Black peppercorns may be the stalwart of the spice rack in many a kitchen around the world, but there are also several other types of peppercorns well worth adding to your spice arsenal if you haven't already.
Just as there are several types of gourmet salt, peppercorns also come in distinctly different varieties, colours, intensities and flavour profiles to the standard grinds in tabletop pepper mills making them suited to different dishes ... think succulent steak in green peppercorn sauce, pink peppercorns on tuna carpaccio, or white pepper in a béchamel sauce.
We take a closer look at how to distinguish between some useful different types of peppercorn and why we should make space for them in our spice racks.
Types of Peppercorns
The commonly found trio of black, white and green peppercorns all come from the same flowering vine, they are just harvested at various stages of growth, while other types of peppercorns come from other plants altogether.
Undoubtedly one of the most famous spices in the world, ground black pepper is the ubiquitous spice most commonly found in everyday seasoning alongside salt. However, not all black peppercorns were created equal. Black peppercorns are grown in various spice growing regions, from Sarawack (Malaysia) to Talamanca (Ecuador) and take on different characteristics depending on where they were grown in the world.
Perhaps rather confusingly, white peppercorns are actually black peppercorns with the outer casing removed once they have been soaked in water. They have a more intense flavour than black peppercorns, with earthy undertones. White peppercorns are ideal for use in white sauces, soufflés, mashed potatoes and in any paler food where black peppercorn grinds would distract from the dish.
Green peppercorns are the immature and unripe peppercorns harvested from the same vine as white and black and dehydrated or preserved, with a resulting mild flavour. They’re aromatic, with a fresher, fruitier flavour than white or black pepper and are usually pickled to preserve them for longer. Try this recipe for stuffed tomatoes with green peppercorns or strawberry jelly with green peppercorns.
Misleadingly, these delicate peppercorns are not actually peppercorns at all but berries from a South American shrub. You won't find them in a pepper mill as their fragility and softness make them best scattered into salads or onto finished dishes where their sweet-sharp and delicate flavour also compliments seafood and lighter sauces.
Likewise, Szechuan peppercorns are not from the pepper family but a dried berry from the Szechuan province of China. More aromatic Szechuan pepper is the berry of the mountain ash tree, with a pungent flavour unlike the usual heat of a peppercorn.
This unusual looking peppercorns are easily identified by their unusual shape. Hotter than standard black peppercorns they are also very aromatic. While they're not so easily found in western cuisine, they're commonly called for in Indian, Nepalese, North African, Malaysian, and Indonesian cuisine.
And now that you know about peppercorns, how well do you know your salt? Find out all the types of salt to know.