Cayenne Pepper vs Black Pepper

Ever had a recipe that requested multiple spices? Like paprika and cumin, or thyme and basil? Some spices are similar and pair well together. 

Cayenne pepper and black pepper are one of those spices. Cayenne pepper and black pepper have different tastes, textures, and uses. They also sometimes are in the same recipe together.

Cayenne pepper brings a little heat while black pepper mostly attempts to serve as an all purpose seasoning for just about anything. They also come from entirely different sources and of course look different.

What’s in cayenne pepper?

Cayenne pepper is native to South America from a variety of peppers in the nightshade family, usually from a chili called “Birds Eye”. The cayenne pepper tends to be thin, a bit long, and red in color. The peppers contain capsicum, which lends it’s heat and small amount of flavor to cayenne pepper when thoroughly ground up.

The name of the spice comes from a region in Papau New Guinea, where many believe the pepper was first turned into spices.

What does cayenne pepper taste like?

The best way to describe cayenne pepper is earthy and spice. The spice is literally the direct result of grounding a pepper – and not much else is typically added to cayenne pepper. Cayenne pepper is spicy, though it’s not as spicy as peppers like jalapenos or serrano peppers. 

What makes cayenne pepper spicy?

The primary ingredient within cayenne pepper that makes it spicy is the seeds, which contain capsicum. Capsaican is acidic, which makes the grinding of the pepper hot.

If you have ever eaten a banana pepper or jalapeno pepper raw, you might have noticed that the peppers themselves aren’t all that spicy until you bite into the seeds. Some more authentic dishes that seek spice are sure to mention they include the seeds to add a serious snap to the flavor.

Related Posts  What is Guajillo Powder? Your Best Guide to Mexican Spices

It’s too hot! How do I make cayenne pepper’s taste weaker?

Whether it’s already in your dish or not makes a difference here. If you are eating cayenne pepper in a dish, you can drink milk to quickly neutralize the acids that come from capsican. 

This is also effective in spicier peppers, like jalapenos, habaneros, or the crazier ghost peppers. Note that ice cream or a good popsicle also helps though that’s probably overkill for cayenne pepper.

What does cayenne pepper smell like?

You’ll also notice the cayenne punch when you give it a sniff. Cayenne pepper is much stronger than regular pepper. The capsaicin flows right through and your nose will be promptly notified that the cayenne pepper is going to add a bit of a kick to whatever you are adding it to.

How do I use cayenne pepper?

Cayenne pepper can be added to any dish you wish. In reality, most people add cayenne pepper to dishes that were meant to be spicy, like chili, soup, and even eggs. Cayenne pepper is used to add earthy flavor and general spice to many foods, and in its ground form, it can be used quite easily with anything. You could even add it to coffee!

Does cayenne pepper offer any health benefits?

Cayenne pepper has vitamins, including C, B6, and K. Spicy foods are also known to boost your metabolism, so eating chili with cayenne pepper can potentially help with weight loss in the long run.

How much do I use?

Here is a big difference between pepper and cayenne pepper. You won’t need much cayenne pepper to give your chili a good, strong, spicy flavor. Try to add cayenne pepper sparingly until you find the right flavor, because you can’t make the cayenne less spicy without adding something else. 

You are better off adding a little at a time instead of making your dish too hot for your tongue.

What’s in black pepper?

Black pepper is the product of ground peppercorns. Ground peppercorn is the leading spice in the world, accounting for as much as 20% of the spice sold worldwide. Peppercorn plants are grown on vines and picked when green, then in some cases sundried, then eventually ground to a fine powder. The plants are largely grown in South America and Asia, including Brazil, India, and several other countries.

Related Posts  Sherry Vinegar vs Sherry Cooking Wine: What's the Difference?

Black pepper is a rather basic pepper and was amongst the first plants made into spices. Throughout history, black pepper has been so useful to improve the quality of food that it has been exchanged as currency and used for bartering, including as dowries (the tradition of giving the father of a soon to be married daughter a gift from the future husband).

What does black pepper taste like?

Black pepper can best be described as earthy, herby, woody, and warm. These sound simple, but they were certainly a welcome addition to food flavoring before people had the ability to store or add much flavor to their food. 

Black pepper is uniquely pungent without being spicy unless too much is added, or you have a particularly sensitive tongue.

What makes black pepper spicy?

Here is where black pepper and cayenne are different. Black pepper is a spice, but it’s not really spicy in a “hot” sense. Black pepper is intended to add a spice and flavor without the knock your socks off burning of jalapeno, cayenne, or habanero. Note that those peppers aren’t really the same thing, but are examples.

What does black pepper smell like?

Black pepper can smell pungent and earthy without the spiciness. Sniffing a black pepper jar is more likely to make you sneeze, due in part to hailing microscoping bits of pepper, than make you wince due to heat.

How much do I use?

You can use a little more black pepper than you would use cayenne pepper. This is a situation where you can add as much as you’d like to get the taste you want.

Black pepper is safer to add more quickly because it’s not nearly as powerful as cayenne and not spicy or hot. Black pepper is normally shaken into a dish, though often recipes call for it by a tablespoon or teaspoon.

Related Posts  Turnip vs Radish: A Comparison of Taste, Nutrition, and Culinary Uses

One border that you may not want to cross is adding too much for visuals sake. A plate of chicken alfredo and pasta might not look as attractive when literally mounded with flakes or ground black pepper.

How do I use black pepper?

Black pepper is more palatable to more tongues and can be used in just about anything. Many recipes will call for black pepper, especially if the intent is to add a bit of spice without adding heat.

Black pepper can be added to any dish per the recipe or just about anything you want to add some flavor to. Black pepper was very important hundreds of years ago for a big reason – it added some flavor to food when attempts at controlling cooking were not as good as they are today.

The differences

The differences between black pepper and cayenne pepper stem in part from black pepper offering a more earthy flavor. Cayenne peppers more fiery taste come from the presence of an acid seed that puts more serious heat into chili and other dishes.

Are there allergies to either one?

People can be allergic to either black pepper or cayenne pepper. An allergy to black pepper is more unfortunate because of how often the spice is used in regular dishes.

Does cayenne pepper add color?

It can certainly add a reddish, brown, somewhat wood like color to your dish. Many dishes that use cayenne pepper might have already had this look, but cayenne pepper enhances it.


Black pepper vs cayenne pepper isn’t really a battle because they serve entirely different purposes. One can add both spices to a dish you want! Cayenne pepper is used less and in less quantity because you don’t need as much to provide the kick you are looking for.

The only downside to using cayenne pepper is that it potentially limits who will eat your dish. Some people think pepper itself adds spice and don’t want the added heat of cayenne pepper. Otherwise, cayenne pepper tastes good.