The best pizza toppings are, of course, subjective.
Many people prefer to remain in the realm of tradition and convention – pepperoni, sausage, green bell peppers, mushrooms, fresh basil, and everything else we can consider safely accentuating a basic red sauce, low-moisture mozzarella cheese pizza without turning too many people off.
Nothing wrong here, these are all standard-bearers as pizza toppings for a reason.
If you’re among the more adventurous types, you might want to branch out with your meats – bacon (American and Canadian), ground beef (American and Extra-American), chicken, smoked sausage, a full 24 oz porterhouse steak, nothing is off limits!
You could also run a full grocery store produce section on your pizza if you wanted to, and rest-assured, people certainly have. There likely isn’t a single edible ingredient that hasn’t found an implementation as a pizza topping somewhere or another.
List of The Best Pizza Toppings
Everyone knows that the best pizza toppings are whatever best realizes your ideal pizza. For some, this is a familiar – but comforting and delicious – picture.
But for others, pizza becomes a blank canvas upon which the world is their oyster (oysters, in fact, may be a topping).
When overviewing the more popular and “essential” pizza toppings, it’s worthwhile to compare them with the more avant-garde variety. It is equally worthwhile to compare that with the truly bizarre and tantalizingly strange assortments of ingredients that come from culinary visionaries and dimensions outside the planar fold.
Possibly the king of all pizza toppings depending on whom you ask. Pepperoni is – by a landslide – the most popular pizza topping in the United States.
Unless you prefer meatless pizzas or have a particular aversion to pork, it should come as no surprise as to why this such an immensely satisfying choice for the best pizza topping.
It’s got versatility out the wazoo – you can find a space for pepperoni seemingly anywhere on a pizza regardless of what’s already stacked on. It’s also relatively light, with a hint of spiciness that can compliment many other ingredients.
If “meatiness” is the note you want to hit most of all when deciding the best pizza topping, you likely won’t find a more worthy choice than sausage.
Sausage has a robust, fennel-forward flavor that typically finds its home as a roommate to green bell peppers or onions.
Unsurprisingly, it’s the favored pizza topping for Chicago deep-dish style pizzas.
Olives are not going to win over everybody, it’s just not their way. But they don’t need everybody to like them because those that do love them devotedly.
Regardless of how you may feel about them, you have to pay respects to such an enduring pizza topping that has amassed such obsessed fans. Most importantly, olives are essential to the experience of a “supreme” pizza.
It would be easy to write off bacon as pepperoni’s poser cousin, but it would also be wrong.
Bacon has an indelible crunch and presents a more pronounced burst of saltiness in lieu of spice. It’s pork-ier and in general compliments sweet and savory ingredients more effectively than other meats can.
It’s also bacon. Acknowledging that it is bacon – if you think about it – should be where it begins and ends when arguing in its favor.
Pineapples on pizza remains today as one of Canada’s most important and enduring cultural achievements.
It shares the familiar origin story of many other old-school pizza innovations – an immigrant finds opportunity in mid-20th century North America and creates something new. It’s tangy and sweet, with a texture that is crisper and firmer than tomatoes.
This is best paired with ham or Canadian bacon – one of the few times Canada’s bacon reigns over traditional bacon.
Ham is another topping aimed at pleasing the meat-lovers.
As explained previously, it works as a great balance to something sweet like pineapple, and it goes without saying that the “Hawaiian” (ham and pineapple) style is the most popular application of ham on a pizza.
But ham can find pleasant company on any sort of carnivore style pizza just as well.
This is an ingredient that is rarely in competition for best pizza topping, but it has potent applications in certain styles of pizza.
The obvious and best use for it is in a taco pizza, which is a quirky and surprisingly delicious specialty pizza that was first served in 1972 at Happy Joe’s in Bettendorf, IA.
Ironically, the first iteration did not include ground beef, but since then it has become a staple ingredient for the unique pie.
Tomatoes are already an integral ingredient in most pizzas due to red sauces reining supreme over everything else. Tomatoes simply make a lot of sense on pizza, as it allows for a burst of acidity and sweetness to amplify the sauce at the pizza’s base, or to shoulder the flavor labor entirely themselves in a sauce-less pizza.
