Did you know white pepper is a spice that’s growing in popularity? It’s derived from the same plant as black pepper — Piper nigrum — and obtained from the ripened berries of the plant. But the difference between black and white pepper is the way it’s processed and prepared. White pepper is created by removing the outer layer of the pepper berry, which leaves behind the inner seed or the “pip.” The pip then gets dried and turned into white pepper.
Does white pepper taste different than black pepper?
Unlike black pepper, which has a robust and savory profile, white pepper offers a milder taste that’s earthy, fermented, and slightly floral. To put it simply, black pepper provides a sharper spice than its white counterpart. Most of the time, people use white pepper in light-colored dishes where the presence of black pepper might tarnish the food’s overall appearance. Think mashed potatoes, creamy soups, and creamy sauces. But white pepper is also really common in Asian cuisine, especially in Chinese and Thai dishes. It is a key ingredient in Chinese hot and sour soup, white pepper crab, and stir-fry, amongst others.
White pepper also pops up in many European recipes. Scandinavian classics like Swedish meatballs call for the milder taste of white pepper, which allows the other flavors in the dish to shine through. However, it still provides the gentle heat you’d expect of pepper. Another popular example of a recipe that calls for white pepper is a creamy alfredo sauce.
Instead of using black pepper in your next alfredo sauce, try this recipe instead:
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 portobello mushroom caps sliced thin
- 1 (8 oz.) package of cream cheese
- ½ cup butter
- 1 ½ cups milk
- 6 oz. grated parmesan cheese
- 1 clove of garlic
- Ground white pepper to taste
- Heat the butter in a skillet over medium heat, then stir in mushrooms and cook until softened. Set aside.
- Melt cream cheese and 1/2 cup butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
- Stir in milk and Parmesan cheese until smooth, then add basil, garlic, and white pepper. Simmer until flavors blend, remove garlic, and then stir in mushrooms.
- Serve over your favorite type of pasta. Fettucine and linguini are traditional, but you can use whatever you like!
Other uses for white pepper
White peppercorns aren’t solely suitable for cooking. You can also get creative with them when it comes to cocktails. White pepper generally plays nicely with gin and tequila-based drinks, like a peppered Paloma. To try it out, combine half an ounce of your favorite tequila with one and a half ounces of orange liquor, three-quarters of an ounce of grapefruit juice, a quarter of an ounce of lime juice, a couple of dashes of bitters, orange bell pepper, and white peppercorn shrub. Shake well, then top with sparkling water and serve.
When shopping for white pepper, opt for whole white peppercorns if you can find them. Like many spices, white pepper loses its potency once ground. Buying the peppercorns whole and grinding them yourself will help the spice maintain its power.
Incorporating white pepper into your culinary repertoire can provide a different and more delicate seasoning option for various dishes. How will you work it into your cooking?