The Scientific Reason People May Have Strong Feelings About Truffles

If you're a fine dining fanatic, it's likely you've partaken in expensive indulgences such as caviar appetizers, juicy Kobe beef steak, or saffron-garnished dinners. And, if you are a frequenter of high-end establishments, we're positive shaved truffles have graced your pasta dishes or french fry baskets before. However, it seems that many of these pricey luxurious foods come with their share of controversy, and truffles may just stir up the most.

It seems the hype around truffles is growing as chefs globally are utilizing them to attract a wide audience curious about the unique flavor. Many varieties of truffles can be found throughout Europe and Asia, and these aromatic fungi primarily thrive underground in broadleaved forests, as per Caviar Star. They don't have the most appealing look, as they're often rough-skinned with a spongy feel. However, their deep and wholly distinctive aroma cannot be matched since they develop completely immersed in the nutrient-rich soil.

But, many people do not find the appeal of eating truffles appetizing at all. Some complain of truffles having a terrible taste and scent, and this distaste may simply come down to a certain chemical present in the fungi.

Can you smell androstenone?

Generally, the taste of truffles is compared to that of popular above-ground mushroom varieties. Earthy, musky, nutty, and gamey all are frequent descriptors of both. So, it would make sense for most mushroom haters to also despise truffles. But, it's also true that not all truffles taste alike. According to Caviar Star, various factors, such as the region of the world where the truffle originates, can change the nearly indescribable flavor.

However, similar to cilantro, it seems the real answer as to why some people dislike truffles may come down to genetics. Androstenone is the appealing chemical present in truffles that gives them their signature earthy and musky scent. However, according to The Wall Street Journal, roughly 25% of the population is not able to smell androstenone. And, another 40% perceive androstenone as smelling terrible, often describing the aroma as "rotten wood or sweat." This leaves only about 35% of the population to fully enjoy the smell associated with truffles.

So, if you've tried repeatedly to understand the hype around truffles, but you just can't, know you're likely in the majority.