What’s the Difference between Red and Black Pepper?

If you want to prepare your first meal for the family and have no idea where to start, let us share some essential details about the two spices you need: red pepper and black pepper. Now you must be wondering what’s the difference between red and black pepper as they are both “peppers.” Shouldn’t they be the same or at least similar? We’ll clear the confusion in a bit, but first, let’s see why these two spices are so important!

Red and black pepper are crucial parts of any box of spices, no matter where you travel worldwide. In tropical and temperature countries like Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, China, Korea, etc., these are used extensively for main dishes. They are different in taste, texture, flavor, and health benefits despite their names.

Difference between Red and Black Pepper

1. Origin of the Two Spices

It’s an easy one! Red pepper and black pepper look different enough to understand that they aren’t derived from the same substance. Red pepper is red in color as it derives from Capsicum annuum plant species. It comes in various forms like red chili flakes, Cayenne pepper, etc.

In contrast, black pepper is black in color and derives from Piper nigrum. It’s a flowing vine that is grown for its peppercorn drupes. The drupes are fruits that are dried to prepare the spice. They are fleshy with a central seed and thin skin, but the seasoning becomes black pepper once they are dried.

2. Further Classification

Red pepper is prepared from one type of plant species, but you can use the spices in various ways. When the Capsicum annuum plant’s fruit is dried and crushed, it creates red pepper flakes. The most popular plant for the preparation of flakes is Serrano. This variety of spices is famous as a condiment.

Red bell peppers are also from the same plant, Capsicum annuum, but they are called sweet pepper or capsicum. Another popular type is Cayenne pepper, used in its original and ground form.

Black pepper does not further classify. It’s simply the product of peppercorns used in a ground form that we call “black pepper powder.”

mixed pink peppercorn and black pepper

3. Pepper Producing Countries

Not all countries produce black and red pepper despite their global demand. Some countries are famous for their authentic products, and some have been growing these peppers long before we globally recognized them! Previously there were only a few countries with the most marketable products, but now red pepper is produced in the following countries:

  • Mexico
  • China
  • Indonesia
  • Turkey
  • Spain
  • India
  • United States
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Black pepper is produced mainly in Asia. Countries native to this pepper are:

  • Indonesia
  • Vietnam
  • Brazil
  • India
  • China

4. Historically Important

Red pepper and black pepper have a history of remedial use because of their origin countries. In ancient Chinese and Indian cultures, healers would use red pepper to treat ulcers and stomachaches. And in 17th century Europe, herbalists used this spice to cure the common cold and fever.

Black pepper was also used for medicinal purposes by ancient Asian cultures to treat ailments like sunburn, toothaches, diarrhea, constipation, and insomnia. Greeks used it to fight the effects of a famous poison: Hemlock. Before people formed the trading routes in Europe, black pepper was a rare condiment called “black gold.” people used it in different parts of the world to pay taxes, rent, dowries, etc.

 red pepper and black peppercorns

5. The Number of Peppers in Black and Red Pepper

Inside the kitchen, no one has time to count the peppers and add them to the dish while cooking. It may take a lot of time if math is not your strong suit and you are cooking for the first time. The food is going to get burned before you are done counting!

To avoid this mishap, great minds came up with the use of black and red peppers in their grounded form so that we could use a teaspoon to measure before adding them. Two dried Cayenne peppers are enough for a teaspoon full of red pepper flakes for red pepper. If you are storing the flakes for later use, you’ll need 96 Cayenne peppers for a cup of red pepper flakes!

As for black pepper, you’ll need 32 peppercorns for one teaspoon of powdered black pepper. And for a cup full of it, you must have at least 1536 peppercorns.

6. Cooking with the Two Peppers

The red pepper variety is so extensive that it can be used in different ways during and after the cooking process. From mild paprika to hot cayenne, there are so many options that you can try and taste until you find the flavor that suits you best!

If you want to add some spiciness to your pasta or pizza, you can choose the red pepper flakes. Aleppo pepper is famously used in Middle Eastern cuisine as a meat and vegetable seasoning. There’s a Urfa pepper (Turkish chili pepper) that you can use during and after cooking as it adds a deep smokey taste to the dish.

As far as black pepper is concerned, though it does not have varieties, it still has enough uses to be called versatile! One of the most basic and widely used pepper is black pepper for seasoning and cooking. You can use the peppercorns to grind them before peppering your meals.

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Another way to use black pepper is to add it to the cooking oil. The spice is fat-soluble; therefore, you can create healthy meals by adding this pepper to the mix. You can also use it for seasoning as black pepper is widely used with salt as a restaurant table condiment.

jars filled with red chili flakes, black pepper, and turmeric powder

7. Flavorful Duo

Although they are both “peppers,” it’s not possible to replace one’s quantity with the same amount of the other! Red pepper’s taste hits a different part of your palate than black pepper. If you want to replace red pepper’s spiciness with black pepper, you will have to use more than the same quantity. Unfortunately, excess black pepper has a bitter taste instead of fiery.

In the case of replacing black pepper with red pepper, you can use a small amount of red pepper as a substitute. Still, this is only for their flavor; the two peppers can’t be replaced based on their appearance! Mainly due to their color differences, but also their textures.

Unless the peppers are grounded to their powdered form (which is when we can tell them apart based on color and taste), the two peppers look very different from each other.

8. Difference in Cuisines

Every cuisine has its unique set of spices that bring out the deliciousness of meat, vegetables, and other foods. Red and black pepper also have their cuisine families where they are most important. For red pepper, it’s Cajun cuisine.

This cuisine used Cayenne and red pepper flakes to enhance the taste of their dishes. These types of peppers are also used in Mexican, Indian, Columbian, and Thai cuisines with meat, seafood, omelets, gravies, etc.

Black pepper is mainly found in European cuisines, adorning the dishes with a mild flavor. It is used for seasoning pasta dishes, meat, vegetables, fish, and salad dressings.

9. When Do They Go Bad?

Spices can last more than a few weeks or months. Some even last a few years if stored correctly. Red and black pepper are among those spices! If you keep red pepper flakes in a dry and cool area secured in an airtight container, the chili flakes will easily last 2 or 3 years.

Red pepper flakes do not rot away, nor do they lose their flavor and aroma. If you suspect that the flakes aren’t good anymore, you can rub a small amount of it in your palm and take a whiff. There will be no aroma if they have gone bad.

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For black pepper storage, you can keep the airtight container full of peppercorns in a cool and dry place for up to four years. Dried black pepper does not rot or lose its flavor or aroma while stored for years.

There is a way to check black pepper for its taste and smell by crushing a peppercorn between your fingers and smelling it or tasting it. Black peppers will lose their scent or flavor if they have gone bad like red peppers. Most people can store them for a long time.


Usually, there are only have 2 or 3 Ingredients on steak! Salt, PEPPER, and Garlic Powder. What if you could enhance the flavor of pepper to make steak better tasting? Is white pepper, red pepper, green pepper any better than black pepper? That is what they are trying to find out with this Pepper Steak Experiment!


We hope you learned a lot of things from the difference between red and black pepper. Both spices have their own importance in the spice family: from nutritional benefits to tasteful encounters, they are essential for our health and palate. We can prepare many tasty dishes using them together or separately. In case there is a need for a home remedy for a mild sickness, these spices can also be used based on their health benefits.  

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