3 Substitutions for White Pepper

Compared to its more commonly found cousin black pepper, white pepper seems to fade into the background, oftentimes literally. White pepper is frequently used for its white color which blends well into white sauces and mashed potatoes, providing a uniform color.

However, white pepper’s aromatic heat is the reason it’s a star in cuisines across the world from French to Chinese kitchens. However, what do you do at home when you reach for white pepper or find a recipe that calls for it, and you don’t have any? Here are some ways to substitute for white pepper.

If you don’t mind adding a bit of color to your dishes, white pepper can be substituted with pepper of any other color. Black pepper is closest in flavor and easiest to come by, but any other peppercorn works. Other fine ground spices with milder flavors like paprika, ginger, and turmeric can work in a pinch.

Ways to Substitute

Although white pepper is a staple in a number of cuisines around the world, it’s hard to come by in places like the United States. This means that folks in and around America may have a hard time finding white pepper and are looking for quick ways to substitute for it.

Black Pepper

Since black and white pepper literally come from the same plant, this is the easiest substitution. Black pepper is ubiquitous in cooking, is cheap, and can be found anywhere.

The problem with using black pepper as opposed to white pepper is two-fold:

  1. Color: Chefs will use white pepper to blend into dishes like mashed potatoes so that the final product won’t have small speckles of color mixed in. If you don’t mind a few specks of black pepper in your food, this shouldn’t be a problem for you.
  2. Flavor: As mentioned before, white pepper does have a brighter flavor than black pepper, though they are similar enough that they can be substituted just fine. Dishes with black pepper instead of white pepper may be less nuanced.

Other Peppercorns

Pink, red, and green peppercorns all pack their own individual flavor combinations, but any of these can be used in place of white. As with black pepper, you just have to be okay with a difference in color and slight variations in flavor.

Pink and red peppercorns are slightly sweet and mildly spicy while green peppercorns have delicate, subtle peppery notes.

Ground Spices

White pepper’s heat, color, and precise flavor cannot quite be replicated by other seasonings, but a number of spices work in similar ways.

Ground ginger can make a decent substitute for white pepper as it has a similar grain and delicate heat to white pepper. However, if substituting, use small amounts and taste the ground ginger before adding it to a dish as it can be strong and quickly overpower your plate.

Paprika is a fine red spice made from chili peppers that has about the same spice level as white pepper. However, paprika packs a chili flavor unlike white pepper, so be careful when adding it to dishes.

Turmeric is a fine orange-yellow spice that is well-known for its distinct color and anti-oxidant properties. While it will stain any dish you add it to, it can be a good substitute for white pepper as it has a mild flavor and earthy heat which can be added easily to almost any dish.


When a recipe calls for white pepper and you’re fresh out or don’t have any on hand, black pepper is your best bet in a pinch. In general, white pepper can be replaced by any spice that has a mild flavor and mild heat, so peppercorns and seasonings like ground ginger, paprika, and turmeric may work as long as they mesh with your dish’s flavors.