Browse our flavourful collection of peppercorn recipes, including Pascal Aussignac's grilled prawns and poutargue risotto, Alfred Prasad's pepper chicken, and Nigel Haworth's lonk lamb Lancashire hotpot.
The small round peppercorn berries are the dried fruits of a vine native to southern India where it's been used in cooking since at least 2000 BC. Pepper is notably warm, intense and spicy and comes in a rainbow of varieties, distinguished by the time at which the berry is picked from the vine and lending subtle variations to the resulting spice.
Common black peppercorns are picked from the vine when green and then dried in the sun until they turns black.
Green peppercorns derive from immature berries, which gives them a milder flavour than black peppercorns. Bryan Webb likes to use them in terrine of calves liver and in steak au poivre.
White peppercorns are left on the vine longer than black or green peppercorns - the white berry appears when the outside husk of the peppercorn falls away. The result is a warm, spicy berry, less pungent than black peppercorns, and very handy for cream sauces and other dishes where you don't want to add any colour.
Red peppercorns derive from the fully ripened berries, which are not usually left on the vines for this amount of time. Quite rare, they have a similar flavour to black peppercorns but with a sweet undertone.
Pink peppercorns are not peppercorns at all but are in fact the dried berries of the Baies Rose plant. They have a flavour similar to juniper and aniseed and lack the characteristic pepperiness of true peppercorns. Marcello Tully uses them to season cured salmon as well as in a pastry for a Camembert tart.