Your Guide to the Different Kinds of Peppercorns

Pepper adds pleasant heat and crunchy texture to our favorite foods, but do you know the difference between black, white, green and pink peppercorns? Find out once and for all.

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For those who don’t mind a bit of heat, pepper adds a pleasant kick to food. Its many uses make it one of the most highly traded and ubiquitous spices around the globe.

Though you’re likely familiar with black peppercorns, there are several other varieties, including white, green and pink.

Buying spices anytime soon? Read this first.

But first…what is a peppercorn?

Peppercorns are tiny fruits called drupes, which grow in clusters on a vine. Most of the fruit is cultivated in India and Vietnam.

A wide variety of peppercorns are available at farmers’ markets, spice houses and supermarkets. Coming in different colors, shapes and flavors, peppercorns can be used in a seemingly endless number of dishes.

These are the essential spices every cook should have on hand.

Black Peppercorns

When you think of pepper, you likely envision the black variety. In reality, black peppercorns are green peppercorns that have been cooked and dried out. Black pepper is most commonly used as a seasoning or crust that adds a robust spice to some of our favorite foods: meats, eggs, salads, fries, soups and more. Black peppercorns are typically ground up and used alongside table salt. Sink your teeth into this tender peppercorn beef top loin roast!

Buy black peppercorns here.

Green Peppercorns

As mentioned, green peppercorns are simply unripe black peppercorns. They’re usually pickled or preserved in brine or vinegar. When dried, they decay quickly and have to be used within a couple of days. Green peppercorns have a mild peppery flavor and a bright aroma. They can be used to enliven steak, chicken, pork, fish, toast, sauces and dips (like this lime avocado hummus), soups, soft cheeses, beans and vegetables. Try this smoked honey-peppercorn salmon for your next big family meal.

Buy green peppercorns here.

White Peppercorns

White peppercorns are simply black peppercorns that have had the skin removed. In other words, they’re actually seeds. White peppercorns have an earthy, spicy zest, and they taste great as a seasoning in mashed potatoes, mashed cauliflower, creamy soups and white sauces.

Buy white peppercorns here.

Pink Peppercorns

The shocking pink variety of peppercorn isn’t a true peppercorn. In fact, it’s a Brazilian berry. Pink peppercorn has a subtly sweet, floral and fruity flavor and brightens the taste of pork and seafood dishes like this orange shrimp mojo. It can also be used as a pretty garnish for desserts, like these raspberry and pink peppercorn meringues!

Buy pink peppercorns here.

P.S. These are the common Indian spices every home cook needs to know about.

Ceara Milligan
Ceara “Kiwi” Milligan is a professional marketing strategist and copywriter who is proud to call Milwaukee home. She loves baking, cooking, writing, listening to music, dancing, playing and hosting trivia, watching college basketball (Go Marquette!), telling lame jokes, and petting every dog that crosses her path.