Traditional Sichuan cuisine would be incomplete without Sichuan peppercorns. It’s not as intense as most spices but has citrus undertones and may leave your mouth a bit numb. This sensation can be unsettling for some, leading them to seek a substitute for Sichuan peppercorns.
Native to China, this spice gives off a vibrant aroma. While the Sichuan peppercorn alone isn’t very spicy, it’s packed with tons of flavor.
If your dish calls for Sichuan peppercorns, but your Asian market is out, there are loads of Sichuan peppercorn substitutes available.
What Are Sichuan Peppercorns?
The Sichuan peppercorn is a spice made from the dried husks of the prickly ash shrub or Zanthoxylum. This gives it its lavender-like aroma.
These peppercorns are versatile, as you can use them whole or grind them into powder. When using them whole, you can toast them to bring out the fragrance in stir-fries, ramen, and seafood dishes.
Unlike other spices, they don’t give off any heat. Instead, they have an almost tingly effect in your mouth.
Substitute For Sichuan Peppercorns
It’s tough to find alternatives that taste precisely like Sichuan peppercorns. However, you can use any of the following as a substitute for Sichuan peppercorns in your next dish.
1. Tasmanian Pepperberry
Tasmanian pepper is manufactured from berries that grow throughout Australia. The aroma of this spice is a cross between juniper and fennel. And it’s a fantastic Sichuan peppercorn substitute because it embodies similar floral elements.
This pepper is excellent in stews and soups. It’s black and has a sweeter flavor than Sichuan peppercorns. Therefore, it adds a tremendous fruity flavor to the dish. However, one caveat is that it’s tough to find.
Crush your Tasmanian pepper and add it as a substitute in equal parts.
2. Grains of Paradise
Grains of paradise are tiny brown seeds produced from a plant that grows in West Africa. It has a citrusy, peppery taste with hints of woody tones.
These seeds make terrific Sichuan peppercorn substitutes due to their similarity in shape and size. They also share similar zesty flavors.
Grains of paradise complement sauces and soups by injecting warm and earthy tones. They may not be easy to find, but you can use almost twice as much when replacing Sichuan peppercorns.
3. Tellicherry Peppercorns
Tellicherry peppercorn is grown in the Indian town of Thalassery, previously known as Tellicherry. This super-spice has a citrus flavor comparable to Sichuan peppercorns, making it an excellent substitute.
They are, however, larger and darker than Sichuan peppercorns. And they have a sharp, grassy aroma that can sometimes overpower other ingredients in your dish.
The nice thing about tellicherry peppercorn is its versatility. You can use it to flavor sauces, meats, stir-fries, and more.
4. Juniper Berries
Derived from the juniper tree, these berries are blue and darken as they dry. Juniper berries are a fantastic substitute for Sichuan peppercorns due to their similar shape and size.
Although their flavors differ slightly, it shares the fruitiness associated with Sichuan peppercorns. The only downside of using juniper berries is they add an intense pine flavor to the dish.
However, it makes up for this with its antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s especially great for meaty stews or as a spice rub for steaks. Crush the berries and use them as a replacement at a 1:1 ratio.
Harvested from the coriandrum sativum plant, coriander delivers a lemony, floral taste. For that reason, it makes it an excellent substitute for Sichuan peppercorns.
Despite its lack of zing, it works well when used with other spices to accentuate its distinct flavors. Use it with black or white pepper to mimic the flavors of Sichuan peppercorns.
Additionally, you can use it whole or crushed, depending on the dish. Substitute one teaspoon of Sichuan peppercorns with one teaspoon of coriander.
6. Lemon Zest
Lemon zest may seem like an unlikely substitute, but its citrusy flavor makes a fantastic substitute for Sichuan peppercorns. Although it will be slightly tangier than Sichuan peppercorns.
To get the most out of the lemon zest, add it toward the end of the cooking process. You can use it in sauces or add it to your marinade. And fish dishes pair beautifully with lemon zest.
In fact, it’s excellent in lighter recipes without intense flavors that might compete with the lemon flavor. Use ½ teaspoon of lemon zest and a bit of black pepper for every teaspoon of Sichuan peppercorns in your recipe.
Depending on the dish and spices in your pantry, you have several choices when finding a substitute for Sichuan peppercorns. All the options mentioned above can help you achieve a similar flavor to that of Sichuan peppercorns. But even if the flavor is slightly different, the resultant dish is bound to be a success.