White pepper has a uniquely distinct flavor that’s slightly fermented, musty, and earthy. Although both white and black pepper are made from the same fruit, white pepper involves fermentation, which also gives it a distinct smell. Its heat levels, intensity, and appearance also differ from black pepper.
White pepper is commonly used in French and Chinese cuisine to add flavor and spice to light-colored dishes like pasta, cream sauces, and soups without changing their appearance, as well as to marinate meats. As white pepper is not a staple ingredient, so you might not have it on hand. But don’t panic; you can still make your dish as planned with these white pepper substitutes.
1. Black Pepper/Black Peppercorns
Black pepper has a stronger flavor and sharp aroma than white pepper, offering a full-bodied flavor and pungent aroma. However, because it has a taste, aroma, and spice profile that is comparable to white pepper, it is a good alternative to the original ingredient.
You can use black pepper as a substitute for white pepper in a number of cuisines; simply grind the pepper to powdered form or use it whole, and add it to dishes the same way that you would add white pepper. Keep in mind that black pepper will add black flakes to your dish, which will alter its appearance. Black pepper is also stronger in flavor and may not work in dishes that rely on the flavor of white pepper, such as fondue.
1 teaspoon white pepper = 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. (Adjust the flavor as needed.)
2. Ground Ginger
Ground ginger has a mild flavor and a pale color that makes it virtually invisible in dishes, much like white pepper. It’s widely used in Thai cuisine since its distinct flavor notes complement other ingredients commonly used in this cuisine. It also works well in white, creamy, light sauces or in soups and stews.
Ground ginger is a great substitute for white pepper as it adds a lovely aroma and heat to dishes without overpowering them or altering their look. Keep in mind that a little ground ginger goes a long way, so start with a small amount and adjust to taste. It’s also a good idea to smell or taste the ground ginger before using it in a recipe to make sure that it’ll go well with the rest of the ingredients.
1 teaspoon white pepper = 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger. (Add more if needed.)
3. Green Peppercorns
Green peppercorns, like black peppercorns, come from the same plant as white peppercorns — the only difference is that green peppers are harvested before they mature. They have a zesty but mild flavor and a distinct color and can work as a stand-in for white pepper in recipes where the appearance is not too important.
Keep in mind that green peppercorns have a milder flavor than white peppercorns, so you’ll need to add more to compensate. They’re normally pickled, which may work in some meals, but they’re also available in dried form. If you can find them dried, simply grind them and use the powder in place of white pepper in meals. Keep in mind that it will alter the appearance of the dish slightly, although not as much as black peppercorns.
1 teaspoon white pepper = 1 1/2 teaspoon green peppercorns.
4. Pink Peppercorns
Pink peppercorns, which are dried berries, have a mild, peppery flavor similar to white peppercorns, but they have a less potent aroma. Pink peppercorns also have a more vibrant color, but because they blend quite well, the color difference in the dish is practically unnoticeable. As they share similarities in flavor and spice levels, pink peppercorns can be used in place of white pepper in various cuisines.
Pink peppercorns have a mild, hot flavor that is similar to white pepper, so you can use them in the same way that you would use white pepper. It works best in fish recipes and dishes that call for vinegar or wine, and it may also be used as a garnish to add a hint of spicy. It will also not alter the appearance of the dish, which black peppercorns are notorious for.
1 teaspoon white pepper = 1 teaspoon pink peppercorns.
5. Ground Mustard
Ground mustard has a bright yellow color and a sharp flavor. While it leaves a spicy taste on the tongue, it is a mild-flavored spice that closely imitates the flavor of white pepper. Ground mustard lends itself beautifully to light-colored sauces, with only minor changes in color.
Ground mustard has a mild heat level and a head-clearing fresh aroma that pairs well with beef, cheese, and butter in meals like mac & cheese. If you don’t mind a subtle light yellow hue to your dish, especially in preparations that call for sprinkling it on top of food before serving, ground mustard is sure to become your go-to substitute for white pepper.
1 teaspoon white pepper = 1 teaspoon ground mustard.
6. Turmeric Powder
Turmeric powder has a warm, earthy, mild flavor and a spiciness that is similar to white pepper. Turmeric is also high in nutritional value and anti-inflammatory properties, making it a healthy substitute for white pepper.
While using it as a substitute, keep in mind that turmeric has a different flavor profile and a much stronger odor than white pepper, so it may not work well in all dishes. Start with a small quantity and modify it to taste.
1 teaspoon white pepper = 1 teaspoon turmeric powder.
Paprika, a spice made from red peppers, is a popular ingredient in just about every cuisine. Although it is spicy and has a distinct red tint that can change the overall appearance of your meal, it can be used as a white pepper substitute, especially in dishes where it is used as a garnish or seasoning.
When used as a substitute, paprika will add a lot of flavors as well as heat to your dish. You can purchase pre-made paprika powder or make some yourself by pounding dry paprika for a more intense flavor profile. If you don’t mind having the red color in your food, you can use paprika in little amounts to add flavor to a variety of recipes.
1 teaspoon white pepper = 1/2 teaspoon paprika. (Adjust to your desired level of heat and spice.)