Last Updated on March 25, 2023 by Toya
Here are 15 of the best ways to substitute for black pepper whether you need a substitute for ground black pepper or a substitute for whole black peppercorns.
Black pepper is a type of spice that is native to India, which is made from the unripe, dried berries from the flowering vine of the Piper nigrum or black pepper plant.
Black pepper is spicy, complex, and pungent with slight hints of pine and citrus.
While the best option is always to use black pepper in recipes that call for black pepper, you may not always have it available.
Therefore if you’re in a pinch or cannot find any black pepper in your grocery store, here are some easy ways to substitute for black pepper in a pinch.
The best part is some of these items are likely in your kitchen right now!
What can you substitute for black pepper?
The best black pepper substitutes are:
- White pepper
- Rainbow peppercorns
- Green peppercorns
- Pink peppercorns
- Papaya seeds
- Black mustard seeds
- Cayenne pepper
- Grains of paradise
- Aleppo pepper
- Urfa biber
- Long pepper
- Black cardamom seeds
- Cubeb pepper
- Dried Alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum) seeds
Common Ways to Substitute for Black pepper
White pepper is a great substitute for black pepper. White pepper is made from white peppercorns, which are berries from the Piper Nigrum or black pepper plant that is soaked in water to ferment. After soaking, the black outer layer is peeled off to reveal the white inner seed.
It can be purchased as whole white peppercorns which can be ground just like black pepper. But, you can also find it in powder form.
While white pepper does work well as a black pepper substitute, it should be noted that white pepper is milder than black pepper due to its outer skin being stripped off.
White pepper is great as a sub for black pepper in light-colored recipes like sauces, soups, chowders, etc at a 1:1 ratio.
Rainbow peppercorns or peppercorn medley
Have rainbow peppercorns? These are great black pepper substitutes!
Since rainbow peppercorns are a mix of black peppercorns, green peppercorns, pink peppercorns, and white peppercorns, they’ll add quite a nice complex flavor to your dish which will include heat, a wonderful aroma, and flavor. I’ve often found that black pepper usually goes out of stock before rainbow peppercorns do. Therefore, if you can’t find any black pepper in your grocery store, you’re likely to find some rainbow peppercorns in the spice aisle.
If a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of ground black peppers, replace it with 1 teaspoon of ground rainbow peppers.
Green peppercorns are another spice that can be used as a black pepper alternative. Green peppercorns are picked when the peppercorns are still unripe and are typically preserved in vinegar or brine. As such green peppercorns have an additional slight tart, mildly spicy, slightly grassy flavor.
Use green peppercorns can be ground and used in dishes with poultry, vegetables, fish, and even in salads and sauces.
If you happen to have some pink peppercorns on hand, these can be used in place of black pepper too.
Unlike black peppercorns, green peppercorns, and white peppercorns, pink peppercorns are not from the pepper family. However, pink peppercorns have an amazingly sweet and peppery flavor that can substitute for black pepper in meats, soups, seafood, salads, veggies, and more.
Have papaya in your kitchen? The seeds can be used as an amazing black pepper substitute. Papaya seeds are small black seeds from the core of the papaya fruit that have a similar peppery, pungent flavor to black pepper.
Simply remove the seeds from the center of the papaya fruit, give them a nice wash, dry them with a towel, and place them in the oven to dry out for about 2 hours. Remove them from the oven and grind them up like you would black peppercorns in any dish!
Black mustard seeds
Black mustard seeds are pungent and spicy which makes them a great sub for black pepper. They’re mostly used in Indian cuisine, but if you have some, they will work in a recipe that calls for black pepper as an alternative.
Most people have cayenne pepper in their spice cabinet. If you do, then you can use a bit of cayenne as a good black pepper sub. Cayenne is much hotter than black pepper, so start with a 4:1 conversion ratio then adjust to your taste.
This means, if a recipe calls for 1 teaspoon of black pepper, use ¼ of a teaspoon of cayenne pepper to replace it.
