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What Is White Pepper?

By Edited Jul 12, 2015 2 2

We all know what black pepper is but what is white pepper?  White pepper isn't as different as you think even though it isn't as popular in most cuisine.  With the spread of cooking cultures through television we are being exposed to more culinary options than ever before.  Grocery stores are expanding their spice selections and setting up International aisles to address our increased desire to try flavors that might not be found natively inside our country borders.  However, maybe you want to tread a bit more lightly in exposing your taste buds to new flavors.  White pepper is an excellent jump on point for you and maybe it will spark even more flavor additions to your dishes.

Where Does Pepper Come From

What is White Pepper
Pepper is actually a berry that grows on a vine named Piper Nigrum.  The vine is native to India and thrives in tropical regions.  Both black and white pepper come from the same vine and berry.  Like many variations of food the difference is all in the preparation.  Black pepper is made by picking the berries while they are unripe.  They are then cooked with the fruit of the berry still intact and is then left to dry.  White pepper is made by letting the berries finish ripening on the vine and then soaking them in water for a week until the flesh of the berry falls away.  The seed of the berry is all that remains and that is what makes up white pepper. 

White Pepper Flavor and Uses

It should come as no surprise that white pepper tastes and smells similar to its black counterpart.  After all, black pepper is just white pepper with the addition of the dried berry.  White pepper is generally ground to a fine powder as opposed to black's coarse texture.  White pepper is a little more mild and loses some of the fruity flavors that some black pepper carries.  There is often a lot of pushback when first trying white pepper because we have a set idea of what it should taste and smell like. 

Uses for White Pepper

White pepper is a topic of some debate between chefs.  The use of white pepper is usually based on appearance.  If you are making a cream sauce or a potato dish, than the black spots of black pepper can be offsetting for some.  White pepper carries much of the same flavor of black pepper but will blend into lightly colored dishes.  There generally aren't many people that argue a superior flavor for white pepper.

So there you have it.  Not all spices are drastically different than what you are used to and you can very easily adjust your seasoning to bring new life to familiar dishes.  If you want a pepper flavored dish without a sea of black spots, than give the white variety a try.  You can a creamy alfredo sauce with some kick without giving up that rich, white color.  Then you can explain to your dinner guests how you did it when they ask what is white pepper.



Feb 1, 2012 9:14am
I've used white pepper in a couple of recipes and I agree the taste is milder than its black counterpart. Nice article. "Thumbs-up"
Feb 1, 2012 10:44am
I love white pepper. That was all I remember us ever using in Scotland. I make an open-faced grilled cheese and coat it in the stuff....delicious.
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