substitute for white pepper

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Don’t have white pepper, or realized you’re all out while you’re cooking? Here are the best white pepper substitute options to use in just about any recipe! 

substitute for white pepper

What is white pepper?

White pepper is a spice produced from the berries of the flowering vines of the Piper nigrum or pepper plant, native to India. The piper nigrum plant produces peppercorns which are used in either black, white or green form.

The white peppercorns are picked after they have ripened, then they are fermented. Next, the outer layer is stripped from the dried berries to reveal a white inner seed called white peppercorns. White peppercorns are sold whole or ground to form the ground white pepper.

White pepper has a flavor that is said to be less complex than that of black pepper. It is often described as musty, grassy, and lightly fermented. White pepper is also spicy and is used mostly in Chinese cuisine.

In the western world, it is used in lighter colored recipes where you want the heat without the black specks or color that black pepper would leave behind.

White pepper is not as popular as its counterpart, black pepper. In fact it is more expensive because it is used less often and sometimes it can be hard to find.

If you are about to make a recipe that calls for white pepper, but you have none stocked, these are the best white pepper substitutes that can work in most dishes:
  • White peppercorns
  • Black peppercorns
  • Green peppercorns
  • Rainbow peppercorns
  • Ground ginger
  • Paprika
  • Turmeric
  • Cayenne pepper powder

Most common white pepper substitutes explained

White peppercorns

white peppercorn

The best substitutes for white pepper are white peppercorns. White peppercorns are used to make ground white pepper so it makes perfect sense to use these white peppercorn berries as a substitute. 

Use a spice mill to grind the white peppercorn berries and use in every recipe that calls for ground white pepper on a 1:1 ratio.

Black peppercorns

black peppercorns

Another good stand in for white pepper is black pepper made from black peppercorns. 

Black peppercorns can be ground to make black pepper and used in place of white pepper.

Note, this spice does have a more complex and pungent flavor which can affect certain recipes. It will also leave behind those tiny black specks that you may not want in your white sauces, cream sauces, seafood, soups and potato dishes.

Nonetheless, in spice mixes and other recipes where the specks do not matter, black pepper can be used in place of white.

Substitution ratio: 1 teaspoon white pepper = 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Green peppercorns

green peppercorns

These peppercorns have a mild yet fruitier, fresher flavor than white peppercorns and they are harder to come by.

Nonetheless, they can work as a stand in for white pepper for dishes where black pepper would not work. Use green peppercorns in dishes like potatoes, pastas, sauces, salmon, soups and more.

Substitution ratio: 1 teaspoon white pepper = 2 teaspoon green peppercorns

Rainbow peppercorns

Rainbow peppercorns

Rainbow peppercorn is a spice mix of all the peppercorns. It has a balance of all the different peppercorn flavors and as such, it will not work in every recipe that calls for white pepper.

Use this spice mix in recipes where the color or flavor won’t be a problem like darker soups, salads, darker sauces and so on. 

Substitution ratio: 1 teaspoon white pepper= 1/2 teaspoon ground rainbow pepper

Turmeric powder

turmeric powder

Another spice that can work as a substitute for white pepper is turmeric. Turmeric is earthy and bitter, but it also has a bit of a musky peppery flavor which is somewhat similar to white pepper.

While the bright yellow hue may make it an automatic no for certain recipes, it still makes sense for darker colored dishes where the color will mostly go unnoticed.

Ground ginger

ground ginger

Ground ginger is another suitable alternative for white pepper. This spice has a slightly sweet, peppery pungent flavor which is not similar to white pepper.

However, it does have the appearance of white pepper and it blends seamlessly into lighter dishes while adding a bit of spice.

Use ground ginger sparingly at first, then adjust based on your preferences.

More white pepper substitutes (for some heat)

These substitutes below have absolutely nothing to do with adding a similar white pepper flavor to a dish or being similar in terms of color and texture. They are solely included because they can add some level of heat to a recipe, like white pepper can.



To add that subtle spiciness to a dish, use paprika to replace white pepper. Especially if you do not mind the red tinge. Paprika is a popular spice, so it is very likely that you have it on hand. Use this replacement in soups, stews and stir fries.

Cayenne pepper powder

cayenne pepper powder

Another alternative for ground white pepper is cayenne pepper powder. This spice is orange-red, yet it can add a little spicy flavor to dishes when you have no white pepper.

Start by using a small pinch of cayenne in the dish then adjusting the amount based on your taste.

FAQs about white pepper

What can I use if I don’t have white pepper?

If you don’t have white pepper you can use white peppercorns, black pepper, green peppercorns, rainbow peppercorns, ground ginger, paprika, turmeric and cayenne pepper powder.

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