the taste of truffles with the briny flavor of sea salt, you might want to use it as your truffle oil substitute. Truffle salt is exactly what it sounds like: salt mixed with shaved or grated truffle. Truffle salt is a great way to get a subtle truffle flavor in your dish while also seasoning it with salt.
You can use it in many of the same ways that you would use truffle oil, including as a finishing ingredient that you add to completed dishes just before serving them. Because truffle salt uses real truffles instead of artificial flavoring like most truffle oils, you will get a far more complex truffle flavor than you would with truffle oil.
Truffle salt’s drawback as a truffle oil substitute is that you can’t increase the truffle flavor in a dish without also increasing the salt level.
A decent second choice: Extra virgin olive oil
Of all the truffle oil substitutes, extra virgin olive oil will arguably be the easiest to find. Extra virgin olive oil is cold-pressed from olives, which means that there is no heat generated during the extraction process. The result is a fresher-tasting oil. It is widely available and is sold in most grocery stores. You will want to opt for the highest quality oil you can find.
There are other reasons to use it as a truffle oil substitute besides its wide availability. It is the main oil component in many truffle oils, so it is a large part of the truffle oil flavor profile. You can use extra virgin olive oil for low-temperature sautéing or you can drizzle it over completed dishes as a finishing oil. You can infuse extra virgin olive oil with garlic to enhance its flavor if you feel it needs a more pungent flavor.
Extra virgin olive oil’s downside is that it doesn’t taste like truffles. This is good if you are trying to eliminate the truffle flavor from recipes. The grassy and herbaceous flavor that it does provide will work in many of the recipes that require truffle oil.
In a pinch: Truffles
A type of fungus and one of the rarest foods in the world, truffles are rare because they grow on the roots of certain trees under very specific conditions. They are famous for their highly aromatic and earthy flavor profile. If you can afford them you will find that they provide a truer and much more complex version of the truffle flavor than you could ever hope to get from truffle oil.
The difficulty with using truffles stems from the fact that they are rare and that there is an extremely high cost associated with them. Truffles are truly luxury food and will be an impractical option for most.
Porcini mushroom oil is an oil that has been infused with the flavor of porcini mushrooms. It is used as a finishing oil on the same kinds of dishes that are sometimes enhanced with truffle oil.