White pepper consists solely of the seed of the ripe fruit of the pepper plant, with the thin darker-coloured skin (flesh) of the fruit removed. This is usually accomplished by a process known as retting, where fully ripe red pepper berries are soaked in water for about a week so the flesh of the peppercorn softens and decomposes; rubbing then removes what remains of the fruit, and the naked seed is dried. Sometimes the outer layer is removed from the seed through other mechanical, chemical, or biological methods. Ground white pepper is commonly used in Chinese, Thai, and Portuguese cuisines. It finds occasional use in other cuisines in salads, light-coloured sauces, and mashed potatoes as a substitute for black pepper, because black pepper would visibly stand out. However, white pepper lacks certain compounds present in the outer layer of the drupe, resulting in a different overall flavour.
Compounds in white pepper — especially its active ingredient piperine — may protect against cell damage, improve nutrient absorption, and aid digestive issues.