White pepper comes from the dried fruit of the pepper plant: just like black pepper. You can find it whole and ground. And, actually, white and black pepper are one and the same.
How come? Well, black pepper is made from unripe pepper berries which are later dried. White pepper is made from ripe pepper berries, soaked in water and fermented. After that, their skins are removed, hence they don’t have the same intensity and sharper tones of black pepper.
However, white pepper is more aromatic, encompassing a musty, sweet, earthy, woody flavor. It’s the ideal option for pork, stews, soups, salad dressings, dips, and marinades, and it’s quite the staple for white sauces, risottos, or potatoes. And while it’s one of the most flavorsome of the basic spices, there are ways around it if you run out. Scroll some more to discover the best alternatives for white pepper.
Are you looking for a white pepper substitute? How about 11 of them?
The subtle brother of red pepper, the milder brother of black pepper, white pepper packs that spicy heat and that…uhm… peppery vibe. But it’s a rather delicate option, unlike its more nuanced brothers.
Still, there are times when you find yourself without this spice. What can you replace white pepper with, in such situations, you’re asking? How about the following…
1. Black Pepper
The same berries give white and black pepper, as we now know. So it only makes sense for black pepper to be a good white pepper replacement. White pepper has a milder, more delicate flavor and less of that peppery bite and pungent kick to it.
Black pepper tends to linger on the tongue, but it’s not necessarily more aromatic, as it is zesty. To cut a long story short, black pepper can be used instead of white pepper, no doubt about it!
We recommend you start small with a couple of sprinkles and add a little bit at a time, so you don’t overwhelm your dish. Half the amount the recipe asks for is a good place to start.
2. Pink Peppercorns
If your dish requires white pepper berries, pink peppercorns can be a good sub. While you can’t obtain peppery dust from them, you can crush them and sprinkle some in your dish. While they come from whole different plants, they are very similar when it comes to aspect and taste.
They are likely to resemble black pepper in terms of flavor profile but on the milder side.
Pink peppercorns are rather sweet, mild, and come with a fruity aroma. Add them to seafood, poultry, soups, dressings, anything sauce-based and rich, for a fresh, fruity touch. For this one, a 1:1 ratio will work.
3. Green Peppercorns
Green peppercorns are related to the white and black berries of the pepper plant. Well, they are one and the same. That is, in parallel universes, they are the same pepper berry, only with a different destiny.
To make it simpler: green peppercorns are picked before maturing and left to dry out. While they can be good substitutes for white pepper, remember that green peppercorns have a zesty aroma, a tart touch, and tend to be on the milder side.
They do, however, have a clean, well-defined taste. We suggest you use them in pasta, spreads, anything with potatoes, creams, sauces, marinades, and any kind of meat. A 1 ½ ratio will do.
4. Pepper Spice Blend
If they can work separately, they can work together as well. You can swap white pepper and pepper spice blend, especially if you find one that is based on types of pepper.
Beware of mixtures that also contain turmeric, paprika, sea salt, herbs, or other spices, since they can be sharper and pack so many flavors they will engulf the dish.
5. Ginger Powder
While you wouldn’t have thought it, ginger powder is a suitable white pepper substitute. In terms of texture and color, ginger powder will not change the aspect of your dish. However, when it comes to flavor, they are not the same.
Ginger powder is quite mild and packs a sharp tone, but it will also add a citrusy, floral aroma. We suggest you use ginger instead of white pepper in soups and sauces, especially when they accompany fish and seafood. A 1:2 ratio will do.
Extra clarification: Fresh ginger is not the same. Do not use it to replace white pepper since you’ll turn your dish to a whole other taste and consistency.
6. Ground Mustard
Although you wouldn’t have thought it, ground mustard is a great ground white pepper substitute.
Powdered mustard seeds pack a certain pungency and a tart, acidic vibe. But it can work in dishes that call for white pepper, especially if you add it at the start of cooking. It is mild enough to accompany flavors that are complemented by white pepper.
Since you will notice a certain aromatic freshness and kick to it, we suggest you add it to salad dressings, rich, heavy sauces, and spice rubs or marinades. Add half the amount of powdered mustard seeds.
7. Turmeric Powder
Wow! To substitute white pepper with turmeric, you’re asking? Well, ground turmeric can be added instead of white pepper, fret not. But it will alter the color, the odor, and the flavor profile of the dish.
If push comes to shove, turmeric’s earthy, intense, warm, and slightly bitter touch will replace white pepper, especially in sauces, curries, and Indian dishes. Although an equal amount of turmeric works in place of white pepper, maybe go for a little less.
8. Hot Paprika
In terms of flavor, you’re covered with hot paprika. You will get that spiciness you are looking for. As well as that warm feel, paprika will change the taste (after all, it’s made from peppers, not pepper berries) and the color of the food. Use it in any recipe that asks for white pepper.
OK, so maybe not in staple white foods, such as risottos or sour-cream dips and dressings; unless you want to go pink. Go for a 1:2 ratio.
9. Cayenne Pepper
What to use instead of white pepper? Cayenne can work too! Made from chilies, cayenne pepper is known as ground red pepper. It will be hotter than white pepper. It will not have the same peppery, intense kick, but it will be hot, no doubt about it.
It is earthy and pungent, a little tart, but it’s a good replacement. Make sure not to use cayenne blends that usually contain cumin, salt, and garlic powder as well. We suggest you use a 1:2 ratio.
10. Chili Powder
While it will not blend seamlessly into the dish, chili powder is a suitable white pepper powder substitute. It will bring the spice and the heat, a little of the earthiness too, and that pungent kick. However, do not expect that peppery aroma, but rather a certain freshness, fruity, and tangy flavor. You could use it in a 1:1 ratio, but we think a 1:2 goes better as you adjust your quantities.
11. Any Mix that Contains Pepper
Any mixture that contains pepper can be a good white pepper alternative. Garlic pepper and lemon pepper mix can be a good help if the dish requires pepper and this is the only choice available. The only downside: you will be getting other flavors as well as obtaining a more diluted, subtle version of the pepper taste. You can use a direct swap, but maybe try for a smaller quantity and go up from there.
Ah, yes, a well-stocked spice cabinet can be a dish saver. But from time to time, odds are you will find yourself facing having to change your menu or find a replacement, even of the most basic of the spices. If you were all immersed in your cooking and only realized you are out of white pepper, you don’t need to panic.
You just have to find the right pinch of that special something to sprinkle in your food. And we don’t have just one white pepper substitute; we have a little more than one. How about them?