The most controversial pizza toppings, explained

Ah, pizza. Pizza is one of the most magical delicacies on the planet. Known for its perfect combination of crust, sauce, and cheese, pizza is a go-to for so many households because of its versatility and ability for customization. Around three billion pizzas a year are sold in just the United States, and really, the only true downside of pizza is having too many toppings to choose from.

Long gone are the days of simply adding pepperoni to your pie and calling it a day. Now, people are adding everything from pesto, to spinach, to potatoes. But those crazy combinations do not come without negative comments. At this point, pretty well anything you dream up could be added to a pizza before making its way to the oven. But, there are just some pizza toppings that are a bit more controversial than your plain cheese, and we decided to figure out why. These are the most controversial pizza toppings, explained.

Pineapple

If there was any controversial pizza topping to start this list off with, it's definitely pineapple. Seriously, people have been arguing about this sweet topping option for decades.

Putting pineapple on pizza dates back to 1962 when Sam Panopoulos was looking for a new way to attract customers to his Ontario, Canada pizza joint. It was an experiment for them, pairing the sweet pineapple with savory ham, but people loved the contrasting flavors, and Panopoulos eventually named it the Hawaiian Pizza. So many people loved it, and it grew to the ridiculous popularity it has today, and pretty well every pizza chain offers the famed combo. But, with fame comes a whole lot of backlash sometimes.

Some people seem to think that pineapple is the most atrocious option for a pizza, and pineapple-haters are diehard advocates for leaving it off their pie. In 2017, the president of Iceland, Guðni Jóhannesson, joked that he was "fundamentally opposed" to putting pineapple on pizza. A few months later, an employee at a pizza joint in Tucson, Arizona intentionally skipped the pineapple on a customer's order, leaving them a note on the box saying they couldn't bring themselves to do it. The duel between pineapple-lovers and haters is real, and it's so heated that this one will probably go on forever.

Barbecue Sauce

If you've ever had barbecue sauce on pizza, you can easily attest to this controversy. Especially if you're with a group of friends, deciding on whether it's an appropriate topping option can get a little heated.

According to Pop Sugar, California Pizza Kitchen invented the barbecue chicken pizza as a way to move away from traditional pizza toppings. The new pizza was invented in 1985, and according to a California Pizza Kitchen rep, this is still their most popular pizza to date. Since then, many pizza joints have started carrying BBQ sauce as a sauce option, offering everything from Hawaiian pizzas with barbecue, to specialties with pulled pork and red onion.

But despite its rise in popularity, there are definitely still people out there who think it's absurd. One Redditor sparked a discussion on Reddit's Unpopular Opinion feed stating "Barbecue sauce on any pizza is just gross and completely ruins it. The worst is when the pizza sauce is entirely replaced with barbecue sauce," and others followed suit. It's still up for debate depending on a person's taste buds, but with barbecue pizza going strong for decades, it's probably here to stay.

Spinach

Whether you put it in your breakfast smoothie every morning, or you've only heard of it because of Popeye, you've surely had spinach a time or two. But have you ever tried it on a pizza?

According to Fox News, spinach is actually the most nutritional pizza topping you can choose. You know, if you're actually looking to make pizza healthy. Spinach has been known to reduce oxidative stress, reduce blood pressure, and it may even be beneficial for eye health. So, wouldn't putting spinach on your pizza be an automatic? Well, not so fast.

One Redditor started a thread against adding the green leafy vegetable to pizza, saying it made their pie incredibly soggy, while another response stated, "Wet, slimy, icky nonsense. No, just no." 

Spinach doesn't keep its freshness when baked in a high heat oven, losing its texture. It all boils down to personal preference, but plenty of people are thinking that texture is far more important than the potential health benefits.

Egg

You've probably heard than any sad meal is made better if you just put an egg on it. So, that must apply for pizza, right? Well, for some people, that rule apparently doesn't apply for everything, and especially not pizza.

According to Woman's Day, putting an egg on top of a pie is ridiculously popular in France, and it's gaining in popularity elsewhere, whether an egg is actually cracked on top of the pizza before putting it in the oven, or the egg is fried and then added on later. Either way, the eggs are usually runny, with the yolk adding to both the taste and texture of the pizza.

Louis Bron, a New York City pizza chef and consultant, told The Independent that he believes eggs don't belong on pizza or flatbread. This doesn't seem to be a debate people are settling just yet. For now, we suppose it all just comes down to whether you enjoy it or not.

Broccoli

Just Like spinach, broccoli has a special place in our hearts. It's a great vegetable, offering so many health benefits. It's packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, and don't forget about all of the beneficial fiber. But again, is adding broccoli to your pizza the answer because you want to feel less guilty? Well, it is for some.

