Szechuan peppercorns are flavorful and aromatic spices from the Chinese province of the same name (SAURABH, n.d.). It comes from a spiny shrub that contains dried pods. Because of their source, it is normal for you to find this spice used in Chinese dishes.
They are often served with spicy peppers. They have a pleasant lemony taste and a slight pine fragrance. They are not, in fact, peppers but are often thought to be. It may not be easily available if you do not live near any Chinese community but here are some suitable alternatives to consider
- Tasmanian Pepper
- Grains of Paradise
- Japanese seven-spice seasoning
- Tellicherry pepper
- Black Pepper
- Black pepper and coriander seeds
- Lemon pepper seasoning
Before we delve deep into the possibilities of the various alternatives, let us understand abit more about this popular chinese spice.
10 Best Substitute For Szechuan Peppercorn
There are red and green varieties of Szechuan Peppercorn. The difference is not just in color, either. They do have different flavors. These two types are even harvested from different shrubs.
The green ones have a more robust flavor with a twist of citrus and herbs, which is somehow expected in its color. On the other hand, the red variety has a pine-like taste.
Whichever you choose, you will get a numbing feeling in your mouth, especially if you down your food with a carbonated drink. You can buy this spice in its whole and grounded varieties from Asian stores.
The best substitute for Szechuan peppercorns is Tasmanian pepper. The two spices are close enough in the flavor profile that you can use a 1:1 substitution ratio.
Some may also argue that the best substitutes are Tellicherry peppercorns and Grains of Paradise. You may want to check these three out before moving over to other possibilities.
According to experts, Tasmanian peppers are the best substitutes for Szechuan peppercorns. They are both not part of the Piper nigrum family.
The Tasmanian fever is aromatic like Szechuan peppercorns, but its flavor is closer to fennel and juniper. The woodsy and floral tastes are comparable to the lavender and pine from the Szechuan spice.
Some people call it the Tasmanian answer to peppercorns. This possible substitute is a popular addition to Australian bush food.
Because it’s considered the best substitute, a 1:1 substitution ratio is recommended.
Grains of Paradise
These tiny, reddish-brown, West African seeds have a woody and herbal taste like Szechuan peppercorns. However, unlike our main spice, they also come with a citrusy taste and a cooling flavor that numbs your mouth.
Even so, grains of paradise will linger in your mouth. It works well with rosemary and thyme, which enhance its flavor.
Japanese Seven Spice seasoning
Another name for this substitute is Shichimi togarashi. It is made up of either sansho or Szechuan peppercorns. It is mixed with ground ginger, black and white sesame seeds, dried orange peel, red chili peppers, and seaweed.
While the top two substitutes are the best to consider, the Tellicherry pepper can also work. The pepper’s name comes from Tellicherry (now called Thalassery), India.
Today, this name is used on peppers that have remained on the vine longer than black peppers usually do. They do not necessarily have to come from India.
A Tellicherry pepper comes with herbal and citrus tastes. So, they are good enough to work as Szechuan pepper substitutes.
Sometimes, you just don’t have what you need. So, you can work with black pepper on its own. It can provide you with some peppery heat.
However, the flavor profile lacks the complexity of Szechuan peppercorn and the other substitutes on this list.
Black pepper and coriander seeds
These spices can provide you a little bit of Szechuan pepper flavor. It has a citrus and pine flavor mixed with its spice. This substitution is recommended for those who can’t take the numbing effects of Szechuan peppercorns. It is comparatively mild.
Lemon pepper seasoning
This seasoning is made up of cracked black pepper in granular form, with some lemon zest. Some variations may come with additions, such as cayenne pepper, garlic powder, citric acid, celery seeds, salt, and sugar.
Again, it is one of those substitutes you can buy or make from home. It provides spicy and citrusy flavors. Using lemon pepper seasoning as a substitute is easy because you can use a 1:1 ratio.
Sansho powder is a greenish-brown spice from Japanese pepper bush’s ground berries. It is spicy, as expected, with a citrus flavor. It can leave your mouth numb, just like Szechuan peppercorns could.
This powder is often used in Japanese dishes, such as noodles, sushi, grilled fish, etc. It can substitute for Szechuan peppercorn at a 1:1 ratio.
Szechuan peppercorn oil
The oil version is also an excellent substitute for Szechuan peppercorns. You can buy the oil in Chinese grocery stores. You may also decide to make your own using Szechuan peppercorns, canola, and peanut oil.
