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Green vs. Black vs. White Peppercorns (Plus a Green Peppercorn Sauce Recipe)

My husband and I both enjoy cooking. We like sampling and discovering new and different foods from all areas of the world.

 Green, white and black peppercorns

Green, white and black peppercorns

Three Varieties of Peppercorns

Were you aware that peppercorns are fruit? It is true! They grow on a vine by the name of Piper nigrum in the family Piperaceae. The long flowering spikes turn into a cluster of tiny berries, known as drupes, which are then harvested and processed into the black, white, and green peppercorns.

As you might surmise, the green peppercorns are the unripe versions. They are uncooked, dried, and typically preserved in vinegar or brine. You can find some in the dried form.

Black peppercorns are unripe green ones that are picked, cooked in hot water, and then dried. They are the most aromatic and have the strongest flavor due to their shriveled and blackened skin.

White peppercorns are ripened berries allowed to soak in water long enough to soften the skin or are fermented. Removal of the skins takes place, and then the berries are dried. Slightly hotter than the black, white peppercorns are less aromatic.

Chefs don't use white pepper just to avoid spoiling the whiteness of pommes puree or bechamel. It has a more peppery aroma, with sharpness and sweetness, too.

— Yotam Ottolenghi

The Spice Trade

Pepper and the trading of other spices have been around for millennia. Trading and bartering for items and services took the place of currency for hundreds of thousands of years. Since everyone eats food for sustenance, the preservation and flavoring of that food took on prominence.

Overland trade routes combined with maritime routes expanded the trading of pepper and other goods. It also resulted in the discovery of other lands and civilizations. Along with those discoveries came technological progress and the mingling of cultures.

Reading about the spice trade and its significance to the world we know today is of great interest to historians. The discovery of pepper plays a big part in that story. Black pepper, known as the king of spices, wins the title of being the most widely traded spice worldwide. Statistically, today it accounts for about one-fifth of all the sales.

 Piper nigrum - Fresh fruits

Piper nigrum - Fresh fruits

Where and How Do Peppercorn Plants Grow?

The vines of the Piper nigrum are native to southern India. Today the world's most abundant producer and exporter of peppercorns is the country of Vietnam. Almost one-third of all peppercorns come from there.

Many peppercorns have names derived from the places that they are cultivated and grown. Tellicherry is one such example that most people know.

Vines of the Piper nigrum can get up to a height of thirteen feet or more and need support upon which to grow. The vines can grow up trees or stakes such as bamboo.

Propagation occurs via the taking of cuttings. New cuttings start producing the fruit anywhere from two to five years.

Large commercial operations provide cages filled with a soilless medium that has moisture retention qualities. It is enriched with worm castings and culturable fungi and is a perfect way to provide top quality plants. You can see more of that process in the video below.

Health Benefits

Throughout the centuries, pepper usage includes different types of folk medicine, beauty treatments, and culinary practices. At one time, it became part of the mummification process.

Ascribed to the consumption of pepper are certain health benefits due to the active compound known as piperine. Piperine has some anti-inflammatory effects as well as antibacterial and antioxidant effects. It can aid in digestion, helps get rid of gas, and can make you sweat. Some people claim it can also help to benefit in diabetes, cancer, and obesity treatments. Other things attributed to it include supporting brain function, treating coughs and colds, acting as an anti-depressant, and even helping one quit smoking.

Piperine can increase the absorption of some nutrients and vitamins, but for that same reason, it can interfere with some medications. So always consult your medical professionals if using more than a usual amount of pepper to season your food. I always use black pepper when I add turmeric to soups or other foods because the pepper accentuates the curcumin activity in the turmeric.

Black pepper is necessary to absorb the key antioxidants in most spices and foods, including turmeric, so get a pepper grinder and fill it with Tellicherry peppercorns.

— Steven Gundry

Storage and Usage Tips

Store your dried peppercorns in cool dark places in airtight containers. The same storage suggestions apply to most herbs and spices. A pantry or kitchen cupboard suffices if it is not near a heat source.

Grinding peppercorns fresh releases the most pungency and flavor. Instead of the standard salt and pepper shakers of the past, many cooks now also have pepper grinders. If you do not yet own one, it is well worth the money!

