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What does peppercorn color look like?

Peppercorns come in a variety of colors, each with their own unique flavor profile. The most common peppercorn colors are black, white, green, and pink. Here’s a quick overview of what each colored peppercorn looks like:

Black Peppercorns

Black peppercorns are the most widely used and familiar variety of peppercorn. They are harvested when just about fully ripe and are dried until shriveled and dark black in color. Black pepper has a sharp, spicy taste that provides a bold heat. It’s by far the most pungent and aggressive tasting of all the peppercorn colors.

White Peppercorns

White peppercons start off as the same drupes (berries) as black peppercorns. But they are harvested when fully ripe and go through a process to remove the dark outer shell, leaving behind the inner white seed. White pepper has a hot, aggressive kick like black pepper, but is considered a bit milder with more complex aromatics.

Green Peppercorns

Green peppercorns are harvested before they are fully ripe while they still have some immaturity. They are quickly dried or freeze dried after picking to retain the vibrant green color. Green pepper has a fresher, more herbaceous aroma and a gentle spiciness compared to black or white pepper.

Pink Peppercorns

Pink peppercorns are actually from an entirely different plant than black, white, and green pepper – the Peruvian or Brazilian pepper tree. They are not true peppercorns, but do have a similar spicy, peppery taste. Pink peppercorns have fruity, slightly sweet notes and are much milder than traditional peppercorns.

Peppercorn Color Comparison

Here’s a quick visual comparison of the most common peppercorn colors:

Peppercorn Color Photo Description
Black Black peppercorns Shriveled, dark black. Very pungent and spicy.
White White peppercorns Small inner white seed. Hot and aggressive with aromatics.
Green Green peppercorns Unripe, still green. Mildly spicy, fresh and herbaceous.
Pink Pink peppercorns From different tree. Mildly spicy, sweet and fruity.

Using Peppercorns to Enhance Food

Now that you know the distinct characteristics of each colored peppercorn, you can start using them to enhance food in different ways. Here are some tips:

  • Use black peppercorns with meat, savory dishes, and anything you want to add a bite of spicy heat to.
  • White pepper can also be used similarly to black, but will provide a less aggressive kick.
  • Add green peppercorns to salads, dressings, seafood, and light pastas and sauces.
  • Use pink peppercorns to add a mildly spicy, sweet pop of flavor to fruit dishes, desserts, cocktails, and more.
  • Try mixing colors for unique flavor blends. For example, black and green pepper on steak, or white and pink pepper on fruit salad.

Buying and Storing Peppercorns

It’s best to buy whole peppercorns and grind them yourself as needed for maximum freshness and flavor. Here are some shopping and storing tips:

  • Buy peppercorns from the bulk section of well-stocked grocery stores or specialty spice shops.
  • When possible, smell peppercorns to check freshness – they should have strong aroma.
  • Place unused peppercorns in airtight containers and store away from light and heat.
  • Pre-ground pepper loses flavor and aroma quickly, so grind whole peppercorns as needed.
  • Invest in a good peppermill for grinding peppercorns right before use.

Common Uses for Each Color

Here’s a quick summary of the most common uses for each color of peppercorn:

Color Most Common Uses
Black Steaks, roasts, stews, rubs, hearty dishes
White Sauces, mashed potatoes, salads, chicken, fish
Green Salads, dressings, olive oil, pasta, vegetables
Pink Fruit dishes, desserts, drinks, rice or couscous


Peppercorns range from the spicy and assertive black variety to the sweet and mild pink berries. Understanding the distinct flavor, heat level and aroma of each color peppercorn allows you to use them creatively to enhance all different types of savory dishes and even sweets. Keep a variety on hand so you can tailor the peppery punch in any recipe.

Peppercorns are versatile ingredients that can transform and elevate the flavor of all kinds of foods. Now that you know the characteristics of black, white, green and pink peppercorns, you can start experimenting with different colors to customize the flavor and heat. A rainbow of peppercorns can make your cooking more exciting and delicious.

Some final tips for cooking with colored peppercorns:

  • Buy whole peppercorns and grind fresh for maximum flavor.
  • Use a blend of colors in rubs, marinades and spice mixes.
  • Be adventurous playing with less common colors like green and pink.
  • Pepper up desserts and drinks too, not just savory dishes.
  • Let color be your guide when choosing peppercorns to complement specific foods.

With this handy guide to peppercorn colors, you’ll be able to use pepper to its full potential. Have fun exploring new ways to use black, white, green and pink peppercorns!