The Cheaper Alternative To Truffles That You Need On Your Radar

Thanks to their seasonality and the challenge to find them, truffles are notoriously expensive — they can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars per pound. However, the edible, earthy-flavored fungus exponentially elevates any dish from deviled eggs or fries to pasta and risotto.

For cooks looking for truffle flavor without the truffle price tag, there is a handy solution. Black trumpet mushrooms, also called black chanterelles, have earned the name "poor man's truffles" given the similarity of their flavor to the prized pricy fungus.

While black trumpet mushrooms are not necessarily inexpensive, they are far more affordable by comparison, typically clocking in at double-digit costs per pound. Their rich, smoky, and earthy flavor with subtle sweet, and fruity notes makes them a solid dupe for their more costly counterpart.

Though black trumpet mushrooms aren't nearly as rare as truffles, they're not as easily available as some other varieties of mushrooms. But if you're looking to infuse your food with truffle-style flavor while also saving a few dollars, it may be worth the hunt to find them.

Foraging for black trumpet mushrooms

To find the freshest black trumpet mushrooms, foraging may be the best option. Since their distinguishable shape makes them fairly easy to identify, and there are no poisonous versions with a similar appearance, even new foragers can safely source these mushrooms. However, because they aren't large, and are often hard to spot amidst the mud and moss in which they tend to grow, they can be a challenge to find.

If you do intend to forage for black trumpets, there are a few ways to increase the odds of success. First, while the specific months that are best to find them may vary depending on your geographic location, warmer months are a safe bet. Additionally, black trumpet mushrooms can be found growing near a similar mushroom — the yellowfoot chanterelle. Yellowfoots are a lighter, brighter color, which makes them easier to spot. Look for those first, and you may be fortunate enough to find black trumpets nearby.

How else to find black trumpet mushrooms (and what to do with them when you do)

If foraging isn't an option, or your efforts to forage still leave you empty-handed, purchasing the mushrooms is another route to take. There are a number of online retailers that sell fresh black trumpets but a dehydrated version works as well. In fact, unlike some other dehydrated foods, black trumpets retain both their soft, chewy texture and unique flavor when rehydrated.

Once you have your black trumpets (and have cleaned them, if found while foraging or bought fresh) it's time to put them to good use, upgrading anything from mashed potatoes to scrambled eggs and other proteins. If you want to ensure that the mushrooms bear a strong visual likeness to black truffles, be sure to chop them finely.

The main caveat when cooking with black trumpets is to avoid overusing them. When added in excess, the mushroom's flavor migrates from pleasant and earthy to bitter, particularly when cooked down in sauces and soups.

In addition to chopping the mushrooms to add to your dishes, you can also grind dehydrated black trumpets and add them to your arsenal of savory spices. Shake it into soups and stews, fold it into soft cheese, mix it with butter, stir it into honey — the options for adding truffle-style umami to your favorite foods is virtually endless when you're armed with a jar of these savory ground mushrooms.