14 Underrated Meats You Should Start Putting On Your Pizza

Pizza has a long history, from the time humans were throwing unleavened bread against a hot rock and topping it with herbs to the working man's food sold in the streets of Napoli to the Margherita pizza created for a queen. Simply put, it has evolved through the ages. When it finally made its way to the U.S., it became a beloved food and a favorite way to spend a Friday night or celebrate a big game together.

In Italy, pizza is topped with thin slices of salty prosciutto, spicy salami, and other cured meats. But in the U.S., pepperoni pizza is king. Pepperoni pizza is the number one pizza in the U.S., and the protein is considered the quintessential pizza topping. Italian sausage takes second place on the list. But there are many ways to enjoy meaty pizzas, from a Supreme with everything on it to a Meat Lovers with all the fixings to the controversial Hawaiian style. Pizza will never go out of style.

If you love pizza, eating it, making it, and talking about it, then you will enjoy looking at new ways to make an old favorite. Pepperoni, sausage, and Canadian bacon are perfect on a hot slice, but there are other meaty ways to top your pie. Whether you like your meat smoky, spicy, lean, or gamey, we have a list of underrated meats you should start putting on your pizza. Adventurous eaters may even find their new favorite meaty pizza topping.

1. Pulled Pork

Pulled pork is not only for picnics and sandwiches; it makes an excellent pizza topping, too. The idea of putting pulled pork on pizza isn't that wild since other types of pork, like Canadian bacon and sausage, are often layered on a pizza, but the key to using pork on pizza is the buddy system. Smoky Canadian bacon's buddy is sweet pineapple, and spicy sausage works best with peppers and onions, and pulled pork tastes best with a bit of tanginess for contrast. Sauerkraut and pulled pork together on a pizza create a dynamic duo with the salty sourness of sauerkraut and the rich flavor of pulled pork all covered in melted cheese. Sauerkraut is a fermented food that not only complements pulled pork in taste but turns your pizza into a healthy food. Fermented foods are good for the gut and have a host of health benefits.

If sauerkraut is too much for your tastebuds, pair pulled pork with crunchy vinegar-based coleslaw. This will provide a unique contrast in texture and taste.

2. Gyro Meat

If you like Greek food, chances are you have tried gyros. Gyro sandwiches are made with seasoned meat roasted on cones, then sliced and piled into warm pita bread with tangy dill tzatziki sauce. But tasty gyros meat isn't just for gyros; you can add it to a pizza and make a Greek-inspired pizza.

Gyros can be made with different meats, including beef, chicken, lamb, and pork. Traditionally, in Greece and Turkey, gyros are made with lamb, while in the U.S., they are often made with a beef mix or a mix of meats, including pork. Chicken gyros are now making their way onto the gyro scene partly because they are considered healthier meat and because of their connection to a similar but different food in shawarma.

If you want to try gyro meat on your pizza but don't have a roasting cone — and most of us don't have a roasting cone at home — you can buy prepared gyro meat at most international shops and even online. The best way to add gyro meat to pizza is to go Greek and combine it with Kalamata olives, marinated artichokes, chunks of feta cheese, and bright sun-dried tomatoes for a new take on classic pizza.

3. Bison

The bison meat industry is booming right now, and this lean meat will certainly be making its way into the meat section of your local grocery store. If you haven't tried bison meat before, you are in for a treat. You can find bison steaks or ground meat readily available at many supermarkets, at your local butcher, or you can order it online from one of the bison ranches selling this tastier beef alternative.

Aside from the novelty of trying new meat, you should add bison to your pizza as a healthier alternative to beef. Bison not only has more protein and less fat than beef but is also rich in zinc, iron, Vitamin B12, selenium, and Omega-3 fatty acids (via Web MD).

Since bison is lean meat, add it to pizza in steaks strips with contrasting flavors and textures like dollops of creamy ricotta cheese, salty olives, or caramelized onions. Or use ground bison, fresh tomatoes, and sweet corn to make a tasty and fresh pizza.

4. Lamb

Lamb has never been a popular meat in the U.S., which is a shame because it is a great source of protein. More so, you can use it in many different ways, from chops to steaks to kebabs and even pizza.

The protein is a staple in Mediterranean cuisine, and if you want to start adding it to your regular diet, a great way to do that is on pizza. Adding ground lamb to pizza is not new; a popular Turkish food, lahmacun, sometimes called Turkish pizza, turns lamb into a tasty pizza topping. While lahmacun is similar to pizza because it is served on a flatbread dough and baked with meat and spices, it differs from pizza because it is made without cheese and is not cut into slices like pizza. Rather, it is rolled up like a burrito. If you want to get the best of both worlds, add some ground lamb and Mediterranean spices to your pizza, sprinkle on some cheese, and enjoy this culinary fusion of pizza styles and flavors.

