Among the most popular foods in the world is the almighty pizza, a perfect invention that caters to any taste you could imagine. You can put anything you want on top of it and still call it a pizza, but some toppings deserve more recognition than others. Here are the Top 10 Best Pizza Toppings.
Onions are one of the most commonly used vegetables, and their variations make them a popular topping for pizza. Red onion is usually mellower than the just-as-common white and yellow onion, so usually, you will see it used as a topping, either chopped or thinly sliced. Sometimes, the onions are cooked in vinegar and sugar to add sweetness or pickled to add some acidity and kick up the flavor. They are meant to enhance toppings already there, although surely somebody has tried to completely fill a pie with onions and cook it solo, but this is not really considered the recommended method. Instead, you’ll see small red onions pickled and mixed with goat cheese and sausage on a pie, cut along with BBQ chicken, or with a mixed vegetable topping. The versatility of onions makes it an excellent compliment to many different kinds of meats or vegetables, with a spiciness that some people find addictive. There have even been examples of east-meets-west fusion pizza, with marinated duck breast, hoisin sauce, and the mellow green onion or chives added to it. No matter where you decide to place them, what variety, or whether they are cooked or simply left raw, onions are sure to bring you some intense flavor and pizazz to a simple pizza.
Mushrooms are a tricky topping: either you love them, or you hate them. The almighty mushroom is a popular ingredient that has its devotees and detractors. Some people simply do not like the taste of mushrooms and cannot fathom them being on top of a pizza. But the hardcore fans never seem to get enough, and they are wildly popular on top of vegetable pies. For instance, Dominos in the US has had mushrooms as a regular topping for as long as the chain has been in existence. The typical mushroom topping consists of white button mushrooms, which is a fair choice for many people, but more adventurous chefs have been known to add wild varieties and even truffles onto pizza pies to up the flavor factor. Whether you’re a fan of this fungus or not, you can’t deny that mushrooms pack a punch in the health department. They’re considered a great low-calorie source of protein, antioxidants, and fiber, as well as Vitamin D and zinc, so they shouldn’t be discounted so easily. Their incredible popularity as a topping demands that they be added to any list of best pizza toppings.
Bell Peppers are a very popular pizza topping, especially among vegetarians. There is such a variety of peppers, from the slightly spicier green bells to the sweet ripened yellow and red peppers, that they each add a bit of a different flavor depending on what else it is complimenting on the pie. A common topping you might see are roasted red peppers, which are bell peppers that have been roasted until softened, then skinned, and marinated in oil, which ends up with a silky, pleasant texture in your mouth and imparts a delicate sweetness to whatever you put along with it. They are also healthy, full of vitamin C and other nutrients, so if you’re a vegetarian craving pizza or simply watching what you eat but still want to indulge from time to time, peppers are guaranteed to provide deliciousness without a lot of calories. In Canada, the ‘All-Dressed pizza’ often comes with bell peppers on top of it, along with mushrooms and pepperoni. Basically, peppers fit with just about any topping you could imagine, whether it be meat, vegetarian, or fish. Spicier peppers are worthwhile contenders for the best topping; whether it be scalding jalapeños or mellow banana peppers, they can complement and handle a mix of flavors and enhance your pie in ways that is unexpectedly pleasing to the taste buds.
7. BBQ Chicken
One of the great staples of American cuisine is BBQ chicken, so of course, it would eventually find its way atop a pizza. This is an example of a fusion between Italian tradition and America’s enterprising spirit born out of a need to adapt from the old world into the new. Considered a staple of ‘California Style pizza,’ popularized by American chefs like Ed LaDou, it was first a bit shocking to see combinations like duck breast and BBQ chicken on pizza, but now it’s become a very popular topping. Usually, grilled boneless breast or thighs of chicken marinated in barbecue sauce adorn a traditional BBQ chicken pizza along with onions, peppers, and a BBQ sauce in place of a tomato marinara sauce: the sweet and savory combination can be heavenly. What started in California in restaurants like Spago and California Pizza Kitchen eventually took off in other parts of the country and is now a mainstay available on most pizza chains’ menus. Chicken is also decidedly a healthier option than toppings like sausage and pepperoni, as it’s leaner, with more protein. So for those looking to indulge as well as maybe save a few calories, this is a good choice to have available.
By far, the most polarizing pizza topping has to be pineapple. The Hawaiian pizza, which is made up of cheese, pineapple, and ham, is now famed throughout the world – or notorious, depending on how you look at it. It was apparently invented up in Ontario, Canada, in the ’60s, although some questions remain about its origins. A Greek-Canadian chef named Sam Panopoulos claims to have invented it at his Satellite Restaurant in Chatham, Ontario, after working in Chinese restaurants, where sweet and savory combinations were common. Mixing pineapple into stir fry dishes inspired him to experiment with sweet toppings on pizzas, which led to the mad combination of pineapple along with ham to be christened the ‘Hawaiian,’ named after the brand of canned pineapple he was using. From then on, the pineapple topping became a legend, but it also has its share of detractors. The president of Iceland, Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson, once threatened to ban this topping from pizzas throughout the country, so disgusted by the sheer thought of the combination. But then readily admitted that he wouldn’t have the power to unilaterally remove a topping from anybody’s pizzas, even if he really wanted to, anyway. Not to say that it wouldn’t have been interesting to see a diplomatic row between Iceland and Canada arise over the inclusion of pineapple on pizza, but it’s probably better that it didn’t reach that level.
