11 Pepperoni Brands That Use The Highest Quality Ingredients

Forget what you knew about pepperoni. Its reaches extend beyond the pizzeria, the meat market, and the pre-packed pouches you see at the grocery store. For some pepperoni brands, it's an artisan affair, where high-quality ingredients, expert care, and innovation come together to produce pepperoni that is a literal cut above the rest. This article is all about the pepperoni brands that are experts at their craft and only use the best ingredients. There is a tricky part. Not all pepperoni that tastes great and is well-made contains top-quality ingredients.

We'll dive deeper into why we chose the pepperoni brands on this list at the end of the article, but it's important to know that even the highest-quality pepperoni isn't a health food. Pepperoni is a dry-aged form of salami seasoned with paprika and other zesty or herbaceous ingredients. Like any cured meat, it's high in sodium and contains additives. The traditional curing process involves nitrates and nitrites, chemical compounds that preserve the meat and give it a pinkish color and savory flavor (pepperoni's deeper hue comes from paprika and other chiles). Although nitrates and nitrites occur naturally, excessive consumption of synthetic nitrates and nitrites has been linked to cancer.

The pepperoni brands with the highest-quality ingredients go to considerable lengths to keep the meat as natural as possible. You won't find controversial preservatives on the ingredient list and the meat is sourced ethically. Let's find out more about 11 pepperoni brands that elevate their products to impressive heights.

1. Volpi

If you thought pepperoni originated in Italy, we've got news. Pepperoni is an American food — but its origins are distinctly Italian-American. When immigrants from Italy arrived on U.S. soil, they often had to tweak their dry-sausage recipes based on what chiles and seasonings were easier to find, such as paprika. One of America's early pepperoni producers was Italian artisan John Volpi, who began selling handmade pepperoni in St. Louis, Missouri at the turn of the 20th century. Volpi pepperoni is still one of the best-quality brands today.

Volpi has remained family-owned for four generations. Even after 100 years, the company makes pepperoni with the same recipe and techniques passed down from its founder. Volpi's success has a lot to do with the brand's exceptional commitment to a high-quality production process. Volpi has built trusting relationships with farmers and agricultural academics whose knowledge and practices helped create Volpi's Raised Responsibly program, an initiative that took three years to develop. All of Volpi's meat products come from animals that are humanely raised on sustainable farms. They are primarily vegetarian and grain fed, steroids-free, and harvested ethically.

Volpi never uses frozen meat to make its pepperoni, which is crafted from artisans who are at the top of their field. The pepperoni is uncured, making it free of artificial nitrates and nitrites. The meat is dry-aged at cool temperatures for over 40 days. Volpi's meticulous, old-world-inspired process results in a robustly flavored pepperoni that's nothing short of gourmet.

2. Liguria Foods

Since 1974, Liguria Foods has been making some of the highest-quality pepperoni in the biz. The company was founded in Humboldt, Iowa and built its respected reputation integrity. Its pepperoni — made with a combination of beef and pork — is never frozen and is crafted with the livestock from well-established farms in the area. In 2015, Liguria launched three varieties of all-natural, preservative-free pepperoni, proving itself as an O.G. food brand with an eye on the future.

Liguria Foods' all-natural pepperoni contains only beef, pork, and a blend of natural spices. There are no nitrates or nitrites, nor is there BHT — a common (and controversial) preservative slammed for its potential to cause organ inflammation and disrupt the endocrine system. Liguria all-natural pepperoni is available in regular or spicy flavors.

Quality ingredients are a huge deal, but it's Liguria's aging process that gives this pepperoni legitimate V.I.P. status. Rather than relying on an additive like liquid smoke, Liguria's cured meats are aged in a redwood drying room, which allows the redwood's natural smoky flavor to come through. Liguria Foods is predominantly known as a premium wholesaler to pizzerias and delis across the country, but you can find it in select grocery stores as well.

3. Vermont Smoke & Cure

Small batches of slow-fermented, smoky pepperoni sticks is one of Vermont Smoke & Cure's signature products. The company's smokehouse is situated in Hinesburg, Vermont, a pastoral town flanked on either side by the Green Mountains and Lake Champlain. Here, the spiced, cured meat sticks are smoked slowly and meticulously using dried hardwood chips of maple, hickory, and cob. This method gives Vermont Smoke & Cure a distinct, tangy, and smoky flavor that customers know and love.

