Every year, around 252 million pounds of pepperoni are used on pizza. It is no surprise that pepperoni is the single most popular pizza topping, enjoyed by young and old alike. It is so popular in the U.S that we have a national pepperoni pizza day – celebrated every September 20.
But it’s worth noting that pepperoni is more than just a pizza topping. You can chop it into pasta salad, stuff it inside mushrooms, and much more. There are several types of pepperoni, as we’ve explored in depth below.
You can classify pepperoni in three ways: the type of meat it’s made of, the method of preparation, or the additional ingredients used during preparation. And if you like being a little extra, you can classify pepperoni by cultural sensibilities. That brings us to 13 types of pepperoni. Take a look.
Grouping Pepperoni by Preparation Method
When it comes to preparing pepperoni, there is so much room for exploration. You can have it in cubes, slices, sticks, or cup char. That gives us four types of pepperoni.
1. Cubed Pepperoni
Cubed pepperoni is always an easy addition to several dishes – making it quite a popular choice. Manufacturers and grocery stores have taken the cue, so you can easily find diced pepperoni on almost all grocery store shelves.
2. Cup Char Pepperoni
As the name suggests, cup char pepperoni takes up the shape of a cup with a distinct lip when subjected to heat. It also appears slightly charred. With the lip exposed, it tends to cook faster than the base – due to the cheese and the crust at the base. Consequently, the lip crisps and the fat melts into the center of the cup. That leaves you with a cup full of pepperoni grease.
3. Stick Pepperoni
Pepperoni is so versatile – you can even serve it to your guests in the form of snack sticks. You can either buy it at the store or make yours at home if you like to be more hands-on. If you decide to do it yourself, it would be best to freeze your meat for up to half an hour.
That will make it easier for you to grind. And in some cases, you might need to pass your meet through the grinder for a second time. While at it, remember to use ceramic, plastic, or glass bowls to mix your meat with a fast cure. Using reactive metals, such as aluminum, might lead to a chemical reaction which might ruin your mixture.
4. Flat Laid Pepperoni
Last in this group is the good old flat-laid pepperoni. It is most popular among pizza lovers. And from the look of things, the debate between flat laid pepperoni and cup char pepperoni is nowhere near over. It’s a classic type of pepperoni that has truly withstood the test of time.
Grouping by the Ingredients Used
Many people have dietary restrictions – some cannot eat high-fat pepperoni for medical reasons or just in pursuit of a healthier lifestyle. Luckily, you don’t have to completely strike out pepperoni from the menu since pepperoni has evolved to accommodate everyone.
5. Gluten-Free Pepperoni
Ideally, pepperoni is considered gluten-free. However, the majority of facilities that produce pepperoni also produce other meats that might contain seasonings that are not gluten-free. That poses a risk – though minimal – of cross-contamination in pepperoni. Besides, binding agents used in the preparation process might also contain traces of gluten.
Although there is no test you can perform to verify that the pepperoni is indeed gluten-free, the labels contain all the necessary information. So the next time you are at the store, take an extra minute to check out the ingredients on the label.
6. Plant-Based Pepperoni
If you are a vegan or vegetarian, you don’t have to give up pepperoni – the plant-based substitute is just as good. Some people even suggest that it’s better than real pepperoni! Think about it – plant-based pepperoni is rich in taste, has several health benefits, and is environmentally friendly.
A vegan pepperoni uses plant-based items such as blends of mushroom, wheat gluten and pea protein – though there might be a variation from one manufacturer to the other. So, if you are allergic to gluten, check to see that it’s not among the ingredients.
7. Low Sodium Pepperoni
Pepperoni, being cured meat, is rich in saturated fat and sodium. It contains about 463 milligrams of sodium per 1-ounce serving. Although sodium helps with the function of your nerves and muscles, too much of it might lead to problems such as hypertension and water retention.
Therefore, if you are a pepperoni lover, you might consider the low sodium option. It contains about 50% less sodium than regular pepperoni. And even when consuming this type of pepperoni, remember that too much of it might still cause problems.
Grouping by the Type of Meat
Pork is probably the first meat that comes to your mind when pepperoni is mentioned. But there are several other types of meat on that list. Take a look.
8. Beef Pepperoni
As the name suggests, this pepperoni is made of 100% beef. It comes in handy for people who can’t consume certain types of meat. For instance, Muslims can’t consume pork, so there is beef pepperoni for them and anyone else who’d like to try it out of sheer curiosity.
9. Turkey Pepperoni
Under the labeling laws of the United States, a turkey-based pepperoni should not contain any other type of animal flesh. However, a turkey-based pepperoni has almost a similar flavor to the traditional pork pepperoni. The only difference is that the turkey-based one contains fewer calories and fats.
10. Pork Pepperoni
As we have mentioned, pork pepperoni has got to be the most popular type. However, it’s also common to find pepperoni that combines pork and beef. If the pepperoni only has pork as the animal flesh, then we would call it salami.
11. Venison Pepperoni
Venison is a known high-quality and complete source of protein. That means it contains all the essential amino acids your body can’t make on its own. It is also lower in saturated fat than other red meats. And the best part is, you can enjoy it in the form of pepperoni.
I’ll admit it tastes a little different, but you’ll get used to it. In most cases, venison pepperoni comes as pepperoni sticks – don’t be surprised if it becomes your favorite snack.
Grouping Pepperoni Culturally
We can further group pepperoni along culture lines, which gives us two more types.
