You Really Should Use More White Pepper

It took me a while to warm up to pepper, at least as a child. My little sister, who called the pepper “hot salt,” liked it so much that she sprinkled it on her cantaloupe, a fruit commonly served for dessert at my grandmother’s house. Over time, I have learned to love spicy, fermented berries, especially white pepper, a pepper that more people should learn to love (and cook with).

White pepper, in my opinion, is the real “hot salt”, but “hot” implies sexuality, not the ability to burn the mouth. Black pepper can come across as aggressively spicy and can draw attention if you’re not careful, while white pepper backs off a bit, adding a bit of savory character to the dish and adding a bit of earthy flavor.

Both pepper colors come from the same plant, Piper nigrum. Black pepper is what you get when you take unripe berries and then dry them with the skins on, which gives them that characteristic wrinkled black appearance after they’ve been fermented and processed. White pepper is made from fully ripened berries that are soaked and fermented before the outer layer is removed, resulting in softer, tenderer, and paler berries.

White pepper is often praised for its ability to blend into pale foods without any noticeable specks, but I’m more about flavor. It is widely used in Vietnamese, Chinese, Thai, French and Swedish cuisines, and its more delicate and appealing nature makes it an ideal pepper for seasoning meats and seafood, delicate broths, creamy soups and gravies. It is even good in desserts like ice cream or creme brulee.

If you don’t know where to start with this pale pepper, just use it like black pepper. Lately I find myself adding it to everything while the black peppercorns in my coffee grinder are sitting downright dejected. I add it to my onion dip , where it offers a savory, whimsical backing to caramelized onions; scrambled eggs , where it mixes with creamy curds, adding a warm, earthy depth; and fried chicken because KFC taught me that. (It’s true: white pepper is one of the not-so-secret 11 herbs and spices .) If it’s good enough for the Colonel, it’s good enough for me. I might even try it on some cantaloupe.


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