Is there anything in this world that brings people together more than pizza? Not only is it always a safe bet to serve at a party or get together, but it can also be used as a handy tool for bribing your friends into helping you move. Sure, you may have to let them choose some of the toppings, but sharing a pizza is a small price to pay for getting a hand in moving that couch down three flights of stairs. Let's circle back to the topic of pizza toppings though. Everyone has their favorites, but also toppings they absolutely can't stand. Sure, there's always the same advice when a pizza has a topping you don't like - "just pick them off!" However, the pizza is never the same after that, and you know it.
So which toppings are the best? It's a debate as old as the idea of pizza itself. Surely there must be toppings that are objectively better than others, right? Well, no one can really say for sure, but that's exactly what we've tried to do with this list. Some of you may not agree with where certain toppings were ranked. In fact, it might make you really angry. However, the truth is that this list is fairly subjective, and if you feel you have been wronged in the grand scheme of which pizza toppings are the best, then just know that there are no wrong answers. Except for olives. Olives have no place on pizza. With that, here are 25 classic pizza toppings ranked from worst to best.
25 Black Olives
Nothing can ruin a pizza faster than black olives. These overly salty and unpleasant black circles are like mutant eyes staring back at you from your pie. The worst thing is that there are people out there who will vehemently defend olives as a pizza topping, and they are absolutely wrong. There is no joy in a pizza covered in black olives. You want olives with pizza so badly? Order the side salad. There are guaranteed to be some big black olives in there you can enjoy without ruining everyone else's night.
24 Green Olives
Green olives are only slightly better than black olives because their appearance isn't as offensive. Don't be fooled, however. These things are just as bad. Let's all just face the truth together: olives have too strong a flavor to be on pizza. They overpower everything and basically make you feel like you're eating olives right out of the jar. Olive defenders will try to say "they're not that bad! You won't even notice them." Fine, then just get the pizza without olives if it's all the same. Checkmate!
Come on, really? Broccoli on a pizza? Get out of here with that nonsense. There's no reason you need to top the food everyone loves with the vegetable that everyone either hates or eats begrudgingly because it's healthy. The common understanding is that broccoli on a pizza makes it slightly more nutritious, but come on! You're eating pizza! Nutrition was never part of the equation. Besides, broccoli would have to work pretty hard to cancel out a pizza's calories. Leave broccoli for the weeknight dinners and just enjoy pizza as it is.
Spinach is only slightly higher than broccoli because let's face it, you can barely tell it's there. It's still a weird vegetable to top a pizza with, but at least it can kind of blend in with the other flavors. Still, if someone is asking for spinach on their pizza, you have to wonder why. After all, even more so than the green olive argument, spinach really does end up adding no flavor to the finished product. It's extraneous. Like broccoli, it's just an excuse to have something green on a pizza.
Anchovies may be an absolutely classic pizza topping, but they are kind of weird, aren't they? These salty fish fillets probably owe more to pizza's heritage than any other topping, considering they are a key ingredient in many dishes. This is mostly due to the additional umami flavor they can add. That being said, anchovies are still a fairly divisive pizza topping, and for good reason. Most people are put off by the fishy taste of anchovies, and to be fair, they are also rather unsightly when added to a pizza.
Tomatoes are a safe vegetable choice as a topping for pizza. Okay, technically they're a fruit, but ask yourself this question: would you ever put tomatoes in a fruit salad? Exactly. For all intents and purposes, they're a vegetable. There's nothing inherently wrong with putting tomatoes on a pizza. They taste just fine when combined with mozzarella. It's just that with the tomato sauce already forming an important base for other flavors, tomatoes just become somewhat redundant. They're fine on a vegetarian pie, but not something we'd go out of our way to order.
19 Sun-Dried Tomatoes
Sun-dried tomatoes are a little higher on the list than regular tomatoes because, to be fair, they do make a pizza pretty fancy. That's why a lot of pizza places will actually charge extra for them. On top of allowing you to look cultured and worldly, sun-dried tomatoes also provide a depth of flavor that you just don't get with regular tomatoes. They are particularly good when paired with some less common toppings like fresh garlic or feta cheese (more on that later). However, they can come across a little pretentious, especially when ordering as a group.
