12 Creative Ways To Use Pepperoni That Aren't On Pizza

Composite image of pepperoni food items
Composite image of pepperoni food items - Static Media / Shutterstock / Getty

Let's face it, pepperoni's been living in pizza's shadow for far too long. It might be the life of the pizza party — but this flavor-packed ingredient wants to crash other culinary gatherings, too. It can strut its stuff on pasta and take a dip in your favorite soup. It's just as happy sitting atop a baked potato as it is lounging on a piece of chicken. It can be made into chips and into dips. It can be rolled into bread and served at breakfast after you roll out of bed. We'll explore pepperoni in all these contexts and more.

To help us uncover pepperoni's hidden talents, we reached out to a couple of experts. Master Pizza Instructor and Consultant Gregorio Fierro tells us, "Pepperoni has always been the most popular pizza topping in the U.S., but it is capable of pleasing people in other ways as well." He shares some of these ways, including a mouthwatering recipe for pepperoni and honey meat relish.

Deanne Frieders, Recipe Developer and Content Creator for This Farm Girl Cooks, also helps unveil pepperoni's versatility, from salads to sandwiches. And in her cookbook, "This Farm Girl Cooks: Table to Tailgate," one of her tips for busy families on the go highlights the importance of snacks. So, we'll savor plenty of snack ideas as we slice into the many ways to enjoy pepperoni off of pizza.

Read more: Sausage Brands Made With The Highest & Lowest Quality Ingredients

Add Pepperoni To Pasta Or Pasta Salad

Pasta salad with pepperoni
Pasta salad with pepperoni - Candice Bell/Shutterstock

Why not give your ziti a zesty makeover? Deanne Frieders encourages cooks who want to experiment with pepperoni to "try chopping it and adding it to your baked ziti or pasta dishes for a savory kick." And pepperoni isn't just a quick and easy flavor booster — it also adds a vibrant red pop of color and a slight chewiness to contrast pasta's softness.

If you like pepperoni in a supporting role, why not try it as the star of the show? Mashed recipe creator Molly Allen developed a One-Pot Pizza Rigatoni packed with pepperoni and cheese. You can also customize this recipe with other favorite pizza toppings like olives or mushrooms. Once you've settled on your tasty additions, the dish comes together in just 30 minutes.

Pepperoni shines in chilled pasta salads, too. Frieders tells us she loves tossing pepperoni into pasta salad for "a little savory zing." The seasoned meat pairs well with common pasta salad ingredients like cheese, tomatoes, and Italian dressing. Quarter regular-sized slices or toss in mini pepperoni for easy and delicious eating.

Pepperoni Peps Up Sandwiches

Grilled cheese with pepperoni on top
Grilled cheese with pepperoni on top - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

Pepperoni is a no-brainer on an Italian sub, but that's only the beginning. As Deanne Frieder says, "Leftover pepperoni is perfect for adding to a ho-hum sandwich." Layer it on a ham and spinach sandwich. Perk up a tired turkey and Swiss. Pepperoni loves cozying up to mild cheeses like Swiss, provolone, and fontina. And on the subject of cheese — upgrade your grilled cheese by adding pepperoni to the mix. Mozzarella is a natural partner. And to truly elevate grilled cheese with pepperoni, slather your bread with garlic Parmesan butter before grilling.

Don't limit your sandwich brainstorming to pepperoni slices — chopped or grated pepperoni can help you think outside the bread box. For a flavorful twist, dice pepperoni into small pieces, and mix it in with classics like your chicken or egg salad sandwich.

And if you really just want to feature the great taste of pepperoni, make none other than a pepperoni sandwich — stack up some pepperoni with provolone cheese and marinara sauce. Many brands make sandwich pepperoni, a great option when building a pepperoni-focused lunch.

Spice Up Salad With Pepperoni

Spinach salad with pepperoni
Spinach salad with pepperoni - Vladislav Chusov/Shutterstock

Pepperoni can add a new zing to your salad routine. Toss some halved slices into a mixed green salad with balsamic vinaigrette dressing. Chop up some slices into a spinach salad tossed in Italian dressing. Or for a twist on your classic Caesar salad, throw in some pepperoni pieces.

