11 Best Sichuan Peppercorn Substitutes

Sichuan peppercorn is a crucial ingredient in many Chinese and Asian recipes. But what if you don’t have Sichuan peppercorn when you need it in a recipe?

You can permanently settle for other Sichuan peppercorn substitutes, such as black peppercorns, Tasmanian peppercorns, negro peppercorns, paracress, water pepper, etc.

Using suitable Sichuan peppercorn substitutes will keep your meal spiced with just the right amount. Let’s quickly learn about these options and why they make perfect replacements for Sichuan peppercorns!

What Is Sichuan Peppercorn?

Sichuan peppercorns are not chili pepper or even a relative; they are fragrant and a tingly mouth-numbering spice from the Chinese province.

It comes from dried husks of the Chinese prickly ash tree and is a common ingredient in many different traditional dishes of Chinese cuisine.

The dried fruits of the Sichuan pepper and its relatives belong to the citrus (zanthoxylum species) family. They have an aromatic flavor that some species can be described as lemon-like, with more or less pronounced warm and woody overtones.

Some of the species have deviating flavors. The taste of most species is pungent and biting; it takes some time to develop but, in the end, produces a mentholated numbering effect in the tongue.

This species makes Sichuan peppercorn, five-spice powder, Sichuan pepper salt, and Sichuan pepper oil and is used in many meat dishes, such as noodles, seafood, and vegetables. You can find it grounded or whole in Asian stores.

Some countries have a hard time finding Sichuan peppercorn, or its availability is low. Although Sichuan is irreplaceable, some other ingredients are qualified to mimic Sichuan peppercorn. See below for suitable substitutes.

Best Sichuan Peppercorn Substitutes

1. Tasmanian peppercorns

Sichuan Peppercorn Substitutes

Tasmanian pepper is a spice derived from the berries of a shrub native to Australia. They are dried berries that resemble black pepper grain in color and size but have a sweet-fruity spicy taste in the first second.

Followed by intensive pungency, which again does not last long but gives way to a strange sensation of numbness similar to Sichuan. Like Sichuan peppercorn, Tasmanian is best used in dishes with longer flavors and pairs like curries, stews, soups, and salad dressing.

Tasmanian peppercorn is popularly used in emu burgers and other Australian bush foods, just as in Sichuan cuisines. Sichuan peppercorn can be replaced with Tasmanian peppercorn in a concentration of 1.

2. Black peppercorns

If you don’t have access to Sichuan peppercorns, this may be because it is difficult to find in your area. Buy black peppercorn, which is easy to find in any grocery store.

This dried fruit, usually known as “peppercorn,” depends on harvest time and processing; peppercorns can be white, green, red, or black.

The traditional types are black and white peppercorns with a strong spice and aromatic flavor intensity like that of Sichuan peppercorns that will help lighten up your dish. Still, you will not feel the numbing sensation that Sichuan peppercorns are known for.

3. Negro peppercorns (Senegal peppercorn)

They look like small twisted bean pods, with dark brown color, and are used in west African dishes. Negro peppercorns are aromatic, spicy, and slightly bitter, just like Sichuan pepper. The hull is aromatic but not the grain itself.

4. Tellicherry pepper

Tellicherry peppercorns originated in India. It has a complex flavor that can be explained as fresh, bright, sweet, and with a hint of herbal and citrus flavor, making it a good stand-in for Sichuan pepper in a ratio of one to one.

Tellicherry peppercorns work well in many sauces, meats, seafood, vegetables, soups, and stews.

5. Grains of paradise

A spice found on the west coast of Africa. The seeds have a woody, cooling flavor with a warm, peppery taste like a tender flame. Grains of paradise are mainly used in North African cuisines. The taste or flavor is similar to citrus, cardamom, and coriander.

It can be an excellent substitute for Sichuan pepper because they both taste similar in their mild citrus-like aftertaste and have the same size and shape as Sichuan. Grains of paradise work best with African cuisine, such as stewed meats. They give your foods a warm, earthy flavor.

So stick to heavier, warm dishes if you are using them in Chinese cooking. Use twice the number of the required Sichuan to imitate its fiery taste.

6. Sansho powder

It is a Japanese pepper spice that comes from the berries of the prickly ash tree. It has a green-brown color with a spicy, tangy flavor. It is typically used in noodle dishes, adding a bit of lemon pepper-like flavor, leaving a numbing sensation in your mouth, just like Sichuan peppercorns.

You can also use it in Japanese noodle dishes, grilled meat, and grilled fish.

