Salt and pepper, two of the most widely used, commonly found, and most recognized spices in the world. Every restaurant and supermarket, and even fast food and airport food stalls, are armed with salt and black pepper. But what about black peppercorns’ rejected cousin, white pepper? How come we never see that spice on a table in your favorite cafe?
Before you jump to conclusions, you should know that black and white pepper are not the same in different colors. In fact, in some ways they are as different as black and white. The black and white bell pepper each have different qualities and flavors that make them equally tasty in many different forms. So how are they different? Well, to really understand the difference you need to know how these two types of pepper are created. In accordance with Cook’s Illustrated: “To prepare black pepper, the immature berries of the pepper plants are gathered and dehydrated until the shell is blackened, which gives it its characteristic aroma and intense flavor.”
The taste of this ingredient
On the other side: “White peppercorns are fully ripe berries that have been soaked in water to ferment, and their husks are removed before drying.” That explains why the colors of these two peppers (which actually originate from the same berry) are complementary opposites. Now that you know why they look different, your next question might be “do they taste different? Yes they do. Because of how peppers are dried and the fact that white peppercorns have their shells removed, they have different levels of flavor and different types of temperatures.
White peppercorns contain a milder temperature than black, and are less harsh and earthy in flavor than black peppercorns. White pepper has a gentler, milder flavor that is complex, but not overly pungent. White pepper is typically used more in Indian, Asian, and Mexican cooking, which makes sense since those foods are often known for their spicy and earthy flavors.
The use of white pepper
As for when you should use white pepper instead of black, it’s really up for debate. Like many spices, herbs, ingredients, and flavors, the person who really needs to like what you’re cooking is the person who will be eating it (you!), so use what you like, what tastes best to you , and what makes you happy. With that said, the pros tend to skew toward white pepper when you’re making dishes that are light in color.
After all, aesthetics are important in your culinary masterpieces, and nothing is worse than spending time slaving away in the kitchen to create the perfect smooth sauce (like bechamel), only to have little black flecks floating around like dirt. If you want to ensure that the presentation of your dish is immaculate, appetizing and beautiful, and that your dish will also have the proper seasoning and flavor, choose white pepper. But be aware that this pepper also has a more rustic flavor, so the dish will taste a bit different.
Additionally, there are a few health benefits to using white pepper. White pepper may aid digestion and may improve bone health. It is also a good source of magnesium, dietary fiber, and iron, all minerals essential. Bottom line: white pepper is not the same as black pepper, and while everyone has preferences when it comes to flavor and spice, it’s worth giving this spice a try in your everyday dishes.