If using the canned green peppercorns, store unused portions in a refrigerator.

Store spices in a cool, dark place, not above your stove. Humidity, light and heat will cause herbs and spices to lose their flavor.

— Rick Tramonto

My Husband's Green Peppercorn Sauce Recipe

After reading numerous different recipes, the one below is the one that my husband made his own. He generally serves it over beef, but it is equally good over other types of meats. If serving it with beef, a good wine accompaniment is Cabernet Sauvignon.

You need not use much of this sauce to ramp up the flavor of dishes. A tablespoon or two adds a punch of flavor that is memorable. Everyone who has ever tasted it at one of our dinner parties has loved it.

Cook Time

Prep timeCook timeReady inYields

5 min

45 min

50 min

12 servings (1 ounce per serving)

Ingredients

  • 2 (10 1/2 ounce) cans Campbell's beef broth
  • 1/2 pint heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon green peppercorns, rinsed and drained
  • 1 teaspoon cornstarch, mixed with the sauce
  • 1 tablespoon butter

Instructions

  1. Rinse the green peppercorns and crush them in a mortar and pestle.
  2. Mix the beef broth, heavy cream, lemon juice, and crushed peppercorns in a large saucepan and reduce over high heat by 1/2 to 2/3.
  3. Thicken sauce to desired consistency with cornstarch.
  4. Finish with 1 pat (1 tablespoon) of butter.

Tips

  • In addition to recommending the Poivre Vert brand of green peppercorns, my husband also likes using Campbell's beef broth because it has a much richer flavor than other brands he has tried.
  • Arrowroot can be substituted for cornstarch when thickening the sauce.
  • This recipe may be doubled or tripled and frozen for future use. When making extra quantities, decrease the amount of lemon juice to taste.
  • This green peppercorn sauce is equally good over other types of meats like chicken or pork. Once you taste it, I am sure that you will want to make it again and again.
A bite of beef tenderloin with the delicious green peppercorn sauce

A bite of beef tenderloin with the delicious green peppercorn sauce

Sources

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2021 Peggy Woods

Comments

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 24, 2021:

Hi Denise,

The green peppercorn sauce recipe is like gravy. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do. Have a wonderful day today and the rest of the week.

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on January 24, 2021:

That recipe looks really good to add to my vegan roast. It appears a bit like gravy. I'll have to try it. Thanks.

Blessings,

Denise

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 24, 2021:

Greetings Layne,

We also love the spiciness and flavor that the use of peppercorns does to food. I am pleased that you will be trying my husband's recipe. Enjoy, and thanks for your comment.

Laynie H from Bend, Oregon on January 24, 2021:

Peggy, I absolutely love peppercorn. This article is fantastic, I really enjoy it. The recipe looks delicious. I must try it.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 21, 2021:

Hi Nithya,

Have you written about your pickle recipe using green peppercorns? I would be interested. We do love the flavor of green peppercorns. Thanks for your comment.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on January 21, 2021:

Great article. Green peppercorns add extra flavor to a dish; I use green peppercorns to make pickles and in some dishes.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 21, 2021:

Hi Liza,

After reading all of the health benefits, I am ramping up our usage of pepper in cooking. Best wishes to your mother! Thanks for your comment, and enjoy the flavorful sauce when you make it.

Liza from USA on January 21, 2021:

It's no doubt that peppercorns have health benefits. I remember I saw my mother used peppercorns (especially the black ones, she crushed with pestle and mortar) to mix in the steamed rice before eating. My mother uses this method during her confinement (after delivering a baby). By the way, the pepper sauce looks delicious and easy to make. I'll give it a try.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 21, 2021:

Hi Heidi,

Now you know that green peppercorns exist. You are welcome. (Smile) Enjoy your day also!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 21, 2021:

Hi Bill,

I hope you enjoy the recipe as much as we do. After writing this, I also now know more about peppercorns than I used to know. Glad you liked reading this article.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 21, 2021:

Hi Chitrangada,

I'll bet that those green peppercorns used in making pickles in southern India add a delicious flavor. Thanks for reading this and leaving your comment.

