White pepper consists of only the inner seed of the pepper berry, with the pericarp removed. To make white pepper, the berry is picked fully ripe. Its outer shrunken skin is rubbed off, exposing the dried, greyish-white pepper inside. This white pepper is dried and sold commercially, in whole and powdered forms.
White pepper – and hence, its powder – has a milder, more delicate flavour than black pepper because it contains lesser piperine, the volatile oil that gives pepper its characteristic flavour. It is useful for adding a peppery flavour to light-coloured sauces and soups. White pepper is preferred in Europe, especially France, and is also popular in Japan.
How to select
• Avoid purchasing pre-ground or crushed pepper, because its volatile aromatic notes quickly dissipate and what's left is single-dimensional hotness. Also, poorer quality peppercorns are added while grinding. Hence, it is always better to buy whole white peppercorns and crush them when required to be added to recipes.
• Whole peppercorns should be heavy, compact and free of any blemishes.
• Just like with other dried spices, when purchasing white pepper try to select that which is organically grown since this will give you more assurance that it has not been irradiated (among other potential adverse effects, irradiating white pepper may lead to a significant decrease in its vitamin C content).
• While buying packaged white pepper powder, check the expiry date and feel for lumpiness, which is a sign of moisture inside the packet.
• White pepper powder is commonly used in light coloured European dishes like casseroles, pies, mayonnaise, cream-based soups and white sauces.
• It is often used in instant noodles and snacks.
• In Indian cuisine, white pepper powder is used for white, cream-based gravies and curries.
How to store
• Crushed white pepper should be kept in a tightly-sealed glass container in a cool, dark and dry place.
• Whole white peppercorns will keep almost indefinitely, while crushed pepper will stay fresh for about three months.
• White pepper stimulates the taste buds in such a way that an alert is sent to the stomach to increase hydrochloric acid secretion, thereby improving digestion and reducing intestinal gas.
• Pepper is an excellent source of manganese, a very good source of iron and vitamin K, and a good source of dietary fibre.
• In addition, white pepper has diaphoretic (promotes sweating) and diuretic (promotes urination) properties.