Cayenne pepper is also orange-red compared to black pepper, which is black, but this won’t matter in most recipes. Also, read more about cayenne pepper alternatives here,
Ginger is another spice with a peppery and sweet flavor and hints of citrus that can make a decent alternative to black pepper.
Ginger is a last resort kind of substitute that you can use if you have none of the other substitutes mentioned in this list as it will only add a very mild spicy flavor to any dish.
Start by using a 1:1 substitute ratio, then adjust the quantity of ginger to your taste.
Less common black pepper substitutes
Grains of paradise (aka Guinea pepper or Alligator pepper)
Grains of paradise are an amazing black pepper substitute with a pungent, hot peppery flavor and hints of citrus from the Zingiberaceae family.
Grains of paradise is a West African spice that is a member of the ginger family. It looks somewhat similar to peppercorns and is a pungent, peppery, citrusy spice with aromatic notes of jasmine, cloves, and cardamom.
It’s best used as a finishing spice if you want a really good black pepper alternative. Grains of paradise is also an awesome black peppercorn substitute that works especially well with pickling, brewing, spice rubs, braising and so much more.
It is an excellent spice if you want to try something new or if you have sensitivities to black pepper.
Aleppo pepper can be used on just about anything to add a little bit of a spicy fruity flavor. It’s very easy to substitute Aleppo pepper for black pepper as a finishing spice.
Urfa biber is a Turkish spice that has a sweet, smoky, almost chocolaty flavor. It also imparts a mild heat that is reminiscent of the flavor of chile peppers. If you have access to Urfa biber use it to season meat, make sauces, dressings, eggs, salads, vegetables and so much more.
It adds a nice depth of flavor to anything it’s added to.
Long pepper is an Indian spice that can substitute for black peppercorns. Although it is not as popular, it is closely related to black pepper since both of them are from the Piperaceae family.
It has more heat than black pepper, but it also has hints of cedar and citrus. Many people actually prefer long pepper over the same old black pepper.
I’ve never actually seen it at my local grocery store, but I know it’s sold on Amazon in both a powder or whole seed form.
If you try the whole seeds, note that long pepper needs a very sturdy spice grinder since it is a bit hard to grind.
Long pepper works for pretty much every recipe that calls for black pepper.
Black cardamom seeds
Ground black cardamom has a bit of a peppery flavor that I think works in place of black pepper if you want something more exotic.
Cubeb pepper is another good black peppercorn substitute. It has a look that reminds you of black pepper, but its flavor is mostly acrid, menthol-like with a little bit of heat.
Alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum) seeds
The black seeds of Alexanders are very similar to black peppercorns in terms of their spicy flavor. They’re popular in the UK, particularly in Cornwall. So, if you’re in the US, you may have a hard time getting these seeds.
Lastly, if you don’t have black pepper, you can just leave it out. Most times you won’t even be able to tell if the recipe that calls for black pepper is missing the black pepper.
Also, check out some recipes with black pepper on the blog.
Recipes that use black pepper
Check out these delicious recipes that use black pepper as an ingredient. If you make them, feel free to use black pepper or one of the substitutes listed above!
FAQs about substituting black peppers
Does allspice taste like black pepper?
No, allspice does not taste like black pepper. Allspice has a complex flavor that reminds you of a combination of cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon, while black pepper is spicy, bitter, complex, and pungent with hints of citrus. Allspice and black pepper look very similar though, so they’re often mistaken for one another visually. You can read more about the allspice spice and its substitutes here.
What is a good substitute for black pepper in chai?
The best black pepper substitute for chai is white peppercorns.
- Papaya seeds
- Preheat your oven to 120 degrees or the lowest setting possible.
- Cut the papayas in half and scoop out all the seeds into a bowl of water.
- Wash them removing as much of the papaya fruit as possible. Then dry the seeds using paper towels.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a non stick baking mat.
- Place the seeds onto the baking sheet and spread evenly.
- Bake the seeds in the oven for about 90 minutes. Stir them so they brown evenly. Every 15-20 minutes.
- Allow the seeds to cool, then place them in your favorite spice jar and store away in a dark, cool place.