Back in the day, chicken had no place on a pizza. It was one or the other, and never the twain shall meet. However, things changed forever when Pizza Hut introduced chicken as a pizza topping in the nineties. Suddenly, it was perfectly acceptable to get chicken on a pizza. However, the addition of chicken breast really doesn't add much to pizza, considering how mild its flavor is. It's nice as a lean protein, but it doesn't bring much to the table unless it's augmented with other toppings (think barbecue chicken pizza).
17 Ground Beef
Ground beef may have a little more flavor than chicken, but on a pizza, it serves essentially the same purpose. Sure, it's hearty and meaty and adds a good chunk of protein to your meal, but it's not really doing much to enhance the flavors of the pizza. Often you'll find ground beef thrown in with the other meats on a meat lovers pizza, but it is often overshadowed by the superior flavor of sausage, bacon, and pepperoni. Still, ground beef has its place on specialty pizzas, like the taco pizza or the more recent double bacon cheeseburger pizza.
16 Bacon Bits
We've all had this happen: you order pizza from a big chain and you ask for bacon. What you end up with are those weird, pink crumbles that have neither the texture nor the flavor of actual bacon. It seems strange that the big places wouldn't just use real bacon, but then again it probably does cost a little more. Once again, the quest for saving a buck results in an inferior product. While by no means the worst thing to see on a pizza, bacon crumbles are just more disappointing than anything.
Ham is like the underdog of pizza meats. It may not be the most popular, and it may not have the most interesting flavor profile, but it does the job in terms of enhancing the protein factor of a pizza while also adding a better, meatier texture. The reason ham may be so ignored is due to its association with a more controversial pizza topping (more on that later), but it's really unfair for ham to be overlooked. Ham has a workmanlike quality in terms of pizza toppings, always there to make things a little bit better, but not seeking the spotlight.
How could anything be worse if you add steak to it? While it's relatively obscure as a pizza topping, steak can actually be quite comfortable on a pie. for example, the idea of a cheesesteak pizza has become more prominent in the last few years. These usually include steak, onions, peppers, and sometimes places will even throw some provolone on there for authenticity. However, outside of this context, steak can be a little ritzy for a pizza. Who are you trying to impress, anyway?
Whether they're fresh or pickled, jalapenos add a real kick of heat to any pizza. They're perfect for dressing up a pie that might not have enough going on with its other toppings. While the texture of jalapenos isn't always something to write home about (the pickled ones, in particular, are very soft), the flavor is absolutely great when combined with other meats and veggies. In fact, these would be a great addition to a vegetarian pizza to kick it up a notch (just substitute jalapenos for the olives. It's a win-win).
12 Roasted Red Peppers
Roasted red peppers are another premium ingredient at most pizza places, but they earn their place on that part of the menu by bringing a lot of flavor to a pizza. Roasted red peppers bring a level of sweetness that is unmatched by most other ingredients, and yet they maintain the richer undertones of peppery flavor. In terms of going with the premium ingredients, we have to say that roasted red peppers are probably your best bet. They go well with the mild flavor of mozzarella but don't get lost in the flavor of the sauce either.
Putting cheese on cheese? That just sounds like extra cheese to some people. However, adding feta to a pizza is more than just adding more cheese. Feta has a really nice texture and a sharp, briny flavor that contrasts perfectly with the mozzarella. You can combine feta with meat or veggies and it maintains its place in the overall flavor of the pizza. It may seem a little bit fancy, but this is one ingredient that could actually change a lot of minds on what constitutes a "real" pizza topping.
10 Mild Sausage
Some people can't handle too much heat, and that's where the mild sausage comes in as a pizza topping. While it still delivers a lot of flavor and a nice meaty punch, mild sausage downplays the spicier aspects of other ingredients in exchange for a focus on the more sweet aspects of a good sausage: the herbal flavors, along with the mild saltiness of the meat really gets a chance to come out, making mild sausage a great pick for any pizza combination.
