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The 5 Best Substitutes for Black Pepper

Black pepper is an essential part of many cuisines worldwide, including European and Asian dishes.

The spice has a distinct flavor and is commonly used as a condiment to add extra taste and heat.

Black pepper is grown mainly in India and South America and uses berries from the vine plant Piper Nigrum, which grows close together on the vines.

This particular variety of peppercorns comes from different regions worldwide with varying spiciness.

Freshly ground pepper is preferred as it releases more flavor but can easily be bought pre-ground from supermarkets and grocers.

Black pepper works well in various dishes, from pasta to soups to sauces.

However, if you run out or do not have any in your cupboards, there are several alternatives that you can try.

Read on for the top 5 substitutes for black pepper.

What is Black Pepper?

what is black pepper

Let’s start with the basics.

Black pepper is a flowering vine in the family Piperaceae, cultivated for its fruit, usually dried and used as a spice and seasoning.

Black pepper is native to south India but has strongly permeated cuisines across the world throughout history because of its widespread use in food preservation techniques before the era of refrigeration.

When dried, the fruit, known as a peppercorn, is approximately 5 millimeters (0.

20 in) in diameter, dark red when fully mature, and, like all drupes, contains a single seed.

The word “pepper” has become a common term for the ground spice made from the piper berries, which may be described as “ground pepper” but is more often referred to as “pepper”.

There are three main ways to use black pepper, whether as peppercorns or ground up into a fine powder.

Its main use is as a food additive to add spiciness, taste, and flavor to savory dishes.

However, it can also be used for medicinal purposes or as decoration, such as the traditional Indian spice mixture known as garam masala.

The 5 Best Substitutes for Black Pepper

Although black pepper is commonly used in cooking, it does not work well with all dishes.

If a recipe calls for black pepper and you don’t have any available, fear not.

Several substitutes can easily fill the void, allowing you to enjoy your meal without going out of your way to purchase the spice.

Here are the top five substitutes for black pepper:

1 – White Pepper

white pepper

One of the most common substitutes for black pepper is white pepper.

White pepper is produced from the same fruit as black pepper, but its production process differs.

The piper nigrum fruits are soaked in water to remove the outer layer of the fruit.

This layer contains the majority of the pigment found in peppercorns.

Once this step has been completed, the fruit is dried, removing all the water and leaving behind a small seed.

The difference between these two products comes down to color.

White pepper contains no pigment and has a milder flavor than black pepper.

The white color comes from the lack of skin, which typically contains most pigment found in peppercorns.

2 – Green Peppercorns

green peppercorns

Green peppercorns are a different variety of pepper, similar to black pepper.

This spice is grown on a vine and packed as soon as harvested.

It must be preserved this way as it’s considered too delicate to be dried.

Green peppercorns are incredibly similar to black pepper, but they are milder.

The flavor is typically less intense, and the color of green peppercorns tends to vary from a bright green hue to a dark olive-green color.

You can find this spice in most grocery stores, but it is important to note that ground-up green peppercorns are not the same as fresh green peppercorns.

The latter typically has a higher price tag because of their fragility and lack of availability.

3 – Sichuan Pepper

sichuan pepper

Sichuan pepper is a special kind of peppercorn used frequently in Chinese cuisine.

This type of pepper has a unique flavor, so much so that it’s considered an acquired taste.

The flavor of Sichuan peppercorns is described as being sharp, tingly, and slightly sweet.

Some believe the flavor is similar to a mix of black pepper and citrus.

The peppercorns are typically roasted and then finely ground to make this spice.

It’s important to note that Sichuan peppercorns will lose their flavor if added to food too long after being cooked.

There are tons of recipes that use Sichuan pepper.

It’s crucial to note that this spice cannot replace black pepper, but it makes an excellent addition to stir-fry meals and other Chinese food dishes.

Once you’ve tasted Sichuan pepper and realize how unique and powerful the flavor is, it’ll be easy to recognize its taste.

4 – Pink Peppercorns

pink peppercorns

Pink peppercorns are relatively new to the pepper industry and were first commercially produced in France.

This is because it takes roughly ten years for the trees to produce fruit, making it difficult for farmers to profit from this crop.

Despite these obstacles, pink peppercorns are becoming increasingly popular in the west.

The fruit itself is a berry, and it’s typically dried out before being used for consumption.

Dried berries are ground into a fine mixture that resembles regular peppercorns.

The taste of pink peppercorns is sweet and slightly nutty, with fruity notes similar to raspberries or cherries.

It’s important to note that pink peppercorns are not interchangeable with black pepper.

The taste of the former is much more powerful and distinctive, so it’s best to use another recipe if you don’t have any available.

5 – Coriander Seeds

coriander seeds

Coriander seeds are similar to black peppercorns, but there is one key difference.

This spice is much more fragrant and flavorful than its counterpart.

The flavor of this spice is described as being warm and earthy with a very mild citrus aftertaste.

The easiest way to recognize coriander seeds from black pepper is by looking at the color.

This kind of seed is much darker and often appears brown or tan instead of black.

This spice is used for seasoning and is essential in some very popular recipes.

One common example of this would be cilantro lime rice, which uses cilantro and coriander seeds to give it a unique taste.


Black pepper is used worldwide in various recipes to enhance the flavor of different foods.

Although this spice is quite common, other spices can be used to substitute black pepper.

These include green peppercorns, Sichuan peppercorns, pink peppercorns, coriander seeds, and more.

Whether you’re looking for something similar to black pepper or want a new spice to try out, these alternatives are sure to satisfy.

Yield: 4 Servings

The 5 Best Substitutes for Black Pepper

The 5 Best Substitutes for Black Pepper
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes


  • White Pepper
  • Green Peppercorns
  • Sichuan Pepper
  • Pink Peppercorns
  • Coriander Seeds


  1. Pick your favorite substitute from the list above.
  2. Follow cooking directions for your selected substitute with the proper ratio of ingredients.
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