Oh Pricey! 7 of the Most Expensive Foods In The World

January 30, 2016

What are the most expensive foods in the world?

  1. Truffles
  2. Saffron
  3. Kopi Luwak
  4. Vanilla
  5. Balsamic Vinegar
  6. Swiftnest
  7. Kobe Beef

Catering in Manila – the Philippine capital – can mount up to be a pretty monumental job. With it being the universal melting pot of the country, the widely varied population is bound to have extremely diverse tastes when it comes to cuisine. While some are delighted with standard Filipino fare, there are also those who seek something extra special in the food.

Sometimes the extra special is no more than the right pairing of wine and cheese. Other times, it’s rare (and expensive) ingredients. Here are seven of the most expensive ingredients in the world.


Image from Australian Truffle Growers Association
Image from Australian Truffle Growers Association

As a knowledgeable food connoisseur would tell you, no list of expensive ingredients would ever be complete without truffles, a rare, edible underground fungus. Unsurprisingly, it’s more notorious for its price rather than its taste – white truffles can reach astronomical prices of as much as $3,600 a pound!

Taste-wise, truffles are known for their uniquely musky, delectable, and sweet flavor. Despite possessing a slightly pungent smell, they’re often used as garnish for creamy pastas or other dishes that have a lot of cheese, eggs, and butter. Aside from that though, their inherent value lies in its rarity. Truffles are found in very select places around the world, most of which are in Europe (such as the Piedmont district of Italy); they’re also very difficult to acquire. Truffle hunters have to use trained pigs or dogs in order to forage for the truffles, and as each year passes there are less to harvest and the quality steadily decreases.  In addition, due to Truffles’ value, a black market has emerged and unfortunately, it dominates a huge percentage of truffle sales. Despite all these setbacks, however, quality truffles are still available for consumption worldwide.


Image from The New York Times
Image from The New York Times

Similar to truffles, Saffron’s inherent value also lies in how difficult it is to obtain. The plants itself aren’t so rare, but the yields are rather low compared to other, more “common” spices such as Basil or Rosemary. This is because Saffron is the stigma (the part of the flower that receives the pollen and allows it to germinate) of the Crocus Sativus flower. Each plant bears only about four flowers, and every flower only has 3 stigmas on it. Each stigma is taken, dried, then sold as the spice we all know and love. Connoisseurs describe its taste as “reminiscent of metallic honey with grassy or hay-like notes, while its taste has also been noted as hay-like and sweet.” It’s often used in Persian, Indian, European, Arab, and Turkish cuisines despite its high price at about $500 an ounce.

Kopi Luwak

Image from Shawn Hesketh
Image from Shawn Hesketh

While coffee made from animal excrement doesn’t sound all too enticing – or valuable, for that matter – you’d be surprised at the prices a bit of Kopi Luwak goes for! It’s actually one of the most expensive coffees in the world, a single kilogram of it going for as much as $3000. Mainly produced in Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Philippines, the “coffee” is harvested from the feces of the Asian Palm Civets as the small animal’s digestive system helps in the process of making the coffee “better”. This is debatable, however, as the Specialty Coffee Association of America stated that the “general consensus within the industry … it just tastes bad”. It’s bought more for the novelty than its taste, though that detail is largely up to the consumer.


Vanilla it the second most demanded spice in the world yet the vanilla flower only blooms for a couple of hours in a single year. This means that there is very little time for pollination. Vanilla flowers also must be planted manually and only in certain areas.

The spice itself is gathered from the pods of the flowers. Once this is gathered, it must first be fermented and aged for two years in order for the signature taste and aroma of the spice to be released. This tedious process of gathering the spice leads to its big price tag: $3500-4000/lbs

Balsamic Vinegar

Although “balsamic vinegar” has been found more commonly nowadays, the authentic version is not so easily attainable. The process of creating this syrup first involves white Trebbiano grapes being boiled down to be musty. Then, it is placed in a barrel which allows water to escape over a long period of time; 12-25 years to be exact. You may think that this is a simple process and the long wait is what brings the price up. While this is true, it is also due to the fact that a large number of grapes is needed to reach an amount that can be sold commercially. This is because only small amounts of vinegar is gathered from a group of grapes due to the evaporation of the water and the concentration of the musty grapes. For a mere 100ml bottle of true balsamic vinegar, it will cost someone $150.


This ingredient was named so because the ingredient itself is a bird’s nest. It was originally found in caves in Southeast Asia where male swallows use their saliva to create nests. It takes those birds around 2 months in order to do so. The gathering of the nest is also a tedious process. People must gather the nests from the hard to reach caves or custom houses must be created for swallows to build their nests there. When the swiftnests are gathered, they can be dissolved in broth to give it a gelatinous texture. A pound of swiftnest costs around $990.

Kobe Beef

Also known as ‘Wagyu’ Steak, this beef originated from Japan. It is made from cattle that are massaged and fed 1 beer daily.  This is to create distinctly fatty cuts when the time comes to turn the cattle into beef. This beef is very tender and low in cholesterol which makes it a delicious meat that is widely sought after. For a 16-ounce cut of Kobe Beef, one must pay $1240.

Key Takeaway

Food in a necessity, but at times it is also a luxury. Try and find some of the aforementioned foods and taste them for yourself, then decide if they’re truly worth their prices.



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