What’s A Good Cubeb Pepper Substitute?

Cubeb pepper (piper cubeba, also known as tailed pepper) is not really a common ingredient in European or American recipes, but if you want to make certain Moroccan dishes, you may need it for an authentic flavor profile. It is also useful if you want to replace black pepper or allspice with an ingredient that offers a unique twist on both spices. Whatever your reason for wanting to use cubeb pepper, the sad fact is that you may have a hard time finding it in most local retail stores. If you don’t have time to wait for it to be shipped to you, try one of the cubeb pepper substitutes below.

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Table of Contents

Your best bet: Allspice and black pepper

The most prominent flavor notes in cubeb pepper are very similar to those of allspice and black pepper, so these two spices are clearly the best alternatives from a flavor standpoint. In fact, black pepper is in the same botanical family as cubeb pepper.

Another factor to keep in mind is that of appearance. Allspice and black peppercorns win there as well since they are similar in size and shape to cubeb pepper, despite missing the distinctive long tail that you will see on cubeb berries.

Lastly, the blend of these two spices is a great substitute in terms of availability, since you can find them in the spice aisles of most grocery stores. The allspice and black pepper combination can be used as a 1:1 substitute for cubeb pepper.

A decent second choice: Quatre epices

The name of this French spice blend means four spices. Quatre epices is the French equivalent of Chinese five-spice powder; it is also referred to as the French version of allspice. The spices in it can include black pepper and cloves, which makes it similar to the allspice and black pepper blend above.

Nutmeg offers yet another flavor that some people detect from cubeb pepper. Lastly, dried ginger is added to bring its own peppery note along with the sweeter aspects of the cloves. Quatre epices is sometimes made with cubeb pepper instead of black pepper, so you can use a pre-made blend that includes it or you can make your own with black pepper. In either case, it will work in the same applications.

Use quatre epices as a 1:1 substitute for cubeb pepper. Note that like many other traditional spice blends, quatre epices is usually formulated according to the tastes of the cook.

In a pinch: Szechuan peppercorns

Unlike cubeb pepper, Szechuan pepper is not a member of the Piper family. The Piper family includes black pepper. In other words, it is not a true pepper. However, it does bring a unique kind of heat and a piney citrus note that some people liken to the piney nature of black peppercorns.

The fact that it has that flavor note and significant heat means that it can stand in for cubeb pepper in some dishes. There will be a difference in flavor profile, but it should not be significant enough to be jarring or unpleasant. Keep in mind that Szechuan pepper is famous for having a numbing effect on the tongue, which cubeb pepper does not have.

Other alternatives

While the combination of allspice and black pepper makes for a good cubeb pepper substitute, each of those spices is a good substitute on its own as well. Use either as a 1:1 substitute for whole or ground cubeb peppercorns.

Grains of paradise is another spice known to have a similar flavor profile as both black pepper and cubeb pepper. It has a similar history in Europe as cubeb pepper. While it is not the easiest spice to find in the West, it can be used in much the same way that you would use cubeb pepper.