When it comes to spicy, flavorful sausage meat, pepperoni and salami are among the most popular on the planet. For many pizza lovers, pepperoni is a must-have, while many who enjoy a great Italian sub love the flavor salami brings to the party.
However, both sausages have very different flavors and ingredients and can completely change the taste of a dish. Since sausages are ground or minced meat mixed with ingredients and spices, they are much more flavorful than a whole piece of flavored meat.
In other words, you are getting much more spice per bit with sausage, which is why it’s essential to know the differences between each.
Below, we’ll take a closer look at pepperoni and salami to help you decide which sausage is the best choice for your meal.
The Differences Between Salami and Pepperoni
If you’ve ever eaten pepperoni pizza or enjoyed salami, cheese, and crackers, then you know the two sausages have very different flavors despite sharing a similar appearance.
Both are cured sausages with roots that trace to Southern Europe. But that’s about where their similarities come to an end.
First, let’s look at the history of these iconic sausages.
Salami takes its name from “Salame’,” an Italian word for “salt,” and in Italy, it’s the collective word for meat. In truth, the salami is considered the granddaddy of all smoked sausages, as it’s among the oldest.
This sausage was a favorite among the peasants of Southern Europe because of the food’s longevity. It can last after being cut for up to 40 days.
And when you don’t have a lot of resources, this makes such food very desirable. Salami is also fermented and air-dried. Despite its Italian name, there are versions of it made throughout Europe.
Salami is produced in countries like Germany, France, Spain, Romania, and Italy. Some historians credit the Roman empire for spreading the sausage.
Many national and regional variations have evolved over the years to create an extensive variety of tastes that can be very different from the salami most Americans eat.
The word is kind of a catch-all that represents air-dried, fermented sausages. These meat products are grouped together loosely due to the curing and fermentation processes they share in creation.
That said, while there are nearly as many disparate and divergent Salami varieties as there are stars in the sky, the one most people are familiar with (despite the regional differences in taste) is the salami that got the ball rolling,
Meet the Meats
That’s right, the one you will likely purchase from the grocery store or your local butcher is closer to the original recipe for Italian salami (also known as Italian cured meat).
Texture-wise, salami can be a bit greasy and moist due to its high-fat content.
Traditional salami appears marbled and is the result of combining several types of meat, but it’s usually made using beef and pork.
Newer types of salamis being made by culinary artists use meats such as turkey and chicken, although they’ve also used venison and goose (and vegan options) to make salami as well.
While these may not represent traditional salami ingredients, they serve to elevate the taste in many people’s eyes while pushing new boundaries.
The ingredients and curing process
Traditional ingredients for salami include vinegar, salt, white pepper, herbs, minced fat, nitrate, and garlic. After it’s mixed together, the sausage is shaped and begins the fermentation process. Finally, it’s air-dried, forming the cured sausage every loves.
Of the two sausages, salami has a higher fat content. And while it’s generally preferred over pepperoni as lunch meat, it’s an incredibly calorie-rich food, as one slice of salami has about 75 calories.
This worked out just fine for the peasants of ancient Europe since they had a very active lifestyle filled with hard labor and food scarcity. The extra calories kept many people alive during very tough times.
However, today, people are a lot more sedentary, as they don’t have to walk everywhere, so most of us have to be more conscious about caloric intake.
And if you’re an athlete like a runner, salami is a great food that provides protein and fat you can burn during intense physical activity.
What many people don’t know is that pepperoni is a type of salami. This can be unclear when explaining why they are not the same. While they share the same curation and air-drying process and a few common ingredients, these meats are worlds apart regarding flavor and texture.
While pepperoni feels like it’s always been a part of popular culture, the truth is that it’s one of the youngest sausages ever made.
Pepperoni is purely an American invention, made mainly in the U.S. It was created in American pizzerias during the 20th century, shortly after World War I. Then its popularity soared when American soldiers brought their love for Italian pizza back to the states.
Before the 1940s, most Americans had never heard of pizza, even though Italian immigrants had enjoyed making the dish for generations. After WWII, its popularity exploded, as did a particular spicy sausage topping.
How it’s made
Pepperoni and salami share the same production process that involves fermentation, curing, and air-drying. Salami is derived from how it’s made, but pepperoni comes from the Italian word “pepperoni,” which translates to “bell pepper.”
Interestingly, pepperoni contains no bell pepper, but many believe the name has more to do with its peppery kick. They speculate that the name was a way of warning unsuspecting diners who might not be accustomed to spicy sausages.
And unlike Salami, Pepperoni is made using a mix of untraditional spices, mainly consisting of different chilis.
And while the amount of spices and chilis used to make pepperoni isn’t usually overwhelming, the variety of chilis and spices one can add has created nearly as many variations of pepperoni as there are of salami.
Pepperoni and salami share the same meats (beef and pork) and ingredients such as garlic, fat, and salt, although some pepperoni is also made with turkey.
Pepperoni is generally a lot darker red than salami, primarily due to the mix of nitrates and modern curing agents used in its creation. These agents, such as nitrates and other chemical preservatives, help negate the danger of botulism.
Today, pepperoni is served on almost 40 percent of all pizzas sold in the United States. And on average, Americans consume roughly 250,000,000 pounds of pepperoni yearly.
FAQs about Salami and Pepperoni
Are salami and pepperoni the same?
No, these are two very different sausages with different ingredients, flavors, and textures.
Which is better, pepperoni or salami? Is salami just big pepperoni?
The sausage we know as salami belongs to the salami family, and pepperoni is also a type of salami. The two are not the same sausage. And as far as which is better, that’s a matter of taste as both have very different flavors.
Can I use salami instead of pepperoni on pizza?
You could use salami on pizza instead of pepperoni, but you’ll get a different flavor.