Do you ever wonder what’s the difference between black and white pepper? You’re in the right place! This article explains both of their process of making, price, smell, taste and culinary uses.

Process of making

Black and white pepper come from the same plant (piper nigrum). Just that they’re processed differently.

Black pepper is harvested when the berry begins to mature. Then they’re either blanched or not, before drying. The blanching makes the drying quicker but also removes some of the pepper’s flavors if done incorrectly.

On another hand, white pepper is just black pepper without its pericarp. The white pepper is harvested when the berry is red or matures. They are put in a bag then soaked in water which allows the bacterial action to break off the pericarp, and also alters the white pepper’s flavor.

After around 2 weeks, the farmer will go to collect berries in the soaked bag. Then rub off the skin and stalk, and clean the berry, and is left to sundry.

Price

White pepper is pricer than black pepper, as the making of white pepper is more labor extensive, and farmer needs to have access to clean running streams or soaking pools.

Good quality white pepper can fetch a premium price, that will worth the effort to produce. And there is a high demand for developed countries.

Smell

The black and white pepper smell totally different despite the same plant.

Black pepper’s smell is more pleasant and floral, due to most of the volatile oil is concentrated at the pericarp.

White peppers smell more pungent and the odor can vary. If the berry is soaked in running water, it will have a pleasant scent. Whereas if the berry is soaked in closed water, it will have a musty odor.

Taste

The black pepper tastes different mainly because of its pericarp, which contains most of the volatile oil.

The white pepper tastes different. The taste is more complex due to the fermentation. But lacks the flavors of the pericarp.

The pungency often depends on the ripeness of the berry. Average sized berry (almost ripe) tends to have more pungency, whereas bigger size berry (more ripe) tends to have a sweet aroma and a bit less pungency because as the berry turns more ripe, it starts to lose a bit of pipeline (pungent chemical) and gained more starch.

Culinary Uses

Black pepper is much more suitable for dishes that need the pungency & floral aroma of black pepper, and the crunchy cracked black pepper texture. The black pepper is great for:

  • steak
  • salad
  • grilled meat
  • marinade meat
  • curry

White pepper is much more suitable for dishes that need complex fermented flavor. Also, white pepper used in dishes that you don’t want black flecks in black pepper. The white pepper is great for:

  • steamed fish
  • Chinese / Vietnamese stir-fry, soup, and sauce
  • creamy white soup and sauce
  • mashed potato
  • finishing flavor


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