The Best Pizza Toppings Of All Time: Mashed Staff Picks

Pizza has a long history. Some claim that it started as far back as ancient Egypt when flatbreads were covered in various toppings. However, most people in the know agree that the invention of this modern-day food behemoth can be boiled down to one location: Naples, Italy. The story goes that pizza began as an inexpensive food for poor workers, and as a way for bakers to use up their daily leftover dough after making bread. 

However, Raphael Esposito (a Neapolitan pizza maker in the late 1800s) is credited with creating the first modern pizza when King Umberto I and Queen Margherita visited Naples in 1889. The Queen decided to slum it and try the pauper's bread, which, thanks to Esposito, was covered in a humble combination of tomato and cheese. The dish was a hit and the Margherita pizza was born.

While it's still a favorite go-to for many, the Margherita has been well and truly surpassed by a plethora of scrumptious, delicate, and some wild and crazy topping combinations. Here at Mashed, we've put down our pens (or typing fingers) to ponder the best pizza toppings of all time. And, we think you'll agree.

French fries and Cheez-Whiz - Allen Foster

Full disclosure, I think pizza is pretty much perfect as is. For instance, just because you add more vanilla extract, it doesn't mean your cookies will taste better. That being said, I have a go-to topping for those rare times when I'm not in a plain mood: Cheez-Whiz and fries. However, not just any fries will do. They must be traditional fries that live midway between a shoestring and a steakhouse — about a quarter-inch thick is ideal. 

What makes this combination so desirable is as much the texture as the taste. The yielding density of perfectly cooked fries adds a sharp contrast to the otherwise gummy nature of a thin slice of cheese-slathered pizza while the Cheez Whiz ensures the combination is never too dry. A thin drizzle of creamy ranch dressing sauce will do the trick if you want to have a little more zing.

Banana Peppers - Nancy Mock

I submit that banana peppers are the best-ever pizza topping. These are the same yellow pepper rings that you can find in jars in the pickle aisle of the grocery store. Most pizza places and even chains like Domino's have banana peppers on the list of optional toppings, so I know I'm not alone on this one. Banana peppers are very mild and have lots of tang from their vinegary brine, making them a perfect foil to the rich, cheesy greasiness of a slice of pizza. 

I usually combine them with a second topping: Italian sausage. I always tell myself that the added protein will be more filling and keep me from overindulging. But, of course, because banana peppers and sausage are so delicious together eating too many slices of pizza is just inevitable.

Prosciutto - Maria Scinto

While I'm generally not what I think of as a fancy food person, I'll admit that my all-time favorite pizza topping is something that you're not going to find at every hole-in-the-wall pizzeria, nor is it an option at most of the major chains. My pick is prosciutto, the thin-sliced, smoked ham that's the king of all Italian deli meats (which is to say, the king of all deli meats, period). In my family, prosciutto was always a special occasion thing, featuring on the antipasto platters we'd have at Thanksgiving, Christmas, and occasionally New Year's Day. I'd never actually seen it offered as a pizza topping until recently, though, when I saw it on the menu at downtown Milwaukee's Calderone Club. 

Ordering pizza with prosciutto for the first time was a revelation. Unlike heavier meats such as pepperoni or sausage, the meat wasn't greasy at all and didn't weigh down my preferred type of cracker-thin crust. Its slightly salty, yet delicate, flavor harmonized perfectly with a really good red sauce, which is another one of my pizza must-haves and I could (and did) eat slice after slice without feeling uncomfortably full. I haven't seen prosciutto pizza at too many other places and the Calderone Club is a once-in-a-blue-moon treat, but my love for my new favorite topping has inspired me to try making my own homemade pizzas. (Still a work in progress, but I'm slowly getting better.)

Crushed Red Pepper - Ceara Milligan

Call me basic, but I'm a proud minimalist when it comes to pizza: golden crust, zesty sauce, and melty cheese are all I ask for. Piling on the crunchy veggies and funky toppings every once in a while is great, but for me, a good old-fashioned slice of cheese pizza always hits the spot. 

That said, I love upping the slices' texture and spice factor just a tad with a super simple topping: crushed red pepper. A few hefty shakes of CRP provide the perfect level of depth and complexity to the 'za's overall flavor profile, creating a well-rounded taste experience. Crushed red pepper is also incredibly versatile, as it has the power to bring out the best in each ingredient.

Breaded eggplant - Linda Brockman

Breaded eggplant adds wonderful texture and flavor to a pizza. It was a favorite of my dad's, who was a regular at a local Italian restaurant, owned by his friend's son. The pizza maker treated my dad like family and was happy to accommodate his seemingly unusual request for breaded eggplant topping. 

Anticipating my dad's weekly visit, the owner would fry or bake eggplant ahead of time. Once I tried it, I was hooked. It wasn't on the menu and I had never had fried eggplant on pizza before. While broiled or grilled eggplant sounds healthier — and is no doubt yummy — this version brings back delicious memories.

Mushrooms - Samantha Sied

When it comes to pizza toppings, mushrooms reign supreme. Even though I don't like the texture of raw mushrooms, when cooked, they are my pizza go-to. They add an earthy umami taste that complements the pizza sauce and cheese. Whether you are enjoying a white pie, pesto base, or a classic tomato sauce pizza, mushrooms enhance the sauce.

Mushrooms are a great single topping, but they really pop when paired with other toppings. I especially enjoy the combination of mushrooms and sweet roasted red pepper or caramelized onions. For those who like old-school pepperoni pizza, mushrooms add a more interesting contrast in flavor and texture. Pizza and Friday night just aren't the same without mushrooms.