Pink peppercorns are an incredible and, I think, a bit underused spice. True, they aren’t the easiest to find, but these little guys have a different complexity from black, white, or green peppercorns that is worth exploring. What’s lovely about this spice is how seamlessly it can blend into different cuisines – Mediterranean, latin, south asian to name a few. It adds its own distinct flavor without disrupting the overall character of a dish.
So the rub is that pink peppercorns aren’t really true peppercorns after all and are unrelated to the black sort we use in everyday cooking. They are actually berries that are found on a specific tree, not vine grown as most other peppercorns are. On the tree, they start out green, turn yellow, and ripen into the beautiful pinky-red you see here.
What do they taste like? I’d say they are closer to a super mild chili pepper. They have a very thin skin, little heat (nothing that lingers), and have a pine-like quality, sweet fruitiness, and a bit of floral all at the same time. Don’t be afraid to sample them on their own – they actually taste interesting on their own and would be great sprinkled on a salad.
In South America, they are used to flavor alcoholic beverages and are also a popular ingredient in French cuisine. They work extremely well with poultry and fish, but I think they make a great substitute for green peppercorns in a steak sauce. I recently used them to create a chutney with rhubarb and strawberries that was also scented with star anise.
Do not grind them in a peppermill. The skin is thin, as I mentioned, and they’ll get stuck in there. Pink peppercorns are delicate (and not cheap) and break apart easily. I like to rub them between my palms to activate their oils and crush them up.
Would love to hear how you might have used these in the past!