10 Top Pizza-Topping Tips

While a decent dough is probably the most important part of making a top pizza, it’s oftenthe toppings that actually define a pizza, as in: “I’ll have the pepperoni” or “top me with sausage & banana” (more on that shortly). So, let’s talk about pizza toppings.

Typical and popular pizza toppings obviously include things like pepperoni, sausage, chicken, ham, bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, olives, extra cheese, and yes, pineapple works on pizza too. Basically most types of fruit, veg, meat and even fish can pretty much work on pizza.

But how do you know what really works as a pizza topping? Especially when it comes to combos. While you ultimately get to choose what pizza toppings to go with, in an attempt to help you up your pizza game, here you’ll find ten top pizza topping tips. Try saying that with a mouthful of meat feast.

1. Pizza Can Have Too Many Toppings

Sorry to start by breaking your heart, but it’s totally true that pizza can have too many toppings. While topping options are practically endless, excessive toppings can increase the risk of them sliding off for a start, not to mention that too many flavours just tend to get lost amongst each other. So, firstly, avoid the temptation to go over the top with your toppings.

How many pizza toppings is too much? Well, our loose research suggests two or three pizza toppings is ideal, with five mentioned as the maximum. Then again, Dominos refer to fifteen toppings when promoting their ‘Pay Day Pizza’, yet people who’ve worked there advise no more than four. Whatever you decide, just don’t go over the top.

2. Combos Are King

Unless of course you idolise the basic but iconic Margherita, or simply prefer solo toppings like pepperoni and only pepperoni, combos are what it’s all about when it comes to topping a pizza. As obvious and as simple as it sounds, selecting two or three toppings that perfectly complement each other, might just be the secret to great pizza.

Popular two-topping pizzas include chicken & bacon or ham & pineapple, with double pepperoni being another option. Good three-topping pizza options might include sausage, onion & pepper; spinach, feta & mushroom; or pepperoni, pepperoni & pepperoni (some of us just really like pepperoni!)

3. Understand Flavour Profiles

It’s all very well saying things like “pizza can have too many toppings” and “combos are what it’s all about”, but its also useful to know some basic cooking theory to help elevate your pizza. Basically, there’s five main flavour profiles when it comes to food: sweet, salty, sour, bitter & umami (some people also add spicy), and understanding these could be a pizza game changer.

Understanding flavour profiles is about knowing how different tasting foods complement each other, in this case, on top of a pizza. The idea is to experiment with toppings by combining contrasting flavours, like pairing salty and umami ingredients together (e.g. sausage and mushrooms), or balancing bitterness with sweetness (e.g. rocket/arugula and butternut squash).

4. Consider Cooking Toppings Before Putting on Pizza

Speaking of heat, it’s well worth considering whether pizza toppings need cooking before being added to the pizza. With raw meats especially, it’s obvious that you’ll most likely want to precook these to avoid any pizza disasters. Things like root vegetables, hard leafy greens and mushrooms also tend to benefit from being cooked first. 

Onions and garlic are two more examples of ingredients that are best cooked before being placed on top of your pizza base. They can of course be added raw,  depending on the style of pizza you’re after,  but it’s usually preferable to cook them at least partially before potentially ruining pizza altogether.

5. Know How To Layer A Pizza

The order in which to top a pizza is reasonably simple, and toppings can of course just be thrown on randomly, but layering a pizza with sauce, cheese and then the ingredients that’ll benefit from more exposure to the oven’s direct heat, is typically the way to go.

There’s exceptions to the rule of course, including Sicilian pizza and Chicago deep-dish pizza, where toppings are placed beneath the cheese, but a key thing to remember is simply placing the toppings that need the most heat, closer to the top of the pizza, e.g. chunkier pieces of meat/veg. 6. Don’t Underestimate Veg

6. Don’t Under-stimate Veg

While a meat feast might be the go-to pizza for many, loading vegetables on pizza is just groovy too, as is proved by some of the most common: onions, peppers, squash, spinach… the list goes on. The point is taken about mushrooms on pizza, maybe they don’t belong. But with veg on pizza in general, don’t underestimate it.

Whether on their own as part of a Veggie Supreme, or alongside meat to balance out those flavour profiles, plenty of vegetables tend to be taken to another level when precooked or just lightly charred before becoming a pizza topping; more examples include aubergine/eggplant, courgette/zucchini, broccoli and asparagus.

7. Herb & Spice It Up 

Herbs are just a great way of topping up on flavour when it comes to cooking generally, so pizza is no different. Certain herbs naturally go better on pizza than others, like rosemary, thyme and sage because they’ve got strong punchy flavour, but softer herbs like coriander/cilantro, parsley, and obviously basil per the traditional Margherita, which are more aromatic.

Using spices is another way to add an extra  level of flavour to pizza, which tends to be done best when toasting them whole before grinding into a powder (rather than using the already-powdered products). Either way, simply coat your toppings of choice (e.g. chicken, peppers, etc) with your spice mix and some oil, before precooking and then placing on the pizza.

8. Know What Doesn’t Belong on Pizza 

There’s not much that doesn’t belong on pizza, or at least, most stuff deserves to be tried as a pizza topping at least once. There’s just not much that you can’t put on pizza, although things like tuna and lettuce are common no-nos. And putting pineapple on pizza is obviously illegal. But most importantly, figure out what doesn’t work for you. Then you’ll know what does.

Anchovies are apparently the most unpopular pizza topping around, yet clearly still belong on pizza (see the classic Marinara pizza). As for sausage and banana, that’s just one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle pizza faves. You’re obviously allowed to decide for yourself what does and doesn’t belong on your pizza.

9. Fruit Belongs on Pizza

Let’s put it this way: tomato is a fruit, the Italians put tomatoes on pizza. So whatever you believe, fruit belongs on pizza. And now we’ve opened up the doors to pizza possibilities, other types of fruit you can put on pizza include bananas, berries, apples, pears, figs, and so many more. Sure, including pineapple.

Clearly, pizza experimentation is the key, and some fruits go better on pizza than others, with harder fruits like apples and pears being especially great alongside meat and creamy cheeses to provide added texture; whereas bananas and berries should probably be saved for dessert. And pineapple saved for the Hawaiian and the Hawaiian only.

10. Don’t Forget Dessert (Pizza)

With all the talk of fruit, it’s only right to mention dessert pizza, which might just be better than regular pizza. Fruit is just one part of the equation when it comes to pizza for pudding, with Nutella pizza naturally  being the starting point, and toppings like marshmallows and berries bringing even more to the pizza party.

Other top dessert pizza topping ideas include popcorn, kids’ breakfast cereals, Reeses pieces, Oreo’s, or basically any other kind of chocolate or confectionary. Another top tip: as an alternative to Nutella, mix melted white chocolate with Mascarpone cheese and place the toppings on top of that. Seriously, top tip that!

Topping it All Off… 

In summary, pizza toppings are important if you want something more than a Kevin McCallister Special (plain cheese). As well as no toppings at all, i.e. the Marinara, there’s such a thing as too many toppings on a pizza, with just two or three flavour combinations often being the key to a top pizza.

Knowing what and how to put toppings on pizza helps, with meat, veg and fruit all being viable options. Fish not so much, but that’s just a personal preference thing. Despite there being official pizza rules, you still get to decide what goes on your pizza, even if it’s sausage & banana, or pineapple.