7. Coriander

Coriander is widely mentioned as a Sichuan peppercorn substitutes because of its citrusy flavor and spiciness. However, because it lacks the heat of peppercorns, it is best used in combinations with other spices to accent its distinct characteristics.

For an excellent blend of fruity aromas and earthy spices, combine equal parts coriander and black pepper.

You can also consider white pepper, a better option for dishes with a lighter flavor. When combined, the blend is close to Sichuan peppercorns in taste and can be used for stews and other classic Chinese dishes.

8. Juniper

Juniper berries have the same size and shape as peppercorns, but their flavor is vastly different from any other option described above. They are derived from conifers and maintain some of its pine tastes, spiciness, and fruitiness. They can be crushed and ground just like peppercorns and used similarly.

Since Juniper berries have a distinctive flavor, you want to be careful how you use them. Traditionally, they are paired with meat, specifically for rabbits and pheasants.

9. Sumac

Sumac is actually more like a juniper in flavor than Sichuan peppercorn, though you can use it in a pinch. Rather than the subtle fruitiness of Sichuan pepper, sumac is much more citrusy, even similar to vinegar in taste. Because of this, you want to limit the amount you use to just a sprinkle.

Sumac is best used as a seasoning after cooking, where it can be sprinkled directly over dishes to brighten up the flavor. It goes well on salads and other light dishes and can even serve as a sharp accent to meat, making it a good Sichuan peppercorn substitutes.

10. White peppercorns

Think of white pepper as a middle-ground between black pepper and Sichuan pepper. It has a milder flavor, but you might want to use it in similar amounts when using it as Sichuan peppercorn substitutes. Too much of it can leave a strong, grassy flavor.

Because of its milder flavor, white pepper is best used in lighter dishes where black pepper would otherwise overpower the dish. It’s already a common ingredient in many Chinese dishes. It also goes especially well with seafood.

11. Sichuan Oil

Sichuan pepper oil is infused with Sichuan peppercorn and has a similar spicy, citrusy flavor. Hence this is one of the best Sichuan peppercorn substitutes you can use.

Sichuan pepper oil creates a similar mala or numbness in the mouth and can be used in all dishes which demand Sichuan peppercorn. However, the oil has a high concentration of Sichuan peppercorn. Therefore when used as a Sichuan peppercorn substitutes, start by using only a small amount.

How Do We Use Sichuan Peppercorn?

You can use this peppercorn in two forms:

1. Whole form

Here, you could use them when stir-frying, braising, salad dressing, dumpling seasoning, marinating, and more. I encourage people to use it when braising dishes like pork, duck, or lamb.

Apart from adding aromatic flavor to the dishes, it also removes the game flavors that meat sometimes has.

2. Powdered form

It is part of the five-spice Chinese powder. You can buy the Sichuan peppercorn power in shops, although the best form is when you freshly grind the peppercorn. You do it by cooking the peppercorns in oil until they turn brown, then drain off the oil and grind the Sichuan peppercorn.

This process eliminates the raw numbing sensation while adding the rounded aroma. This powdered Sichuan peppercorn will require that you use more since it is now less potent. It is best preferred for fried and cold dishes.

Since this is a flavor enhancer, expect your sweet dishes to be sweeter and salty dishes to be saltier. Nevertheless, when you have a visitor unsure whether they will love your whole peppercorn, you can permanently remove them after the food is cooked to ensure they don’t crush them as they eat.

 However, one fact is that even those who have never used it may love it at first and even become addicted.

Benefits Of Sichuan Peppercorn

As a medicine

It is a medicinal plant used when making traditional medicines in China and India. The berries and bark are both used as herbs that purify the blood, help digestion, and act as anti-rheumatic.

Peppercorn is an ingredient in Ayurvedic medicine that aids in treating diarrhea, asthma, bronchitis, rheumatism, and mouth disease. The ground bark also helps in healing toothache.

Health benefit

If you use Sichuan peppercorn frequently, you will reduce the tendency to get anemia from the high-level iron found in Sichuan peppercorn. This iron increases hemoglobin production, which helps oxygenate the blood and, consequently, proper blood circulation.

The chemicals found in Sichuan peppercorn help reduce the body’s pain. While it is not a medically proven painkiller, it is a unique form of pain relief. Sichuan peppercorn contains different nutrients, minerals, and antioxidants required by the body to function correctly.

Conclusion

After reading this post, I’m sure you have all you need to continue with the recipes that call for Sichuan peppercorn.

Sichuan peppercorn is beneficial in enhancing the flavor of your dishes. However, if you cannot see Sichuan peppercorn, you can use any of the Sichuan peppercorn substitutes listed above, as it will also give your dish a yummy taste, like Sichuan peppercorn.

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