White pepper is a mild spice that does wonders to a dish. Its musty, grassy, and spicy flavor gives a great tang to a recipe. With its less pungent heat and more earthy flavor, it is easy to blend and mix with different ingredients.
Seeing this spice in a recipe might have taken you aback because it’s not as common as other herbs and spices, so it’s not surprising that you don’t have this in your kitchen. Instead, you might have other options already available that can serve as white pepper substitutes to upgrade your meal.
What are the most common white pepper substitutes?
1. Black Pepper
This “king of spices” accounts for 35% of the world trade in spices, making it available almost everywhere in the world. Its characteristic flavor is a mix of woody, herbaceous, spicy, and warm, and can be used for just about any dish.
Black pepper provides a mild heat much like white pepper. Since its taste isn’t overwhelming, it is so convenient to use as an ingredient that can add warmth and zing to your recipe. You can use it for meats, fish, veggies, salads, soups, stir-fries, soups, pasta, and more. It is a versatile spice that doesn’t cost a lot for its wonderful uses.
The differences between black pepper and white pepper, aside from the color, is the spiciness level. Since white pepper has no skin, it loses its piperine which makes it milder in heat and flavor. Black pepper offers a more complex full-bodied taste which is great for making savory dishes.
2. Pink Pepper
Another close alternative for white pepper is pink pepper. It has the same flavor notes as white pepper but its heat profile is often compared to a combination of chiles and pepper. This peppery option is a great addition to dishes with its sweet fruit flavor close to berries.
If you don’t want your dish to have some pink sprinkles on it, use this pepper sparingly. Although for recipes like soups, stews, and other savory dishes, it’s easier to incorporate pink pepper which will be dissolved among the ingredients.
3. Green Pepper
It’s another pepper substitute with a different color. Green peppercorns are harvested from the same plant as black and white peppercorns but are picked at a different stage of maturity. They are much milder in flavor than black or white pepper, and their color ranges from dark green to pale yellow-green.
This spice works well in pastas, colored cream dishes, pastas, seafood, poultry, and meats. You can also put it on cheese for a fun snack. Green pepper has a flavor that is a cross between white, pink, and black pepper. For reference, it has a mildness like white pepper, fruity notes like pink pepper, and much-loved zing as black peppercorns.
Paprika is made from dried or ground red peppers. It will usually add color to your dish varying from orange to red depending on how much you’ll use.
This red chili powder has a sharp taste so it’s best to use very little to start with. You can increase the quantity depending on your spice tolerance and preferences for flavorful spicy dishes. This option comes in different heat levels based on the brand or how it’s produced. Compared to other red spices like cayenne, paprika has a milder tang which makes for a good replacement to white pepper.
Paprika refers to the powdered form of certain varieties of pepper. Its mildly pungent flavor and spice goes well to just about any dish including eggs, poultry, meat, wild game, fish, shellfish, soup, stew, vegetables, and rice. It’s also commonly used as a seasoning in spice blends, rubs, marinades, and sauces.
Other white pepper substitutes besides pepper varieties
5. Green Chiles
Green chiles come in several varieties, each with its own degree of heat. Some of them are very mild, while others can be extra hot. So make sure you know what type you’re using. Green chillies are a great substitute for white pepper and can be added to many different dishes.
Fresh green chiles can add flavor and heat to your cooking. Slice one or more whole green chillies and put them in the dish at the start of the cooking process. You can then remove once the cooking is over, leaving only its spice and flavor infused in the recipe.
You can also make a paste of green chiles and add it in small quantities to your dish. This will give your food great flavor and satisfying spice. Green chiles go very well in curries, soups, stews, and can give a nice zing to sauces, rubs and marinades.
6. Ground Cumin
Depending on the recipe, this mild, aromatic spice could be just what your recipe needs in place of white pepper. It has a natural spicy flavor with earthy notes like white pepper which can add depth to your dish.
Ground cumin also has its distinct taste profile being slightly sweet with hints of nuttiness. It’s an essential ingredient in Indian cuisine. You can use this spice for a variety of rice dishes, soups, stews, pickles, breads, and savory dishes like chili con carne and curries.
Cumin has a stronger taste than white pepper so best to use it sparingly.
Ginger is pale in color and sharp in taste. You can use ginger powder or even fresh ginger in many recipes to add heat and flavor. Ginger powder gives both spiciness and warmth to a dish much like white pepper does.
Ground ginger powder has a pale, somewhat brownish color. While fresh ginger has a fairly pungent and unique flavor, grounded ginger has a milder taste and may even lose its tang over some time. If you’re using it for recipes needing white pepper, best to use fresh ginger in small amounts. Meanwhile, you can use a good amount of ginger powder adjusted to your preference.
You can use this healthy spice in soups, curries, meats, salad dressings, desserts, and baked goods like gingersnaps and gingerbread.
In a pinch, you can also try using turmeric instead of white pepper. The only catch is like paprika, it can influence the color of your dish but instead of a savory red, it will turn your food to yellow.
Turmeric has a lot of heat and has an earthy flavor like white pepper. It is also slightly bitter. You can add its lively, peppery taste to add a zing to your juices, smoothies, and stocks. You can also use it on roasts, rice, or even scrambled eggs.
If color is not an issue, the culinary uses of turmeric are endless. It’s a healthy spice for making hearty meals or beverages.
9. Mustard Powder
Mustard can be made into a powder and used as a spice. It brings a sharp tang and heat to a variety of recipes. Most store-bought mustard has a very mild taste. If you prefer to have it spicier, you can grind your own mustard seeds, sieve it and add it to your dish. Unlike other spices, mustard powder is best used in the early parts of cooking so it can release its flavor.
You can use grounded mustard or mustard powder as a seasoning for salad dressings, marinades, rubs, and sauces. It’s also a great flavoring in baked goods and pickles.
10. Cayenne Powder
This is a type of hot pepper that often comes as a finely ground powder. It is used in recipes that need heat like hot sauces and chili con carne. If you’re in a pinch, you can use this to replace white pepper but make sure to add sparingly.
Cayenne powder has a strong taste and provides a robust spiciness. It is a famous addition in Mexican cooking like for enchiladas, fajitas, and tacos. But it is as versatile as other spices that can be used in many recipes whether it’s seafood, egg dish, meats, cheese dishes, casseroles, curries, and stews.
Like turmeric, this alternative can change the color of your dish to orange or red so be careful when adding and adjust accordingly.
What are the differences between white pepper and black pepper?
Both peppers come from the same plant but are processed differently. Basically, white pepper has its outer covering removed.
Black pepper is often described as having a spicy, pungent, and slightly floral taste. On the other hand, white pepper is milder as the skin is removed. Also, since it undergoes a process of slight fermentation, white pepper gets a more complex, earthy flavor. Because of how it is made, white pepper can cost more than black pepper.
There are a variety of white pepper substitutes available in the market. Depending on your recipe and preferences, one option will be better than the other. If you’re replacing white pepper in need of a spicier alternative, all of the listed options can help amplify the heat and flavor of your dish. The non-pepper replacements may have their own distinct flavor so start with a pinch and adjust accordingly to perfect your meal.