Tellicherry pepper is considered by some to be the world’s best black pepper—the Rolls Royce of black peppers if you will. The downside is that it may not be easy to find. If you want to use it to make your own curry powder blend or simply want to try out the most flavorful black pepper around but cannot find it, you may need to try one of the Tellicherry pepper substitutes below.
Your best bet: Black peppercorns
Black peppercorns have the benefit of being easy to find, unlike Tellicherry pepper. Tellicherry pepper can be considered something of a niche spice. If you can find it, you will most likely pay a premium due to its relative rarity. On the other hand, regular black peppercorns are affordable and will provide a closer approximation of the Tellicherry pepper flavor than any other substitute would. Keep in mind that Tellicherry peppercorns are regular peppercorns, not another peppercorn varietal or a pepper that is necessarily grown near the Indian town of the same name. Both the Tellicherry pepper that you are replacing and the black peppercorns that you are using to replace them will most likely be grown in Vietnam, just like most of the world’s black pepper.
While Tellicherry pepper does have some distinctive qualities as a result of staying on the vine longer than other peppercorns and due to its size, the overall flavor profile is still largely the same as other black peppercorns.
Use black peppercorns exactly as your recipe instructs you to use Tellicherry pepper.
A decent second choice: Ground black pepper
Ground black pepper may be even easier to find than whole peppercorns and can provide some of the flavor notes that you would get from Tellicherry pepper. Ground black pepper consists of ground peppercorns. In the process of being ground and stored in its powdered form, the flavor profile can change; however, it should still provide a similar taste to that of Tellicherry pepper. Ground black pepper also has the benefit of being easier to use than whole peppercorns since grinding is not necessary and will also be more affordable than either Tellicherry pepper or whole peppercorns.
Because ground black pepper may lose some of its flavor after being ground, start with about 1 1/2 times the amount that your recipe indicated for Tellicherry pepper. Increase to taste if necessary.
In a pinch: Cayenne pepper powder
Cayenne pepper powder consists of dried and ground cayenne peppers, which are moderately hot chili peppers. Cayenne peppers retain much of their heat and flavor even after being dried and ground. It is the heat of cayenne pepper powder combined with its consistency and mild bitterness that allows it to serve as a good Tellicherry pepper substitute. Note that cayenne pepper powder is red, not black with flecks of gray and white like Tellicherry pepper and its substitutes listed above. In other words, it is not the best alternative in terms of its appearance but it can complement savory main ingredients and other spices in much the same way that Tellicherry pepper would.
Due to the heat of this chili, we don’t recommend cayenne pepper be used as a 1:1 substitute. Start with a fourth of the amount and work up from there.
Dried, ground ginger is a good option to stand in for Tellicherry pepper in many recipes. Consider the fact that not only does it have the requisite heat, it has the powdery consistency and will pair well with most of the other flavors in dishes that specify Tellicherry pepper. In fact, many of these recipes may require it along with Tellicherry pepper. If so, simply increase the amount of it that you add.