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White Pepper Substitute

White pepper is a delicious way to add heat to dishes without the black specs you usually get from black peppercorns. It helps to elevate food and create an aesthetically pleasing appearance for lighter-colored dishes. It’s a less common spice to have in your kitchen. If you’re looking to incorporate a similar flavor, try each white pepper substitute listed below.

small dish filled with soft yellow spice, measuring spoon filled with spice and glass container named White Pepper

What is white pepper?

White pepper comes from the Piper Nigrum plant’s berries. White peppercorns are the seeds inside these berries. The berries are harvested when ripe and then repeatedly soaked until the fruit and black skins rub off the seeds. Then the seeds are dried until they turn the white color you see in person. They originated in India and are continually grown in Indonesia, Vietnam, and Sri Lanka.

All peppercorn varieties have piperine in them, which is what causes spiciness in dishes. Since the black exterior is soaked off, it calms the heat a bit. It also allows other flavors to be more apparent, like its earthiness.

White pepper is most commonly used in Asian and European dishes like congee, marinades for meat, and soups. Due to the way white pepper is prepared, it does have a higher cost than black peppercorns.

Substitutes and Alternatives

1. Black Pepper

Since black pepper and white pepper come from the same plant and are harvested during the same time of year, it only makes sense for this to be an excellent substitute for white pepper. Black pepper is made by using unripe berries. Since the black skin stays on these peppercorns, it has a slightly spicier taste.

You’ll also find black pepper has a stronger fragrance than white pepper. Overall, the taste is very similar, just more pungent. You can still use this in light sauces and dishes, though you’ll have black flakes.

You can substitute black pepper in a 1:1 ratio for white pepper.

2. Pink Pepper

Pink peppercorns are harvested from a completely different plant. This is what helps create the difference in flavor for this substitute. While the appearance is similar (except for the color), the flavor is sweet and flowery. You’ll still be able to enjoy a peppery taste from pink pepper as well.
The peppercorn is the berry itself as opposed to the seeds. It is recommended to avoid the pepper mill with this alternative as it is very delicate. Instead, use a spice grinder to create smaller flakes for dishes.

Use this as a bright pop of color on top of dishes instead of cooked into them. If you find it’s difficult to find at your local store, try looking at the ethnic spice shops nearby.

Try it with a fish dish as the sweetness compliments this protein well. Use it in a 1:1 ratio.

3. Green Peppercorns

Green peppercorns do originate from the same Piper Nigrum that white and black peppercorns come from. However, it’s harvested during a different time of year – in January. Green peppercorns have a more subtle flavor than both white and black peppercorns. This is a great substitution to use if you want to avoid black flakes in your meal from black pepper.

As this replacement has a less intense taste, you’ll want to use more in your dishes to achieve the same burst of flavor.

Use 1 ½ teaspoon for every teaspoon of white pepper.

4. Ground Ginger

Ginger is one of the best white pepper substitutes as it provides earthiness and a kick of heat. In its powdered form, it blends in easily with lighter-colored dishes. It does create a slightly yellow color, though it won’t add the appearance of flakes. Ground ginger is very easy to make at home; you will need to dehydrate the fresh ginger and grind it into a powder.

Use one teaspoon of ginger for every teaspoon of white pepper.

5. Turmeric

Turmeric matches the earthy and peppery flavors typically found in white pepper. However, it also includes a bitter flavor. For this reason, it’s best to start with small amounts and work your way up to the preferred taste level. This spice will dye your food a golden yellow color, be prepared for this change if you plan to use turmeric.

Start with ½ teaspoon of turmeric for every teaspoon of white pepper and adjust based on your needs.

6. Ground Mustard

This is another white pepper replacement that will add a yellow tint to your recipes. It also provides a very similar flavor to white pepper. Ground mustard provides a subtle spiciness to dishes. It also works as a thickener. If you’re creating sauces or dishes like curry, you can use ground mustard for a thicker consistency.

If you use too much mustard, it can create a sharper taste. To avoid this, you’ll want to use a pinch of mustard powder for every teaspoon of white pepper. This ends up being about 1/8 of a teaspoon.

7. Paprika

Using paprika instead of white pepper will also add a lovely color. Though, instead of a yellow, it will add a red or brownish-red. This will vary depending on if you’re using sweet paprika, smoked paprika, and hot paprika. If you’re seeking a mild spice, use sweet paprika. It will add a fruity flavor to any recipe you add it to and a peppery taste. Paprika works well in meat marinades and as a garnish for recipes that use fish.

Due to its mild taste, you can use the same amount of paprika as white pepper in your recipe.

8. Cayenne Pepper

Cayenne pepper is on the spicier side and is hotter than white pepper. It will provide a similar red hue like paprika to any dishes you add it to. If you are specifically seeking heat, use cayenne pepper. Cayenne pepper offers vitamins, minerals, and fiber. It also provides capsaicin which is what makes this seasoning spicy.

You only need a small amount of cayenne in your dishes. Try 1/8 teaspoon for every teaspoon of white pepper. If you love spicier dishes, you can always increase the amount you add little by little until you reach the perfect amount of spiciness.

Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I find white pepper?

White peppercorns can be found both in large retail shops in the spice section as well as online. Most stores offer both ground white pepper and whole peppercorns for purchase. For a fresher and more vibrant flavor, opt for the whole peppercorns.

White Pepper Vs. Black Pepper

As noted, both white and black pepper come from the same plant, so you’ll find the taste to be quite similar. Black pepper is spicier, while white pepper will provide a more earthy taste.

When should you use white pepper?

If you’re creating a dish with a white sauce, this is the perfect time to use white pepper. It will blend well with the dish offering a pleasant appearance as the final product.

Does white pepper taste different?

Yes, it does have a slightly less spicy flavor than black pepper/peppercorns. Some varieties of white pepper also have a fermented taste depending on their drying process.


The most straightforward swap for white peppercorns is black peppercorns due to the similarities in flavor and harvest time. The second best option is green peppercorn since it is pulled from the same plant.

Whether you’re looking for a more budget-friendly option than white peppercorns or you’ve run out of white pepper – the above choices provide an ample amount of spices to choose from. Choose which works best for you based on the desired dish appearance and flavor.

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Natalia | Flavorful home
Natalia is a recipe developer, food photographer, and home cook. She started Flavorful Home to document her recipes and share home cooking tips. She loves creating flavorful and nutritious meals while keeping the cooking process simple and joyful!

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