White Pepper vs Black Pepper: What’s the Difference
Pepper is a universally acclaimed cooking ingredient and is used in foods all over the world. It has been called the “king of spices” and with good reason. It is superbly versatile and has a distinctive and pungent flavor. The history of pepper stretches all the way back to Southeast Asia where it has been used in cooking since at least 2000 B.C.. Peppercorns were once such a valuable trading commodity that they were referred to as “black gold.” Peppercorns were used by all the major ancient civilizations including the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans.
As well as flavoring foods, pepper has been used in natural remedies for toothache, insomnia and many other medical issues. Medical research has confirmed its role in reducing inflammation and protecting against oxidative stress and cell damage.
You will probably have come across both white and black pepper and you may have wondered what the difference is. Here we give you a quick guide.
What Is The Difference Between Black And White Pepper?
There are many similarities between white and black pepper but there are some important differences as well. Here we look at the main ways in which they differ.
- They are produced in different ways
Both types of pepper come from the Piper nigrum plant. This is a vine that produces flowers and then fruit (berries) which are called drupes. Black peppercorns are produced by picking the berries when they are very nearly ripe. They are dried in the sun and that darkens the outer layer to give it the distinctive color. So, how is white pepper made? When the seeds of the nearly ripe Piper plant have their dark skin removed through a process called retting, white pepper is produced. Retting involves soaking the seeds in water so that the skin slowly decomposes and falls off. In modern pepper production, it can also be washed off with running water and this gives a cleaner white pepper. Only the lighter colored inner seed remains and this is what white pepper is made from.
- They have slightly different uses
Black pepper is the most common peppercorn variety but white pepper is often used as a black pepper substitute. It has very similar benefits but has a distinctive white pepper smell.
However, white pepper is also used to preserve the pale appearance of cream sauces and for this purpose, you cannot use black pepper as a white pepper substitute because it is too dark and you will get black specks in the sauce. Also, white pepper is spicier than black pepper so if you are swapping them you may have to use more black pepper. White pepper cannot last as long as black pepper and quickly becomes stale which causes it to lose its flavor.
- They taste subtly different
So, what about the taste? When it comes to the hot taste of pepper, you will find that white pepper has more heat. The flavor is more pronounced compared to black pepper which has a more complex and nuanced taste. This is probably because the outer black layer contains sophisticated flavors including some floral and fruit tones.
The nutritional analysis of both black and white pepper is impressive and it’s easy to see why you should include them in your diet.
There is plenty in the white pepper nutrition analysis to make you want to add this tasty spice to your next recipe. It will add important minerals to your meal including manganese and iron. It also delivers fiber. One tablespoon of white pepper is around seven grams and this delivers approximately 20.7 calories. Within this, you’ll get 1.8 grams of dietary fiber and 0.3 milligrams of manganese which is 15 % of what you should get per day. It also delivers 1 milligram of iron which is 6 % of what you need every day. White pepper also contains copper, calcium, magnesium and some vitamin C as well as trace amounts of riboflavin, phosphorus and zinc.
The black pepper nutrition analysis also contains an impressive list of compounds that both prevent disease and promote health. It has an anti-inflammatory and carminative property. It contains essential oils such as piperine which gives it the pungent character. It is an amine alkaloid which has anti-inflammatory, antinociceptive and antiarthritic effects
It also contains numerous monoterpenes hydrocarbons including pinene, sabinene, limonene, terpenene and mercene. These are thought to play a role in gut motility and to help digestion because they aid the secretion of gastro-intestinal enzymes. Research has found that piperine helps with the body’s absorption of selenium, beta-carotene and B-complex vitamins.
Black peppercorns also contain a fair amount of potassium, manganese, calcium, zinc, iron and magnesium. Potassium is known to control the heart rate and blood pressure and may help to prevent cardiovascular disease. Manganese helps the body’s antioxidant enzymes to work properly. Iron is an essential mineral for cellular respiration and is used by the body to make red blood cells.
Peppercorns supply plenty of B-complex groups of vitamins and these include pyridoxine, thiamin and riboflavin. These help with the growth of red blood cells and can boost energy levels. They also improve your eyesight and help the brain to function properly. These compounds play a role in helping the nerves to work properly and are needed for hormone and cholesterol production as well as muscle tone.
It has also been shown that peppercorns supply vitamin-C and vitamin-A which are also needed for a healthy immune system. They contain flavonoid polyphenolic anti-oxidants such as carotenes and cryptoxanthin. These help the body to get rid of free radicals which cause cell damage and may lead to some types of cancer.
The Final Word
It’s clear that there are plenty of similarities between black and white pepper. They originate from the same plant and are used in similar ways. They also have a similar nutritional content. However, there are subtle differences in taste and black peppercorns will last for longer.