Papa John's Pepperoni Pizza: 11 Facts About The Popular Menu Item

Of all the things that top a pizza so well, perhaps pepperoni punctuates the pie most perfectly. Those thin slices of seasoned pork are a star in that circular piece of heaven. Just one whiff of the smokey scent or a mouthwatering gaze at the piles of grease that so beautifully collect in their centers is enough to make most weak in the knees.

It's no secret that Americans love their pepperoni pizza. So deep is our love that The Washington Post reported in 2015 that Americans ate over 250 million pounds of the topping alone annually. Really, it's a no-brainer that the country loves this meat so — after all, we invented it (via Liguria Foods). Like other American food inventions like cornbread and Buffalo wings, pepperoni has earned its place in our kitchens and our hearts. Really, pepperoni isn't even an option, it's an expectation. When we go to the pizzeria, pepperoni lovers from sea to shining sea simply expect to have their beloved option on the table. 

Thankfully, you don't have to look that hard for a great pepperoni pizza. Controversial pizza giant Papa John's has long delivered the goods in its restaurants and to our doors, and its pepperoni pizza has garnered more than a few fans. While Papa John's pepperoni pizza might be a familiar face, there are a few unexpected things lingering just under the crust of this down-home favorite.

1. Papa John's pepperoni has a pretty complicated ingredient list

It may be scary to ask what pepperoni is made from, but Made in New York Pizza assures us that the pepperoni ingredient list needn't be long. In its purest form, pepperoni is a simple mix of ground beef, pork, and seasonings, though pork should be the primary ingredient in the mix. To really make the topping shine, salt, paprika, and black pepper, as well as a few other chemicals like sodium nitrate and lactic acid, are to be expected in the mix.

Papa John's has made a name for itself by promising, of course, better ingredients. So you would expect that Papa John's pepperoni would be relatively straightforward. However, Papa John's famously admitted its "Better Ingredients" slogan was mere puffery (via CBS News). While its yummy, yummy pepperoni has all the classic ingredients, it is important to note that the pepperoni recipe also includes dextrose, a form of sugar (via Papa John's). This specific form of sugar is said to aid in the cured meat's fermentation, but it also adds to the pizza's sugar content. While this may seem like a banal detail to point out, it is critical to know that there are additives used to enhance Papa John's fresh taste. Another additive is sodium nitrate. WebMD notes that this ingredient isn't necessarily unhealthy, but it does tend to be used in processed meats, which as a whole, aren't great for the heart, much less the body.

2. Papa John's pepperoni made crypto history

Cryptocurrency is on the cusp of the American mainstream and has only come more and more to focus, and controversy, in the last decade (via NextAdvisor). Although cryptocurrency may not be a normal day-to-day monetary option for most people, it can be used to buy goods and services like, for example, pizza. Bitcoin history will always have a little bit of pepperoni on it.

In 2010, a man by the name of Laszlo Hanyecz made the first-ever real-world Bitcoin purchase with an order to Papa John's, according to The Wall Street Journal. The Florida-based programmer aided in setting up some of the infrastructure for the young digital currency, but was growing frustrated with its lack of utility in the physical world. Aiming to change this, he offered up 10,000 Bitcoin to anyone who would order him two pepperoni pizzas from Papa John's. His call was answered, and soon two Papa John's pizzas were delivered to him by way of a fellow coder in London.

While at the time the sum would be around $60, as the journal describes, as of this article's publishing date, that amount of Bitcoin would translate to over $160 million (via Coinbase). Ironically enough, Wall Street Journal noted, it seemed as if the pizza chain wasn't aware of its importance in digital currency history as of 2014.  Still, to commemorate the sale, May 22nd remains Bitcoin Pizza Day.

3. Papa John's capitalized on Simone Biles's love of pepperoni pizza

The pepperoni pizza chain really went for the gold with one pizza lover. Pepperoni pizza has fans across the board, and sometimes on the mat too. In 2016, acclaimed gymnast Simone Biles said that after every gymnastics meet, she liked to treat herself, regardless of the outcome, to celebrate the work she had done. Her preferred treat might not be what you would expect from an Olympic athlete. As per ABC News, in 2016 at least, the Olympian's favorite way to treat herself was with pizza — pepperoni, of course. 

