Plate of truffles

Truffles vs. Mushrooms: The Important Difference

Known as the luxurious relative of the common mushroom, truffles are a high-end food that can elevate any type of dish -- for a cost. The most expensive type of truffle can cost over $4,000 per kilo. Both mushrooms and truffles are fungi, so what is the difference between the two?

If you love adding earthy ingredients to your dishes, truffles and mushrooms are flavorful additions. Depending on the variety, they offer a range of flavors and tastes to your food. While they may seem similar to the untrained eye, mushrooms and truffles have a lot of differences. 

If you've been trying to figure out which fungi reigns supreme in the ultimate truffles vs mushrooms battle, wonder no longer. We'll go over the differences between the two and what types of dishes are best suited for each fungus. 

truffles on a plate

The Background of Truffles 

Truffles are a subterranean fungus that you can find growing in the shadow of oak trees. There are over seven different types of truffle species located all over the world, from China to the Pacific Northwest to the Middle East and North Africa. 

The French and Italian countryside is where truffles are most concentrated. In the Périgord region of France, you'll find black truffles near hazelnut and oak trees. Throughout Europe, black summer truffles, or Burgundy truffle, grow. 

White truffles abound around the Piedmont region in Italy. The countrysides of Asti and Alba are common truffle hunting grounds for white truffles. 

Depending upon what country you're hunting in, truffles are sniffed out by pigs or dogs that are specially trained, who will then dig up the truffles. The truffles release a certain smell when they interact with certain mammals, plants, and insects. 

Black and white truffles both resemble a lumpy potato, but they have different tastes. The black truffle is the most common in cuisine. They have a longer season and are easier to find, making them the more affordable choice. 

White truffles are known as Earth's gold. Those can be upwards of a few thousand dollars per pound. They can't be frozen and have a shorter shelf life than black truffles. 

truffles pasta

Truffle Pasta Recipe Ideas

You don't need many ingredients to make a truffle pasta dish that will wow your guests. Black truffles pair well with the rich flavors of butter and Parmesan cheese. 

For this recipe, you will need the following ingredients: 

  • 8 ounces of Dagostino Linguine pasta
  • 1/2 stick salted butter
  • 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 ounce fresh black truffles
  • Fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper

The choice of pasta is entirely up to you. We recommend freshly made linguine pasta. Start by bringing a large pot of water to boil, cooking the pasta until al dente. 

Place the butter in a skillet and melt it over low heat. Once the butter has fully melted, grate in about three-quarters of the black truffle. Cooking the truffle in the melted butter will ensure that the truffle flavor permeates the sauce. 

Stir the truffles in and remove them from heat. Stir the pasta into the truffle sauce, along with around 1/4 of the pasta water. Add in more water if you feel it needs it. 

Top with Parmesan cheese, fresh parsley, and a little more grated truffle for the final touch. This easy-to-make yet elegant meal is a decadent treat for a date night or just because. 

cooked mushrooms

The Background of Mushrooms

There are more than 38,000 different varieties of mushrooms, but only around 20 of them are edible. While truffles grow underground, mushrooms grow above ground. 

Mushrooms are far more common than truffles. You can easily find a mushroom in your local grocery store or corner market. Truffles need specific environments to grow in, while mushrooms aren't that finicky. 

Mushrooms grow all year round and don't have a specific season like truffles do. There are so many different varieties of mushrooms, including:

  • Button
  • Cremini 
  • Portobello
  • Oyster
  • Chanterelle
  • Porcini 
  • Black Trumpet 
  • Morel
  • Shiitake

The flavor changes depending upon the variety you get, but mushrooms tend to be milder than truffles. Mushrooms aren't as bold in flavor as truffles are, making them more versatile. Since truffles have such a strong flavor, they tend to be the star of whatever dish they're featured in. 

Truffles do need to be used sparingly, as their flavor can completely overpower a dish. Mushrooms are more subtle and can be used in a lot of different types of meals. 

You can eat a mushroom any way you'd like. They can be eaten raw, grilled, baked, or roasted. Mushrooms can also be easily preserved, like in olive oil or blended in sauces. 

plate of pasta with mushrooms

Mushroom Pasta Ideas 

If you want to experiment with cooking with mushrooms, mushroom pasta is the way to go. Pairing mushrooms with bold flavors like garlic and Parmesan will create a delectable meal, perfect for any night of the week. 

For this recipe, you will need:

  • 4 ounces pasta
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons of butter, divided
  • 7 ounces of sliced cremini mushrooms
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup chicken or veggie broth
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Zest of half a lemon and 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper

Bring a large pot of water up to a boil and cook the pasta to al dente. Add one tablespoon of butter and the oil to a skillet that's over medium-high heat. Then, add the mushrooms and onions. 

Cook them until the water from the mushrooms has released and cooked off. The onions and mushrooms should have a good sear and be browned. This part takes up to 10 minutes. 

Stir in the remaining butter, the Dijon mustard, and garlic. Cook for another minute. 

Add the lemon juice, zest, and broth. Let it simmer for another minute or two. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the cheese and parsley. 

Add in a bit of pasta water, then toss the pasta with the sauce. Season with salt and pepper. 

cooking with mushrooms and truffles

Start Cooking with Truffles and Mushrooms Today

Depending upon your palette (and your budget), truffles and mushrooms can transform an ordinary meal into something unforgettable. While they seem similar since they're both fungi, they have vast differences that make them completely unique. 

For more food inspiration, check out some of our other pasta recipes.