One Ingredient, Many Ways: Black Pepper
By Leah Koenig
I don't think it's ever been the case that I've found myself with too much black pepper in the pantry, and no idea what to do with it. Eminently useful, pepper is one of the most ubiquitous ingredients around—after salt, it may show up in more dishes than any other in SAVEUR. It provides a welcome dose of flinty heat to almost any savory dish, and many sweet dishes as well.
Until about a decade ago, most home cooks in America relied on containers of ground pepper, which may have looked the part, but all that time the grounds spent hanging out airtight shakers dulled their fiery flavor. Freshly ground black pepper, which tastes rich and smoky, was mostly limited to the sorts of restaurants where white-gloved servers hovered over diners' plates wielding their oversized mills.
But today, pepper mills have found their way into the home kitchen, and black peppercorns (both ground and whole) are coming into their own as a spice worthy of attention—not just salt's companion, no longer a supporting role, but a flavor note in its own right. From the classic Roman dish of pastacacio e pepe (cheese and black pepper) to new tastes like spicy black pepper tofu, a cocktail made with a black pepper simple syrup, or a peppercorn-infused cranberry sauce—celebrate pepper's full-bodied heat with recipes that put the world's most useful seasoning into the spotlight.
Stir Fried Rice Vermicelli with Black Pepper and Chinese Chives
Super-thin pasta and crunchy mung beans are mixed with spicy chives and a heavy dose of freshly ground black pepper.
Cacio e Pepe (Cheese and Pepper Pasta)
Rome's famous pasta preparation combines spaghetti with lots of grated cheese and spicy black pepper.
Sweet Potatoes with Brown Sugar and Black Pepper
Dress up baked sweet potatoes with butter, dark brown sugar and several twists of the pepper grinder.
Black Pepper Tofu
Chef and cookbook author Yotam Ottolenghi's sweet, fiery, buttery dish offers a remarkably decadent way to eat tofu.
Black Pepper Crab
Kick up boiled crab with lots of chiles, soy sauce, and a hit of black pepper.
Made with traditional fermentation methods, these sour pickles are packed with spices, including whole peppercorns.
Spicy Okra Pickles
Okra pods taste delicious when softened in a mix of vinegar, mustard and fennel seeds, and plenty of black peppercorns.
Cranberry Sauce with Black Pepper
Whole black peppercorns and allspice berries add depth to a cooked cranberry sauce.
Black Pepper Ice Cream
The addition of crushed black peppercorns heightens the vanilla flavor in this creamy ice cream.
Black Pepper Shortbread
Chef Anita Lo's take on buttery shortbread is spiced up with lemon zest and 50 grinds of black pepper.
Classic Iced Chai
Black pepper is one of the main spices in the classic Indian tea.
The Mr. Adams
This beer-based cocktail is enlivened by a drizzle of black pepper-infused syrup.
Vodka gets a classy makeover with black pepper simple syrup and citrusy grapefruit juice.
Spiked Cocktail Onions
Drop one of these nutmeg and peppercorn–spiced onions into your next martini for an extra-special kick.