The 8 Most Common Types of False Truffles

False truffles belong to various genera and species. Some of the common commons false truffles include the false yellow truffle, mosaic puffball, puffball earthstars, star earthball and dog turd fungus.

What Are False Truffles?

False truffles refer to a group of fungi that share some similarities with true truffles but are taxonomically different.

Unlike true truffles, which belong to the Ascomycetes, false truffles are often classified under the Basidiomycetes.

While they may have a truffle-like appearance, they are not closely related to true truffles.

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Are False Truffles Poisonous?

The toxicity of false truffles varies among species, and it’s important to note that not all false truffles are toxic. Some false truffles are considered edible and are consumed in certain cultures, while others may be unpalatable or even toxic.

Usually, false truffles belonging to certain genera like Rhizopogon are considered edible by foragers.

8 Common Truffle Lookalikes

Identifying truffle lookalikes can be challenging, and it’s important to note that some mushrooms may resemble truffles but differ in edibility and other characteristics.

Here are 6 specific mushroom species that may be mistaken for truffles:

1. False Truffles (Rhizopogon, Rhizopogon Luteolus – False Yellow Truffle)

  • Appearance: Rhizopogon species, including the Rhizopogon luteolus known as the false yellow truffle, typically have a round or irregular shape and are covered by a dark, often rough outer skin. The exterior can range in color from yellow-brown to black. No veined or marble interior.
  • Habitat: Both true truffles and Rhizopogon species are commonly found in woodland areas, associating with specific trees. They contribute to the health of the forest ecosystem through mycorrhizal relationships.
  • Edibility: While some foragers insist that certain species may be edible when cooked, my opinion is that they lack the culinary appeal and delicious flavor true truffles.

How to spot the difference between Rhyzopogon species and true truffles?

Unlike true truffles, Rhizopogon fungi may not have the same marbled or veined interior. They lack the aromatic qualities that are characteristic of many culinary truffles.

2. Mosaic Puffball (Choiromyces Meandriformis)

  • Appearance: Choiromyces meandriformis, also known as the mosaic puffball, has a distinctive appearance with a net-like or meandering pattern on its surface.
  • Habitat: Typically found in woodland areas and grassy habitats. It grows underground and may be encountered near tree roots.
  • Edibility: While not generally considered toxic, some foragers consider Choiromyces meandriformis edible. However, I advise you not to eat it.

How to spot the difference between Choiromyces meandriformis and true truffles?

True truffles typically have a smooth, rounded exterior without the meandering patterns seen in Choiromyces meandriformis. The interior lacks the marbled or veined pattern found in true truffles.

3. Choiromyces Magnusii

  • Appearance: Choiromyces magnusii, like other Choiromyces species, has a round or irregular shape with a textured surface.
  • Habitat: Found in woodland areas, often near tree roots. It forms mycorrhizal associations with trees.
  • Edibility: The edibility of Choiromyces magnusii is not well-documented; however, they are highly prized in parts of Spain, where Choiromyces magnusii is commonly known as “criadilla jarera”.

How to spot the difference between Choiromyces meandriformis and true truffles?

The exterior of Choiromyces magnusii has a net-like or meandering pattern on its surface. It may also be textured or have a rough appearance. The interior lacks the marbled or veined interior of true truffles.

Choiromyces magnusii
Choiromyces magnusii; image credit:

4. Puffball Earthstars (Geastrum Species)

  • Appearance: Earthstars are known for their star-like appearance when mature. They have an outer layer that splits open into segments, revealing an inner spore sac.
  • Habitat: Earthstars are found in various habitats, including woodlands and grassy areas, often associated with mycorrhizal relationships with trees.
  • Edibility: While some puffballs are edible when young, earthstars are generally not sought after for culinary use due to their tough texture.

How to spot the difference between puffball earthstars and true truffles?

Earthstars have a unique star-like structure when mature. True truffles have a smooth, round exterior without the star-like structure seen in earthstars. Puffball earthstars lack the strong, pleasant aroma associated with true truffles.

Rounded earthstar
Rounded earthstar

5. Star Earthball (Scleroderma Polyrhizum)

  • Appearance: Scleroderma polyrhizum, also known as the rooting earthball, star earthball or dead man’s hand, typically has a dark, rough outer skin. When young, it may resemble a truffle due to its round shape and dark color.
  • Habitat: Found in a variety of habitats, often associated with trees. It grows underground, contributing to its truffle-like appearance.
  • Edibility: Some foragers will tell you it’s edible, but its edibility is not well documented and I advise you not to consume it.

