Spices Unearthed: Black & White Pepper

What is the difference between black and white pepper?

Not every decision on what spice to use is black and white, especially between peppers.

That’s because black and white pepper are from the same fruit of the pepper vine.  They both have bite, but black pepper is spicier and more flavorful with a earthy, citrusy taste, while white pepper is more sharp and can have a pungent smell.

Why the difference?

Black pepper is the unripe, green fruit (drupe) from the vine, which has been cooked and then dried until the outer skin shrivels and turns black*.  And white pepper is the ripe, dark red fruit, that has been soaked in water for up to two weeks until it ferments and the skin falls off, leaving only the white seed to be dried.  After processing, both are referred to as peppercorns, which can be used in whole, cracked or ground form.

what does white peppercorn taste like?

Everyone is familiar with black pepper.  Once called “black gold”, it is the most widely consumed spice in the world, and has been for thousands of years.  While white pepper is not as well known, you will taste it spicing up many dishes throughout Asia.

Both peppers add that wonderful spiciness to food.  That heat comes from the active compound called Piperine, which may make you sneeze, but also has the potential to increase your metabolism, help your body absorb nutrients from the food you eat, and aid in digestion by stimulating your taste buds and alerting your stomach to get ready.

So the next time you reach for the salt shaker, try adding more pepper first, especially in these recipes:

Chinese broccoli with mushroom stir fry recipe by SeasonWithSpice.com
Flaky Tomato & Cheese Tart recipe by SeasonWithSpice.com
Flaky Tomato & Cheese Tart -  Season with Spice
Garlicky pork chop recipe by Wok With Ray featured on SeasonWithSpice.com
Black pepper spiced rice recipe by Indian Simmer featured on SeasonWithSpice.com
  Pepper Rice - Indian Simmer
Stir fried black pepper yaki udon noodle recipe by SeasonWithSpice.com
Peppery Irish beef stew recipe by SeasonWithSpice.com
Peppery Irish Beef Stew - Season with Spice

* The best quality black pepper originates from the Malabar Coast of Southwest India, where two grades of peppercorns are sold - Malabar and Tellicherry.  Malabar is the standard grade black pepper, while Tellicherry is the highest grade black pepper in the world.  Allowed to ripen on the vine longer, Tellicherry black peppercorns are larger in size, and richer in essential oils, which give them a more developed, more fruity, yet still spicy flavor.