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White Pepper Versus Black Pepper: Which Is Better?

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

Story at-a-glance -

  • Both white and black pepper are made from peppercorns of the piper nigrum plant
  • Black peppercorns are made using the unripe berries, which are then cooked and dried; white peppercorns begin similarly, but are picked fully ripe, soaked to soften and the outer skin is removed, leaving the white seed behind
  • Both white and black pepper contain similar amounts of piperine, the substance responsible for their pungency and heat, as well as many of their health benefits
  • Some recipes call for white pepper in lieu of black simply to keep a light-colored appearance in the final dish for purposes of visual appeal
  • There are subtle differences in flavor among the different colored peppercorns, with black being the most pungent and white having an earthier flavor
  • As for which is better, that’s a personal choice, as both black and white pepper have great value in your diet

Pepper is the most traded spice in the world, accounting for one-fifth of all imported spices worldwide. The pepper market, worth $4.69 billion, grew by 9 percent in value and 4 percent in quantity between 2012 and 2016, suggesting that people's palettes continue to demand pepper's warm, earthy flavor.

In the U.S. and throughout the world, black pepper is a mainstay in spice cabinets and on tabletops, but white pepper is equally appealing, if not quite as widely used, at least in the U.S. What's the difference between the two? Color is the most obvious distinction, and some recipes call for white pepper in lieu of black simply to keep a light-colored appearance in the final dish for purposes of visual appeal.


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