Truffle oil real?
December 17, 2010 1:42 PM   Subscribe

Is truffle oil a chemical or made from truffles?

I see products advertised as truffle oil but some reviews of these products claim they're not real. Further reading informs me that there's a chemical that tastes like truffle oil. Does the fake (chemical) stuff taste real?
posted by boby to Food & Drink (5 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Wikipedia: "Most truffle oils are not, in fact, made from actual truffles, but are instead a synthetic product that combines a thioether (2,4-dithiapentane), one of numerous organic aromatics odorants found in real truffles, with an olive oil base. A few more expensive oils are alleged to be made from truffles or the by-products of truffle harvesting and production, though the flavor of truffles is difficult to capture in an oil."
posted by rhapsodie at 1:47 PM on December 17, 2010

Try something called "truffle-infused" oil instead. It's basically olive oil with a small bit of truffle in it. A little pricier, but the flavour is pretty strong, so you really shouldn't use very much in a single dish.

So tasty on perogies, grilled cheese, etc.
posted by Kurichina at 1:51 PM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I highly recommend this thread, which includes this useful article on truffle oil from the NYT.

"A TRUFFLE by any other name may smell as sweet, but what if that name is 2,4-dithiapentane? All across the country, in restaurants great and small, the “truffle” flavor advertised on menus is increasingly being supplied by truffle oil. What those menus don’t say is that, unlike real truffles, the aroma of truffle oil is not born in the earth. Most commercial truffle oils are concocted by mixing olive oil with one or more compounds like 2,4-dithiapentane (the most prominent of the hundreds of aromatic molecules that make the flavor of white truffles so exciting) that have been created in a laboratory; their one-dimensional flavor is also changing common understanding of how a truffle should taste."
posted by MuffinMan at 1:59 PM on December 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

Reminder from a physical science teacher: truffle oil, whether real or lab-made, is always a chemical. The question would be better posed as: "Is truffle oil *synthetic* or made from truffles?"
posted by msittig at 10:35 PM on December 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

My brother imported banana chips for a while. They had a chemical that smelled like bananas, and not the one you may have experimented with in chemistry class. This one was an exact copy of something in bananas, and for that reason he was not required to list it as artificial flavoring even though it was synthetic. It was expensive, and powerful. One spritz converted a whole barrel of bland carbohydrates into... bananas!
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:05 AM on December 18, 2010

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