Today’s topic is highly contentious (and, for some reason, sensitive). Are truffles vegetarian? Some vegans argue that they are not — dogs and pigs are used to forage truffles, so they are technically a byproduct of animal labor. However, we disagree because truffles are completely vegan and do not contain any animal products. In the end, it comes down to your personal vegan beliefs. We can see how sugar processed with animal bones isn’t vegan, but we think this one is a bit of a stretch. As our vegan friends put it, if having a therapy dog or an emotional support animal to get you through the day is a commodity, so is having a dog to forage food.
This article will go over what truffles are and how they are foraged in greater detail. Then we’ll get into the argument (and, may we add, the only argument) that truffles should not be considered vegan. After that, if you haven’t guessed it by now, we’ll give you our take on why this is a stretch and why truffles and truffle products are fine for vegans to eat (from a culinary professional’s perspective).
What Are Truffles?
Sadly, we’re not going to be discussing rich chocolate truffles today. We’re looking at umami truffles, a type of naturally occurring fungus. But let’s first discuss what they are, where they grow, and how they are harvested before we discuss whether or not they are vegan. So, to start, truffles are a particular kind of fungus that belong to the Tuber species. Truffle species come in a wide range of varieties. Black and white truffles are the most well-known types.
Despite their similarities, mushrooms and truffles are not the same species. Truffles grow below the soil, whereas mushrooms grow on the surface of the earth. These mushrooms are widely used in haute cuisine, including Italian, French, and other cuisines.
Truffles are divisive because of their strong, overpowering aroma and flavor. If you’ve never had them before, try to imagine something that is very earthy, meaty, gamy, and musky if you don’t know what to expect. The nutty, sweet, and oaky flavors are praised by many reviewers. Truffles, whose flavor can be overpowering and too savory for our tastes, deserve special care from those who may not share our enthusiasm. In the same vein, this is why people only ever use a teeny tiny amount of truffle products at a time. A small amount of this ingredient goes a long way.
Truffles, as we’ve established, are cultivated below ground. As a result, discovering them independently is extremely unlikely. Many people, therefore, keep dogs or pigs (called — how adorable!) who have been trained to sniff out these delicious delicacies. People, you read that correctly! Hounds and pigs have been trained to search for mushrooms. How ludicrous! Here’s a video about truffle foraging from Outdoor Chef Life on YouTube that you shouldn’t miss. It’s fascinating to watch these animals search for these scarce materials.
Why Are Truffles So Expensive?
The fact that they almost exclusively grow naturally is the main factor in this ingredient’s high cost. Many people have attempted to grow truffles but have failed miserably. So it’s a delicacy, just like real caviar. They also don’t produce a lot of growth. Fresh truffles are extremely rare and only last a short time. You only have a short time (perhaps a week or two) to use it after it has been harvested. As a result, truffle supplies are depleted quickly because people consume what they have right away.
The last point is that they don’t grow everywhere. They can only flourish in very specific environments and habitats. It takes a while even when they do because they grow underground and are difficult to find. Additionally, a trained animal must be used to look for these fungi. Furthermore, it is not as simple as getting a dog, raising it, and going foraging. Truffles are typically grown on privately owned land. People must give the owner a commission for what they find if they don’t forage themselves.
Are Truffles Vegan?
So, here’s the big question: Are truffles vegan? To be vegan, something must be completely free of animal and animal-derived products. Because sugar is processed with animal bones, some vegans do not consider it a vegan ingredient. So, how about those truffles? Technically, the truffles are entirely plant-based and vegan. They contain no animal products and are not processed with animal products. The main point of contention in this question is how truffles are foraged.
Many vegans argue that even if the truffles aren’t produced or processed with animal products, using live animals to forage for them should automatically rule them out of the vegan-friendly category. Is this, however, the general consensus among vegans?
Why Some Vegans Refuse To Eat Foraged Wild Truffles
This is where it all began: People should not support dog breeders, according to a recent article from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals Group). And to be completely honest, we have nothing against this article or the arguments it advances. It is a well-known fact that many dog breeders treat animals like a commodity and as a means of making quick money.
The treatment of these mass-produced and inbred animals has had a tremendously negative impact on the species and even society as a whole; it is also well known that many breeders aren’t responsible, qualified, or trained in any way. The right kind of dog isn’t necessary to find truffles, though.
Certain breeds are undoubtedly better at learning new commands and smelling out objects. But once more, technically any dog (or pig) can be trained to do so; in fact, many owners do just that with their mixed breed rescue! Therefore, in our opinion, it is unfair to say that truffles are not vegan because some people use (purebred) dogs to find these fungi.
Since we are not vegans, we acknowledge that we lack any real authority in this area. Although truffles are foraged using live animals, neither our close friends nor family who are extremely vegan have agreed that they are not vegan.
So, What’s The Bottom Line?
Veganism is arguably similar to religion in that many people believe in various things with varying degrees of commitment to them. The general “rules” remain unchanged: avoid animal-based and animal-derived products. It is entirely up to you whether or not you follow some of these rules. Vegans consume sugar, wear fake leather, and consume truffles, sugar, and honey. We don’t think this makes you a bad vegan; only you can decide that.
As a passionate foodie, we believe that truffles are perfectly fine to be classified as a vegan ingredient. It used to be that way! The fact that some people began changing the rules based on their personal beliefs does not automatically disqualify it. Although rules and beliefs can change, we believe this one is a bit of a stretch. Again, claiming that truffles aren’t vegan because some people forage with purebred dogs is absurd. Rescue dogs, as well as mixed breeds, can be used. Pigs are also used to find truffles.
Furthermore, truffles are not made from animals. It is not fertilized with animal products or derived from or processed with animal products. If you can argue that something isn’t vegan because a dog or pig is used to forage the fungi, that’s like arguing that dogs shouldn’t be used as emotional support animals because they are viewed as commodities that help people do their jobs and make money. And these dogs are typically well-cared for and groomed — better than most dogs and some people!
Is Truffle Oil Vegan?
Truffle oil and other truffle products are subject to the same restrictions as fresh truffles that we mentioned above. Truffle oil is entirely vegan in theory. The same can be said for truffle extract, salt, and powder. But it all depends on how you feel about the “animal as a commodity” controversy. If you disagree with that statement, however, using truffle oil is perfectly acceptable.
Some producers do, however, mix their truffle oil with dairy and fish oils. To make sure the oil is truly vegan, you should definitely check the label and ingredients list. No one is disputing the fact that both of those products are not vegan-friendly because they are made from fish and cows, respectively.
Can You Get Imitation Truffle Oil?
You’re in luck if you’re looking for a vegan truffle-flavored oil. Most truffle imitation oils do not contain any animal products and do not use animals in the manufacturing process. These are typically less expensive, but keep in mind that they are synthetic — chemicals are used to replicate the flavor and smell.
Are Personally Cultivated Truffles Vegan?
Giving a precise response to this question is very challenging. It should be, but many people use fertilizers to encourage the growth of truffles because, as we’ve already mentioned, growing truffles is extremely difficult. Always inquire about the fertilizers and growth hormones used when purchasing truffles that have been grown by someone else (if any). Although many of those ingredients are safe to consume, they are not vegan.