Craving a crunch in your salad? Move over croutons! "You can also pop sliced pepperoni into the air fryer until they're crispy," Deanne Frieders says. "It's a fun and tasty salad topping with a little texture and crunch."

If you don't have an air fryer, you can still get your crisp on by sautéing pepperoni. Take thinly sliced pieces, cut them in half, and let them sizzle in a frying pan over moderate heat for about three minutes until lightly browned. Stir occasionally, drain after cooking, and enjoy crispy pepperoni perfection. These crunch delights make a great addition to a Greek salad or a pizza-inspired salad with all your faves — marinated artichokes, red peppers, olives, mozzarella, or maybe just extra pepperoni.

Pepperoni As A Chicken Topping

Pepperoni slices on cutting board
Pepperoni slices on cutting board - Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

We know pepperoni makes a great pizza topping — turns out, it makes a great chicken topping, too. This doesn't have to be anything complicated. As Deanne Frieders says, "I like to top baked or grilled chicken breast with a little cheese and pepperoni." Simple as that for a little extra flavor — the salty kick of pepperoni pairs well with the mild chicken.

If you want even more sizzle, turn to your skillet and create pepperoni crumbs to garnish your chicken. Cook about 1 ½ to 2 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs. To make the topping, chop up about 2 ounces of pepperoni — skip the thinly sliced stuff unless you're aiming for charred confetti. Toss it in a hot skillet to crisp. As the pepperoni cooks, it'll release some spicy, meaty fat — a perfect place to toast some bread crumbs. Add ½ cup of panko or dried coarse bread crumbs, and if you care for a little green, maybe throw in a bit of parsley. Sprinkle the pepperoni crumb topping over the chicken and enjoy a clucking amazing meal.

Blend Pepperoni Into A Spicy Meat Relish

Woman turns on food processor
Woman turns on food processor - H_Ko/Shutterstock

Ever wondered what happens when pepperoni meets a food processor? Gregorio Fierro has not only pondered this question but also crafted a delicious answer. "One of my favorite uses for pepperoni," he says, "is to pulse it in a food processor and mix it with honey to make a spicy meat relish to put on crudité or even eaten with chips." Celery, carrots, cucumber, bell pepper, broccoli — they're all vying for a spot on your veggie tray so they can be dipped in this stuff.

Fierro was kind enough to share the recipe with us: 2 pounds pepperoni (pulsed in a food processor or ground), ½ cup of minced red onion, 1 clove crushed fresh garlic, 1 pack cream cheese, ½ cup of honey, ¼ cup of red wine vinegar, and ¼ cup of chopped pickled hot banana peppers. For those who like extra heat, also add a few shakes of hot sauce. This savory condiment isn't just for veggies or chips — use it to top baked potatoes, grilled meats, or scrambled eggs. And maybe save a little for when you return to pizza — it's the ultimate sidekick for your lonely crust.

Pepperoni Bread, Rolls, And Muffins

Pepperoni rolls with dipping sauces
Pepperoni rolls with dipping sauces - Lauripatterson/Getty Images

In some parts of the country, pepperoni already spends plenty of time off of pizza. As Gregorio Fierro points out, "Bakeries in the mid-Atlantic have been making pepperoni bread for years, which are made by flattening out pizza or bread dough, shingling the flat dough with pepperoni and then rolling it like a jelly roll before baking it." Sometimes they're also stuffed with cheese, sauce, or peppers.

In West Virginia, pepperoni rolls started life as a practical solution to a miner's lunchtime. Originally, miners paired plain bread with sticks of pepperoni for a simple and filling lunch during their long shifts underground. Along came Giuseppe Argiro, an Italian immigrant who worked in the coal mines, who had a great idea — bake the pepperoni right into the bread! The pepperoni roll was born and its fame quickly spread. Bakeries played around, some sticking with sticks of pepperoni and others baking with pieces or slices. Today, pepperoni rolls are the most iconic food in West Virginia, found in bakeries, convenience stores, and gas stations throughout the state.

Feeling inspired? If you love the sound of pepperoni in bread, why not in muffins? Using a tube of refrigerated biscuits and diced pepperoni, you can whip up Pull-Apart Pepperoni Pizza Muffins in less than 30 minutes. They make great appetizers and are especially delicious served with dipping sauces such as marinara, pesto, or garlic sauce.