How to spot the difference between Scleroderma polyrhizum and true truffles?

The exterior of Scleroderma polyrhizum is typically rough, covered in small warts or scales. The interior may vary but is often dense and white when immature, turning brown or purplish as it matures. It lacks the marbled or veined pattern found in true truffles.

6. Common Earthball (Scleroderma Citrinum)

  • Appearance: Common earthballs have a round shape with a thick, tough outer skin that can be brown to dark brown. The interior spore mass changes color as it matures.
  • Habitat: They are often found in woodlands, heaths, and grassy areas, growing in association with tree roots.
  • Edibility: Common earthballs are not considered edible and can be toxic. They are known for their tough texture and bitter taste.

How to spot the difference between common earthball and true truffles?

True truffles generally have a smoother and softer outer skin compared to earthballs. Common earthballs lack the strong, pleasant aroma associated with true truffles.

7. Dog turd fungus (Pisolithus Arhizus)

  • Appearance: Pisolithus arhizus, commonly known as the dog turd fungus, has a unique appearance with a rough, irregular surface that can be mistaken for a truffle, especially when covered in soil.
  • Habitat: Typically found in association with various trees. It often grows underground and forms mycorrhizal relationships with plant roots.
  • Edibility: Not considered edible, and its tough, woody texture makes it unpalatable.

How to spot the difference between dog turd fungus and true truffles?

This fungus typically resembles a small, dark brown to black, irregularly shaped mass. In contrast, true truffles are often smaller and lack the irregular shapes associated with the dog turd fungus.

Pisolithus arhizus
Dog turd fungus

8. Bitter Truffle (Elaphomyces Muricatus)

  • Appearance: Bitter truffles, including Elaphomyces muricatus, have a rough, warty surface that can be dark brown to black in color. The interior flesh is generally firm and may have a marbled or veined pattern.
  • Habitat: Bitter truffles grow underground, forming mycorrhizal associations with the roots of certain trees, especially hardwoods like oaks. They are commonly found in woodland areas, particularly in well-drained soils.
  • Edibility: Bitter truffles are not considered edible and can be toxic if consumed.

How to spot the difference between bitter truffle and true truffles?

Unlike true truffles, they do not have the same aromatic qualities.

Elaphomyces muricatus
Bitter truffle; image credit:

How Can You Tell if It’s a Truffle or a False Truffle?

Distinguishing between true truffles and false truffles can be challenging due to their similar appearance, especially when they’re underground.

However, there are several characteristics and features that can help you differentiate between the two:

CharacteristicsTrue truffleFalse truffle
Exteriorsmooth, roundedrough, scaly, or meandering pattern on the surface
Interiormarbled or veined interior; soft and resembles the consistency of chocolateno marbled or veined pattern; more uniform, dense, or corky
Aromastrong, pleasant aromano strong, sweet roma
Habitat & host treesoak, hazel, beech, pine, fir, poplar
Colorshades of black, brown, or whiteshades of brown, black, purple, or yellow
Sizesmallvary in size, and some may be larger than typical true truffles
Edibilityedible and higly prizedsome fare considered inedible, while others may be consumed by certain cultures
Black truffle
Black truffle

Do False Truffles Smell Like Truffles?

False truffles, which belong to various genera of fungi and are not closely related to true truffles (Tuber genus), often lack the strong, distinctive aroma that is characteristic of real truffles.

The complex and earthy scents of real truffles are often described as musky, garlicky, or even reminiscent of certain spices.

In contrast, false truffles may have a more subtle or even unpleasant odor. The presence and intensity of aroma can vary widely among different species of false truffles. Some false truffles may lack a distinct fragrance altogether.

Real Truffle Foraging Tips

Because true truffles are rare but incredibly treasured, knowing a few foraging tips is the best way for you to find real truffles.

These include:

  • Know where to look; the Pacific Northwest, western Europe, and North America are some of the best locations for true truffle foraging. If you’re based in Italy, France, Washington, or Oregon, you should look in forests.
  • Because true truffles thrive in moist soil, you should be looking for truffles where the ground is damp or where it has just been raining.
  • Truffles form ectomycorrhizal relationships with fungi in their surroundings, such as beech, fir, and oak trees. Therefore those trees must be present for truffles to grow. Look at the roots; the truffles will grow and attach to tree roots.
  • There’s a reason pigs and dogs use their nose to find truffles, and you should use it too. Learn the typical truffle aroma and employ this knowledge when searching for true truffles.

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