Kampot Pepper: The World’s Best Black Pepper

Cambodians have been growing pepper since the time of the Khmer Empire, which means that it has been produced there for more than 1,000 years. While many westerners may never have heard about Kampot, the quality of the region’s black pepper has made it famous among professional cooks and food-lovers the world over. An emissary from China named Zhou Daguan documented the early cultivation of Kampot pepper in the 13th century. Much of what we know about early Cambodian history comes from his writings. 

Kampot would be known to Europeans in the 19th century because of the port there. Merchant ships brought goods from all over the world to trade in Kampot. Kampot pepper was shipped from there as well. The production of Kampot pepper intensified during Indonesia’s Aceh war. Aceh’s sultan burned the pepper plantations rather than leave them to the Dutch. 

Kampot pepper was a particularly big hit among the chefs in Paris in the early and mid 20th century. The peak of production occurred around the 1930s and the two decades that followed. In 1928, most of France’s pepper came from Kampot. Through the 1960s 8,000 tons of the pepper were harvested each year. 

Kampot pepper would remain hugely profitable for farmers and merchants until the arrival of the Khmer Rouge and the outbreak of civil war in the 1970s. The country switched to a focus on the cultivation of rice rather than luxury goods like pepper. By the end of the 1990s, only 4 tons of Kampot pepper were harvested annually. In the last two decades have farmers returned to cultivating Kampot pepper from plants found growing wild. 

Kampot pepper is now seeing a resurgence as the world regains an appreciation of what was once considered the world’s best black pepper. In 2009, Kampot pepper was given Protected Geographical Indication status. 

Kampot pepper flavor profile

Kampot pepper belongs to the Piper nigrum family from which we get all forms of black pepper, but it is known for its extraordinary pungency. It offers floral notes with hints of citrus, and the flavor is said to linger on the tongue for longer than other black peppers. 

Health benefits of Kampot pepper

Because Kampot pepper comes from the same family as regular black pepper, its nutritional makeup and health benefits are similar. Kampot pepper is a good source of: 

  • Vitamin K: Like all black peppers, Kampot pepper is a great source of vitamin K, which is fat-soluble. Your body uses vitamin K to build bone and to help with blood clotting. 
  • Minerals: Kampot pepper is rich in various minerals including iron and potassium, but it is a particularly good source of manganese and iron. 

Along with bone health and blood clotting, Kampot pepper can help to treat or prevent certain health conditions like: 

  • Cancer: Kampot pepper contains antioxidants that help to reverse the damage that free radicals cause. As a result, Kampot pepper may help to prevent certain types of cancer including colorectal and prostate cancers. 
  • Poor digestion: When you eat food that contains Kampot pepper, your body will produce more of certain digestive juices to help break food down more effectively. 

Common uses

Kampot pepper is used in classic Cambodian recipes like Kampot crab and is considered an exceptional complement for seafood due to the citrus aspects of its flavor profile.