Types of Pepper
Pepper is a common spice, but not many people are familiar with the many varieties of pepper. This is a guide to show the pepper types that are commonly used. The "true peppers," black, white, and green pepper, are from the same plant, but I am including other spices that are used as and often considered to be pepper.
From small packets handed out with fast food to large pepper grinders at the finest restaurants, black pepper is everywhere. The black peppercorns are used whole, cracked, or ground to varying degrees of fineness. Ground pepper is most commonly used in recipes. Cracked pepper is most often used on salads or to season meat. Whole peppercorns are not used very often except in pickling recipes.
White pepper is derived from peppercorns that have been soaked and stripped of their outer layer. Because white pepper and black pepper often come from the same peppercorns, the taste is similar. White pepper may be used for aesthetic purposes when someone does not what black specks of pepper on a particular food such as a white sauce. Ground white pepper typically is available in small containers.
Green peppercorns are peppercorns that have been harvested from the Piperaceae vine (pepper plant) before they are ripe. The taste of green pepper is described as being milder than black pepper. Some people think green pepper tastes slightly like cloves. Green pepper can be used instead of black pepper for a slightly different flavor.
Unlike the other common types of pepper, cayenne pepper comes from the capsicum pepper. Cayenne pepper, also called red pepper, is hot like the chili peppers from which it is derived. When cooking with cayenne pepper, small amounts should be added at a time as too much will make the dish hotter and spicier than what might be wanted.
Like the cayenne pepper, pink pepper does not come from the Piperaceae vine. Pink peppercorns are the dried berries of a Brazilian rose called the Baies rose. Pink pepper is more common in French and Thai cuisine than American. The importation of pink peppercorns was once blocked by the FDA due to the risk of allergic reactions. People who choose to use pink peppercorns should do so in moderation.
Also not a true pepper, Sichuan (Szechwan) pepper comes from the outer shell of a small Asian fruit. This spice is said to have a lemony taste and cause a tingling or numbing sensation of the mouth. Like the pink peppercorns, Sichuan pepper has a history of being banned by the FDA, however the ban was because the Sichuan pepper was contaminated with a citrus canker virus.