Spices: What is the Difference Between Black, Green and White Peppers?

Where would we be without pepper? From Black Pepper Tofu to Pepper Rasam, our cuisine would be much poorer. Roasted sweetcorn with black pepper. Lots of black pepper on pasta, fresh tomato, garlic and chilli. Cheeses studded with black pepper. Hot beetroot with black pepper. Pepper features strongly in spice mixes and curry powders. Peppercorns are great (in small numbers) in chai mixes, and in pickles. And what about Black Pepper Rice? Then there is black pepper with strawberries (amazing) and a black pepper sauce for blueberries.

What are your favourites?

Our most used pepper is Black Pepper, but it wasn’t always so. As I grew up, we used white pepper exclusively, and I still love white pepper with Chinese style dishes. And then also green pepper, that adds a fresh note to dishes.


Pepper, Black

Native to India, pepper is a branching, perennial climbing plant from whose fruiting spikes green, white and black pepper are obtained. Used as a spice and condiment. It is used as a carminative, antipyretic, diaphoretic and diuretic agents.

Black peppercorns are green peppercorns that have been cooked in hot water and then spread out in the sun to dry. The ancient Egyptians used black peppercorns in their mummification processes, and it was well-known by the ancient Greeks and Romans, who used it as a spice. In Southeast Asia, black peppercorns were traded as currency. It remains the most widely-traded spice in the world today.

Whole black peppercorns are added to rice and other dishes for a mild peppery-lemony flavour. Ground pepper was once used in large amounts, sometimes several tablespoons in a single dish, especially in South India where it grows. The arrival of the chilli pepper from the New World in around 1500 changed that usage somewhat, though it still exists. In some South Indian dishes, peppercorns are lightly roasted before use to draw out their lemony taste.

I have been privileged to drink a drink of fenni (alcohol made from cashew nuts), pepper and home made lemon aide in Goa. Delicious.

In use at home, ground immediately before use. If you like your pepper very coarse, pound in a pestle and mortar.

Pepper, Green

Green peppercorns are true peppercorns of the Piper nigrium flowering vine plant, which originated in India and has been used since prehistoric times. They have that fresh, crisp flavor of just picked herbs such as parsley, but with the fiery kick of freshly ground pepper. Green peppercorns are really unripe black peppercorns. These immature peppercorns are harvested while still green, quickly steamed, and air dried. This preserves their uniform green color and fresh pepper flavor.

In dried form, they don’t last very long and have to be used quickly. They’re commonly found in Thai and other Southeast Asian recipes and have a fresher flavor than their black counterparts.

Green peppercorns can be substituted in any dish which calls for black pepper

Pepper, White

They are less pungent and more earthy in flavor than black peppercorns, and are commonly used in white sauces and mashed potatoes due to their color as they don’t visibly stand out like black pepper.

White peppercorns are made by macerating peppercorns to remove the outer skin before drying.


Feel free to browse recipes from our Retro Recipes series. You might also like our Spice information here. Or you might like to browse our Indian Essentials series here. Check out our easy  Pepper recipes here and here.

Explore some Ingredient Information



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