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I have a recipe that calls for "12 cubebs, coarsely crushed". I've read that a blend of equal parts pepper and allspice can be substituted for a cubeb. However, having never seen a cubeb, I have no idea how big it is, so I don't know how much pepper and allspice to substitute. Additionally, I haven't been able to find any information about the volume of a cubeb or the volume of powder produced when crushing a cubeb online.

How much powder does a cubeb yield when crushed? Alternatively, how much black pepper and allspice should I substitute for 12 crushed cubebs?

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    I would probably weigh the 12 seeds and to begin with go for the same quantity of black pepper – user110084 Jun 9 '17 at 8:27
  • @user110084 Thanks for the suggestion. Unfortunately, I don't have access to cubeb seeds to work with in the first place. – Eric Finn Jun 9 '17 at 13:52
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12 whole cubebs, when I measured them, were a bit under a half teaspoon. When ground (a bit on the coarse side, admittedly), they were... also bit under a half teaspoon.

Cubebs are pretty light, and the fresh-ground spice, rather fluffy, but it gives you a starting point to measure from. For less-fluffy spices like black pepper, I wold suggest a very scant measurement (that is, nearly full but dipping under the rim of the measuring spoon just a bit), or a single pinch less.

I've found the taste fairly similar to pepper - enough, at least, a recipe will not likely fail from the difference, though Jude's suggestion sounds pretty good from a flavor standpoint.

  • Someone with real cubebs! Like you described, very different bulk densities between them. Flavours are mass dependent rather than volume dependent. So, I am still inclined to start with same weight in pepper corns. – user110084 Jun 9 '17 at 22:12
  • @user110084 - I think you're right, but the scantness of the measure or extra pinch less is my attempt at balancing the weights involved, since I know the ground cubeb is fluffier/lighter than ground pepper. I usually don't cook by weight, so I can't offer that as a measurement. It doesn't help that, well, I rarely use pepper and so don't actually have any not already in spice mixes on hand at the moment to compare. – Megha Jun 9 '17 at 22:19
  • Excellent! I was hoping someone would have access to cubebs. I ended up using 1/4 tsp each allspice and pepper, and I feel the recipe came out very well. – Eric Finn Jun 9 '17 at 22:36
  • Nice that a cubeb user has come forward! Megha, although you don't use back pepper by itself, do you use allspice? Do you think cubeb has allspice overtones? How about a bit of camphor overtones? I realise the flavour perception is very subjective but I'm curious to know what you think. What type of food do you use it in? – Jude Jun 10 '17 at 1:24
  • @Jude - I picked up cubebs because I'm rather interested in medieval recipes, and when I found some for sale (yeoldespiceguy on etsy) I picked up some to try. I find them somewhat mellower than black pepper, with some aromatics that do remind me of allspice - though I would not sub allspice for it the way I would pepper, allspice seems, er, lighter and with less depth (bitter notes?)...maybe more like clove than cinnamon, if that makes sense. I could see a similarity to rosemary once I thought about it, but I also noticed a very faint almost fruity scent, like a touch of lemon zest. – Megha Jun 10 '17 at 2:26
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I don't think you'll find any two answers that agree from anyone that's used cubeb. All the more difficult as few people who heard of it and even fewer who've used it. The reason being that taste is subjective. I love the flavour Szechuan peppercorns give food. It's often been described as being both hot and numbing. I can feel its numbing effect but it's not at all hot to me and I'm very sensitive to the heat from capsicum peppers.

Cubeb peppercorns are roughly the size as black peppercorns but instead of being solid, they're more hollow. I've only seen them in photos (otherwise I'd buy some to try) so I don't know if an equal volume of both would be an equal weight, roughly. If I were to substitute, I'd err on black pepper weighing a little more.

As for cubeb having a taste similar to black pepper and allspice, I couldn't say. But Gernot Katzer doesn't think so. Cubeb pepper (Piper cubeba L.,11

some sources seem to confuse cubeb pepper with allspice, which looks somewhat similar. In its flavour, cubeb pepper differs much from these other spices.

Other sites mention a camphorous note to cubeb. Rosemary is a herb with a camphorous flavour and scent. Cubeb is also supposed to be bitter. Many people don't like bitterness in food but I think it enhances many foods. What would chocolate be like without it?

What I would do, though not necessarily you, is to use around 9 black peppercorns, 1/8 teaspoon of allspice and a few needles from fresh rosemary, crushed and very finely chopped to approximate 12 cubeb peppercorns.

Hopefully, someone here who's used cubeb before will read your question and answer you before you've made your recipe.

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