What’s the Difference between Salami and Pepperoni

Wondering the difference between these two sausages? Maybe you have a hard time explaining it to a friend over lunch? I got you covered, you’ll know everything in seconds.

Pepperoni is an American variety of salami, a cured sausage of fermented meat. For example, Pepperoni is made with spicier ingredients than salami (paprika in pepperoni vs garlic in general).

This is the short answer for your question, keep reading if you want to know more about their stories and ingredients.



Salami is a cured sausage consisting of fermented and air-dried meat, typically pork.



Though many people may believe that salami is uniquely Italian, it turns out that this well-known cased meat has its origins all over various parts of Europe.

Some regions of Europe are known for spicier versions while other regions are known for their smoked flavor. Though different parts of Europe use the same process of fermenting and curing meats, they change things up by using unique spices from country to country.


The English word salami is derived from the Italian word salame which itself comes from the Italian word sale meaning “salt”. This clearly is a nod to the common curing method of using salt to extend the life of the ground meat.

The traditional Italian salami that most people are familiar with refers to the curing and mixing of ground beef or pork mixed with a variety of spices that is then stuffed into a tube-like casing. This method of curing meats was popular amongst poor farming communities as it allowed them to make use of every part of a slaughtered animal while keeping the meats cured and preserved for long periods of time when meat may be scarce.


Though pork and beef are easily the most popular versions, just about any meat can be ground and made into salami.

To make salami, the ground meat of choice is first fermented to prevent toxic microbe growth. After about one day of fermenting, the meat is then mixed with chopped pieces of fat, spices such as garlic and pepper, and sometimes wine or vinegar. Ingredients are then cased using either animal intestine – which is edible – or an inedible cellulose.



Pepperoni is an American variety of salami, made from cured pork and beef seasoned with paprika or other chili pepper.



These popular, smokey slices may seem as if they made their way to the United States from Europe, but it turns out that the roots of pepperoni are entirely American.

This US product was likely a creation that Italian Americans came up with to mimic the cured meats made by their ancestors.


The English word pepperoni comes from the plural of peperone which is the Italian word for “bell pepper”. It grew in popularity during the early 1900s as Italian butcher shops began to offer their versions of the smokey, cured meat.

Beef and pork may be the most popular pepperonis on the market, but turkey pepperoni is also a regular find in stores. Pepperoni is mass-produced in the US and can be found at just about any supermarket or butcher shop.


Pepperoni contains a more finely ground cured meat which results in a softer product. It is commonly cured with nitrates which react with the heme iron in the meat to give pepperoni its well-known red hue. Also contributing to the red color are spices such as chili powder and paprika.

Pepperoni is made using an inedible cellulose casing which is then peeled off prior to use. Once it is completed, it is commonly cut into thin, round slices.

Differences between Pepperoni and Salami

Difference in Origins

One key difference between these two types of cured meats is the region from which they originated.

The name pepperoni may be an Italian word, but it is merely borrowed from that language by Americans to refer to adding a little spice to their cured minced beef and pork. Salami originated in Europe, and the traditional salt-curing that Europeans use to make this product is reflected in the origins of its name. 

Difference in History

It makes sense that in times of scarcity, peasants would do all they could to extend the shelf-life of any meat they had on hand. Curing those meats with salt so that they did not spoil was born out of that scarcity, and the result was salami.  As Europeans – mostly Italians – made their way to the United States over 100 years ago, pepperoni originated out of their effort to recreate salami using new, local ingredients and production methods.

Creating salami is still more of an artform that takes unique ingredients and the appropriate curing time. Pepperoni, however, is usually mass-produced to keep up with the heavy demand.

Pepperoni has gone on to become America’s most popular pizza topping. It is manufactured to support pizzerias and grocery stores all over the US. In Italy, diners may be surprised to learn that they do not commonly top their pizza with pepperoni. Instead, they are likely to find pizza topped with spicey salami.

Difference in Ingredients

Both pepperoni and salami are commonly made with beef or pork. Salami, however, boasts a variety of other options from venison to goose meat. Salami is commonly seasoned with garlic and wine while pepperoni features spicier ingredients.

The reason pepperoni favors spicey over savory may have to do with the curing method. Pepperoni is usually cured with nitrates and then smoked whereas salami is fermented and cured with salt.

The texture of pepperoni also differs from that of salami. The meats used to make pepperoni are finely minced which yields a softer result. Without that fine mincing, salami will not be as soft as its spicey American counterpart.

Salami and pepperoni are also cased differently. Salami’s animal intestine casing is completely edible. Pepperoni uses an inedible casing that is removed upon completion or prior to serving.

Comparison Table

OriginsEuropeUnited States
HistoryDerived from farming communities as a way to extend the shelf-life of meat.Derived from Europeans methods of making salami.
IngredientsBeef, pork, or other meats mixed with far, garlic, and black pepper. Ingredients may vary by region.Beef, pork, or turkey with chili powder and paprika.
CuringFermented and salt-curedNitrate-cured and smoked
CasingEdible Animal IntestineInedible Cellulose

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