The Peppercorn That Is So Fruity, You Can Put It On Ice Cream

Pepper is one of those spices that you probably don't think about often, unless you're whipping up steak au poivre or cacio e pepe. But there are many different kinds of peppercorns out there, all with their own unique flavor. And while you might know black green, white, or pink peppercorns, there's one more you should keep an eye out for: Timut peppercorns.

Timut (or Timur) peppercorns are a Nepalese spice with an intense, grapefruit-like flavor. Their citrusy notes give off juicy, floral aromas that are very different from the sharp, spicy kick of black pepper. They also produce a tingling sensation in the mouth similar to that of Sichuan peppercorns, to which they are related.

The bright, fruity flavors of Timut peppercorns make them easy to pair with all types of dishes. In particular, they have incredible dessert applications, and a dash of these zesty peppercorns can raise a simple bowl of ice cream to haute cuisine.

What are Timut peppercorns?

Timut peppercorns are primarily grown in Nepal, and are typically found in dishes from the surrounding Himalayas, like Momo Chutney or achar, a style of South Asian pickle. They are dried berry husks from a shrub in the prickly ash family, and are closely related to Sichuan peppercorns

Technically, despite their name, they aren't true peppercorns, since they don't come from the Piperaceae family. But they have a slight resemblance to peppercorns and can be used in similar ways, either added whole to pickles or infusions or cracked with a pepper mill over finished dishes. Because of their strong tingling effect, caused by a chemical compound called herculin, you don't want to bite into a whole Timut peppercorn, and breaking them up can help distribute their flavor.

Both Timut and Sichuan peppercorns have strong citrus notes, and many recipes will use these two spices interchangeably. But Sichuan peppercorns are nowhere near as juicy and flavorful as their Nepalese relatives, and wouldn't be as tasty on a citrus tart, or in a fruity cocktail. Unfortunately, Timut peppercorns are more difficult to source, and you may have to go to a specialty spice store to find them.

How to use Timut peppercorns

While you might traditionally find Timut peppercorns in sauces with a large number of other spices, they can add a lot to simple dishes as well, and pair well with ingredients like fennel, tahini, mint, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, and cumin. They are commonly used to season fish and would be a lovely addition to fresh scallops, or a seared piece of salmon.

But if you can find Timut peppercorns, you should not hesitate to use them in your desserts. Lemon bars, a bowl of vanilla ice cream, or even a plate of fresh fruit would be easily livened up by this unusual spice. In particular, their numbing quality makes these peppercorns a great match for cold desserts. Bring out the mango sorbet or a panna cotta topped with ripe berries.

You can also use Timut peppercorns to infuse spirits to create vibrant cocktails. Infuse gin with Timut peppercorns and serve it in a gin and tonic with a dash of rosemary simple syrup, or infuse them into rum to make an elevated mojito. The possibilities are endless.