Garlic is probably the most essential ingredient in Italian cuisine, and everyone knows that garlic is liberally used to flavor a traditional red sauce for a pizza.
But would garlic on its own work as a topping? The answer is a resounding yes, especially if the garlic is fire roasted.
Finely chopped cloves of garlic become crunchy little morsels after cooking in a piping hot brick or wood oven, and the bitter edge of the raw garlic mellows considerably after it crisps.
This is one of those non-traditional sleeper picks for best pizza topping that rapidly growing in popularity.
Chicken is a lean, flavorful, and versatile meat that can be adapted to many artisanal pizza styles.
The barbecue chicken pizza is probably the most famous use of chicken on a pizza, and it has found its way out from the California Pizza Kitchen and spread throughout U.S restaurant chains.
Alternatively, you may enjoy the chicken alfredo pizza if you want to embellish the theme of Italian cuisine, or the buffalo chicken pizza if you want some spice with your tang. And if that doesn’t do it for you maybe a little fried chicken will cure your pizza woes?
A topping that may fall into the same camp as olives or pineapples when it comes to favored pizza toppings, anchovies are a considered a bold, niche choice.
Unlike pineapples and olives however, anchovies have OG credentials as pizza toppings. The original Neapolitan style pizza employed anchovies as a topping as far back as the 16th century!
For a salty, funky, fishy, flavor profile, there is no substitute for the anchovy.
Veggie Pizza Toppings
It’s been mentioned earlier but finding a vegetable that hasn’t found its was onto a pizza at some point would prove to be a daunting task.
Broccoli on a pizza? It’s found it’s way on pizza many-a-time previously. Carrots? They’re on pizza, too. Butternut squash? You best believe they’re on pizza – and pair apples, if you trust the NY times cooking section.
The only type of produce that hasn’t discovered its use as a pizza topping so far has been the fake plastic kind used to ornament gift baskets or for photo shoots.
Even then, when we consider that we’ve reached a point in history where literal gold is being used as a pizza topping, even that isn’t too far outside the realm of possibility.
Below is a list of some of the most popular vegetables for pizza enthusiasts everywhere.
Here is pizza’s favorite fungi.
Mushrooms have a near perfect taste/texture balance to compliment pizza, with an indelibly soft yet springy chew and a subtle savory quality that blends in with a crowd of other toppings rather than stealing the show.
It would be nigh unthinkable to exclude this as from a veggie style pizza.
While many pizza lovers value their sweetness, onions also have a bite to them that is often undervalued, especially when red onions are used.
But sweetness is a hugely important quality on a pizza, as it balances the acidity of the sauce and the saltiness of the cheese beautifully, so slow-cooked caramelized onions are unsurprisingly the most popular option.
Bell peppers are without a doubt sausage’s best friend on a pizza – though they are obviously delicious combined with any “heavier” spicy meat or with other assorted veggies. While there is no obligation to use green bell peppers over the other popular variants like orange or red peppers, green is typically preferred for its accessibility. They’re firm without being too crunchy, and sweet without being cloying. It’s been a common thread throughout this list that the best pizza toppings are those that harmonize best with other ingredients, and bell peppers shine brightly in this regard.
Not long after Italy was unified under one ruler in the late 19th century, apizza was served to Queen Margherita in order to celebrate Italy’s national heritage.
This was a simple pizza – thin crust, tomato sauce, topped with mozzarella and fresh torn basil leaves – that would become known as arguably the most important pizza in history. It essentially created the mold, or archetype, for every modern round pizza that we eat day.
Basil was the integral ingredient which helped create this historic pie, allegedly selected primarily to complete the pizza’s color scheme to match the Italian flag.
Truth be told, artichokes, with their fuzzy exterior and thorny edges, make for a terrible pizza topping.
Artichoke hearts however, fare much better. They’re similar in consistency to brussels sprouts – which are surprisingly awesome on pizza – but have a meatiness to their chew which adds depth to its flavor profile.
Artichoke hearts pair very well with garlic and tomatoes, as well as with plenty of salted, crispy meats like bacon or prosciutto. If you want to get real fancy you can also pair it with our next topping.
Spinach! This is the crop that Popeye – with a little help of British propaganda and faulty nutrition statistics – convinced us would give us super strength upon consumption. Now, while this may not be true, it is nonetheless a tasty pizza topping.
