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Food pairing with truffles - Truffle compounds and aroma.

Updated: Dec 18, 2023

In brief

In this post we explore food pairing with truffles, the components of the Australian Black Truffle and the development and use of the Australian Black Truffle Aroma Wheel.


What do truffles taste like?

Have you ever Googled the tantalizing topic of truffles? If so, you've probably noticed that the answers to the question "What do they taste like?" are all over the place. Some people describe truffles as earthy and nutty, while others say they're musky and pungent. It's like everyone's taste buds are on a different wavelength! But don't worry, we're here to unravel the mystery and find out why truffles, especially the Australian variety, are so delicious.


So what do truffles taste like? Well, it's simple really - they taste like truffles! It's like how mangoes taste like mangoes, and brussel sprouts taste like... well, you get the idea. But did you know that there isn't just one compound responsible for the taste of strawberries, coffee, or wine? Nope, it's a combination of different compounds that work together to create the unique flavors we love. And truffles are no exception!


But taste isn't just about what hits our taste buds and noses. It's also about the whole experience. Seeing the vibrant red of a ripe strawberry, feeling the cool texture of a juicy mango, or even getting a little heat from some horseradish can all impact how we perceive taste. Plus, our memories and emotions can also come into play. So it's not just what's happening in our mouths and noses, but also what's going on in our brains that makes food taste so amazing!


Now, we could go on and on about the intricacies of taste, but that's a whole other story for our next feature post. For now, let's focus on the Australian black winter truffle, also known as tuber melanosporum.


Do Australian truffle taste better than others?

Absolutely! We're very passionate about Australian truffles, and we think they're superior to truffles from other places. They're larger, sweeter, and more aromatic, and their flavor profiles are perfectly suited for our local ingredients. Don't just take our word for it - Professor Garry Lee has identified over 220 compounds in Australian truffles, which proves it, right? well…… sought of.


You know those people who always say "follow your nose"? Well, Professor Lee from the University of Western Australia took that advice to the next level. As a forensic scientist, he was used to investigating the chemical makeup of explosives - pretty intense stuff. But when he turned his attention to the compounds of Australian truffles, he was blown away.

Over three years, Professor Lee led a team of experts - including chefs and truffle producers - to analyze truffles from farms all across New South Wales, Victoria, Western Australia, and the Australian Capital Territory. With the help of his trusty "E-nose," he was able to identify the unique flavor compounds, nutrients, and antioxidant properties of Australian black truffles.


His work was groundbreaking, not only for the truffle industry but for anyone with a discerning palate. Professor Lee's olfactory abilities were so impressive that he even threatened to put truffle dogs out of a job! (Its true!)


If you're curious to learn more about Professor Lee's research and just how amazing truffles can be, check out this interview here. Trust us, your taste buds will thank you. .


What did Professor Garry Lee find out about Australian Truffles?

In 2014, Professor Garry Lee gave a groundbreaking presentation on the nutritional and aromatic properties of Australian black truffles at a conference in Western Australia. Simply put, he discovered that truffles aren't just delicious - they're also packed with nutrients that are good for you. But perhaps the most exciting part of his research was the development of an aroma wheel to identify the unique flavor components of Australian black truffles.


We want to give a big shout-out to the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation and Food Science Solutions for their support and funding of this valuable research. Thanks to their investment, we now have a better understanding of the nutritional benefits and aroma profile of Australian truffles. So go ahead, indulge in some truffles - it's not just a treat for your taste buds, they are good for you too!


The proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, trace elements and antioxidant capacity of Australian black truffles are listed below but for now lets get into those fun aromas.


Volatile compounds of Australian truffles.

One of the most fascinating aspects of truffles is their aroma, which is produced by the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) they release. These are organic chemicals that vaporize easily at room temperature and give truffles their distinct scent. Professor Lee's research identified 220 VOCs in Australian black truffles, including esters, alcohols, aldehydes, and dimethyl sulfide. Five of these compounds - 2-methylbutanal, 3-methylbutanal, dimethyl sulfide, 2-methyl-1-propanol, and 1-octen-3-ol - are the main contributors to the aroma of Australian black truffles. Interestingly, formic acid esters were found in high levels in truffles from all Australian states except Tasmania, suggesting that the aroma of mainland-grown truffles is unique compared to truffles grown elsewhere.


