Black pepper - food

Black pepper is a hotly pungent spice made from the fruits of the climbing plant Piper nigrum. It is one of the earliest known and probably most widely used spices in the world today. It is used as a flavouring, particularly for savoury foods and meat dishes. Black pepper, white pepper and green peppercorns are all produced from the same fruits, but vary in their harvesting times and processing techniques. Black pepper is also used to produce pepper oil and oleoresin, both of which are frequently used in the food industry.


A photograph of mixed white, green and black peppercorns.
Image: Mixed white, green and black peppercorns.

Black pepper is used universally around the world. India is the top producer and exports much of what is grown. Peppercorns from Malabar and Tellicherry in Kerala, India, are particularly prized for flavour and pungency.

Both black and white pepper are widely used in South Asian savoury cuisine, in all stages of cooking and as a table condiment. It is used in sauces, meat dishes and snack foods. The oil and oleoresin is used to produce convenience foods and sometimes in perfumery. Of secondary importance is the use of preserved immature green pepper or fresh pepper fruits. They are eaten more like a vegetable.