The Chemicals in Salt, Pepper & Sugar

The Chemicals in Salt, Pepper & Sugar
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Sugar, salt and pepper are among the most often-used kitchen ingredients. Sugar and salt are chemical compounds, and pepper is a naturally-occurring spice. Black pepper, or Piper nigrum, is the most popular pepper variety. Sugar and salt are chemical compounds, whereas pepper is a spice consisting of several combined chemical compounds.


Household table sugar, or sucrose, is a simple carbohydrate and a monosaccharide, meaning it is made of two single sugars. Its chemical formula is (CH2OH)2 and, in chemistry, is known as "glucose fructose." The chemical formula states that sucrose contains two parts carbon, six parts hydrogen, and two parts oxygen.


Common table salt, or sodium chloride, possesses the chemical formula NaCl. Only one sodium atom and one chloride atom are required to create table salt. Other salts, like Epsom salts and calcium chloride, require more complex atomic combinations.

Black Pepper

Unlike sugar and salt, pepper is actually a spice. Black pepper, or Piper nigrum, is the most widely-used variety. When referring to black pepper's makeup, the aroma and pungency are typically addressed. Oils attribute to black pepper's aroma, while the alkaloid chemical compound piperine creates the pungency. The essential oils, comprised of monoterpenes hydrocarbons, sesquiterpenes and, to a lesser degree, phenylethers, only account for roughly 3 percent of pepper's makeup. Piperine is the primary ingredient that distinguishes black pepper and other related peppers (like white pepper). The chemical makeup of piperine is C17H19NO3, or 17 parts carbon, 19 parts hydrogen, one part nitrogen, and three parts oxygen.

Differing Qualities

Sucrose sugar and table salt differ from their related chemical compounds because of slight atomic changes. Black pepper differs from green, red and white peppers because of harvesting and age differences, not chemical construction. One plant could yield all four different peppers.

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