May 19, 2024

Hot take: pepperoni is the most overrated pizza topping

Let’s be honest here, pepperoni is incredibly overrated.

There’s absolutely no reason for anyone to sully their delicious cheese-slathered pies with these horrendous little crimson circles of fats and nitrates. 

Unfortunately, society has collectively decided that pepperoni is the default pizza topping. If you ask anyone walking on the street to imagine a slice of pizza, I’d imagine it’ll be the same thing: a New York-style slice with little pepperoni cups scattered all over.

This isn’t limited to peoples’ perceptions, either. Nearly every advertisement for a pizza chain will display pepperoni pizza in lieu of any other toppings.

Pepperoni doesn’t deserve this reputation. It adds nothing to a pizza besides what can only be described as a mildly spicier, yet inferior, version of salami. If you want dried meat on your pizza pie, just slice up a roll of salami and throw it on top of your cheese. 

There’s also the matter of grease. There is no need to add to the risk of health complications by throwing pepperoni onto your pizza, especially since these highly-concentrated volumes of fat that pool into the pepperoni are consumed with every bite.

I’ll concede that Americans love excess. Nothing quite screams “freedom” like having an excessive amount of everything, and that definitely extends to our foods. In Italy, there’s an organization called the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana (APVN) that sets the standards for authentic Neapolitan-style pizza. According to the AVPN, Neapolitan-style pizza can only have 80 to 100 grams of mozzarella cheese; no more, no less.

In contrast, a medium cheese pizza from Dominos has 27 grams of cheese per slice. With 8 slices total, that’ll be roughly 216 grams of cheese, over double that of an authentic Neapolitan pizza.

So yes, Americans love excess, and I will never be ashamed for enjoying the peculiar styles of pizza, but a line has to be drawn somewhere. Pepperoni adds too much for too little in return, especially when we have so many alternatives available.

A personal favorite topping of mine is Italian sausage. Not only is Italian sausage cheap and plentiful, but it’s not a specialized topping the way pepperoni is. You can use it for a variety of dishes, like biscuits and gravy or a breakfast casserole. Pepperoni, in contrast, has limited utility besides being a pizza topping.

For those out there who watch their weight, it’s also worth considering the calorie count of pepperoni versus that of Italian sausage.

Walmart’s Great Value Pepperoni has 140 calories per serving, or 5 calories per gram. Meanwhile, their Great Value Ground Italian Sausage has 160 calories per serving, or 2.86 calories per gram.

If we were to assume that we’d use roughly 100 grams of meat topping on a pizza, we’d come out at 500 calories of pepperoni and 286 calories of Italian sausage, a staggering difference of 214 calories.

Using the same methodology, I’ve also compiled calorie count results for pepperoni and Italian sausage products for Kroger and Target.

Kroger’s pepperoni clocks in at 467 calories per 100 grams, whereas its ground Italian sausage has 304 calories per 100 grams.

Meanwhile, Target’s pepperoni also has 467 calories per 100 grams, while its Italian sausage boasts 335 calories per 100 grams.

Pepperoni is a substantially more calorie-dense topping than Italian sausage is. While some may find that beneficial, those who are seeking to maintain a calorie deficit, look elsewhere. There are far better options for pizza toppings out there.

Graphic by Marvin Wurr. A column chart comparing the calorie counts for pepperoni and Italian sausage from three different retailers.


  • Marvin Wurr

    Marvin is a third-year English literature major. In his free time he enjoys hanging out with friends at bars and watching straight-to-DVD action flicks.

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