Peppercorn has been around for centuries, whether as a figment of the imagination or as the real deal.
It was used as a currency in its early history and only later became a popular spice.
Today, green peppercorns can be found in many different cuisines across the globe.
Green peppercorns are not peppers; the name is an unfortunate misnomer.
They look like green peppers, but green peppercorns are berries that come from Piper nigrum, a plant known for its pungent berry-like fruit.
The flavor of green peppercorns can vary in potency depending on where they are grown and when they are picked.
As an integral part of many dishes, green peppercorns are often paired with other strong spices like chili or horseradish.
The intense flavor of these three ingredients provides excellent balance to the sweet flavors in desserts and creamy sauces.
However, if you cannot find them in your local grocery store or do not have the time it takes to forage the forests of Asia, there are some great substitutes.
Keep on reading for the top 5 substitutes for green peppercorns.
What is Green Peppercorn?
As the name suggests, green peppercorn is the unripe berry of the pepper plant – Piper nigrum.
The berries are picked before they ripen and then either dried or pickled.
Once the berries have ripened, they blacken and become pungent, much like an unripe grape falling off the vine.
When ripe, green peppercorns can range in color from green to red.
Green peppercorn is best preserved in vinegar, brine, or freeze-dried.
It can also be added to the oil to make a pepper sauce.
It is one of the most widely used spices in European cuisine and can be found in dishes including steak au poivre, green peppercorn casserole, and stuffed grape leaves.
The distinctive flavor comes from the compound piperine, making up black peppercorn’s spiciness.
The 5 Best Substitutes for Green Peppercorns
If you don’t have green peppercorns on hand and you’re craving a particular dish, there are substitutes for this unique ingredient.
While it might not be the perfect substitution in every situation, each provides a flavorful alternative to green peppercorns.
1 – Black Peppercorns
If you don’t have green peppercorns on hand, you can always use black peppercorns as a substitute.
These aren’t as spicy as their fully-ripened counterparts.
Black pepper is also slightly spicy and features a fresh and peppery flavor.
It’s important to remember that black pepper has a more mellow flavor, which makes it a good substitute in dishes that feature a stronger flavor.
The best way to prepare black pepper is to add it to a dish pre-cooking.
If you do this, be careful not to let it burn in the pan.
Otherwise, you will have a bitter flavor on your hands.
You can also add it post-cooking but only add a small amount.
Otherwise, it will be too spicy and add an overwhelming flavor to your dish.
2 – White Peppercorns
White peppercorns are closely related to the green variety, but they are ripened before being picked.
The color difference is due to processing.
The white variety undergoes a bleaching process while still on the vine.
Whatever loss of nutrients occurs during this procedure is minimal because white pepper isn’t left on the vine very long.
White pepper has a slightly spicy, peppery flavor than a green peppercorn.
It’s also important to remember that white pepper is incredibly hot.
Because of this, it works well on seafood and other dishes featuring fish or shellfish.
While not as flavorful as black pepper, it can be substituted in nearly any dish and add a spicy and pungent flavor.
3 – Dried Pink Peppercorns
Pink peppercorns are not related to black or white pepper, though they are closely related to trees that produce nutmeg and mace.
They’re often referred to as the “forgotten pepper” because they aren’t used as often as others.
This is although they have an aromatic sweet fragrance that is rather appealing.
This unique flavor gives it a spicy and sweet taste that pairs perfectly with fish.
The best thing about pink peppercorn is that it can be used as an all-purpose substitute for nearly any dish.
However, some still think of this pepper as a novelty item because few people use it regularly.
4 – Brined Peppercorns
Another interesting substitute is brined peppercorns.
These come in the form of green and pink, and they’re preserved by immersing them in a salt solution while still on the vine.
This preservation method enhances the flavor and converts some bitter compounds into zesty, sweet notes.
As such, this works well with salads and other dishes.
It also pairs well with fish, especially salmon, scallops, tuna, and tofu.
It’s important to keep in mind that brined peppercorns are pungent enough to overpower the flavor of many foods.
Because of this, it’s best used sparingly or as a substitute for white and black pepper.
5 – Capers
There are several types of capers to use to substitute for green peppercorns, including the common caper.
This variety is known for its size and mild flavor.
However, the bud caper offers more flavor without being overbearing, making it an excellent substitution in most dishes.
The best part about these two varieties of capers is that you can use them in almost any dish.
Depending on the variety you use, they can add a spicy or slightly sweet flavor to any dish.
Green peppercorns can be used in various dishes to add a punch of flavor.
However, several interesting substitutes feature an entirely different set of flavors and characteristics.
Each one is unique and can add a little something extra to almost any dish.
Some substitutes have more flavor, while others have a more mellow taste.
In either case, you can use these unusual alternatives as replacements for green peppercorns in any recipe that calls for it.