Black Pepper vs. White Pepper

Black vs White Pepper, peppercorns, piperineAlthough very different in appearance, black and white pepper are obtained from the same botanical source. They are the fruit or berries of Piper nigrum L., a perennial climbing vine that is widely cultivated for its long slender spikes of small fruit. They are harvested at different stages of maturity and processed in distinctly different ways.

Pepper, in all its forms, is used as a source of flavor and pungency in prepared foods and as a “table applied seasoning” in cuisines around the world. This is quite remarkable since, unlike many other popular herbs and spices, it can be cultivated only in tropical climates.

Berry Different

Black Pepper
For extraction purposes, immature, unripened berries are primarily used. During drying, the exterior of the berry, the epicarp and mesocarp, is blackened by enzymatically catalyzed oxidation reactions. The interior of the berry, the endocarp, remains unaffected and retains its white to off-white appearance. The flavor profile for black pepper has a pungency produced by piperine, which is known by some for a slight burning sensation in the back of the consumer’s throat.

White Pepper
Black vs White Pepper, peppercorns, piperineRipening does not occur uniformly, so harvesting requires laborious and careful hand selection. The ripe berries for white pepper are processed using a procedure known as “retting.” Color is only a superficial difference between black and white pepper. The flavor profile of white pepper differs from black pepper with a distinctive earthy, barnyard-like flavor and aroma that is not typically found in black pepper.

Why Use Black or White Pepper?

Black or white pepper is primarily added to a product for flavor or used as a condiment. Black pepper is primarily used in meat, soups, sauces and dressings. White pepper is typically used in similar applications where the ‘black specs’ are not favored, such as white sauces like alfredo, but the flavor is distinctly different.

“Black and white pepper are often part of the seasonings behind the ‘Familiar Classics’ or ‘Comfort Food’ trends that we are seeing,” said Peggy Iler, Senior Manager/Lead Scientist, Kalsec. “A little black pepper on popcorn is really quite yummy! We are still seeing black and white pepper cross over into sweet products as well. Black pepper in ice cream lends a slight lime note and white pepper vanilla ice cream is very creative.”

Learn More About Kalsec Extracts

One of Kalsec’s core values is to cultivate a culture of innovation and creativity. We hope to do this not only with our people and those within our organization, but with everyone that we impact. Our goal is to help people make the most informed product formulation decision – in this case, by knowing the differences between black and white pepper.

Learn more about Kalsec white and black pepper extracts here.

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