Wait? Not all pepper is black? Nope! White pepper is totally a thing!
What is White Pepper?
White pepper is a spice produced from the dried fruit of the pepper plant, the same plant as black pepper. It is, as suggested, white instead of black. It has a delicate, earthy heat and mild floral aroma, making it ideal for delicate dishes that need a bit of peppery heat.
It is generally white, but sometimes a few black ones pop in there.
It is also commonly used in white sauces and foods to not add black specks like a black peppercorn would.
White Pepper versus Black Pepper
They both come from the berries of the same plant, but the difference lies in when they are harvested. Unripe pepper berries are picked and dried for black pepper, while white pepper is made from fully ripe pepper berries.
White is then soaked in water for about 10 days so they ferment, at which time their skins are also removed. The skins can contain some of the hot piperine compound, as well as volatile oils and compounds that give black pepper its characteristics, thus making white pepper milder.
They do tastes slightly different, but are commonly used interchangeably in recipes.
What Does It Taste Like?
White pepper is commonly seen as milder than black pepper, but is still a little spicy. It is less complex in flavor than black pepper and often has a earthy or grassy flavor. Much of which depends on harvesting, handling and storage.
All pepper, regardless of color, is best freshly ground. I highly suggest buying a pepper grinder and grinding your own as needed instead of pre-ground.
This will also help your pepper stay fresh longer. Nearly all herbs and spices have a longer shelf life when left whole versus processed. They start to lose potency and flavor the moment they are ground and while initial packaging helps to retain some, it starts to further fade the moment you open the bottle.
Ground spices are often nearly tasteless 1 year after opening. To get the most out of them, rub them between your palms before adding to your dish to release natural oils and flavor.
To keep track of dates, write the date opened in permanent marker on the lid of your spices or use a label maker. Spices should be tossed between 6 months and 1 year. Always buy the smallest jar possible for this reason.
Cooking With White Pepper
White pepper is best for white foods and also delicate dishes. The main thing to remember when cooking with white pepper is to add it at the END of cooking.
If overheated, white pepper has the tendency to turn bitter and make your dish taste rancid.
White pepper is most commonly found in Asian dishes, especially Schezwan, and American foods like mashed potatoes.
You can substitute black pepper, but it isn’t always an even swap and it will leave black specks in your food.
White pepper is a common ingredients and can be found at most grocery stores or ordered online.