Spinach is typically chewy when blanched on its own but crisps nicely when baked on a pizza. Unlike arugula or basil, spinach is definitely better cooked on a pizza as opposed to fresh.
More Pizza Toppings Ideas
We’ve gone through an extensive list so far, despite having barely scratched the surface when it comes to artisanal and postmodern pizza toppings – not to mention dessert pizzas!
While it would take several tomes worth of content to pore over everything that’s currently been put to use on top of a pizza, it wouldn’t even come close to cover everything being thought of on a conceptual level.
Instead, we shall focus on the outside-the-box topping ideas and attempt to bring some ideas together to examine how the best pizza toppings harmonize to form a product greater than the sum of their parts.
It is common knowledge in the foodie world that there is a breakfast version for everything nowadays – even breakfast ice-cream is a thing now. Pizza is no exception.
You’ll likely find some version of a breakfast pizza in the frozen food aisle or at a Casey’s general store, but if you’re lucky enough you may also find restaurant quality takes. Breakfast pizzas love sausage and bacon, and of course eggs are also worked into the mix as well – either scrambled or nestled over-easy atop the pie. For a more interesting conception of a breakfast pizza, look to Lions Tigers and Squares’ version: a Detroit style sausage pizza topped with maple syrup.
Supreme Pizza Toppings
It’s not easy to nail down the best pizza combinations or which supreme pizza toppings to use other than a lot.
It’s essentially every major toppings touchstone put together atop one pie, which is as excellent as it sounds. The standards typically included are pepperoni, green bell peppers, olives, onions, and sausage, but there’s no reason for the party to stop there.
The best pizza combinations may also include mushrooms, jalapenos, ham, beef, tomatoes, roasted garlic, and more. Supreme pizzas can and should be thought of as edible expressions of hedonism and decadence, so restraint should be the last thing on your mind when considering tackling such a beast.
The Best Two-Topping Pizza
If you are considering restraint however, consider the two-fer, which allows a much greater degree of variety than a traditional single-topping pizza without overwhelming the senses.
Two toppings give you the opportunity to have the best of both ends of the flavor spectrum. Below are a few examples of noteworthy two topping flavor combinations.
Sausage and Green Bell Peppers
This is the combo to end all combos on a Chicago deep-dish pizza. The richness of the sausage coupled with the slight crunch and mild sweetness of the bell pepper makes for an outstanding pairing, and it is especially potent swimming in cheese underneath the top layer of sauce on a Chicago pie. Make no mistake, however, this combo is also incredible on any thin crust pizza as well.
Mushrooms and Spinach
It’d be a shame to overlook a veggie combination for this list. The earthy qualities within mushrooms and spinach work extraordinarily well off one another, and texturally this combo works gangbusters. There’s never going to be a universal consensus on the best veggie pizza toppings, but this is a surefire selection of ingredients to please people of all tastes and preferences.
The Hawaiian (Ham and Pineapple)
This has been brought up before, but there’s no reason this iconic pie doesn’t deserve a callback. The Hawaiian pizza has lived and prospered in countless restaurants and titanic franchises throughout not just the U.S, not just North America, but throughout the entire world. All enduring food trends incorporate a sense of balance, and the combination of ham and pineapple perfectly encapsulates sweet and salty. The prime minister approves.
There is a terrifying and awe-inspiring number of different options for pizza toppings these days.
There is absolutely no shame in feeling intimidated or helplessly overwhelmed at the amount of choices we have at our disposal at this point in time.
There’s nothing more comforting than a pepperoni pizza, and there’s no foodie in the world pompous enough to give a person grief for selecting it as their favorite. Sometimes less is more.
However, it is also equally and literally true that more is more. Fellini’s pizza in Rhode Island serves an entire thanksgiving dinner as toppings for their seasonal favorite pie.
New York City’s Tony Baloney’s version of a taco pizza includes literal tacos individually prepared and assorted next to each other in a ring around a guacamole pool – all sitting atop a pizza base.
It’s a safe bet to conclude that there is something out there for everyone. It is comforting to know that no matter who you are, no matter where you are, the best pizza toppings are waiting for you somewhere.