Pepperoni pizza, you know it, you love it, hey, everybody loves it. It is the most popular pizza topping in the U.S. Every pizzeria has it on the menu, and every frozen pizza section of the supermarket has shelves full of multiple brands of frozen pepperoni pizza.
But have you ever wondered exactly where pepperoni pizza comes from? Or why it’s so popular? We decided to do a deep dive into pepperoni pizza and see if we can unravel the history of pepperoni as a pizza topping and understand why it is such a favorite.
- Pepperoni pizza is the most popular pizza topping in the U.S., but it is not an Italian pizza topping.
- Pepperoni was created in 1919 in New York as a substitute for Italian salami using available ingredients.
- Making homemade pepperoni requires a meat grinder and sausage stuffer, and can be smoked in an oven or smoker.
Table of Contents
What is Pepperoni?
Pepperoni is one of the many gifts from Italian immigrants who came to the U.S. It first hit the food scene in 1919 in New York. It was created as a substitute for Italian salami using the ingredients available.
Pepperoni is a semi-dry fermented salami or sausage. It can be made with pork or beef or a mixture of both. Nowadays, you can find turkey, buffalo, and vegan and vegetarian pepperoni. Pepperoni gets its bright reddish-orange color from paprika and red chilies. The taste comes from the different aromatic herbs added.
Surprisingly, pepperoni is not an Italian pizza topping. If you are in Italy, you will want to order salami because if you ask for pepperoni, you will get Bell peppers.
History of Pepperoni Pizza
It is a little tricky to know exactly when pizzaiolos started adding pepperoni to their pizza. In the early days, pepperoni was used on sandwiches, pasta, and as an antipasto plate. The only people really eating pizza back then were the Italian immigrant community, so it was used in the community.
Pepperoni hadn’t blown up as a pizza topping because pizza had yet to really blow up. In the early days of Italian immigrants, Italian food was not revered like it is today. Many people steered clear of Italian food because of the pungent smells of garlic and other spices.
Plus, xenophobia and general racism kept many Americans fearful of anything foreign, from people to customs to culinary styles. So, pepperoni slices and pizza, in general, stayed in the Italian-American community for several more years.
After World War II, pizza became more popular as soldiers stationed in Italy returned to the U.S. and were part of the trends that popularized pizza. And pepperoni became a favorite pizza topping due to its meaty, smoky taste.
Now, pepperoni pizza is the most popular pizza and is considered part of American cuisine. But pepperoni isn’t just for pizza. You can make Italian-inspired sandwiches with layers of ham, pepperoni, and provolone. Or you can stuff pepperoni in calzones or wrap it in stromboli. Pepperoni has even found its way to charcuterie boards and chopped into a pasta salad.
Recently, we have tried many different types of pepperoni; we have tried venison and buffalo meat pepperoni. And we even ventured into plant-based meats and tried plant-based pepperoni. But one thing that we tried recently is to make homemade pepperoni. It’s an interesting process; if you do it right, it yields a delicious product.
We probably won’t make it regularly, like we do with homemade mozzarella, but it was fun to learn the process and is a great hands-on project to learn more about curing salamis.
How to Make Homemade Pepperoni
Making homemade pepperoni requires a few things. There are some workarounds, but ideally, you will need a meat grinder, a sausage stuffing attachment, or a stand-alone sausage stuffer. If you have a Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer, you can get a meat grinder sausage stuffer attachment.
If you are on the fence about investing in a meat grinder, you can get a relatively basic one that won’t break the bank. We use our meat grinder for making burgers, meatballs, fillings for raviolos, and more. But if you aren’t sure, you can always ask your local butcher to fresh grind the meat for you, but you will still need a sausage stuffer.
Sausage stuffers come in all price ranges, but a good one will have different-sized attachments. You can get a manual stuffer or an electric one; they both work well, but the electric one is a little easier to use.
Next, you will need some type of smoker. Electric or propane is fine. The Big Green Egg is another good option. If you are lucky enough to have access to a smokehouse, that’s ideal, but if you don’t have any of these, you can use your basic home oven.
Here is the recipe and the ingredients we used to make homemade pepperoni. This is our friend’s recipe, and he gave us permission to share it. But you can always tweak spices to taste. If you really want to dive into pepperoni and sausage making, we recommend these five books to get you started:
This book covers the basics and is an excellent introduction to the process.
Great info; it’s straightforward and easy to read with many styles and should answer most of your questions.
Recipes and ideas to find styles you like.
More excellent recipes.
If you like smoking meats and may be thinking about building your own smokehouse, this book is a great resource.
Homemade Pepperoni Meat Recipe
- 1 ½ pounds pork butt
- ¾ pound of beef chuck
- 4 teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon of curing salt
- 2 teaspoons dextrose
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons black pepper
- 4 teaspoons sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground anise seeds
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon F-LC culture
- ⅓ cup distilled water
- Grind the meat through 3/16” plate.
- Mix all spices and other ingredients with ground meat.
- Stuff into casings about 60mm in diameter.
- Ferment at 86º F and 85-90% humidity for 24 hours.
- Place the sausage in the smoker and smoke at 110-130º F and 70% humidity for 6 hours. Increase smoke temperature to 150-175º F, then to 190º F until the internal meat temperature reaches 140º F.
- Store sausages at 50-59º F and 75-80% humidity.
From the history of pepperoni as a pizza topping to making your very own homemade artisanal pepperoni at home, we have covered everything you’ll ever need to know about pepperoni. But just for kicks, here are some more common questions you might be curious about.
Frequently Asked Questions about Pepperoni
What is the history of pepperoni as a pizza topping?
Pepperoni is a type of salami that originated in Italy. It is believed to have been brought to the United States by Italian immigrants in the late 19th century. Pepperoni quickly became a popular pizza topping in the US, and is now one of the most commonly used pizza toppings.
When was pepperoni first used as a pizza topping?
While the exact date is not known, pepperoni is believed to have been used as a pizza topping in the early 20th century. It quickly became popular and is now one of the most commonly used pizza toppings in the United States.
How did pepperoni become one of the most popular pizza toppings?
Pepperoni became popular in the US due to its spicy flavor and versatility. It pairs well with a variety of other pizza toppings and can be used in many different types of pizza, such as deep dish, thin crust, and stuffed crust. Additionally, pepperoni is readily available and affordable, making it a popular choice for pizzerias.
What is the origin of pepperoni and how did it make its way onto pizza?
Pepperoni originated in Italy and is a type of salami. It is made from beef and pork, and is seasoned with paprika, garlic, and other spices. Italian immigrants brought pepperoni to the United States in the late 19th century, where it quickly became popular as a pizza topping.
What are some interesting facts about the history of pepperoni on pizza?
Pepperoni is the most popular pizza topping in the United States, and is used on approximately 36% of all pizzas sold. It is also the most commonly misspelled pizza topping, with many people spelling it as “peperoni”. Additionally, pepperoni is often used as a topping on other foods, such as sandwiches and salads.
Sooo… What is your favorite type of pepperoni?