White pepper is less well known than its black counterpart. The main difference between them is that black peppercorns contain the outer layer, which is removed from white peppercorns.
This gives the black pepper its stronger, peppery flavor.
White pepper, on the other hand, has a lighter flavor. It’s more common in Chinese and other Asian dishes than in Western cuisine, but if you’re cooking a recipe that calls for it and you don’t have any, there are still several options open to you.
We’ll have a look at them in this article, so let’s get into it!
1. Black Pepper
This is probably the most obvious thing that you could substitute for white pepper. As previously mentioned, black pepper contains the outer layer of the peppercorn, while white pepper does not.
So if you’d like to add some heat to your food, or just spice up something already cooked, use black pepper.
However, be aware that, as mentioned above, the taste is not the same.
Black pepper tastes stronger and adds a little more spice to a dish, so if your dish relies particularly heavily on the taste of white pepper, black pepper won’t provide exactly what you’re looking for.
2. Cayenne Peppers
Cayenne peppers are very similar to regular red bell peppers, apart from their size. So they work perfectly as an alternative to white pepper.
They can also go really nicely with fish or seafood, making them perfect for salmon recipes.
You can cut these peppers down to use them as seasoning rather than vegetables, too, as long as you remove the seeds before serving.
Of course, they’ll add a greater heat than white pepper, so be prepared for that.
3. Pink Peppercorns
Pink peppercorns are slightly different from their normal counterparts. They are smaller and can sometimes have flecks of pink coloring throughout. These are perfect for salads, appetizers, and garnishes.
Since the flavor is about as strong as its white counterpart, you’ll need roughly the same amount to achieve the desired effect. If you’ve got a friend who loves spicy foods, then you might want to try these out!
While paprika usually refers to smoked peppers, you can buy it unsmoked. Using unsmoked paprika will give your dish a different flavor.
For example, you may find that meaty flavors come through, making your dish taste very meat-like.
However, if you’re adding paprika to stews, soups, or sauces, make sure that you cook it first, otherwise you risk burning things.
Also, be careful when using smoked paprika, whether for sausages, burgers, etc. Smoked paprika will, naturally, provide a smoky flavor that could be too much if you’re not expecting it.
5. Ground Ginger
Ginger has been a popular ingredient since ancient times due to its health benefits and culinary uses.
While ginger doesn’t provide the exact same flavor profile that white pepper does, it does have another nice quality: versatility.
If you buy it, you’ll be able to use it in all kinds of different dishes, both sweet and savory, whereas if you buy white pepper, you might only be using it rarely. Since it doesn’t have that long a shelf life, this isn’t ideal.
6. Ground Mustard
Similar to ground ginger, mustard provides a versatile flavoring option, but without the shelf life concerns of white pepper. It’s used extensively in American cuisine, so there are plenty of options available.
Some popular varieties include yellow mustard (which we actually recommend), whole grain mustard, honey mustard, and Dijon mustard.
All of them vary in color and intensity, but each possesses a unique flavor that makes them special.
Again, it won’t taste exactly the same as white pepper, but when part of a mixture of other flavors, it can add that extra something in a way that’s not too different.
7. Ground Turmeric
Turmeric is one of those spices that people tend to overlook. It’s most commonly associated with curry, and other Indian soups and stews.
This spice comes from a plant closely related to ginger, and like ginger, turmeric adds warmth, bitterness, and pungent aromas.
Both are commonly used alongside black pepper in Indian food, but they can be found in many cuisines, including Thai and Filipino.
Turmeric is often used with chicken because its aroma helps mask smells from cooking meat, and its subtle flavor can make it a great substitute for white pepper in dishes where you need an extra layer of flavor in the background.
8. Ground Cumin
Cumin is used as a seasoning in Mexican, Middle Eastern, and Asian cuisine. The cumin seed itself is relatively bitter, which means that you don’t need extremely high quantities of it to obtain a mild, earthy flavor.
You can even grind up the seeds yourself, although some grocery stores sell pre ground versions.
In addition to being versatile, cumin should go well with just about any kind of meat. If you want to take advantage of its flavor in more unusual dishes, try using it with fish, vegetables, or grains.
9. Green Peppercorns
Green peppercorns also add a wonderful peppery note to many dishes, although the flavor is milder, so you might need a larger amount than you’d use of white pepper.
They do, however, have a longer shelf life, so this is a good solution if you prefer to keep them around for later use.
10. Ground Cinnamon
This is something different again, and the reason you might use ground cinnamon is to try to capture that slight sweetness that white pepper can bring to a dish.
However, it does have a bit less heat than pepper, so its best uses will still be in desserts and baked goods, as well as other dishes where spice isn’t really called for.
To get that effect, stick to half the amount called for in recipes, then adjust your measurement down accordingly based on how much you think you’ve added.
For example, 1 teaspoon would require at least 1/2 teaspoon in powdered form.
11. Freshly Grated Nutmeg
Nutmeg has been used by cooks since ancient times, but it wasn’t until recently that the nutmeg tree began to grow abundantly again.
Now available from specialty grocers, fresh nutmeg is far superior to anything else available due to their short shelf-life and low cost.
While it doesn’t possess quite as warm or spicy of notes as white pepper, nutmeg adds more depth to savory dishes, especially seafood. A little goes a long way — especially if you’re trying to use it in small amounts.
There you have it, a list of 11 totally viable substitutes for white pepper that you’ll be able to use in a range of dishes.
An important thing to remember is that none of these things will give you the exact same taste profile as white pepper, so you’ll need to use common sense.
For instance, while trying cinnamon might be a good idea if you’re looking to make something sweet, using it in a salty Chinese soup probably isn’t such a great idea.
As long as you keep this in mind and choose your substitutions wisely, you shouldn’t have any problem.
White pepper has a short shelf life and if you’re only going to be using it sparingly, having these substitutes on hand can be a lifesaver.