Pepper in cooking

Pepper is today an indispensable ingredient in cooking and occupies a proud place in the cuisines of both East and West. It is used practically in all types of curries, meat and vegetables and most of the fish preparations. The consumer preference for pepper corns is more among the Western people as they relish the presence of pepper in every meal either in ground form, as dried corns or as green pepper (in all cooking and catering literature the world “pepper corn” is used to designate dried black pepper). But it all started in the Indian cuisine, which is one of the richest in the world, being a diverse amalgam of Portuguese, Dutch, French and English cultures. Indian cookery is an art in itself. In every Indian kitchen, pepper plays a versatile and mobile role in the spice box, which contains in its slots, other spices like turmeric, cardamom, cinnamon bark, chillies, cumin, mustard, etc. Pepper is always used in the kitchen to correct or improve a made dish and sometimes directly shifted to the dining table in a fresh ground form. Pepper powder is the only spice served on the dining table, and in flights and fast food restaurants. The most insipid dish can be made sensorilly attractive by a subtle blend of flavouring and seasoning, especially with the pungent taste and spicy aroma of pepper. This goes well with the Indian vegetarian cooking style, which is a number of styles tied together with multitude of herbs and spices. In Western cuisine, black pepper finds use in the preparation of clear soups, cream cheese dips, in most of the savouring dishes and in some cakes and biscuits. Whole pepper corns are added to certain meat dishes, fish preparations, soups and pickles, while ground pepper finds use in salads, eggs and gravies. In addition, pepper is indispensable in making the universally popular salad dressing, viz. the French dressing. In Indian cuisine, pepper is also an essential ingredient in garam masala or curry powder, which is a blend of dried and powdered spices, used as such or in combination with other seasoning. Moreover, in most of the households in Kerala and Western Karnataka, spikes of green pepper are used in a number of dishes.

The following is a list of well-known dishes, wherein pepper is used as one of the essential ingredients.


Pepper tea, pepper coffee, rasala, pepper milk shake, spicy watermelon juice.


Pickled cherries, pickled port of beef, pepper spike pickle, coconut chutney, fresh coriander chutney, green pepper chutney.

Sweets and Snacks

Quick banana pudding, pepper biscuits, vegetable crispies


Mushroom soup, mixed vegetable soup, cream of vegetable soup, clear dal soup, etc.

Meat dishes

Pepper steak, black pepper pot roast, black pepper fried chicken (and in most other meat dishes).

The recipes of some of these delicious items are given below:

Pepper tea

Pepper corns (12 crushed pepper corns for two cups of tea), sugar and milk to taste.

Method: Put water to boil, when it is just hot, add pepper, pour the boiling water over tea and stir well, after 2 minutes, strain, add sugar and milk to individual taste.

Pepper milk shake

Milk — 500 ml, Sugar — 10 teaspoons, pepper corns (Finely powdered — 10), cashew nuts (finely cut & fried — 12).

Method: Boil milk and sugar stirring for about 20 minutes until it thickens a little; chill, garnish with pepper powder and cashew nuts before serving. This can be served hot also.

Pepper spike pickle

Green pepper spike — 1 kg, vinegar — 500 ml, garlic — 1 (big), green chillies — 10, ginger — 2 inch piece, salt — ½ cup, turmeric — 1 teaspoon, oil — 2 tablespoons.

Method: Wash the pepper spikes, wipe, and sprinkle over with salt and set aside for sometime. Peel and slice garlic and ginger, slit green chillies. Heat oil, add garlic, ginger and green chillies, remove pan from fire, add turmeric, stir well, add vinegar and salt. Bring to boil, remove, cool and add prepared pepper spikes. Pack and store in air tight jars.

Pepper biscuits

Wheat flour — 3 cups, salt — 1½ tea spoon, baking powder — 1 teaspoon, fat — 4 tablespoons, pepper — 1 teaspoon, water — 1 cup (slightly less), sugar — 1½ teaspoon.

Method: Sieve wheat flour and baking powder; add salt and freshly powdered pepper; add fat and water and knead into a smooth dough, cool and cut into biscuits and bake till light brown.

Note: These biscuits can also be deep fried. Addition of one teaspoon of dry ginger and one tablespoon of sugar and substitution of half the water with milk can also be done.

Mushroom soup

Mushroom — 100 g, onion — 200 g, milk — 400 ml, water — 600 ml, cornflour — 10 g, butter — 20 g, tomato — 50 g, pepper powder — 5 g, nutmeg powder — 5 g.