Sausage on top of pizza makes perfect sense. Not a far cry from pepperoni, sausage is an uncured, fresh meat product processed with a lot of pleasant spices which complements a pizza perfectly. Sausage on its own is delicious enough and is a versatile food, but put on top of pizza and it can be divine. The world of sausage is a big one, so there are many varieties: some spicy, some smoky, some mild, some full of exotic spices – it’s the kind of adaptable topping that pizza is made for. In the north of Italy, a heavily processed sausage known as Wurstl, a kind of Vienna sausage, is popular on top of pizzas, and in the south, spicier variations of fresh sausage, crumbled and cooked outside of its casing is enjoyed. In the US, at major pizza chains, sausage is usually cooked separately without casing then scattered on top of a pie. There’s nothing to stop people from putting frankfurters or kielbasa or bratwurst on top of their pizza either, and to be fair, any type of sausage is valid when it comes to toppings, and there isn’t really such thing as too much sausage either. There’s even a popular method to completely cover a pie with sausage meat, then drape it with cheese and cook it all together. Intrepid chefs continue to experiment with this topping, as it is cost-effective, delicious, and fits with just about any other topping you could want on your pie.
Basil is less of a topping on its own atop a pizza and more of an added topping above other fundamental ingredients to enhance the flavor. In the traditional school of Neapolitan pizza making, the classic Margherita pizza is kept extremely simple, with a fusion of blended tomato passata, a bit of salt and olive oil, buffalo mozzarella, and basil. This is a classic combination that is hard to beat and it’s been passed down to the various pizza makers, or pizzaiolo, as traditional pizza makers are known in Italy, for generations. It is thought that the classic Margherita pie originated in the late 1800s as a treat for royalty, the Queen of Italy, Margherita of Savoy, with the colors mimicking the colors of the Italian flag. Now, it has become a worldwide staple, and every pizza place that claims to make incredible pizza will have some version of this topping on its menu. Basil also is featured in pesto sauce, which can nicely top a pizza or be used as a marinade for meat that is later placed onto the pizza. Basically, basil is a subtle, colorful addition that will brighten any pizza, and it’s hard to remove the classic herb from the list, given how important it is to the tradition of pizza.
Arguably one of the most popular pizza toppings found in the US is pepperoni. The American variety is kind of related to Italian varieties of spicy salami, like the salsiccia Napoletana piccante from Naples or soppressata from Calabria. Pepperoni is usually denser and processed with nitrates, which adds to its red tinge, and increases its shelf life. It is typically made from cured pork or beef, but turkey and chicken pepperoni can be found as well for the more health-conscious. It’s also covered in an artificial casing and mass-produced to meet popular demand, compared to the Italian hand-made version. There is also the small chance that if you try to order pepperoni on your pizza in Italy, you might be surprised to find only peppers dropped onto your pie, since ‘pepperoni’ is the word for the vegetable, rather than salami, and it’s not as common as a topping as it is in America. However, it caught on elsewhere in the world, and for good reason. The slight spice and smoky, savory deliciousness of pepperoni perfectly complement a pizza, and meat lovers have rejoiced over its invention for generations. Dominos’s pizza chain counts it as its most popular topping for pizza, and ‘pepperoni pizza’ has become as common as apple pie. This is why it belongs very high on the list of best pizza toppings – you can’t go wrong with the pepperoni and cheese combo. Pepperoni pies are seriously addictive and amazing.
Tomatoes are a given when it comes to pizza topping since, well, they are the main ingredient in the sauce! They are by far the most common topping on pizza around the world. Usually, tomatoes are blended in the form of passata, a creamy blended mix of tomatoes, which is used for a marinara sauce that coats a pizza. In Italy, they prefer a simple blend of San Marzano tomatoes, oil, and salt, but in the US, the sauce usually comes infused with more ingredients inside of it, like oregano. Each method is valid, as long as tomatoes are a part of it! With the exception of some white pizza varieties – pizzas without tomatoes at all – most pizzas feature tomatoes in some form or another. If not simply as a sauce, then roasted tomatoes, sun-dried, cherry tomatoes, or simply sliced fresh tomatoes will do as a topping, which contrasts against the richness of the sauce and whatever else one decides to drape on top of their pizzas. Tomatoes are considered a fully Italian-inspired ingredient, however, not everybody knows that historically, tomatoes didn’t always exist in Italy. It was the people of Spain who introduced them into the food culture. Eventually, their cultivation made way for the amazing pizzas that we see copied around the world today. It’s such an obvious choice for one of the pizzas’ best toppings that we cannot imagine pizza without it!
Cheese and pizza are as friendly as can be, and many people wouldn’t even consider a pizza without the cheese on top a real pizza. Of course, there are pies done only with sauce or creams, but can you imagine a pizza without cheese? It’s a bit stretch. While most pizzas come covered with stringy, processed cheese, often called ‘mozzarella,’ this type of cheese is a far cry from the mozzarella topping you will likely find in Italy. Buffalo mozzarella is a staple of the Italian diet and the perfect topping for any pizza. Just take it from the country that invented pizza – fresh is best when it comes to toppings, and buffalo mozzarella is as fresh-tasting as there is. With less salt and a creamier texture, it’s richer than its processed counterpart. Cheese derived from Buffalo milk is considered the king of pizza toppings. Different types of mozzarella are suitable as well, and heck, any cheese at the end of the day will do if you can’t find the best of the best. Mozzarella perfectly compliments the tomato sauce and basil for a classic margarita pie, but really it’s so delicious that it can be eaten straight by itself before it even makes it onto the pizza. It fits just about any type of pizza, making it pretty hard to beat when it comes to toppings. It’s such an obvious choice of topping that you cannot imagine the world of pizza without it.