Can’t find Sichuan peppercorns for your dish? Here are some Sichuan peppercorn substitute options to ensure your meal retains its authentic taste and zing.
Our top 8 Sichuan peppercorn substitutes are:
- Grains of Paradise
- Tasmanian Pepper
- Tellicherry Peppercorns
- Black Pepper + Coriander Seeds
- Lemon Zest + Black Pepper
- Sansho Peppercorns
- Timur Peppercorns
- Sechuan Buttons
Sichuan (or Szechuan) peppercorns have a bright citrus aroma and a complex earthy-spicy flavor, producing a tingling, numbing sensation. This makes them challenging to substitute directly.
If you can’t find them but wish to replicate their flavor and effect in a dish, a suitable replacement is needed. In this guide, I’ll discuss a few of these substitutes, including their characteristics, precise ratios, and usage tips.
Understanding Sichuan Peppercorns
Sichuan peppercorns, also known as Szechuan peppercorns, are a spice native to the Sichuan province of China. And despite the name, Sichuan peppercorns aren’t pepper; they’re derived from the dried papery fruit husks of any of several species of ash tree and are known for their unique numbing and tingling sensation.
Their taste is mild, with a hint of citrus, and the spice creates a distinct tingling and vibrating feeling on the tongue. In Sichuan cuisine, they’re used to add layers of flavor and that delightful tingling sensation to dishes like Kung Pao Chicken and Mapo Tofu.
Here are some of the culinary uses of Sichuan peppercorns:
- Stir-fries. To add a complex and numbing sensation to your stir-fries, consider adding Sichuan peppercorns; they will surely pump up the experience.
- Soups and stews. To add more flavor and depth to chicken soups, vegetable stew, or spicy beef broth, add Sichuan peppercorns.
- Marinades and rubs. Ground Sichuan peppercorns into a powder and use them in marinades and rubs for meat, seafood, and vegetables.
Top Substitutes for Sichuan Peppercorns
Now, let’s discuss the top substitutes for Sichuan peppercorns, including their flavor profiles, recommended ratios, and potential applications.
1. Tellicherry Peppercorns
Tellicherry peppercorns have a bold, citrusy, and spicy flavor. While they share some flavor notes with Sichuan peppercorns, it’s important to highlight that Tellicherry peppercorns don’t offer the numbing sensation.
You can use Tellicherry Peppercorns as a substitute for Sichuan peppercorns in various dishes. They shine particularly well in recipes with vibrant sauces, like stir-fries and noodle dishes.
Substitute Tellicherry peppercorns for Sichuan peppercorns in a 1:1 ratio.
2. Grains Of Paradise
Grains Of Paradise are less spicy than Sichuan Peppercorns but have a similar citrusy taste. They’re a good peppery, citrusy, and mildly spicy substitute.
They work well in soups, stews, and roasted dishes, making them a worthy replacement for recipes that require Sichuan peppercorns.
Substitute in 1:1 ratio.
3. Tasmanian Pepper
Tasmanian pepper packs a fruity and mildly spicy punch. Although they’re a little intense in flavor, they’re here to ensure that fruity tastes are present. You can use the ingredient instead if you think this is the kind of flavor you want to go for.
It’s great for seafood and desserts but can also be used in other recipes that call for Sichuan peppercorns.
Substitute Tasmanian Pepper for Sichuan peppercorns in a 1:1 ratio.
4. Black Pepper + Coriander Seeds
Black Pepper and coriander seeds offer a flavor similar to Sichuan peppercorns, with spicy, citrusy, and earthy notes. Use them as a less-numbing alternative that still captures a similar taste. This spice combination is especially good in savory dishes like braised meats and stews.
Mix 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper and 1/2 teaspoon of coriander seeds for every 1 teaspoon of Sichuan peppercorn.
5. Lemon Zest + Black Pepper
While lemon zest and black pepper can replace Sichuan peppercorns in some recipes, they won’t fully mimic the unique numbing and citrusy flavor. However, this combo can still add a zesty and citrusy touch to dishes like stir-fries, grilled chicken, or seafood.
Mix 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons of lemon zest and 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper to substitute 1 teaspoon of Sichuan peppercorns.
6. Sansho Peppercorns
Sansho peppercorns have a milder, citrusy, and slightly piney flavor with a hint of lemon compared to Sichuan peppercorns. You might need to use more sansho when substituting for Sichuan peppercorns to get a similar flavor.
Sansho works nicely in Japanese dishes like grilled fish and noodle dishes due to its citrusy and piney notes.
Replace 1 teaspoon of Sichuan peppercorns with 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons of sansho peppercorns.
7. Timur Peppercorns
Timur peppercorns, like Sichuan peppercorns, create a numbing sensation. If you want that sensation, Timur peppercorns can provide it. They go nicely with citrusy and floral flavors in dishes, but you might need to experiment to get the right balance in your recipe.
Use Timur peppercorns as a 1:1 substitute for Sichuan peppercorns.
8. Sechuan Buttons
Szechuan buttons, also called “toothache plants” or “electric buttons,” aren’t exactly like Sichuan peppercorns in taste, but they can provide a distinct tingling sensation in dishes that need the numbing effect associated with Sichuan peppercorns.
Use 2 to 3 Szechuan buttons for 1 teaspoon of Sichuan peppercorns.
Tip: Keep in mind that Szechuan buttons are quite potent, so use fewer for less tingling or more for a stronger sensation, adjusting to your preference.
How to Use Substitutes in Recipes
Now that you have your Sichuan peppercorn replacements, let’s talk about how to use them properly:
Start with a smaller amount of the substitute and taste as you go. You can always add more if needed.
Adjust the heat or spice level in your dish. Consider reducing other spicy ingredients if your substitute is spicier than Sichuan peppercorns.
The key is experimentation! Don’t be afraid to try different substitutes until you find your perfect flavor balance and discover the choice that suits your needs and personal taste.
The bottom line
While Sichuan peppercorns are truly unique, alternatives such as Tellicherry peppercorns, grains of paradise, black pepper, coriander seeds, and Tasmanian pepper can serve as suitable replacements when required.
Now, it’s your opportunity to put these substitutes to the test in your own kitchen. Don’t hesitate to experiment, taste, and discover your preferred alternative. Ultimately, it all comes down to your personal taste preferences.
- Grains of Paradise - 1:1 ratio
- Tasmanian Pepper - 1:1 ratio
- Tellicherry Peppercorns - 1:1 ratio
- Black Pepper + Coriander Seeds - 1/2 t and 1/2 t for 1 t Sichuan peppercorns
- Lemon Zest + Black Pepper - 1 to 1/2 t + 1/2 t for 1 t Sichuan peppercorns
- Sansho Peppercorns - 1 t for 1 1/2 to 2 t Sichuan peppercorns
- Timur Peppercorns - 1:1 ratio
- Sechuan Buttons - 2 to 3 buttons for 1 Sichuan peppercorns
- Replace Sichuan peppercorns with one of our 8 recommended options.
- Use one of the above ratios when substituting for Sichuan peppercorns in a recipe.