It’s easy to confuse black and white pepper, especially as they come from the same plant genus. They even share some taste and aroma similarities, so separating them can take a little research. However, that’s not necessary, as we’ll be explaining the differences in this blog.
Let’s start with the basics - what is a pepper?
Coming from the Piper Nigrum plant (a.k.a. The pepper plant), pepper is a spice that originates from India. It’s a season that’s known for its earthy profile and piquant aftertaste, with dishes all around the world benefiting from its inclusion.
They have absolutely no connection with red hot chili peppers though, as they get their spiciness not from capsaicin, but from piperine. The berries of the pepper plant are actually a fruit, but taste them and you’ll struggle to detect any fruitiness!
So, what's white pepper?
White in color, white peppercorns are typically milder than their darker cousins, largely due to the fact they’re left to ripen on the plant before being picked. After being picked, they’re then fermented, before having their outer layers removed to reveal the light-colored inner-seed.
Generally speaking, this kind of pepper is used in Chinese cooking, along with Vietnamese, French, and Thai cuisine.
And What About Black Pepper?
Ok, so unlike white peppercorns, black peppercorns are picked while unripe and then dried out with the outer skin still in place. This is what gives them their blackened, wrinkly look after they’ve been processed. As a result, you tend to get much more of a kick in your cooking when using it.
The Three Main Differences Between the Two
There’s no denying that black and white pepper are more alike than they are unalike, but there are still some distinct differences that you should be aware of.
- Flavor - their profiles are quite different, although you can tell how close they are to each other when you taste them. As we’ve mentioned, black pepper is nice and spicy, whereas white peppercorns produce a nice gentle taste.
- Appearance - when used, black pepper will result in black specks able to be seen when cooking. However, when using the white variety, it blends in, in the same way, salt does. The ideal option can depend very much on how you want your cooking to look.
- Cupboard life - both types will last at least several months in your kitchen cupboard before spoiling, but white peppercorns can last a number of years. This only really comes into play if you’re using a grinder, as the peppercorns need to be intact to last this long.
Enjoy Your Pepper In Your Cooking, Your Way
So, there you have it - the definitive difference between black and white pepper. We hope that this knowledge allows you to get the most from the spice in your cooking!
If you want to experiment with pepper in your home cuisine, we have high-quality examples of both in the Little Istanbul Gifts Shop. While you’re there, why not take a browse at the many other exotic herbs and spices from around the world.
We’ll see you again next time.