Black peppercorns stand as a cornerstone when it comes to cooking and, in combination with salt, they lay the foundation of nearly every cuisine.
While most people wouldn’t think twice about the type of peppercorn to use, knowing the difference between the varieties of this spice may open up an entirely new flavor palette and appreciation for peppercorns.
So, what’s the difference between Tellicherry peppercorns and black peppercorns? Black peppercorns are the most used and commonly known variety while Tellicherry peppercorns are usually used as a culinary choice. Tellicherry peppercorns also tend to be larger than their black pepper counterpart and also have citrus subtones along with a stronger aroma.
There is so much more that Tellicherry peppercorns have to offer than just their size and flavor. Read on to find out more!
The Difference Between Tellicherry And Black Peppercorns
Hailing from the same flowering vine in the Piperaceae plant family, Tellicherry peppercorns are grown and cultivated in many tropical regions around the world.
Primarily, they share a strong history with Kerala, a state in southwestern India where they are grown and used extensively.
This particular spice is considered to be like caviar in the peppercorn world. Tellicherry peppercorns look similar to black pepper but differ in size. However, the real difference is in the details.
While regular peppercorns are commonly used in many recipes, Tellicherry peppercorns are used for a more impactful flavor and aroma. We highly recommend that you try them to improve your dishes.
In fact, Tellicherry peppercorns can also easily replace regular black pepper too! These peppercorns pair extremely well with any type of protein. For example, you can make Tellicherry peppercorn chicken, prawns, soup, and more.
|Black Peppercorns||Tellicherry Peppercorns|
|Smaller in size (around 2-3 millimeters)||Larger than regular peppercorns (4-5 millimeters)|
|Mild aroma||Stronger flavor and aroma|
|Unremarkable flavor profile||Complex flavor profile with citrus undertones|
|Mild freshness when bit down or grounded||Bright, subtly sweet, and particularly fresh flavor|
|Tend to be spicier||Not as spicy|
Both peppercorns come from the same plant and are grown together. The fruit is first allowed to grow and then picked. Next, they are dried using either traditional or industrial techniques and then sorted. This is where the difference begins.
While sorting, the peppercorns are separated as per their size. The regular shaped and sized peppercorns ranging from 2-3 mm are called “whole peppercorns” and are the type that you may already be familiar with.
The larger ones, ranging from 4-5 mm are separated and considered to be Tellicherry. The peppercorns are then packed, priced, and sold separately.
Naturally, the size and the growth rate of the fruit determine its flavor profile.
A larger peppercorn will be more pungent, a bit less spicy, and more flavorful than a smaller peppercorn, which is why they are required to be classified as Tellicherry peppercorns and sold separately in the market.
Interestingly, the Tellicherry peppercorns that come out of the Indian state, Kerala, are sought after all over the world due to their superior taste and cultivation.
Generally speaking, larger peppercorns are termed as Tellicherry, which can be grown in tropical climates.
However, the ones that are produced in Kerala are highly regarded due to the favorable soil and the environmental and growing conditions for the plant and fruit.
Using Tellicherry And Black Peppercorns
Around the world, many renowned chefs use Tellicherry peppercorns as a secret ingredient. The fact is, most people will not be able to tell the difference or even know about these two peppercorns by sight alone.
It is only when they are used in the right way that they start to make a huge difference.
Whether you are preparing a broth, stew, or any other savory dish, Tellicherry peppercorns will be able to help you achieve wonders.
Owing to their pungent taste, amazing aroma, and mix of sweet and citric flavors, they can add a layer of complexity that will make your recipe stand out!
They are so versatile that they can be used in any type of cuisine. For example, Tellicherry peppercorns are used in the preparation of the meat and rice of mandi, an extremely popular dish in the Middle East.
You can also use it in Western and Chinese cuisine. Heck, you can season your steak with it too! Grounded Tellicherry peppercorns provide a much stronger aroma and can be used to spice up any dish.
Of course, you will need to adjust your quantity if you are replacing regular whole peppercorns.
Pro Tip: Most chefs will use Tellicherry peppercorns while making broths by allowing them to boil in the broth and then squishing them with the back of a spoon to release more flavor, all before removing them entirely.
This technique adds a complex flavor without leaving a trace of the peppercorns.
When NOT To Use Tellicherry Peppercorns
Due to their complex and strong flavor profile, you may need to be careful when using Tellicherry peppercorn.
Some home cooks believe that more is better, but the truth is, not everyone is crazy about pepper. Some might even skip it when it comes to everyday recipes.
As a basic rule of thumb, use caution when:
- Seasoning basic recipes that don’t require a pungent pepper flavor
- Wanting other complex flavors to stand out more
- Seasoning simple salads
As said before, the use of Tellicherry peppercorn usually comes down to culinary choice. If you are purposefully looking to impart a deeper pepper flavor with a citric subtone then Tellicherry is the way to go.
But if you are looking to push back on the pepper so that other flavors can be more prominent, you could either reduce the quantity of Tellicherry peppercorns or substitute them with regular peppercorns.
For example, you may not want to use Tellicherry peppercorns with fried eggs just because they would have too strong a flavor than you would normally be used to, but if you don’t mind something stronger, then go right ahead!
Likewise, these peppercorns should also be used with caution when seasoning salads.
