Truffle oil is just as delicious as it sounds, and it’s no wonder it has become an absolute staple in modern cooking. As the name itself implies, truffle oil is made from dried or fresh truffles – an exotic, unique type of fungus.
However, when it comes to quality truffle oil, the price may sometimes be too high, or you may not be able to find the best product. Whether this is the case or you simply want a quick replacement, we’ve got you covered.
Keep on reading for more information on the best ways to replace truffle oil in all your recipes!
The best substitutes for truffle oil
Before we even get into explaining truffle oil, we feel like it is important to resolve the mystery of truffles first. What are they, where can they be found, and why are they so expensive? There are always many questions surrounding this luxurious fungus.
Truffles are subterranean fungus and they’re mostly found under oak trees, in their deep shadow. Nowadays, they’re mostly grown on specific truffle farms which specialize in the production of truffles.
When it comes to their natural habitat, truffles are mostly concentrated in Italy and France. While there are many different truffle types, people mostly distinguish the two main categories: black and white truffle, which are quite different.
Truffle oil isn’t pure oil extracted from the truffles. It is, in fact, olive oil infused with truffles, and the concentration of the truffles varies from one brand to another. The most popular kinds of truffle oil include black truffle oil, white truffle oil, and French truffle oil.
For many people, truffles are too much of a luxury, given their high price point. Truffle oil is a convenient, affordable way of getting a dose of that unique, world-famous truffle aroma, without having to break the bank.
Truffle oil is mainly a finishing oil, used to enhance the flavor of all dishes, including soups, pasta, mashed potatoes, all kinds of sauces, and pizza. As long as you use a quality brand, you will get that umami, earthy truffle taste, and an intoxicating aroma.
However, keep in mind that some cheaper alternatives may not even have a trace of truffles in them. These brands will usually list ingredients such as truffle aroma or truffle flavor on their declaration, while in fact, they use an artificial aromatic compound.
Depending on the base oil, truffle oil varies from yellow to green, and it can be clear or a bit cloudy, depending on the oil consistency. High-quality brands will even include a truffle piece in the oil bottle itself.
No truffle oil? This doesn’t have to be an issue as long as you choose the right truffle oil substitute.
1. Extra virgin olive oil
Extra virgin olive oil is the main ingredient of a quality truffle oil. Why it may not offer that distinctive truffle aroma, olive oil certainly has a beautiful aroma on its own. Of course, if you’ve been lucky enough to get your hands on some truffles, you can infuse the oil.
Besides being a good cooking medium, extra virgin olive oil is also ideal as a finishing oil, especially in salad dressings. It is easy to work with and packed with healthy fats and valuable nutrients.
2. Truffle salt
Truffle salt is basically a mix of salt and little pieces of truffles, whether it be black or white truffles. It is a beautiful mixture of flavors and a convenient way to enhance the taste of your dishes without having to worry too much about developing the taste.
Just like with truffle oil, you should take a close look at the ingredient list before purchasing truffle salt. Some of the lower-end brands may use artificial flavoring and coloring and present them as truffle pieces.
3. Homemade truffle oil
Now that we have presented the first two truffle oil substitutes, you will be probably glad to know that truffle oil isn’t too hard to make at home, as long as you have the right ingredients.
Of course, this type of oil can be made with other base oils, but only extra virgin olive oil will give you a top-notch result. If you decide to go with the olive oil and truffle salt mixture, be mindful of the quantity of the salt, as you don’t want to go overboard.
If adding dried or fresh truffles, you’ll want to give the oil time to infuse and absorb all the truffle flavor before using it.
As you can already imagine, truffle oil is a more subtle, less aromatic version of truffles, ideal for those who don’t appreciate the sharpness and complexity of truffles. However, if you want to experience their full flavor – actual truffles are the way to go.
In oil, both the aroma and the flavor of the truffles are significantly diluted. With fresh or dried truffles, you get the real deal and remember that a little bit goes a long way – especially in soups, sauces, and as a pizza topping.
