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Substitutes for White Pepper

Last Updated on October 11, 2023

Finding good substitutes for white pepper can be an essential skill if you’re ever in need of a white pepper for something, but don’t have it readily available.

Here are several ingredients to use as substitutes without compromising the flavors of the dish.

White pepper is made from white peppercorns and is often used to add a little bit of spice and flavor to white sauces and light-colored dishes, where appearance is important.

It is especially popular in French and Chinese cuisines and is typically used to marinate food and to add a mild peppery flavor to sauces and soups.

You’ll also find I used ground white pepper in my vegan spring rolls and Authentic Taiwanese Cabbage Stew.

White Pepper

White pepper is a spice made from the dried berries of the Piper nigrum plant, often used to add flavor to food, and has a sharp, peppery taste.

The ancient Greeks and Romans used it to flavor their food for hundreds of years. According to WebMD research, it is effective as a medicine for a variety of ailments. Nearly all cuisines in the world use it to this day.

white peppercorns on the table

India and Indonesia are the native countries of the Piper nigrum plant. After picking the ripe berries, the workers will sun-dry the berries.

Upon drying, the berries are hulled and packed the resulting spice is called white pepper.

White pepper has a strong, pungent flavor that can give food a kick. Many Asian dishes use this spice, including stir-fries, soups, and stews.

White pepper vs. black pepper

Basically, they come from the same plant. The major difference is in how it is processed.

White pepper is made from dried ripe peppers with the outer layer removed, which gives it a milder flavor compared to its cousin black pepper.

white and black peppercorns

How about the taste? A white pepper’s flavor is mellow and subtle compared to a black pepper’s. 

Hence, it is often used in dishes where the flavor shouldn’t be too dominant.

To put it another way, what should you use when you cook? The answer depends on the dish and your personal preferences.

Start with black pepper if you want a spicy kick. Using white pepper will give you a more subdued flavor.

Substitutes for White Pepper

White pepper differs from black pepper in the intensity of flavor, spice level, and appearance and has a distinct taste due to its process of fermentation.

Most people don’t keep white pepper on hand, so if you find yourself needing it for a dish, there are several easy ways to substitute it.

1. Black Pepper/Black Peppercorns

If you’re out of white pepper, there’s no need to head to the store. You can use black pepper for white pepper instead.

Ground black pepper is the most common substitute for ground white pepper. It has a similar taste profile, but it is much pepperier.

Black peppercorns can also be used as a substitute.

Black peppercorns are more pungent and have a stronger flavor than white peppercorns, but they can still work in a pinch. Use a little less than you would white peppercorns.

2. Green Peppercorns

If you’re looking for a white pepper substitute that will still give your dish a nice peppery flavor, try green peppercorns. Green peppercorns are the unripe berries of the pepper plant and have a milder, more grassy flavor than mature black peppercorns. You can find them pickled or in brine, or you can buy them dried and grind them yourself.

3. Pink Peppercorns

Pink peppercorns: These lovely little berries have a similar flavor to white pepper but with a touch of sweetness. They’re perfect for adding a bit of interest to savory dishes.

4. Sichuan Peppercorns

Sichuan peppercorns have a slightly citrusy flavor and can be used as a one-to-one replacement for white pepper. Just be careful not to use too much. These peppery seeds have a unique numbing quality that’s perfect for adding depth to spice-forward dishes.

5. Ground Mustard

Ground mustard is a great substitute for white pepper as well. It has a similar flavor and can be used in many of the same dishes. Just be careful not to use too much, as it can be quite strong.

6. Ground Ginger

Ground ginger is a great option. It has a similar flavor profile and can be used in both sweet and savory dishes.

7. Green Chiles

When it comes to giving food a little bit of a kick, many people automatically think of white pepper. Did you know that green chiles can give your dish the same flavor profile of heat as white pepper?

These can be found fresh, canned, or frozen, and they pack a serious punch. If you want to add a little bit of heat to your dish without changing the flavor too much, green chiles are a great option.

8. Paprika

This spice is made from dried red bell peppers and has a mild, sweet flavor. It’s perfect for adding color and flavor to your dishes without being too spicy.

9. Cayenne Powder

Cayenne powder is made from dried cayenne peppers and has a similar heat to white pepper. It’s perfect for adding a little kick to any dish.

10. Turmeric Powder

Turmeric has a slightly earthy taste and a mild aroma, making it a perfect addition to curry dishes and other savory recipes. Plus, it’s packed with health benefits! When substituting turmeric for white pepper, use half the amount called for in the recipe.

11. Ground Cumin

When it comes to flavor, cumin is very similar to white pepper. Both spices have a peppery, earthy taste that can add a lot of depth to a dish. So if you’re looking for a spice that will give your food a similar flavor profile, cumin is a great option.

Ground cumin is also a good substitute for white pepper because it has a similar texture to ground white pepper. Both spices are finely ground, so they’ll blend in well with other ingredients in your dish. And since cumin is slightly coarser than white pepper, it can add a nice aroma to your food.

12. Flavored Pepper Mix

If you have a flavored pepper mix on hand, you can use that instead of white pepper. These mixes usually contain black, green, and red peppers, so they’ll add a bit of color to your dish as well.

Just be sure to start with a small amount and add more to taste.

13. Make You Own Spice Mix

You can also make your own spice mix to use as a substitute for white pepper. My favorite formula is just combining equal parts black peppercorns, coriander seeds, and fennel seeds.

Grind the mixture in a coffee grinder or spice grinder until it’s fine powder. Store the mix in an airtight container and use it as needed.

In A Nutshell

In conclusion, white pepper is a versatile spice that can be used in many dishes. There are many substitutes for white pepper, so if you don’t have any on hand, don’t worry.

You can still make a delicious meal. Just experiment until you find a combination of spices that you like.


Q: White pepper vs. Black pepper

When it comes to flavor, black pepper is king. It has a bold, robust flavor that can really add some zing to a dish. White pepper, on the other hand, is much more subtle in its flavor.

So if you’re looking for something with a little kick, black pepper is the way to go.

Q: What tastes like white pepper?

White pepper tastes like a more mild version of black pepper. It has a slightly fruity flavor with hints of spice and heat. Some people also say that it has a bit of a floral taste.

Q: Can I use regular pepper instead of white pepper?

If your recipe calls for white pepper and you only have regular on hand, go ahead and use it.

You may want to start with a little less than the recipe calls for since regular pepper is more pungent. Add more to taste until the desired flavor is achieved.

Q: Is white pepper necessary?

If you’ve ever wondered whether white pepper is really necessary, wonder no more. It is! Here’s why:

White pepper is often used in dishes that are already quite flavorful, like creamy soups or sauces.

By contrast, black pepper can be a bit overwhelming in these dishes. White pepper also has a slightly different flavor than black pepper, so it can be a nice way to change things up.

So next time you’re wondering whether to reach for the white or black pepper, go ahead and grab the white stuff. Your dish will thank you for it!

Do you find these substitutes for white pepper useful?

If you want to know more about ingredient substitutions, please let me know by leaving a comment below.

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13 Substitutes for White Pepper

Finding good substitutes for white pepper can be an essential skill if you’re ever in need of a white pepper for something, but you don’t have it readily available. Here are several ingredients to use as substitutes without compromising the flavors of the dish.
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  • Just experiment until you find a combination of spices that you like.

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