Luxury foods and ingredients come in all shapes, sizes, and prices.
While restaurants across the globe cater to the rich and indulgent with high-priced variations of the foods we love, what are the most luxurious ingredients in simple terms?
The following list brings together a range of different food and ingredient options, from the most exclusive cut of beef to a spice worth a king’s ransom.
1. Kobe Beef
Kobe beef is a delicacy, valued for its flavor (which comes from the fat content), tenderness, and marbled texture. It comes from the Tajima strain of Japanese Black cattle, raised in Japan’s Hyōgo Prefecture. The rearing of Kobe beef cows is strictly laid out by intense regulations. Other types of Wagyu beef get the headlines these days, but bona fide Kobe beef is still considered the ultimate steak available on the market, lying beyond the means for many of us mere mortals.
The cows themselves can be worth $30,000, while a cut of meat at a restaurant can fetch $200 US and a burger over $50.00. Its luxurious reputation has made Kobe beef a target for scammers in Japan and abroad.
2. Almas Sturgeon Caviar
The premier caviar in the world is known as Almas, and comes from roe produced by a type of albino beluga sturgeon found on the Iranian side of the Caspian Sea. According to the Guinness World Records, the highest priced Almas caviar costs $34,500 per kilo (2 pounds/3 ounces).
3. To’ak Art Series Chocolate Bar
Made in Ecuador and described as the world’s most expensive chocolate bar, the To’Ak Art Series bar retails for $450 (plus shipping) for 50 grams (1.76 ounces). There are less than 200 bars made each year.
An heirloom nacional chocolate exquisitely crafted from two different vintage bars and aged for three years, this luxury chocolate is not the type of candy you’ll want to loll about eating on the couch – it even has tasting notes like the finest Scotch whisky. This luxury chocolate comes with a limited edition print in a specialized wooden box, a Certificate of Authenticity, and tasting plate, and a bamboo utensil.
4. Pink Lettuce (Pink Radicchio)
While it pales into insignificance against the prices of other items on this list, pink lettuce costs around $14.95 per head. To put that into perspective, regular iceberg lettuce can be bought wholesale for less than $1 per pound at peak season.
Pink radicchio is great as a talking point but also delicious in salad thanks to its crunchy texture and a slight bitterness on the palate. It prefers the cold and is usually available from November to February at fresh food markets or whole food retailers.
5. Amethyst 9x Bamboo Salt
The world’s most expensive salt is a Korean grey salt known as Amethyst 9x Bamboo Salt, which fetches almost $450 per pound in the US.
The hand-harvested sea salt is encased in bamboo and clay then heated with magma intensity nine times until it’s rock-solid in small crystals. The labor-intensive crafting process and the cost of production are what make Amethyst 9x so expensive. The salt itself is strong and intensely flavored with extremely rich minerality, recommended only to be consumed sparingly while dining.
Truffles belong to the tuber family and often found in close proximity to tree roots, which means going deep into forest with a truffle pig can be lucrative. While they can be found wherever fungi and other wild tubers are harvested, the most expensive truffles come from specific European locations.
Black truffles from France and white truffles from Italy are the two most highly valued varieties. The rare white Alba truffle, grown in Italy, once sold for $330,000usd in 2007. According to the Truffle Tracker, in 2021 Italian white truffles cost around $1580 per pound. Winter black truffles were priced between $325-330 per pound.
Saffron is a delicate thread traditionally used in food preparation, medicine, and dying cloth. Real saffron comes from the stigma of the autumn crocus flower, and yields less than 0.1 gram of the spice per flower. It can take more than 40 hours of manual labor to get 1 kilogram of the fibers.
As the Business Insider clip below demonstrates, saffron is the world’s most expensive spice and the most pricey food ingredient in the world. The starting price for saffron is around $200 per ounce and can go exponentially higher for the top-quality stuff.
Much like with Kobe beef, counterfeit saffron is a lucrative industry. Corn fibers, thistle (named safflower but unrelated), or even shredded paper is used as a decoy to the real thing.
8. La Bonnotte Potatoes
I love potatoes more than just about any other food on the planet. But even I would baulk at having to pay more than $500 per pound for a bundle of spuds. That was the high water mark for La Bonnotte Potatoes in 1996, or “Golden Potatoes.”
La Bonnotte potatoes are a mid-size potato grown on the French Isle of Noirmoutier, in the Bay of Biscayne, in small sandy plots that soak up the salt and brine from the ocean, seaweed, and salt air. Much like wine or Scotch, Golden Potatoes have terroir (environmental factors that make them stand out from other versions).
Golden Potatoes yield only a few tonnes of the final product each year and need to be hand-harvested because of their delicate nature.
9. Black Densuke Watermelon
I’ve seen Bluefin being cut at the Tsukiji Fish Market in Ginza and their eye watering price tag. I’ve seen square watermelons (they only cost $100 in 2005) for sale, but I’ve never had the pleasure of finding a Densuke Black Watermelon.
In a country famed for high end luxury foods (think Bluefin tuna sashimi, or Fugu), the Densuke Black Watermelon may be Japan’s most interesting and tasty. Famed for its scarcity, premium sweetness, and contrasting black skin and pink flesh, this product of Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost Island, average around $250 each. The most luxurious watermelons net up to $6,000 per melon at auction.
10. Jamón Ibérico de Bellota
Jamon (ham) can only be officially classed as the highest grade Jamón Ibérico de Bellota if it is sourced from pure-bred Ibérico pigs and fed with acorns in a pasture, with no introduced feed or fodder. Cured from the meat of a purebred line of ‘black hoof’ pigs, Jamón ibérico de Bellota’s exquisite taste comes from the beasts ability to store fat within their muscles, creating an unrivalled texture, color, and taste.
A leg of ham costs around $1400 (it yields around 15-20 pounds), but the price has been known to climb as high as $4500 for the very best quality meat.
Check out the awesome clip below of Nick DiGiovanni putting a $1500 leg of Jamón ibérico de Bellota to good use. I’m so jealous!
Learning about some of the world’s most decadent foods and ingredients is fascinating. I love food, but can’t wrap my head around components that cost a month’s rent, no matter how tasty, rare, or special they may be.
What is the most expensive food item that you have ever bought, and in the end, was it worth it?SKM: below-content placeholder