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The 5 Best Substitutes for Peppercorns

There are many recipes that require peppercorns as a seasoning or as an ingredient.

The preferred peppercorn is black pepper, the one commonly used in cooking.

In terms of its flavor is stronger and more complex than most other spices in terms of its flavor.

It also adds a ‘kick’ (heat) to many dishes.

Peppercorns can be bought whole or ground.

While fresh peppercorns are preferred, they are difficult to find in stores outside of produce sections.

In this article, we will look at the best substitutes for peppercorns.

What are Peppercorns?

what are peppercorns

Peppercorns are the dried fruit of a vine found in South and Southeast Asia.

Peppercorns come from the same plant as black pepper, one of the Western cuisine’s most widely used spices.

They are graded into three categories: white (the least flavorful), green (less mature, spicier), and black (ripe peppercorns, which are more flavorful and aromatic.

They range in color from green to reddish-purple and brown and black.

Each of these colors is associated with different stages of ripeness and levels of flavor intensity.

Peppercorns should be stored in a tightly sealed glass container in a cool, dark place when bought whole.

Ground pepper has a longer shelf life and can be refrigerated for up to six months or kept in the freezer for up to a year.

The 5 Best Substitutes for Peppercorns

There are many alternatives for people looking to replace peppercorns in a recipe.

Although these ingredients may not have the same flavor intensity, they will certainly add a different taste to a dish.

1 – Chinese Five-Spice Powder

chinese fivespice powder

Chinese five-spice powder is a mix of spices commonly used in China.

These flavors include anise seed, Szechuan peppercorns, cinnamon, cloves, and fennel seeds.

It’s important to note that some manufacturers utilize ginger or star anise instead of the more traditional ingredients.

This can be used in various dishes and is often found in a stir-fry.

It’s also popular for seasoning chicken, duck, and pork.

Though it may not have the same heat level as peppercorns, it adds many interesting flavors to dishes such as meatballs or barbecue sauce.

2 – Ground Pepper

ground pepper

Ground pepper is the most common replacement for peppercorns.

Any dish provides an extra kick and is very inexpensive when added to the dish.

For this reason, there are many different brands available at local grocery stores.

It’s crucial to note that ground pepper has a much longer shelf life than whole peppercorns and can be kept in the pantry.

Ground pepper can be used in all recipes that call for peppercorns.

However, it is important to note that it will not taste the same as peppercorns, especially since some brands are blended with other spices.

3 – Pink Peppercorns

pink peppercorns

Pink peppercorns look like small cherry tomatoes and may provide a sweet flavor to dishes.

These peppercorns are not related to the pepper plant.

Instead, they are part of the cashew family and grown in Brazil, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, China, Australia, North America, Hawaii, South Africa, Mexico, and other countries.

The pink peppercorn grows on a shrub called Schinus terebinthifolius.

This fruit will be picked as it is ripening and then dried for six months.

Although some people prefer pink peppercorns, they do not have the same strong flavor.

However, they still provide a spicy and tangy note.

4 – Sichuan Peppercorns

sichuan peppercorns

Sichuan peppercorns are flower buds from a small tree called Zanthoxylum piperitum.

This plant is in the same family as the pepper plant and has prickly leaves, bark, and seeds.

In addition, it contains an oil that creates a numbing effect on the tongue.

This is related to common black pepper, but it doesn’t come from the same plant.

In addition, Sichuan peppercorns produce a fragrance similar to cloves and may be used in meat dishes such as jerky or steak.

It is also becoming increasingly popular with Asian cuisine.

This is a unique flavor and may be better suited to stir-fry dishes.

Regardless of the spice level, it will add an interesting kick to any dish.

5 – Capers


Capers are flower buds from a shrub called Capparis spinosa.

This is related to the gooseberry family, also known as the caper bush.

They are typically harvested in the spring or summer, but they can be found throughout the year.

Capers may then be pickled, salted, marinated, or dried to preserve them for future use.

Capers are commonly used in Mediterranean dishes, but they can also be added to salads, pasta, or pizza.

They are not only tasty; they may also contain other health benefits such as antioxidants.

Although capers are different than peppercorns, it’s important to note that the taste will be slightly different.

However, this small change in flavor may be a welcome addition to many dishes.


Peppercorns are an important ingredient in many dishes, but several alternatives can be used.

Anise seeds, Szechuan peppercorns, pink peppercorns, ground pepper, and capers are great substitutes for black or white peppercorns.

It’s important to remember that each substitute will have a slightly different taste, but most of these alternatives are commonly used in dishes.

At the very least, you’ll never have to worry about running out of peppercorns with all these options.

If you’re looking for more alternatives, then check out our article on substitutes for black pepper.

Yield: 4 Servings

The 5 Best Substitutes for Peppercorns

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


  • Chinese Five-Spice Powder
  • Ground Pepper
  • Pink Peppercorns
  • Sichuan Peppercorns
  • Capers


  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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