Cooking with Pepper

Cooking with pepper is one of the key skills for any chef to master. Pepper is probably the most common spice in American kitchens as it is incredibly versatile. It can be used to:

  • Add a bit of heat to a marinara sauce

  • Take the edge off water-based salad items like cucumber

  • Crisp up the skins of baking potatoes

  • Give an extra layer of taste to corn, especially when mixed into butter

Most recipes will finish off with the words “season to taste”. This means add a little salt and pepper until you feel the recipe has reached the right flavor. When you’re thinking about cooking with pepper, you should look at how various national cuisines use it. You should also think about whether to use black pepper or another type for your dish

Cooking with PepperCooking with Pepper

Pepper In World Cuisine

Pepper plants grow best in tropical climates, so it’s no surprise that India and Vietnam are the world’s biggest producers of peppercorns. However, pepper is also the world’s most traded spice, and there are many recipes from all over the globe that use pepper as their principal flavor:

  • Szechuan chicken from China uses the Szechuan peppercorn to give the dish its fiery flavor. The pepper is traditionally added at the end to keep the flavor fresh and to release the aroma

  • Mutton curry from India normally uses ground black pepper in the early stages of the sauce. The peppers help to soften the mutton, and lend subtle warmth at the front of the mouth.

  • Peppercorn sauce for meat stems from France, but can now be found in steakhouses the world over. A pepper sauce purist will insist on leaving a few whole peppercorns in the sauce for an extra hit during the eating, but it’s acceptable to serve the sauce using solely ground pepper.

Pepper has a naturally spicy flavor, so you’ll find that cooking with pepper will lead you towards more spicy foods. The next choice you’ll need to make is whether to use black or white pepper

Black Pepper vs. White Pepper

If you’ve ever wondered what is white pepper, and how it is different than black pepper then look no further. At a basic level, they both come from the same plant, and the color difference comes from how ripe the berries were when they were harvested. In terms of cooking, the main differences are:

  • Black pepper tends to be more spicy

  • White pepper is used more for recipes using pale food such as mashed potatoes to avoid unsightly black flecks in the food

  • White pepper carries less of a pepper aroma when cooking

Beyond that, there is not much difference between the two. Most recipes you’ll use when cooking with pepper will only ask for one or the other, but they can be used interchangeably.

Cooking with Pepper: Peppercorn Sauce Recipe

The following is a simple but effective recipe for a pepper sauce to use with meat steaks: 

  • 1 1/2 cups of cream
  • 2 tablespoons of green or black peppercorns. If you don’t like your sauce to have a big pepper kick, grind the peppers first. For a better sauce, use the best spices you can find.
  • 1 teaspoon of mild soya sauce
  • 1 tablespoon good quality brandy

Heat the cream over a medium heat until it starts to bubble, making sure that you don’t let it come to the boil.

Add the rest of the ingredients to the pan and simmer for a couple of minutes and serve

If you want a cooler sauce, strain the peppercorns before you serve. When you know the right recipes, cooking with pepper can help you become a little more creative in the kitchen, and will open the door to a whole world of new recipes.


  • 1 Whole chicken breast
  • Spinach leaves
  • 2 Cloves minced garlic
  • 3 Tablespoons tahini
  • 3 Tablespoon chili oil
  • 2 Tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 2 Tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons sesame oil
  • 2 Teaspoons sugar
  • 1 ½ Teaspoons rice vinegar
  • ¼ Teaspoon ground Szechwan peppercorns
  • Cilantro sprigs

Combine and blend in small bowl the garlic, tahini, chili oil, ginger, soy, sesame oil, sugar, vinegar and peppercorn; set aside.

Place chicken in heavy skillet; cover with water and simmer.

Cook until firm and all pink disappears; remove from pan and cool.

Cut chicken breast in halves; cut each half diagonally into thin strips.

Mound fresh clean and dried spinach on 2 plates; top with chicken strips.

Spoon peppercorn sauce over chicken; garnish with cilantro and serve.