Heidi Thorne from Chicago Area on January 21, 2021:

I honestly did not know there were green peppercorns. Duh! Anyway, thanks for the education. Have a beautiful day!

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on January 21, 2021:

Very interesting, Peggy. I knew very little about pepper so this was an education. I was not aware of the different colors of peppercorns or the history of it. Your husbands recipe looks amazing, will have to give it a try.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 21, 2021:

Hi Manatita,

Pepper has been widely used by many people throughout the centuries. It is interesting that it is really a fruit. Thanks for your comment.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on January 21, 2021:

Great article about the different varieties of peppercorns.

Generally, we use black pepper in cooking, but I have also used green and white peppercorns earlier. Green ones are used for making pickles in Southern India.

Your husband’s recipe sounds interesting, and I can imagine, how delicious it would be. Will try this for sure.

How wonderful of you two, to try different recipes together. God bless.

Thank you for sharing.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 21, 2021:

Hi MG,

I am sure that your "girl," who must be your cook, could easily make this recipe for you. I purposely put the Amazon capsule in this article because it is the only place we can locate this brand now. It is superior to others in taste and the softness of the peppercorns. Perhaps it is available in your area?

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 21, 2021:

Hi FlourishAnyway,

It is quite a coincidence that the subject of the difference between white and black pepper came up with you recently. We keep both in our home for cooking, and also the green peppercorns. Now you know more, should the conversation ever come up again. Thanks for your comment.

manatita44 from london on January 21, 2021:

Great article! I think the Moors used it a lot, no? I know about the use with tumeric and although the current supplements come with them together, I still use the powder of tumeric and pepper together.

Fruit? Interesting.

MG Singh emge from Singapore on January 21, 2021:

Interesting recipe but never tried it maybe ask my girl if you could get something ready by reading this.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 20, 2021:

Hi Linda,

I hope you enjoy the recipe as much as we do, and I am pleased that you liked learning information about peppercorns. Thanks for your comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 20, 2021:

Hi Ruby Jean,

We use a lot of pepper in our dishes. I was also happy to know about the health benefits of using it. Thanks for your comment.

FlourishAnyway from USA on January 20, 2021:

Your husband is really quite the cook! It’s classy that you also suggest a wine pairing. I imagine your mister can really whip up a nice dinner presentation. What a wonderful treat to have a partner who relishes cooking and adds creative touches too! I’ve never known the difference in white and black pepper and oddly enough the topic came up about a week ago!

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on January 20, 2021:

Thank you for sharing the interesting information about peppercorns as well as the recipe, Peggy. The sauce recipe sounds delicious. I had to vote “Yes” in your poll. I’m definitely tempted to make the sauce!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 20, 2021:

Hi Brenda,

Thanks for your visit. We use our pepper grinder almost daily. As to this sauce, it is delicious. It is not that hard to make. Glad it caught your interest.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on January 20, 2021:

I was surprised to read the many medical reasons to consume pepper. I use pepper on everything. I love the taste. I learned much from reading your article.

BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on January 20, 2021:

Peggy,

You & your husband seem so great in the kitchen.

The sauce sounds great...if I had someone else to make it.

I love black pepper grinders in the restaurants.

But other than that..I don't mess with it.

Sounds delicious though.

I am intrigued.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 20, 2021:

Hi Rosina,

I hope you enjoy this green peppercorn sauce as much as we do. I am pleased that you enjoyed learning about the three kinds of peppercorns. Thanks for your comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on January 20, 2021:

Hi Pamela,

I am pleased that you learned more about peppercorns, how they are grown, etc. Believe me, my husband's green peppercorn sauce is delicious! I kid him that I would happily eat it if served on toast.

Rosina S Khan on January 20, 2021:

It was nice to read about the three kinds of peppercorns. Making the flavorful sauce recipe was a joy to read. I would like to try it when I get the chance. Thanks for sharing, Peggy.

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on January 20, 2021:

This is very interesting and I really think your husband's recipe would be good. You put a lot of interesting information in the article about peppers, and I didn't know all of it. Thank you for such an informative article, Peggy.

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