Now, in case you're rolling your eyes thinking this is a pure marketing gimmick to make Biles seem relatable, the gymnast was telling the truth. Per First We Feast, there's a long-recorded social media trail of the Olympian and her teammates chowing down on slices of pepperoni pizza. So big, and evident, was Biles's love for pizza, that Slate theorized which brand would score an endorsement from her, saying Papa John's was the leading contender. While the pizza chain never was able to get support from the gymnast, it was quick to offer 50% off pizza deals on to Biles fans on Twitter when the gymnast had to miss prom for practice meets.

4. Shaq-a-Roni has become a new frontier for the classic topping

Shaquille O'Neal might not be the first name that comes to mind when thinking of pizza, but that could be subject to change in the next couple of years. O'Neal is much more than a brand endorser of Papa John's — he's sitting on the board and bringing a larger scale to a pizza classic. In 2019, after the brand was rocked by racist controversy, Shaq stepped on the scene at the behest of a friend who was already on the board of directors, according to Franchise Times. While many criticized this as a sort of cheap PR move, O'Neal has come to bring his own ideas and vision to the suffering brand, and arguably might be the future of rebranding the chain.

One of the ideas that came from O'Neal's new position is the Shaq-a-Roni pizza, which the official Papa John's site promises can feed a Shaq-sized family. Per Brand Eating, a Shaq-a-Roni pizza is an extra-large thin-crust pizza with both extra cheese and extra pepperoni. It is a hefty portion indeed, and one slice is so large that it's easy to fold over and eat like a pizza sandwich. For anyone who's interested in eating pepperoni pizza on a larger scale, have no fear. As the Franchise Times reports, the Shaq-a-Roni pizza should be staying put, as the NBA legend signed on to a new three-year endorsement deal in 2022.

5. Papa John's gives you more pepperoni for your money

When ordering pizza at Papa John's, you might not need to order extra pepperoni, depending on where you are in the world. A comparative study from the U.K.-based news source The Sun observed that Papa John's consistently delivered the most bang for your buck (or in this case, pound). Clocking in at about 16 pence per gram of pepperoni, Papa John's had almost three times as much pepperoni for the money as the worst competitor on the list!

Even stateside, Business Insider found positive things to say about the chain's pepperoni pizza. The website dove in to compare American pizza chains, specifically with pepperoni pizza, in order to rank an American classic in 2019. Unlike its English counterpart, the stateside magazine puts Papa John's more in the middle of the pack. While the quality of the pepperoni pizza is considered to be good, the American reporters do criticize the large amount of cheese used in the Papa John's recipe. So while kicking it stateside, maybe it does make sense to either halve the cheese or double the pepperoni. Either way you cut it, you're in for a yummy slice.

6. The OG Papa John's pepperoni pizza is price conscious

Besides being an absolutely scrumptious option, Papa John's OG pepperoni pizza is among the more price-conscious choices on the major pizza market today. While Business Insider sought to compare Pizza Hut, Domino's, and Papa John's by flavor, the site also noted in 2019 that the prices between the three major pizza plays were pretty comparable. Nonetheless, Papa John's still is among the more frugal choices to be had.

At the date of writing, according to the source Real Menu Prices, a medium Papa John's pepperoni pizza costs around $13.00, not including the regular deals that the chain typically runs around the meaty dish. Admittedly, the price disparities between Papa's and other competitors are minimal. Domino's, for example, clocked in at $13.99. While sure, it's only a dollar, in times when every penny counts, those sure are a lot of pennies. Pizza Hut may take the cake as the absolute cheapest choice, just barely, at $12.49. But, given the scathing review from Business Insider, you might be thankful to spend the extra 61 cents on a higher-quality pepperoni pizza.

7. The pizza maker celebrates National Pepperoni Pizza Day

The public's adoration of pepperoni pizza isn't lost on the national chain. After all, September 20th marks the somewhat obscure, yet fun, National Pepperoni Pizza Day. National Today describes the day, of course, as a celebration of the already beloved pizza topping. As the site assures, there's good reason to celebrate a topping that not only has found a home in American cuisine but was created over here.

It's understandable, of course, that pizza chains would hop on the opportunity to celebrate the beloved topping. In 2022, Papa John's offered two special deals to celebrate the holiday, as outlined by Mass Live. For one, the chain sold large pepperoni pizzas at a modest discount. More adventurously, and hedonistically, the chain also sold a pepperoni stuffed-crust pizza. Of course, the chain probably didn't need to convince anyone they needed to buy more pepperoni: As we'll see, people are already eating quite a lot of the stuff.