You can also use canola instead. Of course, that means you have not run out of the spicy ingredient. However, it may be a good substitution if you want to make things easier for yourself later. Focus on using a few drops first.
Szechuan peppercorn salt
If you want a spicy alternative to your standard salt, you can go with Szechuan peppercorn salt. You can buy it from a store or mix your own. It comprises of 2 tablespoons of Szechuan peppercorns and 4 tablespoons of kosher or sea salt.
The result is very flavorful and can be used for various dishes. Remember to reduce the regular salt that you may still add to your dish if you plan to employ some Szechuan peppercorn salt.
When Do You Need a Substitute for Schezuan Peppercorn?
You ran out of it
The most obvious reason you need a substitute is that you ran out of the original ingredient. You may be in the middle of cooking something, and you want something already in your pantry.
You don’t have access to a Chinese grocery store
It is possible not to get Schezuan peppercorns from your local grocery. You may think you can quickly get the ingredient, but it is more complicated than you may think. So, if you can’t wait for a delivery from your preferred online shop, you may have to go with a substitute.
You want a different flavor profile
You can find a similarly hot substitute, but you may want a little variety from the citrusy green Schezuan that the pine-like red Schezuan can provide.
You don’t want your mouth to get numb when eating
Some of the substitutes are hot enough but do not numb your mouth as much as Szechuan peppercorn does. So if you’d rather keep things slightly milder than usual, you can go for a substitute, instead.
Szechuan Peppercorn Substitute Related FAQs
Where do you buy high-quality Schezuan peppercorns?
As mentioned earlier, finding Schezuan peppercorns is more complicated than it seems.
The ones you will find in the United States have poor quality. This situation may have arisen from the 1967 USDA ban on Chinese citrus. It was supposed to prevent the spread of citrus canker disease, a bacterial disease.
In 2005, the ban was lifted, but exporters must treat the peppercorns with heat to eliminate potential bacteria. So, a lot of the best ones can be bought online. You must order your supply ahead of time to avoid running out.
How do you store them?
Some may think there’s no problem storing Szechuan peppercorns because they are dried. However, as with any food item, it is best to preserve them and ensure they do not quickly lose their taste and potency.
Store your peppers in the fridge. Even better, store them in the freezer.
How do you know your Szechuan peppercorns have gone stale?
If your peppercorns have not been stored properly, they may quickly go stale. Give them a sniff. If you don’t get a citrusy smell, you may not be getting the same potent taste. You may even need to discard it.
The citrusy smell of this spice is so potent that there is something wrong when you are not getting a whiff.
What are Szechuan peppercorn benefits?
So, you may wonder: is there an argument for keeping Szechuan peppercorn as the actual ingredients?
Well, there are. Here are some of the benefits of using them as spices:
- They can help you with your appetite.
- They can reduce pain and inflammation.
- They can stimulate your circulation.
- They may give you an immunity boost.
- They may improve your vision.
Most of the benefits above are self-explanatory. The spicy taste may help you eat more as you add other food items to somehow kill the burn. In itself, it can stimulate your taste buds. Of course, this particular benefit is directed toward those who struggle to get the appetite to eat.
How do you prepare Szechuan peppercorns?
When preparing Chinese dishes, you must toast Szechuan peppercorns before crushing and grounding them. This process emphasizes the woody flavor over the citrus one[Source]
Toasting it requires using a dry skillet and setting it to medium heat. Stir for approximately a minute or until you start smelling its fragrance. Cool the toasted peppercorns first before grinding and using them for your recipes.
What happens next depends on what you need the peppercorns for. If you need it for a meat rub, you can blend the toasted peppercorns with ground black pepper and coarse salt. Mix with mayonnaise if you need it for some sort of sandwich spread.
It is pretty flexible and can be mixed with various ingredients you need for the recipe you have in mind.
What is the difference between black pepper and Szechuan peppercorn?
Szechuan peppercorn packs in more heat and has a more complex flavor profile. On the other black peppercorn is so common and primarily provides heat.
What’s the difference between Sichuan and Szechuan?
While reading about the spice, you will encounter both spellings. Szechuan is a more common east coast spelling, while Sichuan is more western.
Are Szechuan peppercorns the same as red peppercorns?
Szechuan peppercorns have red and green varieties. The green varieties do not become red when they are ripe. They are entirely different from the red ones.