I'll be the first to admit that, after tasting truffles for the first time on mac and cheese, my mind was spinning with the possibilities. I quickly came to the realization that eating truffles on everything wasn't going to be reality for me without a completely empty wallet as white and black truffles are as closely associated with fine dining and expensive cuisine as caviar and kobe beef. They're commonly found shaved over a rich risotto or topping french fries or carpaccio. 

Why are truffles so expensive?

In short, it's an issue of supply and demand

As of now, truffles only grow in the wild on the roots of certain types of trees. So far, any attempts to cultivate them on farms or in labs have failed.

The most common for eating are white truffles and black truffles. It depends on the quality of the truffle and commitment level of the chef, but some truffles have gone for upwards of $1200 per pound. One giant truffle even sold for $2500

Experts in the food business say that due to changing climate, truffles are becoming more rare. As a fungus, truffles do not thrive in dry, warm conditions. In addition, they're commonly grown in France, Italy, and Spain, where the trees they grow on are being cut down to make room for cities and farms. 

Not only are the actual truffles themselves rare, but they're extremely difficult to find and collect. Dogs are the most commonly used animal for hunting the truffles. The problem is those dogs also have a taste for truffles. Even the best-trained truffle dogs end up eating a large portion of their small haul. 

How to taste truffle without paying for it

Thanks to science and innovation in the culinary industry, you don't have to worry about emptying your bank account to get your hands on an actual truffle. Instead, there are several ways to add truffle flavor to your home cooking for a fraction of the cost.

One of the most common is truffle oil. In most cases, truffle oil doesn't actually contain any truffles at all. A chemical has been developed to mimic its taste. 

For that reason, truffle oil is very polarizing in the restaurant industry. Most chefs stay away from it, claiming the fake truffle scent and taste is overpowering and artificial. 

For those of us with less sophisticated tastes who are just looking for some truffle taste on your baked fries, it will do just fine and only set you back $10 to $20, based on the size and quality of the bottle you choose. 

If you want a taste of real truffles, try truffle salt. It has actual truffle pieces in it, but because they're diluted and used to flavor the salt, it's not quite so expensive

You can use truffle salt in the way that you would use any finishing salt. Because truffle flavor is so delicate, it's best not to cook with the salt because you won't get the most bang for your buck. 

Try using truffle salt to top your steak before serving or sprinkle it over popcorn for an especially indulgent movie night snack. 

Another way to spread truffle flavor throughout a homemade dish without shaving actual truffles on top is buying sauces infused with truffles. The most prevalent are truffle butter, truffle pesto sauce, and mushroom truffle sauce

These products contain actual truffles, but they're paired with complementary ingredients to carry the flavor further. Try using these products when making pasta or even just spread them on toast. 

The combination of sweet and savory flavors is super popular right now and truffles certainly haven't been left out of the party. Several brands offer truffle honey, but this one from Dean & Deluca has great reviews. The only cons stated are that it's "super addictive."

Truffle honey itself is a combination of sweet and savory, so it's only logical that it can be used in sweet or savory applications. Try glazing chicken with it, or topping ricotta toast with a drizzle

Last but not least, if you can't be bothered with cooking or buying specialty ingredients, there are several packaged products on the market that are already infused with truffle flavor. 

Popcorn is arguably the best vessel for truffle flavor because it pairs well with butter. This brand is a bit pricey, but has great reviews in terms of authentic truffle flavor.

Another way to satisfy your tastebuds without much effort is with truffle pasta. And no, I don't mean adding truffle oil or salt to your pasta. There are brands that add truffles to the actual pasta. Talk about infusing flavor at all levels. 

If you decide to try truffle pasta, I'd recommend keeping it simple with toppings and sauce so you don't overwhelm the flavor. Try butter and parmesan

Hopefully I've convinced you that you really can afford to indulge in truffles on a regular basis. While the price of truffles themselves may not be on the decline, there are plenty of products out there with all the truffle flavor you could possibly want.