Not All White Pepper Is Gluten Free

Not All White Pepper Is Gluten Free

White pepper is an ingredient that I consume often in Vietnamese food, but it wasn’t until I checked my friend’s spice drawer that I realized there was wheat flour in the white pepper powder ingredients list!

Despite being a pretty experienced gluten free eater, every once in awhile I’ll discover that I’ve been accidentally consuming small amounts of gluten in foods I wouldn’t expect. This can happen because a chef isn’t aware that one of their ingredients contains gluten, or if the ingredients of a product you’ve always bought have changed.

In this article, we’ll figure out why flour would be included in white pepper powder, and identify which brands to avoid. At the bottom, you’ll find a list of some options that are safely gluten free.

white pepper

Ripening peppercorns on the vine from Tony Pham via Unsplash

The Difference Between Black & White Pepper

White pepper is often used in Asian and European cooking. It’s the more subtle sister to black pepper and is produced from the same plant: the piper nigrum pepper vine. Rather than drying the whole peppercorn, white pepper is obtained by soaking ripe peppercorns in water and stripping them of their darker outer husk, leaving only the pale inner portions.

Because of the extra soaking time, white peppercorns tend to have more of a mildly funky, earthy, and sometimes even fermented flavor. This umami-type flavor works well in dishes like congee, bechamel, hot and sour soup, and Swedish meatballs. Besides the difference in flavor from black pepper, another reason cooks use white pepper is to prevent the look of small black flecks in an otherwise pale dish.

white pepper

Swedish Meatballs from Emanuel Ekström via Unsplash

Which white pepper brands aren’t gluten free?

Any spice that’s pure and additive-free is going to be gluten free. The trouble comes when a spice is pale and prone to clumping. As is the case with asafoetida, white pepper is sometimes cut with flour. This is done because it allows the manufacturer to increase profit and helps the spice flow more freely.

white pepper

White peppercorns from The Ho Tieu

Oriental Mascot and Golden Smell brand white pepper powders are not gluten free. As long as you avoid those two brands, and stick to high quality spice companies, most white pepper powders will be gluten free. But always read labels carefully before purchasing pre-ground white pepper, and know that some restaurants might use white pepper cut with flour.

Buy Gluten Free White Pepper

These are some of our favorite brands of white pepper. You can also easily find gluten free options at your local store. When in doubt, whole spices are a safe bet and keep their flavor longer than ground.

white pepper

White pepper in mortar from Taste Cooking

* Title image courtesy of Christina Rumpf via Unsplash.

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