Cravings Fast Food Features

How Pepperoni Became The Most Iconic Pizza Topping

The doorbell rings and you scramble to find your pants before greeting the pizza delivery guy. As you fumble for your wallet, you can already smell the heavenly aroma of your cheesy pepperoni-topped pizza.

Why pepperoni?

There are dozens of different things pizza lovers can top their pies with, anchovies being our top pick. Have you every wondered, though, why pepperoni is such an iconic topping that it’s featured in practically every reference to the Italian dish here in American culture?

According to the Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink, pepperoni was popularized when it arrived in America with Italian immigrants.

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In the 1900s, pizzerias in New York found that customers would enjoy the combination of pepperoni and cheese the most. The two ingredients went together like lamb and tuna fish.

Cured salami was a mixture of meat and fat that was finely chopped and mixed with peppers and spices. Rolled into a pig casing, the pepperoni was air dried for up to ten months at a time before it was ready for consumption.

Over the last century, advances in science found ways to cheat the months-long pepperoni curing process to produce the meat in a matter of hours. This allowed companies to mass produce the popular topping to meet the demands of pepperoni-loving Americans.

Pepperoni consequently became so popular that brands would make “healthier” variations for customers to buy made from both turkey and soy.

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Fast forward a century later and pepperoni is still the veritable champ of pizza toppings, reigning over nearly every pizza topping list. It could be a millennia before another ingredient comes along to claim that title, but today, pepperoni remains the people’s choice.

After anchovies, of course.

By Peter Pham

Pete's favorite foods include pizza, tacos and pretty much any kind of breakfast. He'll usually snap a photo or two while his food cools down.