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Explained: The difference between black pepper and peppercorn

25th March 2024, Christoph Klinger

Explained: The difference between black pepper and peppercorn


Black pepper and peppercorn are terms that are often used interchangeably, but there are some distinctions between the two. While black pepper and peppercorn come from the same plant, they refer to different stages of the fruit and can have varying flavours and uses in cooking. It’s important to understand these distinctions to properly use them in recipes and dishes.

What’s the difference between black pepper and peppercorn?


Black pepper is a commonly used spice that is derived from the dried and ground berries of the Piper nigrum plant. 

These berries, also known as peppercorns, are usually harvested when they are still green and unripe and then left to dry in the sun until they shrivel up and turn dark in colour. 

After drying, the peppercorns are ground into a fine powder to create the familiar black pepper that is found in kitchens around the world.

The term peppercorn refers to the whole dried fruit or seed of the plant before it is ground into powder.

These small, round, and highly aromatic berries come in different colours, including black, white, green, and pink, each with its own unique flavour profile.


Black pepper is produced by harvesting green, unripe berries from the pepper plant. These berries are then dried through a process that involves exposure to sunlight or artificial heat. 

The drying process causes the outer layer of the berries to oxidise, resulting in the darkening of the skin and the characteristic black colour of the pepper. 

This oxidation also enhances the flavour profile of the pepper, giving it a sharp, pungent taste that is widely used in culinary dishes around the world.


Black pepper is a spice that is renowned for its pungent and robust flavour profile. It has a unique combination of earthy, spicy, and slightly hot notes that make it a versatile addition to a wide range of dishes. 

In addition to its distinct flavour, black pepper also has a long history of use in various cuisines around the world. It is commonly used in both savoury and sweet dishes and can be found in everything from soups and stews to desserts and baked goods. 

Meanwhile, the taste of the peppercorn closely resembles that of black pepper, but with a more complex and nuanced flavour profile. 

While they are not as spicy as black pepper, they do have a slight numbing effect on the tongue, similar to Szechuan peppercorns. Additionally, they have a subtle citrusy undertone that adds a refreshing and bright element to dishes. 

The cones are harvested, sun-dried, and used whole or crushed. Their taste is more complex and less spicy than black pepper. Similar to Szechuan peppercorns, they tend to have a slightly citrusy flavour.


Peppercorns come in different varieties, including black, white, green, and red. Each variety has unique characteristics based on its processing and ripeness. These include:

  • Black Peppercorn: These are the dried, fully matured black berries of the plant.
  • White Peppercorn: These are ripened berries with the outer layer removed, resulting in a milder flavour than black pepper.
  • Green Peppercorn: These are unripe berries that are often preserved in brine or freeze-dried, offering a fresher and less pungent flavour.
  • Red Peppercorn: These are fully ripened berries with a sweeter and fruitier taste.

In summary, black pepper specifically refers to the ground powder derived from dried and matured berries of the Piper nigrum plant, while peppercorn is a broader term encompassing the various forms and ripeness states of these berries, including black, white, green, and red varieties.

If you would like to stock up, browse our black pepper or peppercorn range on our website today to purchase your bags of goodness!


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