How many carbs are in black ground pepper?

Black ground pepper contains a very small amount of carbohydrates. The exact carb count can vary slightly depending on the brand and grinding method, but generally speaking, black pepper contains around 1 gram of carbs per tablespoon (6 grams).

Carb Content of Black Pepper

According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, 1 tablespoon (6 grams) of ground black pepper contains:

  • 1.01 grams of carbohydrates
  • 0.9 grams of fiber
  • 0.11 grams of sugars

So after accounting for fiber, which is a type of carb that our bodies don’t digest, there is only a negligible amount of net digestible carbs in black pepper – around 0.11 grams per tablespoon.

The total carb count includes starch, sugar, and fiber. Since black pepper contains very little starch or sugar, most of the 1 gram of total carbs comes from dietary fiber. The small amount of sugar in black pepper likely comes from the breakdown of starch during the grinding process.

Reasons for the Low Carb Count

Black peppercorns, the dried berry that is ground to produce pepper powder, are very low in carbohydrates before grinding. Whole peppercorns contain around 50-60% piperine, 4-7% volatile oils, 5-10% proteins, 3-4% starch, 3-4% minerals and 16-17% moisture according to studies.

As you can see, the starch content is quite low compared to the other major components. Starch is the main digestible carb found in plant foods.

During the grinding process, the starch granules likely break down slightly and become more accessible to our digestive enzymes, leading to the 1 gram of carbs per tablespoon in ground pepper. But the starch content remains minimal.

In addition, black pepper loses some of its moisture during grinding, concentrating the other nutrients like piperine and volatile oils that are responsible for its unique flavor and aroma.

How Pepper Compares to Other Spices

Most dried herbs and spices contain relatively few digestible carbs since they come from roots, seeds, bark, fruits, and other plant parts that are naturally low in starch. Here is a comparison of the carb content in 1 tablespoon of some common spices:

  • Black pepper: 1 gram
  • Paprika: 2 grams
  • Cinnamon: 2 grams
  • Nutmeg: 2 grams
  • Ginger: 3 grams
  • Garlic powder: 5 grams

As you can see, black pepper is on the lower end of the carb spectrum compared to these other common spices. It contains about the same amount of carbs as potent spices like cumin or turmeric.

In small quantities used for seasoning foods, even the highest-carb dried spices like garlic powder contribute just a few grams of carbs. But black pepper is an excellent choice as a very low-carb spice.

Carb Count in Peppercorn vs. Ground

Whole peppercorns contain slightly fewer carbs than ground pepper before accounting for fiber. According to one study, whole black peppercorns contain around 2.5% starch and 1.9% crude fiber.

When peppercorns are ground up, more of their starch becomes digestible to us, leading to the 1 gram of total carbs per tablespoon. But the fiber content also increases during the grinding process as more of the seed coat gets included in the powder.

This means that whole peppercorns are marginally lower in net carbs than ground pepper. But the difference is minor since the total starch and fiber content of peppercorns is so low overall.

Effects on Blood Sugar

Due to the negligible amount of digestible carbs in black pepper, it has little effect on our blood sugar levels. Eating black pepper does not cause spikes in insulin or blood glucose.

In fact, early research suggests black pepper may actually help regulate blood sugar levels after meals, though more human studies are needed. The active compound piperine has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity and reduce hyperglycemia in animal studies.

So not only is black pepper very low in carbs, it may even blunt the spikes in blood sugar caused by other high-carb foods when added to meals and recipes. Adding generous amounts of pepper to dishes is an easy way to give low-carb meals a flavor boost.

Does the Grind Size Matter?

Finer grinds of black pepper like powder will contain slightly more accessible carbs than coarser grinds like cracked peppercorns. This is because the more the peppercorns are broken down, the more starch is exposed to digestion.

However, the differences between grind sizes are very small. In most recipes, you would use a similar volume of coarsely cracked pepper versus finely ground pepper, so the effect on your carb intake will be negligible.

Some studies have found a mild increase in starch digestibility from coarser to finer grinds, but the total carbohydrate count remains extremely low regardless. Use your preferred grind for the texture you want, without worrying about carb differences.

Carb Count in Green Peppercorns

Green peppercorns, or peppercorns that are harvested early before fully ripening, have a slightly higher moisture content and lower piperine content compared to black peppercorns harvested later. However, the total carb composition is similar:

  • Around 3-4% starch
  • 2-3% fiber
  • Minimal sugars

One study found green pepper contained around 3.7% total carbs, with 83% as dietary fiber. So although moisture differences can affect the concentration of some nutrients in green versus black pepper, the effect on total digestible carbs is negligible.

