What’s the Actual Difference Between Pepperoni and Salami?

Every Thursday morning when I sit down to eat my weekly large pepperoni pizza plus all-salami charcuterie board, I can’t help but notice that there are a lot of similarities. Those crispy, red, round salamis on my pizza provide a greasy, spicy kick that cuts through the gooey mozzarella. Those thinly sliced circles of salami on the charcuterie board pair perfectly with slices of cheddar. Are these two meat products related? What’s the difference between pepperoni and salami? Is pepperoni salami? Is salami pepperoni? Am I a salami? Let’s unpack these meaty questions.

What’s the difference between salami and pepperoni?

Salami and pepperoni are very similar but they are not the same thing. Well, not entirely. Salami is not a pepperoni, but pepperoni is a type of salami. To put it another way, not all salamis are pepperoni but all pepperonis are salami. 

So, what are the differences between pepperoni and salami? 

Salami is a cured sausage that’s been enjoyed in Italy for centuries. The word salami comes from the Italian word salare, meaning “to salt.” Salami is usually made from ground pork, and sometimes beef, that has been mixed with spices and curing agents, which then is stuffed into a natural casing. The sausage ferments and ages, resulting in a smooth, mild, and tangy flavor. There are many types of salami and each region of Italy has their own style. In the early 1900s, Italian immigrants in America tried to recreate their beloved salami with the ingredients they had available. They were from a region of Italy that specialized in a dry salami called soppressata, so that was the style they went with. This is how pepperoni was born. 

Is pepperoni salami?

Yes, pepperoni is a type of salami. Pepperoni is made with a mixture of beef and pork, leaning heavier on the beef side. Pepperoni is packed with red pepper and paprika giving it a much spicier kick than other relatively mild salamis. Pepperoni can also include black pepper, garlic, and sometimes mustard and fennel. Pepperoni generally has a softer feel than other salamis and it is most often made using artificial casing. There are different types of pepperoni, but they generally have very similar flavor profiles. 

Another difference between salami and pepperoni is how they are eaten. Salami is often eaten by itself. You can take a stick of salami on a picnic and enjoy it with wine, cheeses, and fruits to bring out its intricacies. Salami can be served cold over salad, or sliced into a sandwich. You need salami for a proper Italian cold cut combo. Pepperoni, on the other hand, is pretty much only eaten on pizza. Most other dishes that throw in pepperonis are just trying to get pizza flavor. Oh yeah, there’s those pizza Lunchables kits that have cold pepperoni in them. If you ever had one of those, you know why pepperoni shouldn’t be served cold. 

About the Author

Will Morgan

Will Morgan, a freelance contributor to Sporked, is an L.A. based writer, actor, and sketch comedy guy. Originally from Houston, TX, he strongly believes in the superiority of breakfast tacos to breakfast burritos. Will traveled the world as one of those people that did yoyo shows at elementary school assemblies, always making a point to find local and regional foods to explore in whatever place he was, even in rinky-dink towns like Tilsonberg, ON. Will spends his birthdays at Benihana’s. Let him know if can make it.