Kampot White Peppercorns: Here's Why It's So Expensive

For gourmets, Kampot White pepper, hailed as the Champagne of pepper and nurtured by an ideal blend of sea, soil, and climate, stands unrivaled. Its aromatic subtlety commands prices up to $170 per kilogram, reflecting its culinary prestige.

Kampot White Peppercorns: Here's Why It's So Expensive
Black and White Kampot Peppercorns by Christina Rumpf / Unsplash

Every adept cook values freshly ground black pepper, but for the true gourmet, Kampot pepper spice is unparalleled.

Esteemed culinary icons like Anthony Bourdain and Michelin-starred Olivier Roellinger have been captivated by this Cambodian gem from Kampot province.

Here, a perfect blend of sea, soil, and climate births a highly aromatic and subtle spice, often hailed as the Champagne of pepper.

Awarded a protected geographical indication by the European Union in 2016, its delightful citrusy, fruity, and sharp flavor notes have charmed chefs and spice enthusiasts worldwide for generations.

What is Kampot Pepper?

Kampot pepper, known as mrech Kampot in Khmer and poivre de Kampot in French, is a distinct variety of black pepper (piper nigrum) cultivated in Cambodia, specifically in Kampot Province, from which it derives its name.

This coveted pepper is nurtured into green, black, white, and red forms, all stemming from the same plant.

The favorable climate of Kampot, along with the quartz-rich soil at the Elephant Mountains' base, bestows upon Kampot pepper its unique character.

History and Origin of Kampot Pepper

Originating from southern India, the cultivation of black pepper (Piper nigrum) traces back to at least 2,000 BC, though its introduction in Cambodia remains uncertain.

The pepper trade in Cambodia burgeoned through the influence of traders from Indonesia, the Netherlands, and France.

French colonial imprint and Cambodia's culinary finesse ushered Kampot pepper into the limelight in the early 1900s, becoming a quintessential ingredient for a sublime steak au poivre in Paris.

The ascent halted in the 1970s with the Khmer Rouge's reign, as pepper cultivation gave way to enforced crop farming, plummeting the pepper yield.

The early 2000s saw a revival as growers reverted to pepper cultivation, leading to the UN's 'Appellation of Origin' designation in 2010, exclusive to pepper from Kampot.

Additionally, the European Union's Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status now ensures that only peppercorns from the Kampot vicinity are honored with the "Kampot pepper" label.

green round fruit on green leaves
Photo by Tony Pham / Unsplash

Varieties of Kampot Pepper

Kampot pepper, cultivated to produce green, black, red and White peppercorns from the same plant, undergoes distinct processes for diverse culinary uses.

While focusing on White Kampot peppercorn in this article, it's noteworthy that it is derived from ripe red peppercorns through a meticulous cleaning process.

Green Kampot Pepper (Unripe Color)

Available freshly during April and May, green peppercorns are a culinary delight, often paired with meat or seafood. Though their freshness is fleeting post-harvest, pickling or salt preservation can extend their shelf life.

Black Kampot Pepper (Dried From Green Pepper)

Black Kampot Pepper, transformed from green or yellow peppercorns through sun-drying, encapsulates a potent spiciness and aroma with a floral undertone, unlike its unripe green kin.

Prized since the French colonial era for its bold spiciness and flavorful depth, its sun-cured process imparts robust, earthy, and piney notes, offering a taste profile that remains unrivaled.

Red Kampot Pepper (Ripe Color)

As clusters ripen to a reddish hue, they're harvested and sun-dried, capturing a sweet essence.

Only the finest dark red berries are selected for this rare grade, making each season's yield highly coveted.

Opening a bag reveals a peppery-sweet aroma reminiscent of dried apricots, while a turn of the pepper mill unveils an enchanting scent with fresh berry, pine, and citrus undertones.

White Kampot Pepper (After Few Washes)

A gentle soak of mature berries, only sourced from ripe red Kampot peppercorns, aids in the removal of skin and flesh, revealing the pristine white peppercorn seed.

As the most expensive variant, white Kampot pepper is favored by gourmet chefs for its ability to add a flavor finesse without overshadowing a dish's delicate taste, making it a go-to for subtler culinary creations.

What Is The Price of Kampot White Peppercorn?

In the United States, a 2.5oz pack of Kampot White Peppercorn is available online for around $18. When bought in bulk, the price per kilogram averages to about $170.

Why White Kampot Peppercorns Is So Special and Expensive?