Pepper and the Keto Diet

Black pepper is an excellent way to add punchy flavor to recipes without worrying about carbs if you are on a very low-carb ketogenic diet.

Since keto plans aim to keep daily net carbs under 20-50 grams, black pepper’s 1 gram of carbs per tablespoon is easy to account for even in large quantities. It contributes no added sugars as well.

Some keto-friendly ways to use black pepper include:

  • Rubbing on meat before grilling or roasting
  • Adding to omelets, scrambled eggs or frittatas
  • Seasoning vegetables like green beans or cauliflower before cooking
  • Sprinkling on nuts for a savory snack
  • Mixing into bone broth for sipping
  • Adding to creamy low-carb sauces and dips

Be sure to use freshly ground pepper for the best flavor and aroma. Precracked pepper in jars may be less fragrant.

Carb Counts in Other Types of Pepper

Black, white, and green peppercorns all come from the same plant species, Piper nigrum. Here is how the carb counts compare for some other varieties:

Type Total Carbs Net Carbs
Black pepper 1g ~0.1g
White pepper 1.5g ~0.5g
Green pepper 1g ~0.2g
Pink peppercorns 1.7g ~0.3g
Sichuan pepper 5.5g ~1.5g

White and green pepper are slightly higher in carbs than black pepper since they are picked at earlier stages. But the differences are trivial.

Pink peppercorns are from an entirely different plant species than Piper nigrum, which may account for their mildly higher carb content. And Sichuan pepper contains some starch since it comes from the berries of the Chinese prickly ash tree.

However, all these pepper varieties are very low in digestible carbs and can be used freely on low-carb and keto diets.

Carb Count in Bell Peppers

Sweet bell peppers, despite their similar name, are not actually related to peppercorns. Bell peppers belong to the nightshade family and contain much more sugar and carbs:

Pepper Total Carbs in 1 Cup Chopped Net Carbs
Green bell pepper 5g 3.5g
Red bell pepper 6g 4g
Yellow bell pepper 6g 4g
Orange bell pepper 7g 4.5g

Bell peppers contain around 5-7 grams of net carbs per cup, since they have high amounts of glucose and fructose. This makes them a high-carb choice compared to black peppercorns.

Should You Count Pepper Carbs?

For most people, counting the negligible grams of carbs in black pepper would be unnecessary. Even liberal use of black pepper adds just a trivial amount of carbs to recipes.

The only exception would be strict keto diets limiting carbs to just 10-15 daily grams. In that case, every carb counts, so pepper could contribute 1-2% of your total daily tally if used generously.

Otherwise, for low-carb, primal, paleo and moderate keto diets up to 50 grams of carbs, black pepper can generally be considered a free food.

Using Pepper to Lower Recipe Carbs

Adding lots of black pepper to dishes can actually lower the net carb counts by displacing other higher-carb ingredients without compromising on flavor.

Some ideas for sneaking more pepper into meals include:

  • Making cauliflower rice more flavorful by sautéing it with olive oil and pepper.
  • Adding a teaspoon of pepper to egg salad in place of chopped celery.
  • Seasoning cottage cheese with pepper and herbs before eating.
  • Turning plain roasted almonds into pepper almonds by tossing with oil and pepper.
  • Coating proteins in cracked black pepper before cooking.

This lets you use less of higher-carb ingredients without sacrificing taste or variety in your low-carb recipes.

Health Benefits of Black Pepper

Not only is black pepper very low in carbs, it also provides some unique health benefits:

  • Anti-Inflammatory Effects: The phytochemicals in black pepper help suppress inflammatory cytokines.
  • Antioxidant Properties: Pepper is high in antioxidants, which protect cells from oxidative damage.
  • Bioavailability Boosting: Piperine in pepper increases absorption and potency of nutrients like selenium, B-vitamins, and curcumin.
  • Digestive Aid: The carminative effect of pepper helps relieve bloating and gas.

So feel free to use black pepper generously for flavor and health without worrying about carb counts!

Bottom Line

Black pepper contains only trace amounts of digestible carbs and can be used freely on low-carb and keto diets. Whole peppercorns contain around 2.5% starch and 1.9% fiber. When ground, the starch content becomes slightly more bioavailable at around 1 gram of carbs per tablespoon, but still negligible overall.

Choose pepper with the grind size you prefer without concerns about carb differences. Use this tasty low-carb spice to add lots of extra flavor to your healthy recipes without impacting blood sugar!

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