Chicken pepperoni is a popular pizza topping that looks and tastes similar to traditional pepperoni, but is made with chicken instead of pork or beef. Many people wonder if chicken pepperoni really contains chicken or if it’s just a marketing gimmick. The quick answer is that yes, chicken pepperoni is made from chicken along with other ingredients. However, the specific composition can vary between brands.
What is Chicken Pepperoni?
Chicken pepperoni is a cured, cooked sausage product made primarily from chicken. It has a similar taste and texture to traditional pepperoni, which is made from pork or beef. The manufacturing process is also similar. Chicken is minced and combined with fat, seasonings like garlic and paprika, salt, spices, and curing agents. The mixture is stuffed into casings, then smoked and cooked. Once cooked, the casings are removed leaving the familiar pepperoni stick shape.
Chicken pepperoni usually contains about 50-60% chicken meat, while the rest consists of fat, flavorings, preservatives, and coloring agents. A few brands are made from 100% chicken but this is less common. The fat content comes from chicken skin and other chicken fat. Some brands also incorporate turkey, pork, or beef fat. Salt, spices, garlic, sugar, and preservatives like sodium erythorbate and sodium nitrite are also commonly used. These all serve to cure the meat and give it the classic pepperoni flavor and bright red color.
Chicken pepperoni differs from pork and beef pepperoni in its nutritional values:
|70 per ounce
|110 per ounce
|4.5g per ounce
|9g per ounce
|1.5g per ounce
|3.5g per ounce
|8g per ounce
|7g per ounce
|480mg per ounce
|680mg per ounce
As you can see, chicken pepperoni is significantly lower in calories, fat, and sodium compared to regular pepperoni. It contains slightly more protein. Keep in mind that these values may vary between specific brands. But overall chicken pepperoni is considered a healthier alternative.
Taste and Texture
Chicken pepperoni is designed to mimic the taste and texture of pork pepperoni as closely as possible. It uses many of the same seasonings and spices to achieve the quintessential pepperoni flavor—smoky, salty, slightly spicy, and umami.
The texture is also very similar, although some find it to be slightly softer than pork pepperoni. It still has that same dense, chewy quality when cooked. The size, shape, and appearance are also nearly identical, with chicken pepperoni usually appearing as thin slices or small curled sticks.
Most people find the taste and texture of chicken pepperoni to be quite close to the original. In a blind taste test, many have difficulty telling the difference. However, some detect a subtle difference in the flavor and mouthfeel. Overall though, chicken pepperoni makes an impressive substitute.
Uses for Chicken Pepperoni
Chicken pepperoni can be used in any recipe that calls for regular pepperoni. The most popular use is as a pizza topping. It provides the customary crispy, salty, savory bites in every slice. Chicken pepperoni is also common on flatbreads, nachos, pasta dishes, sandwiches, salads, and more.
Because it is lower in fat than pork pepperoni, chicken pepperoni is less prone to greasiness when cooked. This makes it an ideal topping for pizza and other baked foods. The milder flavor also allows other toppings and flavors to shine through.
Many restaurants and pizzerias now offer chicken pepperoni as a substitute for customers looking for a healthier or halal/kosher option. Major pizza chains like Pizza Hut, Domino’s, and Papa John’s have chicken pepperoni pies.
Chicken pepperoni is widely available in grocery stores and can be easily swapped into favorite family recipes. Try it on homemade pizzas, pasta bakes, salami sandwiches, antipasto platters, and more. It provides the same satisfying saltiness and spice but in a leaner form.
Pros and Cons of Chicken Pepperoni
Here are some of the key advantages and disadvantages of chicken pepperoni compared to pork pepperoni:
- Lower in fat, calories, and sodium
- Higher in protein
- Less greasy when cooked
- Slightly softer texture
- Milder flavor lets other toppings stand out
- Suitable for halal, kosher, vegetarian, or restricted diets
- Less processed than many pork pepperonis
- More expensive than pork pepperoni
- Some detect a subtle difference in flavor
- Contains various additives and preservatives
- Often includes some pork or beef fat
- Nutrition varies more between brands
Overall, chicken pepperoni makes an excellent healthier and more diet-friendly alternative to traditional pork pepperoni with minimal compromise on taste or texture.
Is Chicken Pepperoni Healthier?
Chicken pepperoni is generally considered a healthier choice compared to pork or beef pepperoni. On average it contains about half the fat, calories, and sodium of pork pepperoni per ounce. It also has a bit more protein.
The lower fat content is the biggest advantage of chicken pepperoni for health. Excessive intake of saturated fat from processed meats like pepperoni has been linked with increased cholesterol levels and heart disease risk. Chicken pepperoni provides the same smoky, savory flavor with less of this unhealthy fat.
