What Are Pizza Rolls and Who Invented Them?

Pizza rolls are one of the four main college food groups along with Cup Noodles, Red Bull, and Hot Pockets. Although, I guess pizza rolls are kind of like miniature Hot Pockets. Whatever, I’m keeping them as a separate food group. However you classify them, pizza rolls are a right of passage. When we are first introduced to them, we eat them too quickly and burn our mouths with the molten cheese. Then we learn how to eat them and it becomes all our parents can get us to eat. Eventually we grow out of them and learn to eat like adults. Then we try them again out of nostalgia and become pizza roll fiends for the rest of our day. So, what are pizza rolls, exactly? Who invented pizza rolls? When were pizza rolls invented? Let’s pop some pizza rolls and answer these questions.

What are pizza rolls?

We’ve all eaten millions of them over our lives, but what are pizza rolls? A pizza roll is a bite-sized dough pocket filled with tomato sauce and cheese. Some pizza pockets include various traditional pizza toppings like pepperoni and/or sausage, or even other meats like Buffalo chicken and bacon. Pizza rolls are sold frozen and then cooked in the microwave, oven, toaster oven, or in an air fryer if you’re one of those crazy air fryer people that never shuts up about their air fryer. Pizza rolls are trademarked by General Mills, but there’s plenty of similar products on the frozen food aisle under names like pizza snack rolls, pizza bites, pizza snacks, etc. 

What’s the best way to eat these things? Dip them, of course! Wondering what to dip pizza rolls in? Ranch dressing reigns supreme as the best dip option. Other dips that taste great with pizza rolls are hot sauce, garlic butter, alfredo sauce, marinara sauce, and nacho cheese

Who invented pizza rolls and when were pizza rolls invented?

So who invented these beautiful little pockets of heaven on earth? And when were these mini-calzone snacks invented? Pizza rolls were invented in Duluth, Minnesota, in the 1960s and officially launched in 1968. They were invented by a man named Jeno Paulucci with help from one of his employees, Beatrice Ojakangas. 

Paulucci was already a successful food entrepreneur with a frozen and canned Chinese food brand called Chun King. After World War II, with so many people returning from overseas having just experienced different cultures and foods than those they were used to, the United States went into an “ethnic food” boom. The 1950s saw middle America embrace things like pizza and Chinese food, albeit very Americanized versions. Palucci jumped on the trend and came up with his Chun King brand. One of Chun King’s most popular items were the frozen egg rolls. In the 1960s, Paulucci took notice of the growing popularity of pizza—particularly frozen pizza—and wondered if there was a way to capitalize on it with things he already had in his possession, like egg roll wrappers. So, he took the idea to his employees, and Beatrice Ojakangas came up with the new pizza rolls.

Jeno’s Pizza Rolls were a hit. In 1985, Jeno’s was sold to Pillsbury. Then in 1993, Jeno’s Pizza Rolls were rebranded as Totino’s Pizza Rolls, as Pillsbury already had Totino’s frozen pizza. In 2001, the operation was bought by General Mills, which continues to crank out pizza rolls to this day.

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.

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