Truffles have been part of the human diet for a long time: we’ve traced truffle-eating all the way back to nomadic hunters and gatherers. From ancient history on, people have enjoyed truffles as part of countless different cuisines. But what are truffles, anyway?

You may have seen truffles on menus. You may have even eaten them in various forms. However, the experience becomes even more enjoyable when you learn about these fascinating foodstuffs.

Whether you love to cook or simply love to eat, we’ve put together the basics about truffles so you can expand your foodie knowledge. Keep reading for answers to your truffle questions!

You may have seen chocolate truffles in fine candy stores before. These confections actually get their name from the true truffle, a type of fungi with a rounded shape. Chocolate truffles share the name and shape, but that’s where the resemblance ends.

Real truffles grow underground, typically in the shade of specific trees, such as oaks. Certain species of these truffles are beloved as food. Trained pigs and dogs (today, dogs are used more often) help harvest them by sniffing them out from the ground.

These edible truffles are mostly found in certain regions, which is why they’re associated with the cuisines of France and Italy. You’ll see both black and white truffles on menus, which have very different tastes.

Truffles have a strong, earthy taste, but black truffles taste stronger than white truffles. Their savory flavor is sometimes described as musky or even gamey. However, many foodies agree that it’s impossible to describe the taste of truffles — you just have to try it for yourself.

Since truffles are a fungi, many people compare their taste to mushrooms. However, truffles aren’t mushrooms: they’re a different kind of fungi, and they taste different too. They’re richer and earthier than mushrooms, and are used in much smaller quantities because the truffle flavor can quickly overpower a dish.

How do people eat truffles?

One of the most common truffle products out there is truffle oil. However, this flavored oil typically doesn’t contain real truffles. Instead, it’s flavored with the same chemicals that are found in truffles.

For the full experience, you’ll want to track down a dish made with real, fresh truffles — even though they’re expensive. Truffles are often used to add flavor to rice or pasta dishes, but they can also elevate many other simple meals, such as scrambled eggs or steaks. They can also be used to make delicious truffle butter.

Ready to give truffles a try for yourself?

It is possible to buy fresh truffles in some areas, but they’re very expensive and don’t last long. So, if you want to get a taste of truffles at home, it’s best to look for a truffle oil made with real truffles.

Although high-quality truffle oil can be costly, a little bit goes a long way, so it’s a worthwhile investment. If you’re feeling creative, you can also make truffle butter at home. While most people associate truffles with fine dining restaurants, oils and butters are a great way to recreate the fine dining experience in your house.