The Best Black Pepper Substitutes

Black pepper is a versatile and affordable spice that can be found on virtually any dinner table and every grocery store shelf. Like many spices, it is easy to harvest, stores well, and transports easily. Despite black pepper being a ubiquitous spice, some people simply don’t like the taste or have access to it.

So, what is a person to do if they don’t have black pepper on hand for a recipe or they don’t care for the taste of black pepper?

The good news is there are many substitutes for black pepper, including papaya seeds, grains of paradise, capers, allspice, and other pepper variants.

If you’re just using black pepper to season your food, finding a replacement can be fairly easy. Even mild spices make good replacements for adding a bit more taste.

Yet, if you are looking for a black pepper substitute for a dish that relies heavily on this spice, such as white gravy or mashed potatoes, you may be in for more of a challenge.

Substitutes That are Derived from Similar Sources

The best substitute for black pepper is other types of peppercorns that will still give your dish the strong flavor black pepper is meant to provide. Type of peppercorns that work well as a replacement include:

  • Green Peppercorns: As the youngest peppercorn, green variants are harvested early and have a mild flavor.
  • White Peppercorns: This product is actually identical to the black peppercorn, but their outer casing has been removed by soaking them. This gives them a bit of a fermented flavor that is more intense, so they can be used sparingly.
  • Pink Peppercorns: Contrary to popular belief, pink peppercorns are actually a type of dried berry that is spicier than traditional black pepper.
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Out of these options, black peppercorns are the most mature, which means they are allowed to grow the longest before harvesting. This results in a more intense flavor profile, as well.

Alternatives to Black Pepper

Whether you have a food allergy or you lack access to black pepper, there are a variety of spices and alternative sources that work well as substitutes. A few common replacements for black pepper include:

  • Papaya Seeds: While this replacement may seem strange, papaya seeds are known for the same spicy flavor black pepper has. Individuals with an allergy to pepper rely on this substitute avidly.
  • Chili Powder: Oftentimes, black pepper is used for its spicy flavor. This can be replicated with chili powder, which is a commonly found spice in local grocery stores and markets.
  • Allspice: Although you may not see where this holiday flavor compares to black pepper, allspice is a rich and warm spice that consists of clove and nutmeg.
  • Cayenne Pepper: Known for being hotter than a jalapeno pepper, cayenne pepper is a spicy alternative that can be ground to resemble the appearance of black pepper.

All of these substitutes produce a similar heat and flavor to black pepper. They may even add more kick and excitement to your dish than black pepper would.

Can Black Pepper Be Replaced With White Pepper?

If you are not replacing black pepper due to a food allergy, then white pepper is a great replacement. It looks and tastes much like black pepper, but has a bit more of a fermented flavor.