Booze, dessert, and a dish covered in cheese—black pepper is coming out of the shadows and taking center stage.

By Ananda Eidelstein
Updated November 29, 2018
Tout: The Surprising Ingredient That Transforms Both Sweet and Savory Dishes (1218STA)
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If you’ve ever wondered what black pepper is, it’s actually a dried berry. It’s the key to a balanced dish—next to salt—and as you might see in all of our recipes, we always call for pepper straight out of the grinder. When it’s ground, instead of the pre-ground pepper sold at the grocery store, the flavor of the peppercorns are bolder. But freshly ground black pepper or crushed black peppercorns (whatever your preference) is not just for savory dishes. Yes, it’s a non-negotiable in the Cacio e Pepe Cauliflower recipe below, but it’s also a striking addition in mulled wine made with fresh ginger and also easy homemade chocolate truffles. Take the easy ideas below and give new life to an everyday ingredient. One teaspoon is about 100 grinds, but don’t worry: it goes fast. A small tabletop coffee grinder or this gorgeous spice grinder can help. A little pinch bowl of freshly ground black pepper is always nice to have around, too.

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Spicy Mulled Wine
Credit: Greg DuPree

1 Spicy Mulled Wine

Mulled wine is the comforting boozy drink to gather around when the temperatures start to drop. Often overwhelming sweet, this is a more mellow version but with some added heat thanks to fresh ginger and black peppercorns. Grab that bottle of red and get cozy. Serve with these cheesy peppadew bites or flatbread.

Get the recipe: Spicy Mulled Wine

Cacio e Pepe Cauliflower
Credit: Greg DuPree

2 Cacio e Pepe Cauliflower

Cacio e pepe is a classic Italian pasta dish popping up in more than just pasta in restaurants all over. The bold combination of pecorino cheese and black pepper is irresistible. Cauliflower steps in for pasta for a veggie side dish (or main!) to make anyone swoon.

Get the recipe: Cacio e Pepe Cauliflower

Chocolate-Pepper Truffles
Credit: Greg DuPree

3 Chocolate-Pepper Truffles

Yes, homemade chocolate truffles are possible. And yes, black pepper makes these even more delicious. Semisweet chocolate gets a bit of a kick with the black pepper in this not-too-sweet and just-right treat. Or gift these homemade chocolate truffles any time of year.

Get the recipe: Chocolate-Pepper Truffles