Difference Between Red Pepper and Black Pepper

Red pepper and black pepper are essential spices that are used in numerous cuisines across the globe. They are extensively used in tropical countries such as India, Thailand, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Jamaica, Ethiopia, Malaysia, Brazil, and Indonesia. Additionally, these peppers are widely used in temperate countries such as China and Korea. Although, both the peppers provide heat, yet their flavors are different. The difference between these peppers must be known so that they can be aptly used.

How to differentiate between red pepper and black pepper?

The easiest way to find the difference between the two types of pepper lies in their names, where red pepper is red in color and black pepper is black in color. They have different appearances because they are obtained from two different plants.

Red pepper, on the other hand, is derived from the Capsicum annuum plant species. It comes in various forms, the first one first being the red pepper flakes. They are prepared from numerous varieties of Capsicum annuum by drying and crushing of the fruit. Serrano is a popular variety from which red pepper flakes are made. Red pepper flakes are widely used as condiments on restaurant tables. Another type of red pepper is Cayenne pepper, which belongs to the Capsicum annuum species. Both types of red peppers have a Scoville score between 30000 and 50000 units. They are grown in tropical as well as subtropical areas. Cayenne pepper is also used in the ground form, which may or may not include the seeds. The top red pepper producing countries are China, Mexico, Turkey, Indonesia, India, Spain, and the United States. Red bell peppers must not be confused with red peppers as they are popularly known as capsicum or sweet pepper, although they belong to the same plant species of Capsicum annuum.

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Black pepper is derived from a flowing vine known as Piper nigrum. The vines are grown to obtain peppercorn drupes, which are fleshy fruits with thin skin and a central seed. The spice is prepared by drying the drupes, which can then be used for seasoning. Peppercorns along with its grounded form are collectively referred to as black pepper. It is native to both South Asia and South-East Asia. The top black pepper producing countries are Vietnam, Indonesia, India, Brazil, and China. Black pepper draws its heat and pungency from piperine, which is an alkaloid or nitrogenous compound. However, the black spice provides lesser heat when compared with its red counterpart. Apart from the heat aspect, ground black pepper gives a more complex flavor with the odor of citrus and pine.

Can the peppers be interchanged?

In dishes that require a little amount of heat, either pepper can be used, provided their quantities are adjusted based on their differing heat levels. The substitution of red pepper with the same quantity of black pepper wouldn’t make the food as hot. Whereas, excess amounts of black pepper would give a bitter flavor. Black pepper can be substituted with a little bit of red pepper. However, when it comes to appearance, substitution is not a great idea.

Where are these peppers used?

Red pepper flakes and Cayenne pepper are essential to the Cajun cuisine. These peppers are widely used in Indian, Thai, Mexican and Columbian cuisines. They are used in either form on cheese-based dishes, omelets, meats, seafood, casseroles, and gravies. Black pepper, on the other hand, is widely used in European cuisine, which is known for its mild flavor. They are used to add spice and flavor to salad dressings, pasta, meats, vegetables, and fish.