Additionally, lamb sausages are another excellent way to add lamb to pizza. You can pair slices of lamb sausage with other Mediterranean flavors like marinated artichokes and olives with creamy goat cheese for a super decadent pie.

5. Tinga

Do you love Mexican pizza? Then you must try one of the most underrated meats for your next Mexican pizza, chicken tinga. If you have had chicken en adobo sauce, you have tried chicken tinga. Tinga is a Mexican dish made with chicken, tomatoes, and chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, and is traditionally served on crispy tostadas with a pile of fresh lettuce and Mexican crema. This savory, shredded chicken can turn a regular pizza into a spicy Mexican-inspired pizza.

While premade tinga is rare to find in grocery stores, it is easy to make, and many stores sell tinga spice blends. Just throw some chicken breasts into a crockpot with the spices, and in a few hours, you will have seasoned chicken tinga. If you love the combination of sweet and hot, throw in some fresh pineapple or mango to balance out the chipotle and give your chicken tinga a more nuanced flavor. Skip the mozzarella and reach for Mexican cheeses like a creamy Oaxaca or crumbly queso fresco for your chicken tinga pizza and get ready to make a Mexican pizza that will blow Taco Bell's out of the water.

6. Meatballs

Meatballs are a classic Italian food, but you won't find this classic food on pizza in Italy. In Italy, meatballs are their own dish served solo, simmering in red sauce, but once meatballs made it to America, all bets were off. From meatball sandwiches to spaghetti and meatballs, the Italian-American community made a big splash in American cuisine with these delicious creations. Just because in Italy meatballs aren't added to pizza doesn't mean you can't do it. Modern pizzaiolos have been adding these tasty meaty treats to pizzas with huge success.

To start, many stores carry frozen meatballs that are already prepared, but if you want to top your pizza with the best, you can make them yourself at home. You don't need any special equipment and the best part is you can customize them. Traditionally meatballs are made with a mix of beef and pork, but nowadays, there are plenty of ways to make them fit different dietary guidelines, including gluten-free and plant-based.

The best way to add savory meatballs to pizza is with just one or two other toppings to let the meaty goodies be the star of the pizza. Pair meatballs with crisp sweet peppers or tangy red onions for a match made in pizza heaven.

7. Venison

Venison or deer meat used to only be available to hunters, but now you can find it in many supermarkets or at the local butcher. It's a good alternative to beef because it is high in protein and low in fat and calories, making it great for anyone looking to add more protein to their diet and to their pizza.

Venison, similar to other red meat, is sold as steaks, ground, and sausages. But the flavor is different than beef because deers have a different diet than cows, which affects the flavor of their meat. Deers eat a natural diet of grasses and herbs, while cows eat grains and corn. From the first bite, the distinct taste will set it apart from other red meats. Venison has a strong earthy and gamey flavor that adds a nice contrast to acidic tomato sauce and melted cheese. If you are new to venison, try adding venison sausage with onions and peppers to your pizza. Venison sausage, like other sausages, has herbs and spices mixed in that bring out its taste and are perfect for a pizza.

For a Mexican-inspired pizza, swap out the ground beef for ground venison. From there be sure to pile on the onions, tomatoes, jalapeños, and corn for a unique twist.

8. Pork Belly

While you are probably familiar with many pork products, from bacon to sausage to tenderloin, pork belly is new for many home chefs. It should make its way onto more menus because it is just as tasty as the ever so popular bacon. Both bacon and pork belly come from the belly of the pig, but pork belly requires a different cooking method because it is fatty meat. The best way to cook pork belly is low and slow, though braising, smoking, and deep frying are options too. When pork belly is cooked just right, it has a melt in your mouth flavor that you will love on a pizza.

If that sounds like too much effort, you can find precooked pork belly at most supermarkets. The best way to add pork belly to pizza is to start by thinking about texture. This rich fatty meat is tender and pairs well with contrasting textures like crisp peppers, tangy red onions, or peppery arugula. If you are pro pineapple on pizza, try swapping out the Canadian bacon for a twist on the classic Hawaiian pizza with a pork belly and pineapple pie.

9. 'Nduja Salami

Do you like your pizza spicy? Then you need to try 'nduja salami on your pizza. 'Nduja salami is an Italian spreadable salami made with Calabrian chilies. This soft bright red salami has a unique background and was created out of the need to use every part of the precious pig. In Southern Italy, humble home cooks learned to make use of pork scraps by mixing them with the local chilies. These days 'nduja is made from the fattest parts of the pig and then put in a casing and smoked with aromatics.

Putting 'nduja on your pizza turns your basic pie into a Calabrian specialty. Calabrian chilies are a local delicacy and are used throughout Calabrian cuisine. Luckily, you don't have to travel all the way to Calabria to find 'nduja as you can find it in most international markets or online retailers. Additionally, you could try making your own copycat version. Try replacing your hard salami slices with this spreadable salami for a taste so good you may even be inspired to head to the 'nduja festival. Yes, this salami is so prized in Calabria that it has its own festival once a year to celebrate its tastiness.