However, we should keep in mind that, just like with strawberries, the complex aroma and flavor of truffles cannot be reduced to a single compound. It's the combination and proportion of many different molecules that create the unique sensory experience of any one truffle. We'll explore this more in-depth next month. For now, let's take a closer look at some of the VOCs identified by Professor Lee and the specific flavors they contribute to truffles.


Dimethyl Sulfide

This compound smells sulfurous, fishy, like rotten egg or vegetative. You should be thinking wet earth, organic, onion, sweet corn, vegetable, cabbage, tomato green radish. Other sulfides but at lower doses were found including Dimethyl disulfide, Ethyl methyl sulfide, Diethyl sulfide, Dimethyl Disulfide, Dimethyl Trisulfide


1-Octen-3-ol

This smells earthy or mushroomy. With deeper focus and available to supertasters like chefs (or us if we practice) you should also be able to detect mushroom and earthy notes but also, green, oily, fungal and the odor of raw chicken.


2-Methyl-butanal

2-Methyl-butanal smells musty, chocolatey and nutty. Again with focus you should be able to detect musty, chocolate, nutty, furfural and iaovaleraldehyde-like with malty and fermented nuances. Are you still there?


3-Methyl-butanal

3-Methyl-butanal smells like Aldehydic, ethereal. When it comes to Australian truffles you should also be looking for notes that remind you of cacao, almond, chocolate, peach and fattyness.


2-Methyl-butanol

Smells of roasted. When smelling a truffle and the first thing that hits you is a roasted (anything) note, you should be looking for subtleties like roasted (anything), wine, onion and fruityness.


2-Methyl-propanal

2-Methyl-propanal is spicy and when it comes to Australian truffles you should then be looking for things that remind you of burnt, caramel, cacao, germinating, malt, notes.


Formic acid 1-methyl propyl ester

This is the smell of cheese; you know what they say about truffles and cheese - A match made in heaven.


Methoxybenezene

Smells of Anisole should prompt you to smell for things like gasoline, phenolic, ethereal or anise.


Dimethyl ether

Smells like Ethereal as in ether. Apparently present in small amounts in all high quality Australian truffles.


1,3-Pentadiene

This smells similar to kerosene or acrylic paint. 1,3-Pentadiene was found to be present in minor amounts in all high quality truffles examined in the research. At the time, 1,3-Pentadiene had not been observed in the aroma profile of tuber melanosporum examined in any other research conducted in Europe or else-ware.


Compounds and truffles from different states

Prof. Lee’s E-nose was so powerful that it allowed him to also compare truffles from different states. His analysis shows there certainly was a difference in the aroma of Australian truffles depending on the state they come from. Below are the truffle component breakdowns over time for the ACT and Tasmanian truffle as an example.


Tasmanian truffle components
ACT truffle components











Compounds in truffles from different trees

I can now see why the Professor was happy to let his E-nose take over from our truffle dogs. Yep, it showed that truffles grown under oak trees had compounds that were different to those which had grown under hazelnut trees and these were different depending from which state they were from.

graph of compounds in truffles from under oak trees from WA
WA truffles components from truffle grown under Oak trees
WA truffle components from truffle grown under Hazelnut trees

Truffle compounds and the Truffle Connoisseur

Remember at the start of this post we said that truffles taste like truffles, well its true, but through Prof. Lee's research, not only do we know the many compounds that make up the aroma of Australian black truffles, the work of his expert panel of supertasters has also given us the words that describe those flavours. A lexicon that matched what supertasters sensed in the truffle aroma to compounds that Prof. Lee’s E-nose identified were there. And so was developed the Australian Black Truffle Aroma Wheel.


If you don't have a copy, your selecting truffles and cooking with one hand tied behind your back.


They are available through Prof. Lee, drop us a line and we are happy to pass on his details.


Start the food pairing with truffle journey by unpacking the Australian Black Truffle Aroma Wheel

Using the Australian Black Truffle Aroma Wheel is easy, its recognising the various aromas in the truffle that is the hard bit. As you know chefs and sommeliers train for years to to detect the various flavours in foods and wines. But! it all starts with tools like the coffee and wine flavour wheels. Now there is a truffle aroma wheel, a gift made available to us by Prof. Lee. Hats off to you sir, in my humble opinion, a name all truffle connoisseurs should know.


