Szechuan Peppercorn is a fragrant, mouth-numbing Chinese spice used in many Szechuan dishes such as Szechuan Chicken and Dan Dan Noodles. Learn more about how to use it, substitutes, storage and more!

Szechuan Peppercorn is a fragrant but mouth-numbing Chinese spice that’s used in many Szechuan dishes such as Szechuan Chicken and Dan Dan Noodles. Learn how to use, store, substitute it, and more!

Szechuan peppercorn

  • What is it? It’s a spice produced from the pinkish-red husks of seeds of the prickly ash tree (Zanthoxylum). It’s actually NOT really a pepper at all.
  • Origin: This essential spice in Chinese cuisine originates from Sichuan province. It’s known for its unique umami flavor and aroma, creating a special mouth-numbing sensation.
  • Why people love it? It creates a wonderful punchy vibrancy and warmth unlike anything else, changing the way you taste spicy food.
  • Other names: Sichuan Peppercorn, Sichuan Pepper, Szechuan pepper, Huajiao or 花椒 in Chinese, and sansho in Japanese.

Szechuan peppercorn is a spice produced from the pinkish-red husks of seeds of the prickly ash tree (Zanthoxylum).

What does Szechuan peppercorn taste like?

Unlike most of us might expect, it is not hot like chili peppers or pungent like black peppercorns. Rather, it has citrusy overtones and creates a tingly numbness in the mouth that sets the stage for hot spices.

Note: Sichuan peppercorns are for flavoring only, so avoid biting into them the same way you wouldn’t bite into a black peppercorn! Ground peppercorns can be eaten when blended with other seasonings, however.

Since the numbing and tingling sensation can be unsettling at first, Szechaun peppercorns can be an acquired taste. Once people get used to it, they often love the flavor!

How to use it?

Szechuan peppercorns can be used whole or as a powder.

Whole Szechuan peppercorns

When using them whole in stir-fries such as Szechuan Chicken, you need to first toast the peppercorns in a dry wok/skillet over medium heat. Stir for about 1 minute to bring out the fragrance. Authentic Chinese dishes always keep the peppercorns in the dish when serving (see the picture below), but you can pick them out if you prefer with no impact on flavor.

Szechuan chicken cooked with whole Szechuan peppercorns on a serving plate.

You can also use whole peppercorns in spicy Chinese fondue dishes including Chongqing hotpot.

Freshly ground Szechuan peppercorn

First, toast the whole peppercorns in a dry wok/skillet over medium heat for one minute. Let them cool completely and grind in a spice grinder (or mortar and pestle). Sift with a sieve and use the fine powder that comes out, leaving the husks behind.

This method mutes its citrus flavor and heightens the woody notes, making it an excellent ingredient when paired with other seasonings.

Szechuan peppercorn powder

Storebought powder serves the same purpose as freshly ground peppercorns and makes cooking easier. However, the taste is inferior. It is also a key ingredient in Chinese Five Spice.

Where to buy?

You can buy them in local Asian grocery stores or online from Amazon. The red color shown here are most common, followed by green ones. Vibrant colors are usually an indicator of freshness.

Szechuan peppercorns in a wooden bowl.

How long does it last?

Good quality dried Szechuan peppercorns will last for 3-4 years stored in an airtight container at room temperature.

Substitutes for Szechuan peppercorns?

Whole Szechuan Peppercorn Substitute: combine regular black peppercorns with coriander seeds.

Regular black peppercorn and coriander seeds.

Ground Szechuan Peppercorn Substitute: To substitute, combine regular ground black pepper, coriander seed powder, and lemon zest.

Szechuan Peppercorn is a fragrant but mouth-numbing Chinese spice that’s used in many Szechuan dishes such as Szechuan Chicken and Dan Dan Noodles. Learn how to use, store, substitute it, and more!
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Szechuan Peppercorn and Its Substitute

Szechuan Peppercorn is a fragrant but mouth-numbing Chinese spice used in many Szechuan dishes including Szechuan Chicken and Dan Dan Noodles. Learn how to use, store, substitute it, and more!
Prep Time: 5 mins
Total Time: 5 mins
Servings: 2 servings

Ingredients

Whole Szechuan Peppercorn Substitute:

  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns, whole
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds

Ground Szechuan Peppercorn Substitute:

  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seed powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon Lemon zest

Instructions

Whole Szechuan Peppercorn Substitute:

  • In a small bowl, combine black peppercorn and coriander seeds.

Ground Szechuan Peppercorn Substitute:

  • In a small bowl, combine ground black pepper, coriander seed powder, and lemon zest.
  • Use as directed in your recipe, or store in the fridge for up to 1 week for later use.

Notes

  • The substitute creates a similar flavor but won’t give you the numbness and umami of Szechuan peppercorns.
  • Avoid biting into whole Szechuan peppercorn the same way you would black peppercorns, as they're for flavoring only! Grounded peppercorn powder can be eaten when blended with other seasonings.
  • Serving size: 1 tablespoon of mixed black peppercorns and coriander seeds.
Nutrition Facts
Szechuan Peppercorn and Its Substitute
Amount Per Serving
Calories 20 Calories from Fat 9
% Daily Value*
Fat 1g2%
Saturated Fat 1g5%
Sodium 2mg0%
Potassium 98mg3%
Carbohydrates 5g2%
Fiber 2g8%
Sugar 1g1%
Protein 1g2%
Vitamin A 27IU1%
Vitamin C 1mg1%
Calcium 40mg4%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Please read our nutrition disclaimer.

Author: Cindy
Course: Seasoning
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: Szechuan Pepper, Szechuan Peppercorn
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