Broccoli is a pretty unpopular vegetable to begin with, especially with kids. Those tiny trees are bad enough on the side of your dinner plate, but on pizza.... no way.

On the other side of the debate, Serious Eats seems to think we should be putting more broccoli on pizza and cooking it raw and at high temps. According to them, broccoli should go on raw, and come out of the oven barely cooked with a bit of crunch, with charred edges. 

It seems the jury is still out on this debate.

Raw tomatoes

Pizza has been around for a long time. We're talking centuries, and in that time a lot has changed. However, one thing that has stayed pretty consistent is that if you take some dough, top it with tomato sauce, sprinkle it with cheese, and put it in an oven, you will have a pizza. But if you're putting together a pizza with a tomato sauce, do you really need to add even more tomatoes? Some people say yes, but that's definitely not without debate.

Adding fresh tomatoes to a pizza, especially paired with ingredients like basil, creates a bruschetta-type pie, adding an element of freshness to an otherwise heavy food. But according to Good Food, adding any more tomatoes than what's in the sauce is unnecessary. In Thrillist's ranking of the best pizza toppings, tomatoes didn't fare too well, noting that adding raw tomatoes makes for too much moisture on the pie, making it too watery and soggy. 

Perhaps it's all about finding the perfect balance, tomato lovers.

Olives

Just in general, when you talk about olives, mixed opinions always come up. Whether it's Kalamata olives or canned black olives, there's definitely a polarizing effect when the topic is brought up.

When it comes to the olive controversy, it all boils down to the type of olive being used and its flavor. According to Thrillist, olives can have an overpowering chemical taste, especially when you're eating canned black olives. Canned olives come jam-packed with a ton of sodium, with almost 250 milligrams in just ¼ cup. While on the other hand, some people love the salty flavor they bring to a dish.

But when it comes to olives on a pizza, especially those with pits, many say it's a hard no, including Louis Bron, a New York City pizza chef and consultant, who told The Independent that "anything dangerous like olives with pits," should really be avoided on a pizza. 

Serious Eats took a poll on the matter, and less than half of respondents said an unconditional yes to olives on pizza. 

Anchovies

Oh, anchovies, those tiny fish many of us have a hard time accepting. There are people who say they don't eat fish at all, but they'll order a Caesar salad at a restaurant. Anchovies come hidden in Caesar dressing, jam-packed with other flavors, so it's not as easy to recognize them. But used as a pizza topping? They're pretty darn obvious.

According to Paste Magazine, anchovies on pizza is not a revolutionary idea. In fact, one of the very earliest pizza combos had anchovies on it, perhaps influenced by the Italians' love of eating fish on bread. When pizza made its way to the U.S., anchovies came with it, but they weren't necessarily as accepted by those who didn't grew up eating the little fish. 

In 2017, a pizza survey asked people how they felt about certain pizza toppings, and anchovies made the list. According to Today, 86 percent of respondents said no to adding fish to pizza. Certainly, there's still plenty of people adding them to their pies, but there's definitely a large population saying no.

Mushrooms

The conversation surrounding mushrooms is always a debate in itself. Typically, mushrooms are grouped into the veggie family, but according to PBS, although they're often lumped into that category, mushrooms are indeed a fungus. Yum!

A 2017 survey actually found that mushrooms are the preferred topping choice in the U.K., even beating out ham and pepperoni. But despite their popularity, there are definitely mushroom-haters to rally that they don't belong on a pizza.

In its list of toppings that don't belong on a pizza, Good Food said that mushrooms are already disgusting from a can, but after the oven "they take on the texture of a used surgical swab." Another hater on Reddit noted their texture as well, saying they're gross and that the texture doesn't match pizza at all. Since mushrooms don't really impart that much original flavor, it definitely seems to come down to a texture thing.

Clams

People really get creative with this one, adding clams, sometimes still in their shells, to their pizza. And like other controversial toppings, there's definitely a group of die-hard enthusiasts and plenty of those who hate it.

A longtime pizza joint in Connecticut's New Haven neighborhood is known to have invented the clam pizza, with founder Frank Pepe's history in pizza dating back to 1925. The pizza was invented during the 1960s, at the same time the pizza joint was serving clams on the half shell. Since then, the clam pizza debate has boomed, and it especially gained interest once a New York Times writer claimed that pizzas with clams on them are truly the best.

But for many, the idea of clams and cheese mixing is simply not okay. According to Smithsonian Magazine, Italian culinary standards say that seafood and cheese shouldn't ever mix, especially when it comes to delicate seafood such as oysters, flounder, and yes, clams. Part of this doctrine may come from the idea that delicate fish should be prepared with light flavors like lemon and butter, and that the cheese is far too overpowering for seafood's delicate flavors.