Ever find yourself staring at the spice shelf in the supermarket, wondering about all those different colored peppercorns? What’s the difference between black and pink? Is it worth buying white or green when a recipe for calls for it, or can you get by with what you already have at home?
With peppercorns being the most traded spice around the world, it’s high time you knew what sets them apart. Here’s a breakdown of the different kinds of peppercorns to settle your questions, once and for all.
① Black Peppercorns
The most common variety, black peppercorns are just cooked green peppercorns that have then been left out to dry. They have the strongest, most pungent flavor. Freshly ground, they’re the ideal seasoning—along with salt—for pretty much anything. There are many varieties, including Tellicherry, which comes from Southern India and has a sweet, well-rounded taste; Brazilian, which is particularly harsh; and Lampong from Indonesia, which leaves a citrusy, slow burn.
② Green Peppercorns
These are underripe black peppercorns that typically come in brine or vinegar, tasting fresh and tart. They might also come dried, but it’s more common to see them in brine. Slightly spicy and aromatic, they’re great for flavoring sauces for meat dishes.
③ White Peppercorns
White peppercorns are black peppercorns whose skins have been removed. They have both a fiery, but also less pungent taste, and are good for light-colored sauces and foods.
④ Red Peppercorns
These peppercorns, left to fully ripen on the vine, turn a brilliant shade of red. It’s rare to find red peppercorns as is; they’re typically dried to then develop a black coat, or dried and stripped of their coat to become white peppercorns.
⑤ Pink Peppercorns
These aren’t actually peppercorns at all, but are instead berries that come from a South American shrub. Though they still have a peppery bite, they also have fruity and floral notes. They’re best for garnishing. Serious Eats recommends crushing them in a spice grinder or with a knife rather than a pepper mill, because they are so delicate.