What Is Pink Pepper?

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1Fake It Til You Make It

Though both pink peppercorn and true red peppercorn are both often called “red peppercorn”, this is a bit of a misnomer. The “pink peppercorn” bears no relation to the true peppercorn plant, piper nigrum. Though the true peppercorn does ripen into a red-orange, actual red peppercorn is very rare, and therefore expensive. Most distributors turn to pink peppercorn, or “rose pepper,” for color and flavor notes in peppercorn blends.

The pink peppercorn found in many pepper blends comes from the genus Schinus. The berry itself may come from one of two species: schinus molle, or schinus terebinthifolius. Known as the Peruvian and Brazilian pepper tree respectively, both molle and terebinthifolius are native to South America (true peppercorn is native to India).  In fact, the plants grow so well throughout the Americas that schinus terebinthifolius has been classified as an invasive species by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

These genetic differences mean little to those primarily concerned with the pepper’s culinary uses. The schinus species has a peppery taste, like the true peppercorn, but its sweet and menthol notes set it apart as a spice. It lends a balance to peppercorn blends, and is delicious on its own in cooking and baked goods.