Pepperoni vs. Sausage (What’s the Difference?)

If you’re a fan of Italian-style cooking, you’re familiar with the taste of sausage and pepperoni. They’re the most popular pizza toppings, and the two types of meat are used in various dishes.

While they enrich many of the same dishes, sausage and pepperoni have several significant differences.

For example, pepperoni is a ready-to-eat product with a reddish color, while sausages have an orange-brown hue and rarely come pre-cooked. This is mainly due to the difference in production methods.

Since pepperoni is also a kind of sausage, it’s easy to get lost in the pepperoni vs. sausage debate and miss the key differences.

Here, I’ll go over everything you need to know about pepperoni and sausages and point out what makes them different.

pepperoni vs sausage

Are Sausages and Pepperoni the Same?

Sausages are seasoned ground meat that’s then stuffed in a casing made from animal intestines.

An essential element of sausage making is pork fat. The fat adds flavor to the meat and makes it moist so that it’s easier to shape.

There are several varieties of sausage, like the French andouille or the German Bratwurst.

However, the first one that comes to mind is the famous Italian sausage. It’s made from ground pork seasoned with fennel and has a distinct anise flavor.

While it can be an ingredient of soups, wraps, meatloaves, and casserole, the Italian sausage is most commonly found on top of pizzas.

Originating from America, pepperoni is a salami made from cured pork and beef. Its characteristic reddish color comes from paprika or some other chili pepper.

From rolls and burgers to omelets and pizzas, pepperoni is a stable of numerous recipes.

Pepperoni is also a type of sausage, but the two words shouldn’t be used interchangeably.

Both are stuffed into casings, but the ingredients can differ.

While most sausages contain pork, beef, or poultry, breadcrumbs or grains are sometimes added to make the mixture a little firmer so that it can be sliced or fried.

The ground meat is cured, frozen, dried, or smoked once combined with spices like garlic or peppers.

Pepperoni, however, is rarely made from poultry. It usually contains only pork or a mix of pork and beef.

Manufacturers have to disclose whether their pepperoni is made from poultry in the US. In this case, besides the different ingredients, pepperoni production also makes it stand out from its sausage cousins.

Pepperoni is air-dried and packaged pre-cooked, so you can slice it and eat it immediately if you’re itching for a taste.

Some sausages also come pre-cooked, but many retain their loose consistency, so it’s necessary to cook them before you can remove the casing and start eating.

After cooking, most sausages will get a light brown-orange color, while pepperoni has a starker reddish hue.

Additionally, pepperoni is a dry sausage, which lasts a long time. On the other hand, it’s best to store sausages that require cooking in the freezer to prevent the meat from spoiling.

Although it falls under the category of sausages, pepperoni’s production process, ingredients, texture, and color make it a stand-out among other varieties of sausage.

Is Dry Sausage the Same as Pepperoni?

Due to its production, pepperoni is classified as a type of dry sausage. Also falling in this category are Sopressata, Genoa salami, and chorizo.

So, how are dry sausages made?

First, the meat is covered with salt to remove moisture.

Then, the beneficial Lactobacillus and Leuconostoc bacteria balance out the pH levels and suppress the presence of sugars, ensuring that dry sausages leave a tangy aftertaste.

Finally, as the sausages enter the drying phase, the salt becomes more solid, making the link firmer.

Due to fermentation, a white layer forms on the surface of the meat. This is entirely normal, and the layer is edible and protects the meat from harmful microbes.

You can keep dry sausages for a long time due to the meticulous curing and fermentation treatments. Because they’re ready-to-eat, they’ve become a go-to snack that you can cut up and consume immediately.

Pepperoni goes through this same process.

You combine ground pork and beef with spices like fennel, cayenne pepper, salt, paprika, or black pepper. This mixture is put into casings that should ferment for about 72 hours.

People who have smokehouses also like to cold-smoke their pepperoni for an additional eight hours, but that’s not necessary.

The sausages are then dried for six to eight weeks. This is when all the moisture is gone, and the tubes become firm (hence the term dry sausage).

How long dry sausages are cured, fermented, and dried depends on what kind of sausage you’re making.

Also, the wide range of spices added to the meat gives pepperoni its unique taste.

Pepperoni vs. Sausage on Pizza

If you like covering your pizza with meat toppings, sausage offers many options.

Italian sausage is the most popular sausage choice by far, and with good reason.

You can pick a sweet, mild, or hot variety, depending on what you’re craving. The hot sausage is infused with chili peppers, while the sweet version has a hint of basil.

It’s best to put your raw Italian sausage slices in a frying pan before moving them onto the pizza.

Fry it up and place it on your pizza. The meat won’t turn crusty and dry up but will release its fat and moisture onto the dough, enriching the texture and taste of your meal.

Your choice of Italian sausage will determine whether the pizza will leave a spicy or sweet aftertaste.

Pepperoni is not only delicious, but it’s also convenient. It holds just enough spiciness to tickle your taste buds.

It’s also the perfect amount of sweet and won’t make the pizza too smoky.

If you’ve got the dough ready, there’s no need to wait until the meat is cooked, unlike with sausage.

Instead, chop the pepperoni into thin slices and arrange them with the other toppings you’ve got.

It goes well with different types of cheese, mushrooms, and onions. When the fat seeps through the other toppings, eating a slice of pepperoni pizza becomes an experience of exquisite flavors and aromas.

Which Is Healthier, Pepperoni or Sausage?

Both sausages and pepperoni contain ingredients that can actually be good for your overall health.

However, as their components carry different minerals, the two meat products impact your health in different ways.

Which one is healthier for you depends on what vitamins and minerals you find more important.

Sausage might be tasty, but it can also be good for your health.

Pork is rich in protein, essential for strengthening your muscles and ensuring tissue health.

The presence of vitamin B12 and iron also encourages the production of red blood cells and helps the body break down and absorb fats.

Also, selenium and niacin help skin and hair look good and maintain the immune system.

Pepperoni comes with some health benefits too. It’s full of protein and minerals that will strengthen your bones, and the B-vitamins support brain function by improving nerve cells and red blood cells.

That all being said, whether you prefer Italian sausages or pepperoni, remember that moderation is essential when it comes to a well-balanced diet.

Too much of these types of meat can cause weight gain, high cholesterol, and cardiovascular issues.

In Summary

As we’ve seen, both sausages and pepperoni go through the same manufacturing process. Depending on the type of sausage, some steps may be a little different. However, the result is still a delicious meat product you can use to spice up numerous recipes.

Pepperoni and sausage have a lot to offer to even the pickiest of eaters, and they’re incredibly healthy when taken in moderation.

Ultimately, whether you’ll choose sausage or pepperoni will depend on your culinary preferences.

Many sausages options are available if you want to select between different textures and flavors. However, pepperoni is the way to go if you’re craving a meat product that’s tried and true.