Method: Chop onions and mushrooms and roast lightly in butter in a pan, cut tomato in boiled water for three minutes; peel the skin, smash it and strain; mix water and milk together, and boil; mix corn flour in slightly hot milk and add to the boiling milk in low fire, add roasted mushrooms, tomato juice, pepper and nutmeg powder and stir. When it starts thickening, remove from fire.

Pepper steak

Rump steak — 225 g, black pepper corns to taste, salt, potato chips, broccoli and cabbage.

Method: Take steak out of refrigerator well in advance of cooking it. Rub fat in several places to prevent steak curling up as it cooks. Crush pepper corns coarsely in a mortar, pat pepper corns firmly on both sides of the steak and leave for 30 minutes at room temperature to develop flavours. Light grill at maximum temperature and heat for 20 minutes before cooking. Grill steak. Transfer to a hot plate, sprinkle with salt and serve immediately. Garnish with potato chips, broccoli and cabbage.

Pepper pot roast

Bottom round of beef — 2 kg, tomato paste — 180 g, bay leaf — 1 small, pepper corns — 1½ teaspoon, salt — 1½ teaspoon, minced onion — 1 teaspoon, ground pepper — ½ teaspoon, potato — 8 small, carrots — 6 medium.

Method: Brown meat on all sides in heavy kettle, add tomato paste, 1½ cups water, bay leaf, whole pepper, salt and minced onion. Cover and simmer three hours, basting frequently. Add ground pepper, potatoes and carrots, continue cooking 30 minutes until meat in tender.

Pepper fried chicken

Chicken — 1 broiler, milk — 1 cup, ground pepper — 2½ teaspoon, flour — 1½ cup, fat for deep frying milk (for gravy) — 1¾ cup, salt to taste.

Method: Place chicken in a shallow dish. Combine one cup milk, one teaspoon ground pepper and ½ teaspoon of salt and pour over chicken. Cover and refrigerate for two hours. Combine ½ cup of flour, remaining pepper and salt. Cut chicken and coat with flour mixture and refrigerate again for one hour. Cook chicken in deep fat for 15–20 minutes until brown and tender and set aside.

Make cream gravy the following way: Place ¼ cup of fat for deep frying on a saucepan. Blend in ¼ cup for flour, add milk till medium thick, stir and cool. Add salt and pepper (remaining ½ teaspoon). Add gravy to fried chicken pieces and serve with naan or chapathi.

Commercial Formulations

Many commercial formulations of pepper like white pepper products, green pepper, canned green pepper, green pepper in brine, pepper oil, pepper oleoresin, etc. are readily available but are still to find consumer acceptability in the market. The latest spices processing technology which involves encapsulation of the flavouring component viz; spice oils and oleoresin is ready for commercial exploitation.

White pepper

White pepper is preferred to black pepper in some Western countries. It is used as table pepper and also for cream soups, white pickles and sea food salad, casseroles of chicken, egg, fish, etc. It is also used as an ingredient in sauces like mayonnaise and white sauces when the black specks from the skin of black pepper is unseemly.

Green pepper

Green pepper products have now become a favourite in France, Germany and other European countries. Slightly immature corns are preferred for preparing various products due to its high piperine and pepper oil level, which give a biting taste and characteristic flavour along with softness. These qualities make it ideal for garnishing meat dishes. The major products include green pepper in brine, canned green pepper, dehydrated green pepper, freeze dried green pepper, green pepper paste, etc, as mentioned earlier. Canned green pepper is not much popular, due to, its high cost of processing, while the consumer acceptability of green pepper in brine and pepper paste are ever on the increase. Brazil, India and Malaysia are the major producers of these products. Most of the green pepper is used by the catering sector to be served with meat dishes such as steaks and by the food manufacturing industry in a variety of food products including certain types of cheeses.

Pepper oil, oleoresin and encapsulated flavours

The largest use of pepper oleoresin is in flavouring meat. The other end uses are for preparing pickles, sauces, gravies, dressings, chutneys, soups and snacks. Meat is being prepared in most of the countries as a neutral product and pepper has been a traditional ingredient in giving it a flavour. Thus oleoresin goes for the same end use as pepper.

The spray drying technique developed by RRL Thiruvananthapuram, India for encapsulation of oleoresin is a newly emerging technology. The encapsulated flavour powder is used in a variety of products such as dry beverage mixes, cake mixes, infant desserts, soup mixes, dusting on potato chips, nuts etc.


Selections from the book: “Black Pepper. Piper nigrum”. Edited by P.N.Ravindran. Series: “Medicinal and Aromatic Plants — Industrial Profiles”. 2000.