9 Green Pepper
Green peppers add so much to a pizza and yet are a truly underrated topping. Not only do they add a nice burst of color to the pie, but they also maintain their texture after cooking and deliver a nice, earthy flavor that goes well with the base ingredients as well as any other toppings it shares the space with. Green peppers might not be high on the list of anyone's favorite toppings, but they are the workhorse of the veggie topping family, providing a lot of flavor and beauty where other ingredients fall short.
8 Barbecue Sauce
This one might make a few people upset, considering that it's not always considered a topping. Fair enough. Barbecue sauce is not one of your traditional solid toppings like green peppers or anchovies, but it does something pretty incredible when added to a pizza. It lends it a smoky, bold flavor that you just don't get from other toppings. Not only that, but if you combine it with chicken and onions, you get the barbecue chicken pizza, a relative newcomer in the pizza arena, but one that has proven popular and delicious.
7 Banana Peppers
As far as adding a little heat to your pie goes, there's no better topping than the ever-reliable banana pepper. Often coming from a jar where they are soaked in brine (adding another little bit of zing to their flavor profile), banana peppers combine well with almost any vegetable or meat topping. If you're looking for something to boost the flavor of everything around it and add a little bit of texture and brightness to your pizza, then the banana pepper is what you need in your life.
Sure, they make your breath smell terrible, but onions on a pizza are pretty delicious. Onions do something magical when they are cooked on top of a pizza. They don't break down entirely, as they do in the caramelization process, but they lose enough of that raw edge so that they have a mild, pleasing flavor that perfectly compliments the savory taste of the other pizza ingredients. On top of that, they retain enough of their texture to give a little bit of variation to the pizza without being too crunchy.
Uh oh, it looks like things are about to get controversial in here. While a good chunk of you reading this list have just turned your noses up in disgust, there are at least a few who are nodding vigorously in agreement with pineapples' position in the top five. It's all about balancing flavors. You get the salty richness of mozzarella and the warmer, savory flavor of tomato sauce, but also the bright, sweet, and slightly acidic flavor of the pineapple. It may not be your favorite, but pineapple on pizza has more going on in the flavor department than other popular ingredients.
4 Bacon Strips
We've talked about bacon crumble and how it is a poor excuse for bacon on a pizza. However, if you go to a really high-quality pizza place, 0one that cares about the quality of its product, you'll probably be able to get actual bacon strips as a topping. The crispy, meaty, smoky flavor of bacon is perfect for complimenting the richness of mozzarella cheese and combines perfectly with a good tomato sauce. Bacon strips are probably one of the only pizza toppings that would be good on its own. However, it also goes great with practically any other topping.
3 Hot Sausage
No matter where it's used, hot sausage makes itself known. On a pizza, it becomes one of the standout dishes. Combine it with other savory toppings like onions and mushrooms and you've got a perfect flavor balance that will please everyone. The spice and meatiness of the sausage can compliment almost any other ingredient it is combined with, and none of its flavors get lost in the mix. There's always the hint of salt, chili flakes, and fennel seed in every bite, making hot sausage a winner every time.
You might not think that mushrooms could do much for a pizza, but you would be so wrong. While some people would stand by the assertion that mushrooms don't really taste like anything, they add a really nice, earthy flavor that compliments the acidity and richness of pizza. Mushrooms can also be combined with any other ingredient, due to their versatility and flavor profile. On top of all that, mushrooms are one of the most recognizable and picturesque pizza toppings, making the presentation of any pie perfect.
How could any other pizza topping take the top spot? Pepperoni is literally the most classic and popular of all pizza toppings. There's nothing better than seeing those perfect red circles get a little crispy at the edges and build up a beautiful pool of oil. How is it that just one meat can compliment an entire dish so perfectly? After all, if you want to please a crowd, you order a pizza with pepperoni and nothing else. Somehow everyone is happy. Pepperoni has that kind of magic, and it's why it will always be the king of pizza toppings.