10. Pastrami

If you go to any deli, you can find sandwiches piled high with pastrami. This tender deli staple starts as a brisket and is then brined, boiled, rubbed with spices, smoked, and then boiled again before it ever graces your sandwich. With all that preparation, you know pastrami has a taste that is worth the effort. And if it's good between two slices of bread, you know it will be good on top of pizza.

Luckily all you have to do is make a trip to the local supermarket or your favorite deli to grab some pastrami slices to add to your pizza. Since pastrami is such a flavorful meat, it should be the focus of the pizza with just one or two additional toppings. Try cutting thin slices of pastrami and adding them to your pizza with deli-inspired toppings like sweet pickles and sharp red onion to go along with a drizzle of tangy mustard to pull the whole shebang together. You won't regret it.

11. Turkey

Many people only think of turkey as a holiday food that graces the Thanksgiving table once a year, but this versatile meat can play many roles, including on pizza. If you have leftover turkey then pizza is an excellent way to make use of it. You can cut the meat into cubes or shred it to top a pizza. Additionally, you can keep the Thanksgiving flavor by adding green beans, slices of cranberry sauce, and dollops of mashed potatoes for the perfect mix of holiday favorites and an everyday favorite.

But you don't have to wait for Thanksgiving leftovers to enjoy turkey on pizza; just head over to the deli counter and get some slices. Combine turkey with marinated artichokes, cherry tomatoes, and salty olives for a fresh take on pizza. Or pair turkey with barbecue sauce and smoked gouda with a drizzle of spicy honey for a real turkey treat that will take this boring white meat to a whole new level.

Adding turkey to your pizza when you are feeling blue can help you feel better because turkey is a mood-boosting foods due to it containing tryptophan and amino acid that builds up serotonin, the feel-good hormone. Let turkey help put a smile back on your face. Plus, it's impossible to be sad while eating pizza, that's just science.

12. Elk

Elk meat has recently been getting a lot of buzz as a healthier alternative to beef. Many compare it to venison as both elk and deer are in the same family, but elk meat has a more mild flavor and is less gamey than venison. And thanks to popular podcaster, comedian, and elk hunter Joe Rogan, who has filled his Instagram with pictures of him smoking this game meat, he is making it cool to eat elk.

If you want to try adding elk meat to pizza, but you aren't a hunter, don't worry; you can buy elk at some butchers or find it online from farms. Wild elk meat has a unique flavor compared to farm-raised elk, which is considered by many to be much tastier since they eat a controlled diet to ensure the meat reaches its flavor potential.

Like venison, adding elk meat to pizza is as easy as slicing up some elk sausage. But if you want to get a true taste of this meat, try grilled elk steaks. It's important that you cook it between rare and medium rare since elk meat is lean, and overcooking it makes it dry and tough. Cut into thin slices and add to your pizza with pungent Gorgonzola cheese and earthy mushrooms for a wild experience.

13. Guanciale

Pork makes a good pizza excellent, and adding guanciale to your pizza is going to be your new favorite pizza topping. Guanciale is pork product that comes from the jowl or cheeks of the pig and is seasoned with a dry rub and then aged for three months to infuse this tender meat with amazing flavor. The dry rub is made with a combination of sage, rosemary, garlic, salt, and pepper. This tasty meat is not new in the culinary world and has been a delicacy in Italy for ages but it recently made its way onto the menus in the U.S. after an FDA ban was lifted on the import of some cured Italian meats, making it a new ingredient to play with in American kitchens.

Guanciale is rich fatty meat that is found in some favorite classic Italian pasta dishes, like carbonara and amatriciana, but it isn't just for pasta. The buttery taste and smooth texture of the meat makes it excellent for topping pizza. Because this salty, fatty meat is so rich, pair it on pizza with a fresh light contrast like shaved asparagus, spring onions, or fresh parsley. It also works well with sweet toppings like figs and peaches.

If you are not concerned about the high-fat content of guanciale, then lean into this decadent meat and make a carbonara pizza with guanciale and eggs for a rich and satisfying meal.

14. Duck

Duck is less popular than other members of the poultry family, like chicken and turkey, both of which dominate the grocery aisles. But this underrated meat should be used more in the culinary world. Duck meat is a tasty protein that is technically categorized as a white meat, but it actually cooks more similarly to red meat. Unlike turkey and chicken, duck is a waterfowl, and their meat is surrounded by a thick layer of fat, giving it a richer, more intense flavor, which is ideal for a pizza.

Unfortunately, you might have to take a trip to your local butcher to find fresh dusk or order online. Most supermarkets don't carry it due to low demand, and popular chain Trader Joe's stopped carrying duck meat after being pressured by animal activists.

When you do find duck meat, you should try duck breast sausages which are easy to add to pizza. Additionally, duck breast prosciutto is another excellent way to add duck to pizza.