Martha Stewart's Brutally Honest Feelings About Truffle Oil

There's one product you can buy that is extremely divisive among the culinary intelligentsia. A plethora of celebrity chefs have made vehement declarations against it, eager to share that in their opinions, it is an abomination. What food ingredient could be so awful as to cause luminaries such as Martha Stewart and Anthony Bourdain to both call it outright horrible? The recipient of such scorn is none other than truffle oil.

They're not rallying against actual real truffles, mind you — it's the bottled, flavored oil that gets these experienced cooks pissed off. Martha Stewart elaborated on her least favorite food on the "Today Show" when she made it clear that she would "never use truffle oil." Describing it as synthetic and fake, she said, "It's a hideous thing. Forget truffle oil." In another brutally honest take, during her 2014 Reddit AMA, she stated that "truffle oil is one of the few ingredients that doesn't belong in anyone's kitchen. It is ruinous of most recipes."

Most truffle oils do not contain any real truffles

The reason Martha Stewart and many others flat-out hate truffle oil is not because they dislike truffles; it's because they love them and believe that the oil products do them a disservice. While the flavor and aroma of fresh truffles are unlike anything else ... earthy, musky, fragrant, and profoundly delicious ... truffle oil, on the other hand, simply does not compare. In fact, it literally cannot compare, and that's because Stewart was right about it being synthetic.

Most truffle oils do not contain any real truffles — instead, they are flavored with an aromatic petroleum-based chemical that perfumes the oil with its phony scent. 2,4-Dithiapentanem, also known as bis(methylthio)methane, is a derivative of formaldehyde. It's no wonder that some people describe so-called truffle oil as tasting like gasoline or garlic — real truffles do not taste or smell like either. Those who appreciate authentic truffles will tell you that the synthetically flavored products are a poor alternative to the real thing.

This likely explains why Anthony Bourdain told Jimmy Fallon on a 2017 episode of "The Tonight Show" that he found truffle oil to be "about as edible as Astroglide and made from the same stuff." The synthetic essence that gets added to olive or other oils only mimics the truffle scent and most of what is sold as so-called truffle oil doesn't actually contain any of the prized fungus.

How to avoid getting duped by fakes

While not all manufactured truffle oil is imitation, most of it is, and many people don't know the difference. It's important to know how to tell if you're eating fake truffles at a restaurant or when purchasing truffle products to cook with at home. Labels aren't always helpful because companies can get away with labeling 2,4-Dithiapentanem as just a "flavoring" or "aroma" — while not having to divulge that their product does not contain any natural truffles.

Thankfully, there are some clues for how to spot fake versions that you should look out for, and steer clear of. For one, true truffle oil will never contain any additives, chemicals, or preservatives. So, while labels can be deceiving, it's still important to check them to see if any of those are listed.

Secondly, one of the biggest giveaways is the price — this applies to products you purchase as well as dishes served in restaurants. Real truffles are one of the most expensive foods on the planet. This is due to their scarcity and how difficult they are to find — they cannot be planted and grown like a regular crop; they grow underground, and finding them requires trained animals to root them out. If a store is selling a bottle of truffle oil for a low price, or if a restaurant is offering a cheap serving of truffled fries, you can pretty much guarantee that you won't be getting any real truffles.