5. Porcini mushroom oil
Porcini mushroom oil is an ideal white truffle oil substitute, as it has a sharp fungus aroma and just the right dose of umami. When shopping for porcini mushroom oil, aim for a mixture of extra virgin olive oil and an actual mushroom extract instead of artificial flavoring.
6. Worcestershire sauce
Here’s a perfect truffle oil alternative if you love that umami, savory, slightly sweet flavor with a complex, strong aroma. Most of the Worcestershire sauces are dark brown, liquid, and quite salty, so a little bit goes a long way.
This sauce can be used as a condiment, dipping sauce, or it can simply be added to any dish instead of salt to enhance the flavors. It is quick, convenient, and requires no cooking to achieve its full potential.
7. Hazelnut oil
If you’re looking for a mildly flavored oil with just a subtle hint of a distinctive flavor and aroma, hazelnut oil is the way to go. Contrary to truffle oil, virgin hazelnut oil isn’t a mixture and it isn’t infused, but it is extracted from hazelnuts directly.
However, you can also find cheaper alternatives that aren’t 100% hazelnut oil, and these will offer a much more subtle hazelnut aroma. When it comes to the flavor profile, this oil isn’t as umami, but it is nutty, earthy, and can be a bit tangy.
8. Grapeseed oil
Grapeseed oil is basically a byproduct of winemaking, as grapeseeds are the remains of this process. The seeds are then pressed and extracted to reveal grapeseed oil, which can be used both as a cooking medium and finishing oil.
It has a moderately high smoke point, which means that it isn’t particularly the best choice for cooking techniques such as deep-frying and frying. You can certainly use it for stir-frying, baking, or in your salad dressings.
9. Mushroom oil
Mushroom oil is usually a mixture of vegetable (or olive) oil and a type of mushrooms – sometimes even a few kinds of mushrooms combined. It often contains spices and herbs that make it a complete finishing oil to elevate any dish.
However, if you’re unable to find something like this at your local store, you can easily make your own mushroom oil at home. Simply combine the desired amount of your favorite oil (our pick is olive oil), dried mushrooms of choice, and dried herbs (rosemary, sage).
Pour the mixture into a glass bottle or a jar and let it sit for at least 4 days to allow all the flavors and aromas to marry.
10. Hemp oil
Hemp oil is a great substitute for truffle oil if you find olive oil or vegetable oil to be too plain and dull for your taste. Made from raw hemp seeds, hemp oil is a complex, nutty, umami finishing oil with a low smoke point.
What this means is that its use should be limited to finishing oil, as it is not the best choice for cooking. Not only is it not healthy to use these oils for cooking, but since they also burn quickly, the taste will be jeopardized, too.
11. Soy sauce
When it comes to soy sauce, you’ll come across different varieties, but keep in mind that the darker it is, the stronger the flavor and the aroma. Light soy sauce may be the safest bet when it comes to enhancing the flavors without it taking over the dish.
As far as the flavor is concerned, soy sauce is the sole definition of the umami flavor. It works great as a dressing, as well as a flavor enhancer in sauces, soups, pasta dishes, and on top of grilled veggies, meat, and all kinds of seafood.
How to choose a truffle oil substitute
When choosing a substitute for any ingredient, the best strategy is to start from your personal preferences and taste.
If you’re looking for a richer, deeper taste, you’ll enjoy dried or fresh truffles, Worcestershire sauce, or soy sauce.
On the other hand, if you find that you’re most comfortable with infused oils, you should go with the olive oil & truffle salt/truffles mixture (homemade truffle oil), porcini mushroom oil, hazelnut oil, grapeseed oil, mushroom oil (especially homemade), or aromatic hemp oil.
Extra virgin olive oil may lack the aroma of truffles, but it is still one of the most convenient choices in all culinary applications, as well as quality truffle salt.