Pepper vs. Peppercorns: All You Need to Know 

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Pepper is a seasoning that everyone has hanging around in their cupboards. 

However, you might have noticed that some households use pepper while others use peppercorns, but what is the difference between pepper and peppercorns?

Short Answer: 

Peppercorns are a whole spice, while pepper is peppercorns that have been ground into a fine powder.

When cooking, you’re bound to come across similar-sounding ingredients that can confuse you. But don’t worry, we are here to help.

In this article, we are going to delve into the differences between pepper and peppercorns and figure out which will work best for you.

It’s time to get spicy; let’s get into it.

What Are Peppercorns?

Peppercorns are tiny fruits that are grown on a vine that is native to India and Vietnam. [*]

They are then harvested and dried to become the wrinkled peppercorns that you find in a pepper grinder.

There are four types of peppercorns: green, pink, black, and white.

Pink peppercorns are not true peppercorns but rather a Brazilian berry. However, green, black, and white peppercorns are all different versions of the same thing.

Green peppercorns are the unripe form of black pepper, while black pepper is the dried version. White pepper is black pepper with the outer skin removed, which makes it less spicy.

Is peppercorn spicy? Peppercorns have a mildly spicy flavor that is the perfect everyday seasoning to pair with salt.

While you can add peppercorns to a dish whole, for seasoning purposes, you need to grind it using a pepper grinder.

Due to its robust flavor, black pepper is usually used in spice rubs or as a finishing spice.

Peppercorns have a long shelf life because they are in their whole form. This means you can buy black pepper in bulk to save money.

Excess peppercorns can be frozen and kept for years without losing their potency.

What is Pepper?

Pepper is simply peppercorns that have been ground down to form a powder. [*]

Instead of grinding your own pepper before each use, ground pepper is preground and packaged as a powder. This makes it very convenient to use.

There are not as many varieties of ground pepper as there are peppercorns because green and pink peppercorns can’t be ground.

White pepper is usually used throughout the cooking process, whereas black pepper is better as a finishing spice.

What is the difference between ground pepper and peppercorn? Ground pepper has the same spicy flavor as peppercorns but may be slightly weaker as it ages.

The main pro of using pepper is that you don’t need a grinder; a simple pepper shaker will work fine.

However, the downside of pepper is that it loses its flavor more quickly over time.

All ground spices will lose their flavor as they age at a faster rate than whole spices. This is due to the increased surface area that is exposed to air.

We suggest buying pepper in small quantities for this reason. 

Learn more: Do Spices Ever Go Bad or Expire? How Long Can They Last?

Is Pepper and Peppercorn The Same?

Pepper and peppercorns are the same spice in different forms. Peppercorns are the whole spice, while pepper is the ground version.

So, we know that pepper is just the ground version of peppercorns but which one is better?

There are a few pros and cons to each of these:

  • Pepper is ready to use and easy to just sprinkle into your food.
  • To use peppercorns, you need a pepper grinder.
  • Freshly ground peppercorns have a more spicy flavor than preground pepper.
  • Ground pepper will lose its flavor more quickly due to air exposure.
  • Both forms come in white and black versions.

So, ultimately, it’s not about which one is better but which one you prefer for your personal taste.

Both of these forms will give you the peppery kick that every meal needs; it’s up to you how you choose to do that.


What is the difference between white pepper and black pepper?

White and black pepper is, in fact, the same thing but with one slight difference.

After the pepper berries are picked, the corns are dried with the skin on to form black peppercorns. If this skin is removed, it is known as white pepper.

White pepper is lighter in color and has less heat as a result of shedding its skin.

We recommend keeping both on hand in your spice rack because they are used in slightly different ways, as we have demonstrated.

Is cracked black pepper the same as black peppercorns?

We like to think of cracked black pepper as the stage between whole peppercorns and ground pepper.

It consists of cracked black peppercorns that have been shattered into chunks rather than ground down to a powder. This gives a burst of peppery heat when you want something a little more intense.

Unlike whole peppercorns, you can bite down on a piece of cracked black pepper without hurting your teeth or burning your tongue.

Cracked black pepper is ideal for marinades and rubs for meat because it adds a strong hit of spice that permeates the flesh.

Do you always need to grind peppercorns?

No, in fact, you can add whole peppercorns to dishes like stews and soups to infuse into the dish slowly. Pink peppercorns are used whole almost exclusively.

Whole peppercorns can also be used to stud hams and other meat to season it.

We do not recommend eating black peppercorns whole because it will be very spicy, unpleasant, and dangerous for your teeth.


So, now that you’ve read that, what have you learned about pepper and peppercorns?

  • Peppercorns are dried fruits from a vine.
  • Pepper is created when peppercorns are ground to form a fine powder.
  • These ingredients can be used to substitute for one another.

We hope this has given you some insight into this everyday spice and given you a little more appreciation for it the next time you sprinkle it over your food.

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