Quality and Terroir

Nestled in the gentle slopes of the Dâmrei Mountains, the southern province of Kampot boasts a blend of climate, altitude, and soil composition that's a boon for agriculture.

This serene setting is a haven for peppercorn vines, lending the berries a rich flavor and aroma that sets them apart.

Regarded among the world's finest, the peppercorns of Kampot, Cambodia, are a testament to the region's agricultural allure.

Distinctive Taste and Aroma

Kampot pepper's hallmark lies in its refined taste and aroma, a departure from the harsh or bitter notes found in other pepper varieties.

It offers a sophisticated spicy-floral flavor blend, with a touch of sweetness mingled with a mild earthy undertone, making it a versatile choice for both sweet and savory delights.

The aroma of Kampot pepper is uniquely captivating, with a gentle floral nuance reminiscent of jasmine, extending its appeal beyond the kitchen to the world of perfumes and various fragrances.

Labor-Intensive Harvesting and Processing

The labor-intensive process of harvesting and processing, where skilled farmers hand-select the ripest pepper berries and meticulous hand-processing is done post-harvest, add to the cost​.

The creation of White Kampot Pepper begins with skilled farmers hand-picking fully mature red peppercorns from the vine.

After harvest, they are cleansed and scalded in hot water, then soaked overnight in clear water to soften the outer skin for easy removal, revealing the white seed.

Unlike black or red peppercorns that are sun-dried directly post-harvest, this detailed process involves a few washes before sun-drying for two to three days, based on sunlight availability.

A manual selection post-drying ensures only the finest white peppercorns are packaged and sold, adhering to the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) standards, thus upholding the unique quality of White Kampot Pepper in the culinary realm.

This process is what differentiates white peppercorns from black or red ones, which are either sun-dried or dried after harvesting without removing the skin.

The Geographical Indication PGI Status

The Geographical Indication (PGI) of Kampot Pepper celebrates the unique terroir of Kampot: its fertile soil, tropical climate, sea proximity, and ample sunshine during harvest.

Kampot pepper, white variant included, was the inaugural Cambodian produce to earn the French appellation d'origine contrôlée, akin to the "Champagne" designation.

Moreover, the European Union bestowed protected geographical indication status upon Kampot pepper in 2016, affirming its distinctive quality and origin.

Post-drying, White Kampot Pepper undergoes meticulous manual selection to retain only large, beige grains, with a minimum size of 3 millimeters.

White Kampot Pepper doesn't imply a bright white hue. Snow-white peppercorns on the market are likely artificially blanched. Authentic ones exhibit a creamy to beige color with small visible streaks on the seed.

Flavor Profile of Kampot White Pepper

Kampot white pepper, with its creamy white hue, unveils a contrasting essence to its aromatic red counterpart.

It introduces a delicate creamy aroma, laced with whispers of cedarwood and citrus, that gradually melds into the dish.

Initially, the taste may appear elusive, but it soon unfolds in a burst of flavors in your mouth, elevating even a humble dish to a gourmet delight.

They are found to be enchanting when used with dark meats, cheeses, vegetable soups, pastries, and a variety of cuisines, enhancing the flavor of the dishes​

raw meat on green chopping board
Photo by Farhad Ibrahimzade / Unsplash

Culinary Uses

How White Kampot peppercorns utilized in the culinary creations. Here are few examples:

Creamy Sauces: Employed to whip up a mildly spicy, creamy sauce, ideal alongside BBQ corn on the cob. Its versatility also shines in fusion dishes like pasta requiring a white sauce.

Seafood and Veggie Delights: Utilized in recipes like white cabbage and poached prawns, it enhances the dish with its floral, aromatic notes and a hint of spice, offering a nuanced alternative to regular pepper.

Versatile Seasoning: Ground to season a myriad of dishes from soups, stews, marinades, to sauces. Its mild heat and nuanced flavor are perfect for savory and sweet recipes alike. Ideal for sprinkling on steaks, poultry, or seafood, especially enhancing lighter meats like chicken and fish.


Kampot White Peppercorns reflect Cambodia's rich culinary legacy and the unique terroir of the Kampot region.

They represent a blend of tradition, flavor, and geographical uniqueness, distinguishing themselves in the gourmet spice domain. With a subtly distinct flavor, they are versatile enhancers for a variety of dishes.

Their appeal extends beyond Cambodian cuisine, capturing the admiration of chefs and food enthusiasts globally, marking them as a treasured ingredient in the worldwide culinary scene.