Life would not be as enjoyable without spices, and pepper is one of our favorites. We love to sprinkle white pepper on mashed potatoes, white sauces, and hot and sour soup for a subtle spiciness, and beef stir-fry is not complete without a dash or two of black pepper. But, what’s the difference between white pepper vs black pepper, and can you use either one in recipes?
Even if you do not have a spice cabinet fully stocked with turmeric, chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, or tarragon, you probably have salt and pepper shakers sitting in your kitchen somewhere.
These are two of the most popular seasonings, and pepper is essential for various Asian, Vietnamese, American, and other cuisines.
Most people commonly use black pepper to season their food, but white pepper is quickly becoming a new favorite. It has a slightly different flavor than the black variety and is useful for adding to white cream sauces, so you get the peppery taste without the black specs.
While the most noticeable difference between white and black pepper is the color, they also differ in flavor and health benefits.
Differences and Similarities of Black Pepper and White Pepper
A little sprinkle of salt and some freshly ground pepper from a grinder are often the finishing touches on a plated dish. The salt brings out the food’s flavor, while the pepper adds a mild kick. Is there much of a difference between white and black pepper?
The main difference between these two spices is the color. However, there are other ways they are dissimilar, and it’s a great idea to learn about both before using them in recipes, like the different types of jalapeno peppers for a tasty dish.
Learn how black and white pepper differ in appearance, taste, and nutritional benefits and whether black pepper is a good substitute for white pepper.
What’s the Difference between White and Black Pepper?
While the main difference between white and black pepper is the appearance, there are other ways these two seasonings differ. Discover the flavor profile of each type and the health benefits of using both peppers in your diet.
Even though they are similar in name, peppercorns do not contain the spicy heat of capsaicin, which is unique to chili peppers and the many varieties of habanero peppers.
Instead, black pepper is the unripe drupe of a pepper plant cooked briefly in hot water to clean them and rupture the cell walls for easy drying. They then go through a drying process which shrinks the inner seed while shriveling and darkening the outer layer.
White pepper is from the seed of a ripe pepper berry. The dark skin of the seed is removed through a process called retting, and the naked seed is dried. The final result is a white-colored peppercorn. Both peppercorns are used whole or crushed into small powdery flakes.
Besides color, another difference between black vs white pepper is flavor. White pepper has an earthy taste, while black pepper is less complex and has a hot or pungent flavor.
While these two pepper types seem like they contain similar nutrients, some differences are worth pointing out.
White pepper has more calories, black pepper contains omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, and vitamin K, while the white variety does not. However, they both have pretty similar amounts of carbohydrates, vitamin C, and iron.
Black pepper aids with digestion and weight loss and improves metabolism. White pepper is helpful for constipation, has anti-inflammatory properties, and boosts the appetite.
Both peppers contain piperine which helps reduce high blood pressure. The storage life of these peppers varies as well. Black pepper stays fresh for a year or more, while ground white pepper has a short shelf life.
Is Black Pepper a Good Substitute for White Pepper?
Next to salt, black pepper is one of the most common spices. There isn’t a time when you don’t see salt and pepper shakers sitting side by side on restaurant or cafe tables.
Is black pepper a good substitute for white pepper and vice versa when preparing meals? Here are a few spices to use in dishes when you run out of either black or white pepper.
Can you substitute black pepper for white pepper? Many people choose white pepper over black for aesthetic reasons. A creamy, white soup doesn’t look as attractive with black specks floating in it, after all.
However, if appearance is not your primary goal when cooking, it’s fine to swap one pepper for the other if you’re using small quantities.
Other great alternatives for peppercorns are capers, allspice, chili powder, and papaya seeds, an excellent option for those with pepper allergies.
White Pepper vs Black Pepper Plants
Is white pepper the same as black pepper, and do they both grow on the same plant? There are different types of peppercorns, including high-quality Tellicherry peppercorns, black peppercorns, white peppercorns, and green peppercorns, and they all come from the same plant.
However, pink peppercorns come from the Peruvian pepper tree. When you harvest them and how you process them determine the peppercorn type.
The Piper nigrum plant is a perennial vine that grows up to 13 feet tall with trailing stalks that root when touching the ground. Each stem bears 20 to 30 fruit-bearing spikes.
They require some form of support, like a trellis, and they love growing in rich, well-drained soil. Peppercorn plants are slow-growers that need full sun and a hot and humid climate to flourish.
They grow best in USDA hardiness zones ten and up since temperatures below 50°F stops their growth. They are light feeders and do not require pruning except to remove dead or dying stems.
Ways to Grow White and Black Pepper Plants
While it’s easy to purchase ground pepper from the grocery store, there is nothing better than growing your own pepper plant and harvesting fresh peppercorns for your spice cabinet. Find out how to grow peppercorn plants from seed and give them the proper care to flourish.
Purchase your peppercorn seeds from a garden center. The ones you buy from the spice aisle of your grocery store are no longer alive. Fill small pots with potting mix and press a seed a quarter of an inch deep into the soil of each container.
When growing black pepper plants or white ones, mist the dirt with water to dampen it and set the tray in a warm location of your home between 75 and 85°F. Seedlings begin to emerge in a week or two.
Like when you grow chili indoors, harden off the young plants a week before you transplant them in the garden by taking them outdoors each day for a couple of hours.
Dig a hole slightly bigger than the pot’s base and carefully move the plant from the container to the ground without disturbing the roots too much. Push dirt around the plant, pat it down, and water thoroughly to help the plant settle.
Position a trellis or other type of support behind each plant for the vines to grow on and spread a layer of mulch over the garden bed to retain moisture, prevent weeds, and keep the ground warm.
Using Fresh Pepper to Make a Carbonara Pasta Dish
The origins of carbonara are not really known, but it’s said that it was a dish eaten by coal workers. The abundance of black pepper on the pasta resembles coal flakes.
Alla carbonara means coal workers style, so this story is feasible. Wherever this dish comes from, it’s a delicious way to use peppercorns from your garden.
Add spaghetti to a large pot of lightly salted, boiling water, and cook it until the pasta is almost al dente. Drain the noodles, and set about one cup of the pasta water to the side.
Pour the olive oil into a skillet and heat the pan on medium. Slice the thick bacon into quarter-inch pieces and fry in the oil until the edges are crispy but not hard.
Combine the eggs, yolks, Parmesan, and Romano cheese in a large bowl. Add a pinch of salt and a generous amount of black pepper. White pepper is a suitable substitute for black pepper in this recipe, but black pepper is a better choice with its full flavor.
Mix the spaghetti, creamy sauce, and bacon in the large pot and cook on very low heat for about a minute while adding some reserved pasta water to increase creaminess.
There is just something about pepper, whether you enjoy the black or white variety. Its mildly spicy and warm flavor complements everything from soup and stew to potatoes and gravy. Little did we know that this spice is also beneficial to our health and easy to grow in the garden.
Now that you understand the differences between white pepper vs black pepper and how to grow your own to use in your favorite dishes, why not share our white and black pepper plant and spice guide with your family and friends on Facebook and Pinterest?