Cooking With Tellicherry Peppercorns
As mentioned before, Tellicherry peppercorns are used around the world and can pair well with every type of recipe. They are highly regarded for their distinguished flavor and are considered to be the best peppercorn in the world.
From rice and steaks to broths and more, these peppercorns will be able to provide you with a lot of opportunities. Therefore, we urge you to expand your flavor palette to make use of this versatile spice.
For example, if you are looking to explore the wonderful and flavorful world of Asian cuisine, there is no better way to start than with these peppercorns.
Used widely in India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and more, Tellicherry peppercorns will usually be found in many Asian kitchens.
However, their use may be limited due to their stronger flavor profile but that doesn’t mean that you can’t experiment with it!
If you are a chef who is looking to expand your flavor and ingredient arsenal, then we highly recommend that you explore recipes that take advantage of Tellicherry peppercorns to their fullest.
Also, if you are just a connoisseur of great food, we are sure that you will find these particular peppercorns to leave a lasting impression as well.
Most people tend to hesitate while trying substitutes in their recipes, however, this is one case where using a substitute might completely change your mind.
Tellicherry peppercorns will be able to easily replace regular peppercorns as long as you use the right proportions.
Meat Seasoned With Tellicherry Peppercorns
One of the best ways to experience Tellicherry peppercorns is by using them in meat dishes. These peppercorns have an edge when it comes to flavor, are slightly sweeter, but also more pungent and slightly citric.
Most chefs will make use of Tellicherry peppercorns when marinating meat or while preparing steak seasoning. The added complexity and strong aroma of this pepper will stand out not just while eating but while cooking as well.
Tellicherry peppercorns are also slightly less spicy than regular black peppercorns, which means that you would have some headroom to add in different spices and in turn, an extra layer of flavor to your dish.
Toasting these peppers will release their fragrant molecules which will have a subtle but noticeable difference as compared to regular black peppercorns.
This is why they can also impart an even greater aroma when you cover the food for a while when it cooks.
Roasting Tellicherry peppercorns and grinding them will allow you to use these peppers in a totally different way too. If you are into garam masala, then we highly recommend that you roast your spices before grinding them!
A Few Tips For Using Tellicherry Peppercorns
One of the best ways to enjoy these peppercorns without having to bite down on them is by simmering them in boiling water or stock.
If you want to go a step further, we recommend squishing these peppercorns with the back of a spoon to release even more flavor. You can sift and discard the whole spices later for a neater finish.
Tellicherry peppercorns are also great for seasoning and presentation. Whole spices with rice are a particular favorite among many cuisines and can help enhance not just the flavor but the look of the dish when served as well.
These peppercorns can also be grounded up and stored in a container or as part of a seasoning. They have a similar shelf life to regular black pepper so you can store them however you like.
Of course, the difference between shelved and fresh pepper is always going to be prominent but the overall pungency of the Tellicherry peppercorn will always remain intact.
So, now that you know the difference between black peppercorns and Tellicherry peppercorns, here are a few related questions that you may have regarding these spices!
Can Tellicherry peppercorns be used instead of white pepper?
Yes, you can replace white pepper with Tellicherry pepper in small quantities, but you will have to consider the amount and the stronger flavor of Tellicherry peppercorns while cooking.
Both spices can be used interchangeably in recipes that don’t require that much pepper, to begin with.
But if you are replacing Tellicherry with white pepper in a recipe called “Tellicherry Peppercorn Chicken” then you are bound to deviate from the intended flavor, and vice versa.
Are Tellicherry peppercorns only available in India?
No, because Tellicherry peppercorns come from the same type of plant that grows regular peppercorns. The difference is in how much the fruit grows and how big they get.
The smaller, dried fruit become whole peppercorns while the big ones are sorted and are considered as Tellicherry peppercorns.
Both of them come from the same plant and are grown in tropical regions around the globe, especially in Asia and countries like India, Vietnam, China, Pakistan, and more.
Do Tellicherry peppercorns look and taste different than other peppercorns?
Yes, black peppercorns and Tellicherry peppercorns have a marked difference in how they taste.
Although they might look the same to an unsuspecting person, Tellicherry peppercorns have a much more complex flavor and are regarded as a bit sweet with a subtly higher citric flavor than regular peppercorns.
In reality, Tellicherry peppercorns are only a few millimeters larger than regular peppercorns and tend to be a bit less spicy but the complexity in the flavor that they impart is unmistakable.
Tellicherry peppercorns are much stronger in their aroma and flavor profile than regular peppercorns.
Can you replace black peppercorns with Tellicherry peppercorns?
Yes, you can easily replace black peppercorns with Tellicherry peppercorns wherever it is needed.
The only consideration that you need to keep in mind is the quantity. Since Tellicherry peppercorns are much more pungent, they need to be used in a smaller proportion when replacing with whole peppercorns.
Tellicherry peppercorns can also replace other types of peppercorns so long as they aren’t used extensively in any dish.
Using more Tellicherry peppercorns can create an imbalance in the flavor of your dish, especially if you aren’t aiming for a strong peppery flavor.
Do Tellicherry peppercorns have a better shelf life?
No, there is no evidence to support that Tellicherry peppercorns have a better shelf life than other peppers.
However, there are many ways that you can use to extend the shelf life of your spices. The best way is to store them in a cool and dry place in an air-tight container.
The best way to experience these spices is fresh. Therefore, we recommend that you grind Tellicherry and use them immediately for the best results.
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