What makes Kampot pepper so special? Ain’t no pepper like pepper!

Everything tastes better with salt.

But there is usually one more spice on the table besides the salt shaker.

A pungent ingredient with which you can literally work magic in the kitchen. We are talking about pepper, of course.

There are many types of pepper, but Kampot pepper is only one. Why is it considered the best in the world?

Follow the footsteps of these aromatic balls with us.

What is Kampot pepper?

Black pepper (Piper nigrum), a climbing plant whose fruits are used as probably the most widespread spice in the world, originally comes from India, where it was cultivated as early as 2000 BC. But experts claim that the best pepper does not come from India, but from Cambodia. This rare variety is grown mainly in the Kampot region, hence the name Kampot pepper.

Bowls with three colored variants of Kampot pepper.
source: angkorchef.com

Kampot pepper comes in four color variants that differ slightly in taste and use:

  • black pepper – usually used mainly on beef
  • red pepper – used mainly for desserts
  • white pepper – has its uses for fish, salads and sauces
  • green pepper – used in some seafood and chicken dishes

What makes Kampot pepper special?

The southwestern province of Kampot lies at the foot of the Damrei Mountains, where the warm and humid weather, altitude and quartz-rich soil create excellent conditions for growing pepper. Its berries have an excellent taste and aroma, and Kampot pepper is therefore considered the best in the world.

The largest producers of pepper in general today are Vietnam and Brazil, but in these countries the plants are often heavily treated with chemicals to achieve high yields and low prices. This of course has a negative effect on the quality of the pepper. In the case of Kampot pepper, you don’t have to worry about anything like that.

Unripe Kampot pepper berries.
source: bbc.com

What does Kampot pepper taste like?

The flavor profile of the best pepper in the world is very rich and hard to describe. When you taste Kampot pepper, it is generally true that at first it seems sharp, but then its taste calms down and turns into a fruity one with a hint of citrus. In addition, you can also smell notes of eucalyptus and mint. Black Kampot pepper has the most intense flavor and aroma, it is more earthy with a touch of pine. On the contrary, the mildest and sweetest is the taste of red pepper, which smells like dried apricots.

Origin and history

One of the first records of Kampot pepper comes from the late 13th century, when the Chinese diplomat Zhu Daguan noted that pepper was grown around the ancient city of Angkor. In the history of Cambodia, traders from Indonesia, Holland and France were significantly involved in the cultivation of pepper.

Europeans only learned about Kampot and Kampot pepper in the 19th century thanks to the port there. At the end of the 19th century, the Sultan of Aceh burned down the pepper plantations rather than leave them to the Dutch. Kampot pepper was very popular among chefs in Paris at the beginning of the 20th century, it was used in the most famous Parisian restaurants. In the 1920s and 1930s, most French pepper came from Kampot.

Cambodia’s pepper production collapsed under the Khmer Rouge in the latter half of the 1970s. Farmers were forced to grow food crops instead of pepper. It was only in the early 2000s that pepper growers returned to their traditions and saved this variety of pepper from complete extinction.

In 2010, Kampot pepper received a designation of origin certificate from the World Trade Organization, becoming to pepper what champagne is to sparkling wine or prosciutto di Parma to ham. As with other products, there are constant checks to maintain the desired result.

Hand processing of Kampot pepper.
source: thespicehouse.com

Kampot pepper in the kitchen

Kampot pepper is used in a variety of dishes, from savory to sweet, from simple to sophisticated. One of the most famous dishes is the Kampot pepper crab, it is a crab fried in a wok with garlic, onion and pepper balls.

Chefs recommend adding Kampot pepper to dishes at the very end because, like garlic, it can become somewhat bitter when overcooked. In Cambodian cuisine, this spice is often combined with turmeric, ginger, star anise and cardamom.

  • Kampot pepper is an important ingredient for the famous steak au poivre. Use it in beef squirrel recipes .

  • Kampot pepper is an excellent seasoning for any seafood, try it in shrimp recipes .

  • Surprisingly, this pepper is also used with sweet foods such as freshly cut fruit, dark chocolate or a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Don’t be afraid to use it when preparing fruit cups .

  • Sauces are popular in Cambodian cuisine. You can make your own with freshly ground Kampot pepper, fish sauce, lime juice and chopped sage.

  • In Italian cuisine, this pepper is an essential ingredient for spaghetti cacio e pepe. Use it to prepare other recipes for Italian pasta .

  • You can also use the whole balls in pickled cucumbers, chalamades or to make spicy olive oil.
Plate with fried crab on Kampot pepper.
source: travelcambodiaonline.com


Store Kampot pepper in a closed, airtight container in a cool, dry place away from light and moisture. Only then will it retain its full flavor and aroma. Grind or crush it just before use.

Kampot pepper and health

This spice is not only a delicacy, but also a medicine. Apart from cooking, Kampot pepper has also found its way into Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine. There are many reasons, including the fact that pepper has a high content of antioxidants and has an anti-inflammatory effect.

It is scientifically proven that the fruits of the pepper tree act against free radicals and chronic inflammation. Kampot pepper can thus help prevent some types of cancer, including colon and prostate cancer.

The presence of piperine in the berries improves memory and generally benefits the brain. It also has a positive effect on digestion. It increases the absorption of nutrients and supports the production of digestive juices that help break down food more efficiently.

Since Kampot pepper is a variety of classic pepper, its nutritional composition and health effects are similar. Kampot pepper is a good source of vitamin K, which is important for bone formation and blood clotting. In terms of minerals, it is particularly rich in iron, manganese and potassium.

Last but not least, women in Cambodia often undergo a pepper peeling treatment. The feeling after applying it is similar to the feeling after applying Tiger Ointment.

Cultivation of Kampot pepper

Kampot pepper is grown on a few pepper farms in the Kampot province of southern Cambodia. Pepper plants grow on stakes that are placed in well-spaced rows. Green peppercorns first appear in September and then ripen until the new year.

Pepper plantation in Kampot.
source: bbc.com

Farmers pick the peppercorns by hand and dry some of them in the sun for several days, turning them black. White peppercorns are black peppercorns that have been soaked in water and de-hulled. Two months later, it’s time for red pepper, which are peppercorns that are fully ripened until they turn a brilliant crimson color. Generally, Kampot pepper is harvested from February to May, the current production is around 100 tons per year.

Milan & Ondra

We are both fans of good food and enjoy cooking. On this website, we want to inspire you with traditional, but also less common recipes. We will be happy if you try our recipes and let us know how you liked them. Bon appetite! :)