8. Papa John's pepperoni is an indulgent choice

Of course, you can't go looking for love in all the wrong places, and there's no sense in looking for nutritional benefits in a slice of pizza. It's no secret that each pie is laden with carbs and salt, and isn't necessarily the foundation of a balanced diet (via World Action Salt and Diatribe). Papa John's certainly excels in all things indulgent. In the unhealthy cosmos of carry-out pizza, this chain is a star.

Alone in one large slice of pepperoni pizza, is 13 grams of fat, which translates to around 104 grams in a full pie. For perspective, The National Academy of Sports Medicine recommends around 34-68 grams of fat daily for those who weigh 150 lbs and are not dieting. So, Papa John's is going to take up a large part of the daily fat budget. Comparatively, a large slice of hand-tossed pepperoni pizza from Pizza Hut clocks in with around the same amount of fat. But Papa John's slice compounds this amount of fat with other unhealthy elements. One slice also contains around 810 milligrams of sodium, one-third of the daily recommended intake of around 2,300 milligrams (via The Food and Drug Administration). In each slice is around 5 grams of sugar, which is over twice as much as Pizza Hut's slice. In a balanced diet there's room for everything, but make sure to take care to make some space for all that's going on with Papa John's.

9. Papa John's pepperoni pizza lovers can't get enough

Papa John's pizza thrives on the popularity of pepperoni. The U.K. branch of Papa John's notes that the chain's double pepperoni pizza remains a pretty big hit among English families. The blog describes the extra meaty pizza as a "family stable," and it's unclear if this was a typo meant to indicate a family staple, or if the pizza is so weighty that it can afford to feed a family of horses. Either way, it's unmistakable that this is a pizza meant to satiate and satisfy. It's no wonder that it stays among the most beloved dishes.

While Americans are certainly pizza lovers at any time of year, football season marks a special time of exquisite pizza indulgence. In a 2022 winter survey, Papa John's sought to understand just what football fans love best about the classic game day meal. Unsurprisingly, there was much to say about pepperoni pizza. The iconic red meat was the most beloved topping, with 78% of those interviewed noting that the topping was always in their orders. It's safe to say that there are plenty of people who love chowing down on Papa John's pepperoni pizza.

10. The pizza chain took it up a notch with pepperoni-stuffed crust

It's because of this pepperoni love that in 2022, the chain really leaned into its pepperoni offerings. The first roll-out was for lovers of all things hot in form of spicy pepperoni rolls. ChewBoom reported in April 2022, that the rolls are typical pizza rolls complete with pizza dough, sauce, and a good helping of melted cheese and jalapeños.

The second roll-out has made much more of a splash. The unmistakable Epic Pepperoni-Stuffed Crust Pizza is a presence as big as its name: This pizza seeks to take stuffed crust and stuff it even more with what can only be described as a copious amount of pepperoni (via Wall Street Online). The crust is then topped with a breadstick seasoning to add a glorious if not Frankenstein-esque finish. It is more than a mouthful, to say the least.

Such an adventurous recipe has inspired just as much admiration as it has ridicule. One suit-clad reviewer known as TheReportOfTheWeek garnered over 200,000 views digging into Papa John's Epic Pepperoni-Stuffed Crust Pizza. He fancifully reviews the pizza in real-time, as he nibbles and bites into a slice while quipping. He notes that, of course, this isn't a healthy choice in any way to order, but it is a pizza that will guarantee pepperoni in every bite, and an extremely tasty crust. The review was so popular that even Papa John's official YouTube account commented on the video.

11. International Papa John's pizzerias are serving plant-based pepperoni

What actually makes "pepperoni" pepperoni? It seems like the goalposts are ever-shifting, and Papa John's might be on the forefront of modernizing the definition of pepperoni. It's pretty hard not to notice how popular, and varied, vegan meat alternatives are becoming. Both in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, Papa John's is trying to make a way for plant-based people to dig into pizza in a new old-fashioned way. According to both Vegan Friendly and VegNews, Papa John's is offering a vegan pepperoni pizza in those countries. The pizza, which of course features vegan cheese, uses jackfruit to make its pepperoni. 

While fruit and pepperoni may seem like the furthest things from each other, there's a reason that jackfruit has been making waves in vegan cuisine. When left unripe, green jackfruit not only looks otherworldly but has a chewy, stringy, meat-like texture that takes on the flavor of whatever it's being seasoned with (via The Independent). Thus, it really does make the perfect meat stand-in. Papa John's abroad sources its jackfruit pepperoni from Jack & Bry, a U.K.-based vegan meat manufacturer. While it may not have made waves in our pepperoni homeland, perhaps there are exciting plant-based things coming for the tried and true American classic.