Truffle sampling steps with the wheel

Here we step through an example using the truffle aroma wheel - the food pairing with truffle journey starts here. Remember, it lists the flavours that may be found in any truffle that has been harvested in Australian. Note however, there are a entire range of influences that determine the aroma of any particular truffle. They are all individuals and won’t have every flavour listed on the wheel at once. Instead, at first sniff, they will have a character which emphasises one (some times more) parts of the inner circles of the wheel.



The Australian Black Truffle Aroma Wheel developed by Prof. Garry Lee in 2014. Posters are avaliable from Garry Lee direclty.
Australian Black Truffle Aroma Wheel avaliable from Prof Lee directly.


First sample of the truffle

On your first ‘sniff’ chances are you will notice the aromas listed in the center of the wheel. Looking at our example in the graphic below, we have a truffle in our hand that smells a bit herbal or vegetable like. Referring to the wheel’s next outside circle, it tells us, if we focus a bit, that there are a range of other flavours that could be there.



Portion of the Australian Black Truffle Aroma Wheel

Second sample of the truffle

If on second sniff we detect, for example a sulfurous note, we are on our way.

Now, move the truffle away from your nose, rest a bit. Our olfactories fatigue very quickly when it comes to truffles.

A few more breaths away from the truffle and then take another sniff.


Third sample of the truffle

Referring to the wheel again, this time you should be looking for things like seaweed, onions, or perhaps garlic and others listed under the sulfurous section.

One technique is to actually picture these items in your head. The wheel tells us one or more of these flavours will be there. That is it.......simple right?


I don’t know about you, but I can hardly wait for harvest time to begin. This is so abstract!


Jokes aside, word of warning, picking the individual flavours on the outer circle may not be easy. Because truffle will fatigue your olfactories quickly, it becomes harder to detect them after the third or forth sniff. It will therefore take time and patience before you will be able to quickly pick those separate flavours………….unless!........ you are naturally a supertaster. But that is another story entirely, perhaps next month......


You can go the the end of the post by clicking here.


The components that show truffles are good for you.


Protein in Australian Truffles

Truffles contain1g/100g (raw red meat contains 20‐25g/100g protein)

We need 1g protein per kilogram body weight per day. Protein from truffles provides all essential amino acids (lysine, threonine, methionine, phenylalanine, tryptophan, leucine,isoleucine, valine) and has no limiting amino acids.


Fats in Australian Truffles

32% Saturated fatty acids

23.8% Monosaturated fatty acids

43.1% Polyunsaturated fatty acids

42.6% Omega 6‐fatty acids (0.2 g/100g)

0.3% Omega‐3 fatty acids (<0.1g/100g)

<0.1g/100g of trans fats compared to ~1.2 g/100g in lamb


Carbohydrates in Australian Truffles

Truffles contain 10g/100g

Total Sugars 1.3g/100g


Vitamins in Australian Truffles

Thiamin 0.1 mg/100g (RDI: 1.1 – 1.2 mg/100g)

Riboflavin (B2) 0.33mg/100g (RDI: 1.1 – 1.6 mg/100g)

Niacin (B3) 2.4 mg/100g (RDI: 14 – 16 mg/100g)


Trace Elements in Australian Truffles

Calcium: 39 mg/100g (RDI: 1000 – 1300 mg/100g)

Copper: 1 mg/100g (RDI: 1.2 – 1.7 mg/100g)

Iron: 1.6 mg/100g (RDI: 8 – 18 mg/100g)

Magnesium: 17 mg/100g (RDI: 310 – 420 mg/100g)

Phosphorus: 220 mg/100g (RDI: 1000 mg/100g)

Potassium: 600 mg/100g (RDI: 2800 – 3800 mg/100g)

Selenium: 0.0051mg/100g (RDI: 60 – 70 mg/100g)

Sodium: 2.9 mg/100g (RDI: 460 – 920 mg/100g)

Zinc: 2.6 mg/100g (RDI: 8 – 14 mg/100g)


Antioxidant capacity of Australian Truffles

The antioxidant values of foods are expressed in ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) units, a unit of measurement for antioxidant content which was originally developed by the National Institute on Aging at the National Institutes of Health. Australian truffles were found to have an ORAC value of 4360 mol/100g Trolox equivalent which is on par with Raspberry, garlic and red wine but higher than apples, broccoli, figs and strawberries.



Ciao for now.

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