Green V.S Red, which one is Sichuan Pepper NO.1?



how to pick dried Sichuan Peppers?

Sichuan pepper is one of China's unique spices and even be ranked as first in the “Three-spice” with ginger and cornus before the Ming Dynasty. With anise, cumin, cinnamon, and cloves, “Three-spice” became "Five-spice". Now Sichuan pepper is still ranked first in the “Thirteen-spice”.

Green and red Sichuan pepper - tongue-numbness and flavor game

As a medical economic crop , Sichuan pepper is a small deciduous tree in the family of Rutaceae, native to China. People have been using Sichuan pepper for more than 2,000 years, starting in the Warring States period.

Sichuan pepper can be divided into green and red based on the fruit color.

Green Sichuan pepper, also known as “ma jiao”, is gray-green or dark green, with round and oily fruit. Numbing spicy is the main characteristic flavor with the strong aftertaste of tongue-numbness.

The red Sichuan pepper fruits are purplish-red or brownish-red, with a mellow tongue-numbness and a complementary aroma.

Rattan pepper belongs to a high-quality variety under the branch of green Sichuan pepper, the leaves are shaped like bamboo leaves aka bamboo leaf Sichuan pepper(Zanthoxylum armatum). The green fruits of rattan pepper are full and small, with a strong numbing spicy flavor and, a sweet and light bitter aftertaste.

Research has shown that the aroma of green and red Sichuan pepper can be described by seven words: pepper-like, numbing, spicy, fresh, medicinal, woody, and bitter. The most prominent aroma of both is pepper-like aroma, which is the same. The red type has a more prominent pepper-like and numbing aroma, while the green type has a greater intensity of medicinal aroma.

Green and red Sichuan pepper - flavor exploration

Sichuan pepper is widely used in seasonings due to its special tongue-numbness and aroma. The degree of tongue-numbness, richness, and composition of aroma are all key quality indicators of Sichuan pepper.

The main chemical components of Sichuan pepper are amides, alkaloids volatile oils, etc. Among them, the amide group is the main group that shows the flavor. Sanshool is a series of amide compounds, the main substance that produces tongue-numbness, also known as Sichuan pepper amide, which exists in the raised portion of the fruit skin. The structure of sanshool influences the tingling sensation and numbness produced by Sichuan pepper. The general structure of sanshool has three parts: the head area (vanillin), the neck area (amide bond), and the tail area (aliphatic chain).

After testing, the key aroma active substances of green Sichuan pepper are linalool, β-phellandrene, myrcene, eucalyptol, limonene, and sabinene while the key aroma active substances of red Sichuan pepper are linalool, myrcene, eucalyptol, limonene and sabinene. The reason for the difference in aroma may be that green Sichuan pepper contains more types of olefins, alcohols, aldehydes and ethers, while red one contains more types of esters.

With a higher content of volatile oil, green Sichuan pepper shows a more fresh and fruit-like aroma and is thus more suitable for sautéed food such as Spicy Chicken and Green Pepper Rabbit, Fresh Green Pepper Hot Pot, etc. Red Sichuan pepper is more numbing spicy and more suitable for spicy food such as Sautéed Diced Chicken, Spicy Fish, and Spicy Hot Pot, etc.

Five steps to pick good Sichuan Peppers

Sichuan pepper seasonings are mainly divided into 3 kinds: dry seasonings such as dried granules, and powders, and Sichuan pepper oil including rattan pepper oil, sesame oil, etc. Among these dried Sichuan pepper occupies the main market.

So how to pick dried Sichuan Peppers?


A uniform color is better than a mixed color.

Green Sichuan pepper is generally dark green and cyan while red one is dark red, it’s better to ditch the black one when you buy red Sichuan pepper.

The gloss of good Sichuan pepper is not strong, thus the glossy Sichuan peppers are most likely to be dyed.


The particles and the opening of the Sichuan pepper are important during the picking process.

High-quality Sichuan pepper is a full and rounded particle, and the "oil cell" is visible swelling.

The opening of the Sichuan pepper is related to the seed rate. The seed rate should be less than 5%, the opening rate should be greater than 95%, and the kind of both closed and semi-closed types of Sichuan Pepper is possible to be mixed with the poor quality kind.


Touching the Sichuan pepper and if you get the obvious prickly feeling as well as the sound of rustling gently pinch to be able to break it open which means good dryness. And if it’s still wet after rubbing without staining hands means the additives have not been added to the drying process.


Grab a handful of Sichuan pepper and move around to smell the odor. The strong, pure, and natural numbing flavor is better than the lighter flavor which might be the fake Sichuan pepper.


Chewing 2 Sichuan peppers to feel the tongue-numbness and spiciness. Long-lasting flavor in the whole mouth is better, while others with poor quality may even have bitter aftertaste.

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