Salami vs. Pepperoni – What’s the Difference

If you were asked what is the difference between salami and pepperoni, what would be your answer? Many people tend to think of pepperoni as the Americanized version of the delicious and versatile Italian salami. Others may not know the difference at all.

In this article we cover the main distinctions between salami and pepperoni. That includes how these two foods are made, their textures, differences in taste, and even more important details including their histories.

Pepperoni And Salami: How Are They Different?

Traditionally, salami is produced using fermented pork. However, recently there has also been salami made from other types of meat such as beef and veal. It is, essentially, a cured sausage packed with seasonings and spices.

Salami is often seasoned with a variety of spices to give it a unique flavor. Smoking the meat also helps to give it that distinguishable flavor. Other types of meat used to make salami include lamb and duck and they are easy to locate.

Now, how does it compare to pepperoni? These two types of foods are different due to the ingredients used to prepare them, the method of preparation, and for what they are used.

Whilst it may not sound interesting, differences in all or some of the elements mentioned above lead to foods that are completely distinct in taste and aroma.

Generational Differences

It is not just the that these foods are different due to the preparation and cooking methods, they also differ because they were developed and are popular in distinct locations and generations.

Many people tend to use one or the other without caring about the difference. However, there is a large distinction between both the flavor and the texture of these ingredients. Such contrasts can have a large influence on the dish that these ingredients are being used to help build.

Let us look at the United States of America and how they use such ingredients. For those who adore food such as pizzas and sandwiches, you will have likely eaten either salami or pepperoni multiple times.

It is well known throughout the country that many recipes and dishes involve the use of these ingredients. They both pose a flavorful addition to several dishes. Alternatively, they have also been known to act as side dishes or as key elements to a charcuterie board.

Traditionally, salami is consumed during lunch (or brunch most recently). In a typical Italian restaurant or setting, this ingredient is usually served as part of the first course in a formal meal (antipasto) in Italy.

Pepperoni is a more modern version of salami. It is most known for the role that it plays on pizzas and in certain sandwiches. For most people, it is the case that liking one of these ingredients will lead to liking the other.

Depending on the establishment from which you have chosen to purchase salami, it could come in very distinct variations. These variations often come with their own taste having been prepared with the restaurant’s chosen ingredients and methods of preparation.

To fully help you to understand the distinctions between these ingredients, we must first look at how they came to be.

Salami Origin Story

Which one came first: salami or pepperoni? If you said salami, then you would be correct. Pepperoni, on the other hand, can be a variation that arises from the influence of salami.

Since its development, there have been many different types of salami created. Each type typically has unique flavors and names, including Milanese, Genoa, and (as previously mentioned) Pepperoni.

The type of pepperoni most used in the USA and many other western countries is based on the Salsiccia Napoletana Piccante. This variety has a more flavorful and spicy taste in comparison to the original.

Antipasto Ingredient or Seasoning

In a formal Italian meal, it is a tradition that salami is included as part of the first course. Salami is also usually included in sandwiches and certain side dishes.

Alternatively, pepperoni is typically thought of as a type of seasoning in certain pizzas. There are also other dishes in which pepperoni is added as an addition to a main meal or snack. It is typically not eaten by itself, though. This of course depends on the individual.

Ingredients In Salami and Pepperoni

There is an important distinction that allows you to distinguish salami from pepperoni. In a typical setting, pepperoni is usually only made using one of two types of meats: pork and beef.

On the other hand, salami is more flexible in terms of the ingredients from which it can be made. There have been instances of duck, poultry and other types of meats used to create salami.

When choosing the meat for salami, a restaurant or producer would consider what the dish needs to taste like or what flavor it requires. A lot of restaurants have a ‘signature’ taste that they advertise with their homemade salami.

Nutrition And Calories

Is there a major difference in the calories that are present in salami or pepperoni?

The simple answer is yes. On average, 85g of salami has around 415kcal, whereas the same 85g of pepperoni contains a staggering 551kcal. The difference in the calories can be startling, especially if you are watching your weight.

In addition to having fewer calories, salami also contains lower levels of saturated fat. Moreover, nutrition-wise it is much higher in vitamin B3 and phosphorus. In this regard, salami can be deemed to be the healthier option.

On the other hand, the salt content is also much higher in salami as opposed to pepperoni. For those who need to watch their sodium levels, pepperoni might be a more suitable option to use on a particular dish.

Preparation Process: Salami vs. Pepperoni

The process of curing meat has been around for many centuries. This has enabled the meat to be consumable for long periods of time and preventing it from spoiling. It also has the added benefit of adding a unique flavor to the meat itself.

Meat that has been cured can also stay at room temperature for a little over a month without spoiling.

Salami is a type of cured sausage made from some type of meat. Traditionally, beef or pork is used. However, recently it has become common to use other types of meat including poultry or turkey.

The meat is then combined with a certain amount of seasoning. Preservatives are also added to the mixture to create the taste and texture of salami.

On the other hand, pepperoni is typically made from beef and pork. It is often seasoned with peppers, paprika, and other such seasonings. After all the items have been combined, it is then fermented and air-dried.

Typically, pepperoni can feel drier in texture. However, it can also feel softer with a stronger and more pleasant aroma.

Salami And Its Sour Quality

Salami has a lower spice level. It also tastes quite a bit more sour in comparison. This is due to the ingredients used to make salami. Ingredients such as vinegar, pepper and various other types of spices.

In addition, minced fat is mixed in. Afterwards, the meat is then fermented. This is to help ensure that it develops ‘good’ bacteria and helps to prevent the formation of bad bacteria. The process also gives salami that unique sour flavor it is typically known by.

After the fermentation process, the meat is then air-dried. This ensures that the cut is more solid and appears in its signature color.

Pepperoni: Is Pepper Involved?

Since the word ‘pepper’ is involved in making the word ‘pepperoni’, many people would believe that pepper is somehow involved as an ingredient. Those people would be correct, as pepper is heavily involved.

We have previously stated that pepperoni is a variant of salami. It is a variant, albeit a more peppery variety. The reason why it is well-known is due to the taste that comes with the inclusion of certain spices, e.g., pepper.

It has a very high ratio of meat to spice, therefore ensuring that pepperoni has a stronger flavor. It is mildly spicy and smoky, making it absolutely perfect for pizzas and certain subs.

Which Is More Suitable as Pizza Toppings?

When it comes to making pizza, which one should you choose: salami or pepperoni? Many individuals may consider pepperoni to have too strong of a pepper taste. A lot of people want a milder version of pepperoni that is less spicy.

However, there are also people who love the taste of pepperoni. In general, the suitable choice as a pizza topping is subjective.


So, which one is the best? This depends entirely on your preference. There aren’t any rules when it comes to cooking with either. If you enjoy a more spicy and more peppery flavor, pepperoni might be more suitable for your palette. For those who want a milder flavor, then salami could be a great choice.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are the White Parts You See in Salami?
The white film is mold developed as the salami is being cured. It is called Penicillium Nalgiovense and is completely safe to consume. The white spots themselves are fat.

Can You Eat Either Salami or Pepperoni in Their Raw Form?
Since they are both cured meats, it is safe to consume them without the need for further cooking.

Salami And Pepperoni: Halal or Kosher?

Both products are not typically made using meat that is either halal or kosher. However, there have been additional varieties prepared using different types of meats considered to be halal or kosher.

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