12. Halal Pepperoni
Halal is a whole industry, with the food and beverage market averaging over $1.9 trillion. The term Halal guides people of the Islam faith on religiously acceptable things. The opposite is known as Haram.
For instance, pork is haram, meaning anything that contains pork is not religiously acceptable. On the other hand, pepperoni that does not contain pork, such as turkey or beef pepperoni, is halal.
13. Kosher Pepperoni
Similar to halal pepperoni, kosher pepperoni should not contain pork. The pepperoni also has to conform to preparation guidelines. That means the chef must thoroughly wash the meat, so there should be no trace of blood.
Cooking spaces and utensils must also be sanitized. Besides, kosher pepperoni can’t have both dairy and meat. So if you want to enjoy a kosher pizza that contains cheese, the pepperoni would have to be a plant-based alternative.
The History of Pepperoni
The true origin of pepperoni has been a bone of contention for the longest time. Most people think it’s Italian, while it was invented in the United States. Italians deserve some credit, though – because Italian-Americans invented it. But if we trace it further, curing meat was pioneered by ancient Romans.
The Making of Pepperoni
The making of pepperoni begins at the grounding stage. Pepperoni makers then mix the ground meat with spices like pepper, mustard seed, and garlic. They then add salt to the meat-spice mixture to cure it. They then seal it and place it in the refrigerator for a few days.
The next step after taking the meat out of the refrigerator is stuffing the mixture into castings and tying the castings into links. The links only go into the refrigerator for around twelve hours to define their shape. The links then go into a smoke chamber to preserve them further. This goes on for a couple of weeks. Finally, the pepperoni makers slice the dried meat and package them.
Pepperoni Fan Facts
- Americans consume over 340 tons of pepperoni each day.
- Pepperoni is the most popular pizza topping in the United States – if cheese is out of the question.
- The bright red color you see in pepperoni comes from paprika.
- The pepperoni pizza was among the first things to be ever ordered on the internet in 1994.
Here are some of the commonly asked questions about pepperoni.
How much pepperoni is too much?
Treating yourself to some pepperoni occasionally won’t affect your long-term health. Although it might not be the healthiest food out there, it can still be part of a balanced diet, as long as you watch your portions.
According to the USDA, pepperoni delivers 141 calories per 1-ounce piece weighing 28 grams. 84% of these calories are fat. Notably, your body needs fat to aid the absorption of vitamins and, of course, to provide energy.
The other reason to watch your pepperoni intake is the nitrate preservatives present in pepperoni. However, the Agency of Toxic Substances and Disease registry says that nitrates from processed food are safe in limited amounts since your body excretes them.
Is peperoni sold raw?
By definition, pepperoni is a dry-cured, fermented sausage. So technically, it is raw because it doesn’t go through any heating process. However, cooked varieties are also available in stores. Besides, even raw pepperoni is perfectly safe for consumption since the curing and fermentation kills any bacteria present.
How do you store pepperoni?
Once you get pepperoni from the grocery store, take it straight to the refrigerator until you need it. You can store it in its packaging, or go in with an extra later of cling film so that it doesn’t dry out. To get the best of your pepperoni, use it within a week of opening the package.
If you still have some left past the one week mark, put it in an air-tight container and freeze it. Your unopened pepperoni can go for longer. It is usually safe to use up to a week after its “sell by” date.
Has my pepperoni gone bad?
The best way to judge your pepperoni is its smell. Although pepperoni is fermented, smelling overly sour might be an indicator that it has gone bad. You might also notice a pungent smell if the pepperoni has gone bad.
Its appearance can also tell you whether or not the pepperoni is bad. If your pepperoni looks wet, or feels slimy to the touch, it’s time to toss it out.
Are pepperoni and salami the same?
There is always a question of how pepperoni compares to salami. Think of salami as the parent, and pepperoni an offspring. But since pepperoni is not truly Italian, the flavor profile is quite different from that of other salami meats.
Can anything replace pepperoni?
Most probably not. The closest you can get to a substitute for pepperoni is specialty salamis, such as Borsellino and Salame Secci. But they are still not as flavorful and colorful as pepperoni. But as we had mentioned earlier, you can get vegetarian pepperoni if you want the flavor minus the meat.
Is pepperoni keto-friendly?
Ketogenic diet is becoming increasingly popular, especially for weight loss. The good news is, pepperoni is keto-friendly. You can snack on it without any guilt or fear of derailing your weight loss goals. It is loaded with vitamins, minerals and protein.
It also contains selenium, an antioxidant that controls harmful free radicals. However, you should only consume it as an occasional snack. Otherwise, your cholesterol levels might spike.
Where did pepperoni get its name?
Pepperoni is a borrowed term – coined from peperoni, the plural of peperone. That is the Italian word for bell pepper. What we Americans call pepperoni can be referred to as salame picante in Italy, which loosely translates to “spicy salami”. The term pepperoni was first used to refer to a sausage in 1919.
Can my dog eat pepperoni?
Pepperoni is so flavorful – you might be tempted to share the greatness with your furry friend. Unfortunately, pepperoni is unhealthy for your dog — this and other highly processed meat. Although it’s not immediately toxic to the dog, the high amounts of preservatives, fat and sodium put your dog at risk of obesity, pancreatitis, and digestive issues.
Furthermore, the garlic and onion used in pepperoni can cause red blood cell damage to your dog. Too much salt can also dehydrate your dog or worse still, lead to kidney damage. To avoid all these problems, keep the pepperoni away from your dog.