Malabar Black Peppercorns
Malabar Black Peppercorns, Piper nigrum, are among the first peppercorns specifically cultivated for trade, and helped establish black pepper’s clout in kitchens around the world. They are indigenous to the Malabar region in modern-day Kerala, a state that runs along the western coast of India.
What are Malabar Black Peppercorns?
All black peppercorns are berries that come from Piper nigrum, a flowering vine of the Piperaceae family. Malabar Black Peppercorns are picked early, while they’re small and still green. They’re often boiled first to jump-start the enzymatic reaction that changes their color. The peppercorns are then left out in the sun to dry, turning black and wrinkly in the process. As mentioned, black peppercorns are picked while still green. Some of those peppercorns are processed separately, brined or flash-dehydrated. They are green peppercorns. White peppercorns are also from the same plant. They are allowed to turn black, and then are stripped of their outer hull, revealing only the smooth, white nut in the center.
Malabar Black Peppercorns have a protected designation status. To be classified as Malabar peppercorn, they must be grown in a specific region that encompasses southern and coastal India; the growing area is larger than the original Malabar coast from which these peppercorns emerged, and now specifically defined in the application submitted by the Indian government for designated status in 2004.
The History of Malabar Black Peppercorns
This narrow, humid Malabar region that runs India’s southwestern edge is the birthplace of Malabar pepper. The pepper vine emerged between 4,000 and 5,000 years ago, and has been historically classified as a “chance seedling” that developed in Malabar’s rich soil. There was established trade from the Malabar coast with Assyrians and Babylonians as early as 2500 BCE, but then Alexander the Great invaded India in the 4th century BCE and expanded global interest in pepper, bringing it first to Greece and then through the Mediterranean. By 408 CE, pepper had become so valuable that Visigoths demanded 3,000 pounds of pepper after sacking Rome and holding the city hostage, along with 5,000 pounds of gold, 30,000 pounds of silver, 4,000 silk tunics, and 3,000 animal hides. The ransom was paid in full.
Malabar Black Peppercorns come from a tropical vine that thrives in steamy heat. It prefers hot climates and doesn’t survive if the weather goes below freezing. Soil should be well-drained and not prone to flooding. This climbing vine travels up roughly-barked trees or special trellises installed to encourage them to climb. Light should be moderate; it does well in dappled light. The peppercorn is a “drupe”, a fleshy fruit with a single seed contained in a hard inner shell, or pericarp. Larger examples of drupes are stone fruits like peaches or plums.
Where Are Our Malabar Black Peppercorns from?
Our Malabar Black Peppercorns are grown in Malabar designated region of India.
Fragrant with prickly pine and crackling citrus top notes, our whole Malabar Black Peppercorns are the embodiment of pepper straight from the source. These peppercorns emit a gentle floral flavor at first, before the clean burst of heat from piperine cuts across the tongue with its resinous, pine-laden flavors. As the heat fades, a mellow, rounded fruit flavor steps in at the finish, to remind us all that peppercorns are, indeed, berries. With a volatile oil content of approximately 3% by weight, Malabar Black Peppercorns are small but potent.
What Are the Best Black Peppercorns?
There is a lot of hot debate about which black peppercorns are the best. Is it Malabar? Or is it Tellicherry? As is most often the case, determining the best black peppercorn is largely a matter of taste. Tellicherry pepper comes from more mature berries, so their flavor tends to be rounder. They’re a little more mellow, but with more nuance. Malabar peppercorns are picked when they’re younger, so they have a more pronounced heat but not as much subtle top and bottom notes.
Black peppercorns are also grown in Indonesia, Vietnam, and Brazil. These are all good peppercorns that offer a steady burn from piperine and a pleasant, citrus-pine bouquet. Indonesian peppercorns tend to be hotter with a lingering burn, Vietnamese peppercorns tend to have a more complex aroma, while Brazilian pepper tends to provide a biting heat that fades quickly.
What Is The Difference Between Malabar and Tellicherry Pepper?
Both Malabar and Tellicherry Peppercorns come from the same plant; if you have a Malabar and a Tellicherry peppercorn in front of you, they may have even come from the same vine. Most peppercorns are picked on the vine while they’re still small and green, and yes, green peppercorns are also a product of the first harvest. Malabar Black Peppercorns are then allowed to dry in the sun until they wrinkle and turn brown. Because they are younger peppercorns, they are smaller and have a straightforward heat.
Tellicherry Peppercorns are allowed to remain on the vine for a longer period of time, so they grow to their full size—any peppercorn that’s larger than 4.25mm is labelled Tellicherry—and they turn red. While they still retain peppery heat, they mature as berries do. They sweeten a bit as the sugars in the fruit develop, creating a peppery flavor that’s more balanced.
Tips from Our Kitchen
Malabar Black Peppercorns, and black pepper in general, have become a standard in just about every dish around the world. It’s incredibly versatile and is equally at home freshly ground and topping a vibrant green salad as it is mixed into an Italian Herb and Tomato Pasta. Blend it with ground red chiles and rub into flank steak or add to the yogurt marinade for spicy Tandoori Chicken. Malabar Black Peppercorns are a wonderful secret ingredient to use when baking; just a few grinds in a cake batter or cookie dough balances out sugary sweetness and has friends wondering why that dessert is so special. Malabar Black Peppercorns are best when they’re ground as needed.
For more information about the assortment of peppercorns we offer, please visit our peppercorn page.
Substitutions and Conversions
1 teaspoon of whole Malabar Black Peppercorns is approximately 1 (scant) teaspoon ground black pepper.
|Ingredients||Malabar Black Peppercorns|
|Also Called||Black peppercorns, Malabar pepper|
|Recommended Uses||Can go in just about every cuisine. Grind whole peppercorns over roasts, add to breading, finish soups and top salad.|
|Flavor Profile||Citrus and floral top notes with a bright clean heat and a pine finish.|
|Botanical Name||Piper nigrum|
|How To Store||Airtight container in a cool, dark place|
|Shelf Life||1-2 Years|
|Country of Origin||India|
|Dietary Preferences||Gluten Free, Non-GMO|
Hungry for More Information
Serving Size1 tsp
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value*