How to Use White Peppercorn Powder in Cooking
White pepper is an essential ingredient in many foods, but it can be confusing to distinguish it from black pepper. Learn what sets white peppercorn powder apart, including its complex flavour profile and how to use it in the kitchen. We’ll discuss the differences between white and black pepper and share tips on how to choose the best quality for cooking.
What is White Pepper and How Does it Differ from Black Pepper?
White pepper is made from the same peppercorn as black pepper, but it’s prepared differently. The outer layer of the peppercorn is removed to reveal a white seed inside. This process gives white pepper a milder flavour profile compared to black pepper, which is more pungent and spicy. Nevertheless, white pepper is still quite flavorful and provides a unique undertone when cooked with other spices or herbs.
White peppercorn powder, also known as mignonette pepper, is made by pulverising whole white peppercorns. This powder can be used to add a hint of spiciness and depth to all kinds of dishes without the telltale black flecks that are left behind when using black pepper. White peppercorn powder works especially well when making creamy sauces or adding flavour to lighter-coloured dishes like blanched veggies or mashed potatoes. It’s also the perfect accompaniment to cheese plates and soups.
Flavour Profile of White Pepper and Where it Can Be Found
White pepper has a mild and delicate flavour that is often described as less “in your face” than black pepper. It has earthy, sweet, and slightly spicy notes that don’t overpower the other ingredients in a dish. White pepper is commonly used in Chinese cooking to add depth of flavour without introducing sharp spice. It has also become popular for seasoning lightly-coloured dishes like fish or potatoes where you wouldn’t want to use black pepper and leave black specks on the plate.
White peppercorns are made by harvesting the same berries as black peppercorns but from older vines. Once harvested, they are soaked and the darker outer layer that encases the inner pepper is removed. The remaining core becomes white peppercorn, which is then dried and ground into powder. As compared to black pepper, white pepper has a slightly milder flavour and sweet notes to add complexity without overpowering other flavours in the dish. White pepper powder can be found in speciality grocery stores as well as in Asian and Indian stores where it’s frequently used as an ingredient in curries or sauces.
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Substituting White for Black Pepper in a Recipe
White pepper is often used as a substitute for black pepper, but with caution. The flavour of white pepper is less pungent and slightly sweeter than black, so if it’s being substituted for black in a recipe you may need to add more of it to achieve the desired flavour. For example, 1 teaspoon of ground white pepper can stand in for 1 tablespoon of ground black pepper. Before adding additional white pepper, it’s best to taste the dish and adjust the flavours as needed.
Unlike black pepper, which is made from dried, unripe peppercorns, white pepper is made from the inner kernel of ripe peppercorns. White pepper powder, therefore, lacks the fruity and pungent flavour notes we typically associate with freshly ground black pepper powder. The lack of these flavour notes combined with its milder heat has led many chefs to use it in lighter dishes or sauces where they want a hint of heat but don’t want to disrupt the other delicate flavours in their food. White pepper also works well in certain desserts that call for a light black pepper note
The Best Culinary Uses for White Peppercorns or Ground White Pepper Powder
White pepper is best used for recipes where the black specks of ground black pepper will be visible and detract from the aesthetic, or when a recipe calls for a more subtle flavour that won’t overpower other ingredients. For example, white pepper is perfect in white sauces, such as Bechamel sauce or Alfredo sauce. White pepper can also be used in pickling recipes, fish dishes, vinaigrettes, compound butter, cream soups and any other dish where you want a slightly peppery taste without the visual impact of black flecks.
White Peppercorns or Ground White Pepper Powder is also great for adding subtle spice to mashed potatoes, fish or chicken dishes. White pepper adds a sharp, tangy flavour without being overwhelming. It’s great for adding another layer of flavour to otherwise mild dishes like vegetables, grains and dairy-based recipes as well. Additionally, white pepper pairs especially well with creamy soups like cauliflower puree or cream of celery soup and can enhance the flavours in milder dips like hummus and tzatziki.
Common Ways to Store and Preserve White Peppercorns or Powder
The best way to store white pepper is in an airtight container and put it in a dark place like a cupboard or pantry. Make sure to keep the lid securely on when not in use. With proper storage, ground white pepper can stay fresh for up to one year. Whole peppercorns have an even longer shelf-life, maintaining their flavour for up to 18 months if stored properly. To ensure peak flavour, consider storing your peppercorns or powder in the freezer for maximum freshness and potency.
White peppercorns can also be freeze-dried to preserve them. This is the most common way to store them in large quantities, or if you’re using them for their medicinal properties. Freeze drying removes the moisture from food and locks in all its natural flavours. To ensure long-term freshness, blend your pre-measured white peppercorn powder with oil before freezing. It will act as a natural preservative and keep it fresh for up to five years in the freezer.