Pepperoni At Breakfast

Pepperoni and cream cheese on toasted bagel
Pepperoni and cream cheese on toasted bagel - Beth McMurray/Mashed

Need something to perk things up before your morning coffee kicks in? Pepperoni might be the breakfast jolt you're looking for. If you have whole pepperoni, grate some of it, combine those loose pieces with shredded cheese, and toss that mixture into your scrambled eggs. That grated stuff also makes a trendy touch sprinkled over avocado toast. Diced pepperoni sizzles up nicely with potato hash. And if you're making corn muffins, mix small pepperoni pieces into the batter for a savory treat.

Invite slices of pepperoni to breakfast, too. Wrap them into your breakfast burrito. Since pepperoni pairs well with mild cheese, layer a few slices on top of your cream cheese-slathered bagel. The possibilities could go on all the way until dinner!

If making decisions in the morning isn't your thing, just dive into this easy pepperoni, egg, and cheese bake. Layer 2 cups of shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese and ½ cup of diced pepperoni on a greased 9-inch pie plate. In a bowl, whisk together five large eggs, ¾ cup of whole milk, and ¼ teaspoon basil. Pour this mixture over the cheese and pepperoni in the pie plate. Pop it in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20-25 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean. Let it rest for 10 minutes before slicing. This little wait ensures you don't end up with a cheesy avalanche on your plate — patience brings neat slices and tasty bites!

Make Pepperoni Dip Or Chips

Pepperoni dip with toasted bread pieces
Pepperoni dip with toasted bread pieces - Brent Hofacker/Shutterstock

Deanne Frieders tells us pepperoni dip is one of her favorite non-pizza dishes that uses pepperoni. And why not? Sounds like a pizza party without the crust! We're sure there's no wrong way to incorporate pepperoni into a dip. One easy approach combines a package (8 ounces) of softened cream cheese, ½ cup milk, ¼ cup mayonnaise, 1 package (2.64 ounces) gravy mix, ½ cup shredded mozzarella, and ¼ cup chopped pepperoni in a large bowl. Mix it all up until it's well blended. Spray a 9-inch glass pie plate with non-stick cooking spray and spread the combined mixture into it. Sprinkle with another ½ cup shredded mozzarella and ¼ cup chopped pepperoni. Bake for 25 minutes until the cheese is nice and melty. Dive in with breadsticks, crostini, or garlic bread.

And if pepperoni dip sounds good, why not use pepperoni as the actual chips? Gregorio Fierro suggests baking pepperoni into delicious crisps. To make munchable pepperoni-flavored chips, you only need one ingredient — pepperoni. Lay thin slices of pepperoni out on a cooling rack over a foil-lined baking sheet (this trick lets them get all nice and brown while allowing some fat to drip away). Bake for 6-8 minutes at 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Once out of the oven, blot the excess grease with a paper towel. The results are crispy, spicy, salty chips that are perfect for dipping.

Pepperoni Perks Up Potatoes

Plain baked potato
Plain baked potato - John Shepherd/Getty Images

We do a lot of things to make potatoes less bland — from the creamy allure of a potato salad jazzed up with mayo and eggs, to the heartwarming comfort of mashed potatoes swirled with garlic and butter, we've tried countless ways to give spuds some flavor. But in our zest for zest, are we overlooking something? Pepperoni just might be an underutilized potato flavor saver.

Split open your baked potato and sprinkle on diced pepperoni. Grate whole pepperoni and combine it with shredded cheese to give your mashed potatoes a makeover. Mix pepperoni pieces into the pan of your potato hash. Toss a bit on potato skins. You could even throw some pepperoni into your potato salad.

As it turns out, pepperoni is the secret ingredient the Pioneer Woman adds to potato salad. While her version leans into the pizza inspiration and also adds marinara sauce, mozzarella, and green olives, you don't have to go full pizzeria. If your go-to recipe features bacon, why not switch it up and stir in pepperoni instead? Pepperoni will bring all the spice you need to make your potato salad the talk of the town — or at least the talk of the potluck.