However, moderation is still key. While it’s lower in total fat and sodium than pork pepperoni, chicken pepperoni is still a highly processed food high in sodium. Eating multiple servings per week is not recommended, even if it’s made from chicken. It should be an occasional treat food rather than a dietary staple.
When choosing chicken pepperoni, look for options with short, recognizable ingredients lists and minimal added sugars and chemicals. Always pair it with healthy sides like vegetables rather than refined carbs to limit fat and sodium intake.
For children, pregnant women, the elderly, or those with dietary restrictions, chicken pepperoni can be a better choice than regular pepperoni in moderation. But it should still be considered an indulgence food rather than a health food.
Is Chicken Pepperoni Suitable for Vegetarians?
Chicken pepperoni is not suitable for vegetarians or vegans. Even though it is made from chicken, it still contains animal meat. Most chicken pepperoni also includes pork or beef fat as well. Vegetarians abstain from eating the flesh of animals.
Some vegetarians may consume dairy, eggs, honey, and other animal by-products. But meat is definitively off limits. Anyone following a true vegetarian or vegan diet for ethical, religious, or personal reasons should not eat chicken pepperoni even though it does not contain pork or beef meat.
There are some meatless “chicken” pepperoni products made from soy, wheat, or other vegetable proteins. These faux chicken pepperonis may be suitable for vegetarians, but always check the ingredients list to be sure. Some may contain eggs or dairy-derived ingredients. Only plant-based imitation chicken pepperoni is appropriate for vegans.
Best Brands of Chicken Pepperoni
Some of the most popular national brands of chicken pepperoni include:
- Hormel Turkey Pepperoni Minis
- Margherita Italian Style Chicken Pepperoni
- Applegate Naturals Uncured Chicken Pepperoni
- Boar’s Head Chicken Pepperoni
- Columbus Italian Style Chicken Pepperoni
Hormel’s Turkey Pepperoni Minis are made from chicken and turkey and have only 60 calories per serving. Applegate Organics and Boar’s Head make premium chicken pepperonis with simple, organic ingredients. Margherita and Columbus are affordable options found at most grocery stores.
Local delis or butcher shops also sometimes make their own chicken pepperoni sausages. These house-made versions often have the shortest ingredients lists with just chicken, spices, and salt. They make good options for those wanting minimal processing and preservatives.
When choosing a brand, look for:
- At least 50% chicken meat
- No artificial colors or flavors
- Minimal added sugars and chemicals
- No more than 480 mg sodium per serving
- Short, recognizable ingredients list
Higher quality chicken pepperoni will only have chicken, spices, vinegar, sea salt, garlic, and natural preservatives on the label. Watch out for fillers, soy, added sugars, and artificial flavors or colors.
Recipe Ideas Using Chicken Pepperoni
Here are some fun, tasty ways to use chicken pepperoni in recipes:
Pizza – Top pizza crust with tomato sauce, mozzarella, and chicken pepperoni slices. Add mushrooms, onions, peppers or other toppings if desired.
Pepperoni Rolls – Roll up chicken pepperoni and cheese in crescent roll dough. Bake until golden brown.
Pepperoni Baked Potato – Top a baked potato with cottage cheese, shredded cheddar, bacon bits, and chicken pepperoni.
Antipasto Salad – Toss mixed greens with diced chicken pepperoni, cheese cubes, roasted veggies, olives, and Italian dressing.
Breakfast Casserole – Make a breakfast bake with eggs, cheese, spinach, and chicken pepperoni.
Pepperoni Pizza Dip – Blend cream cheese, tomato sauce, mozzarella, and chicken pepperoni for a creamy dip.
Pepperoni Pasta – Sauté chicken pepperoni, tomatoes, spinach, and garlic. Toss with cooked penne pasta.
Pepperoni Cheese Ball – Mix shredded cheese with chicken pepperoni, herbs, and spices. Form into a ball and chill.
Pepperoni Garlic Bread – Top French bread slices with garlic butter and chicken pepperoni. Broil until crisp.
Pepperoni Pinwheels – Spread tortillas with cream cheese. Layer on chicken pepperoni and roll up.
Chicken pepperoni can serve as a tasty, lower-fat substitute for traditional pepperoni in recipes. When choosing a brand, look for options made from all chicken meat with minimal additives. While it contains less fat and sodium than regular pepperoni, chicken pepperoni should still be enjoyed in moderation as part of an overall healthy diet. Made from chicken meat and seasonings, chicken pepperoni can offer a savory flavor in pizza, appetizers, sandwiches, salads, and more for those looking for a leaner pepperoni option.