Pepperoni Crumbs Are The Garnish Your Chicken Dinner Never Knew It Needed

Atop a pizza is perhaps the most familiar usage for this tasty meat topping, but pepperoni pops up in other places, too. The sausage, made with beef, pork, and a variety of spicy seasonings, is just perfect for cheesy comfort foods like stromboli, calzones, and pizza-flavored pasta dishes. And when we're feeling fancy, pepperoni slices get fanned out on charcuterie boards to serve alongside cheese and crackers. But pepperoni is more versatile than we might think. 

New York Times Cooking contributor Ali Slagle shared her recipe for Crispy Pepperoni Chicken on TikTok, introducing an intriguing new way to enjoy this spicy salami. As she puts it, "Pepperoni has left the pizza." What's exciting about Slagle's recipe is that pepperoni leaves behind its familiar, circular shape and gets transformed into something much more unique and exciting — a crunchy topping she calls pepperoni crumbs and pairs with browned chicken thighs. Look at any hot pepperoni pizza and it's basically guaranteed that each piece of meat will either be sitting in or holding onto a little pool of grease. That's one of the reasons we love pepperoni, right? This grease is exactly what makes pepperoni crumbs possible.  

Get ready to add pepperoni crumbs to everything

Ali Slagle begins by pan-frying the chicken thighs, then gets to the good stuff. Diced pepperoni is tossed into the hot skillet to get crispy, followed by breadcrumbs and parsley. The result is a toasted, meaty topping that's finished in about five minutes — and ready to sprinkle as a finishing touch to the sizzling chicken. Here's what's happening in this method: Fat melts out from the pepperoni into the hot skillet, where it browns and crisps up the diced pieces. Breadcrumbs added to the pan soak up the fat and the addictive, spicy pepperoni flavor. 

Followers on NYT Cooking's Instagram account point out that it's a clever way to use up leftover pepperoni. In addition to topping chicken, readers came up with more ways to enjoy pepperoni crumbs — like using them to bread chicken pieces, with grated Parmesan cheese added to the mixture. Think beyond chicken, too, like one reader's suggestion to sprinkle them over pasta. Use pepperoni crumbs as a topping for baked macaroni and cheese, add them to homemade garlic bread, top a bowl of soup, or use them to replace bacon bits on salad. 

Since the fat in regular pepperoni is what makes pepperoni crumbs possible, lean turkey pepperoni will not work as well. Also, avoid using really thin slices as they might burn. Start with thicker sliced or even cubed pepperoni to get the best browning and crisping — and sprinkle pepperoni crumbs on everything.