Pepperoni In Soup Or Chili

Chili bowl topped with scallions
Chili bowl topped with scallions - Fudio/Getty Images

Soup might be a warm and nourishing comfort food, but we're here to encourage you to go out of your comfort zone a bit by adding some more zing to your bowl. Chopped pepperoni can transform almost any soup — use grated pepperoni as a garnish on broccoli cheese soup, add a pepperoni twist to creamy tomato, or cook pepperoni into minestrone.

If you're looking for a true pepperoni experience, try a simple pepperoni soup. In a large saucepan, combine a can of chunky pasta-style stewed tomatoes (14.5 ounces), a can of chicken broth (14.5 ounces), 2 cups of sliced zucchini (about ½ inch thick), and a diced large bell pepper (about ¾ inch pieces). Bring it to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered for 5 minutes. Next, stir in a can of drained and sliced black olives (2.25 ounces) and 2 ounces of thinly sliced pepperoni. Let it simmer for another minute. Serve this hot and yummy soup sprinkled with shredded cheese and a garnish of fresh basil.

If you're a fan of warm, hearty meals and appreciate pepperoni surrounded by all its friends from a meatlovers pizza, you might really like Mashed recipe developer Patterson Watkins' Meatlovers Supreme Pizza Chili Recipe. It's as good as it sounds, brimming with pepperoni, bacon, sausage, bell pepper, mozzarella cheese, and just the right seasonings. You can even throw it all into a slow cooker, so you can come home to a simmering pot of pizza-flavored chili.

Pepperoni In Snacks And Appetizers

Closeup of egg rolls on a plate
Closeup of egg rolls on a plate - Photography By Tonelson/Getty Images

Pepperoni and cheese go together like, well, pepperoni and cheese on pizza. And considering pizza's popularity, this is a match worth further exploring for snack time. Deanne Frieders went straight to this well-loved pair by recommending pepperoni with string cheese for an easy, low-carb snack. It's also packed with protein and convenient if you're on the go. But if you're at home and feeling a little chef-y, why not give quesadillas a passport to Italy? We know pepperoni isn't actually Italian, but your mouth won't care when it's enjoying a quesadilla stuffed with mozzarella, fresh basil, and pepperoni. Or treat your crackers to a pepperoni-infused cream cheese spread. Just mix 20 chopped pepperoni slices, an 8-ounce package of softened cream cheese, a cup of shredded mozzarella, and ¼ cup of pizza sauce. It's like spreadable pizza!

Pepperoni enjoys being the life of the party in your favorite appetizers. Bring an extra zing to deviled eggs with mini pepperoni. Add chopped pepperoni for a spicy bruschetta topping. Swap out some sausage for pepperoni in this Hearty Stuffed Mushrooms appetizer recipe. Or completely change things up, like Frieders, who gets creative with pepperoni in pizza-themed egg rolls.

You can even add pepperoni to Chex Mix! Take an 8.75-ounce bag of Chex Mix Traditional and stir in 1 cup mini pepperoni, 1 cup cubed mozzarella cheese, ½ cup shaved parmesan cheese, and 2 tablespoons of chopped basil. Serve right away — over time, the cheese will make the mix less crunchy.

Choose Other Types Of Pepperoni

Pepperoni sticks and bread
Pepperoni sticks and bread - Barone Romano/Shutterstock

Most pepperoni is a blend of cured pork and beef. Other variations exist, such as turkey pepperoni, which tends to have less fat and sodium than traditional pepperoni. But you might lose out on some of that robust pepperoni punch, so maybe save the turkey variety for a less critical role than the charcuterie board.

Gregorio Fierro reminds us that pepperoni comes in "a number of different sizes and shapes." Knowing your dish's needs can guide you to the perfect pepperoni. "The larger deli style is better for sandwiches," says Fierro. "Buy stick pepperoni (unsliced) for grinding, as it's cheaper." Plus, whole and unsliced sticks are perfect for grating — a great way to create a perky pepperoni garnish.

And even if slices are your endgame, consider starting with a stick — it'll offer a fresher flavor compared to pre-sliced options. Pre-sliced, of course, wins on convenience and still packs plenty of flavor, so no need to rule it out for your pepperoni projects.

Read the original article on Mashed.