Vermont Smoke & Cure has been in business since 1962, but the company wasn't always interested in using the highest quality ingredients or ethically-sourced meat. In 2006, Vermont Smoke & Cure underwent a full rebrand that saw a shift toward improved processing techniques and commitment to making pepperoni with less chemical additives and humanely-raised meat. The new and improved pepperoni sticks do not contain artificial flavoring, MSG, or lab-engineered nitrates or nitrites.

Similar to its competitors, Vermont Smoke & Cure notes on the packaging of its pepperoni that the only nitrates and nitrites found in the product come from Swiss chard powder and sea salt — two curing agents that contain these chemical compounds naturally. These days, Vermont Smoke & Cure only uses premium meats from a handful of U.S. states, purchasing from farmers that raise their animals without antibiotics or hormones. The pepperoni sticks are made from pork, but are encased in beef collagen casings.

4. Organic Prairie

As part of the largest co-op of family farms in the United States, Organic Prairie was a trailblazer in the organic foods game — particularly, organic meat. Organic Prairie has sold organic meat since 1996. The company was the first in U.S. history to ban the use of animal by-products in its cattle feed and helped set the standards of the federal organic meat certification standard that are in place today. We say all this to let you know that the pepperoni here is of elevated quality.

Organic Prairie's pepperoni is sold under the brand name Organic Valley. It's made with a mixture of USDA organic certified pork and beef. All of the livestock Organic Prairie sources grazes in open pastures and is spared of chemical-based pesticides, fertilizers, GMOs, hormones, and antibiotics. As is the case with many all-natural pepperoni brands, Organic Valley pepperoni is labeled as having no nitrate or nitrites, a claim that is marked by an asterisk indicating that the cultured celery powder and sea salt listed in the ingredients contain nitrates and nitrites naturally.

Organic Prairie doesn't appear to pull any punches in regard to the transparency of its pepperoni. Although Organic Valley pepperoni isn't truly nitrate-free, it is all-natural and organic. Other artisanal pepperoni brands boast a never-frozen product. Organic Prairie doesn't evade the fact that its pepperoni isn't dry-aged to the point of shelf-stability. Rather, the pepperoni is frozen at the plant post-production and only lasts 10 days after the thaw date.

5. Sparrow Hill Farm

Outside of Monroe, Wisconsin sits Sparrow Hills Farm, a small family operation that was established in 2018. This patchwork of leased land teems with regeneratively-raised livestock and nutrient-dense soil, both of which are the results of Sparrow Hills' commitment to holistic farming practices. Pepperoni is one of numerous meat products sold by Sparrow Hills Farm, and the top-tier quality is evident.

Sparrow Hills Farm hand-makes its pepperoni using premium pork shoulder meat harvested from the pigs that freely roam the pastures and woods on the farm's property. The pepperoni is dry-aged and shelf stable which Sparrow Hills Farm markets an antibiotic and chemical-free product. No nitrates or nitrites are added, but the Swiss chard powder and sea salt on the ingredient list do contain nitrates and nitrites naturally.

The motto of Sparrow Hills Farms is "Embrace Life", which speaks to the company's commitment to raising animals that enjoy a happy and healthy existence. By thwarting the conventions of industrial farming, where animals living in cramped quarters are pumped with hormones and synthetic medicines, Sparrow Hills Farms puts forth pepperoni (and other meats) that tastes better and are better for you. The farm, which is home to cows, pigs, lambs, chickens, and turkeys isn't keen on wasting either. More than just meat is procured from the animals after they're broken down. Hand-crafting delicacies like pepperoni and bratwurst, are sold alongside products like pork back fat, pork leg bone, and livers of beef, lamb, and pork. 

6. Miller's Bio Farm

With an Amish heritage and a penchant for healthy eating, Miller's Bio Farm is a pepperoni purveyor operating on an old-world recipe and a focus on chemical-free ingredients. Aaron Miller's Amish upbringing informed his interest in regenerative farming. Miller's Bio Farm went into business in 2009, proving that farming the old-fashioned way — with a little help from science — makes for a higher quality pepperoni.

In 2016, Miller's quest toward peak sustainability led him to study the behavior of calves feeding on A2 cow's milk. Casein and whey account for the proteins found in milk, with casein making up for 80% of all milk protein. Derivatives of casein known as beta-casein are present in milk, both in A1 and A2 varieties. Studies have shown that A2 beta-casein, which closely resembles breast milk, is easier for the stomach to digest than the A1 variety.

Miller's Bio Farm's cow herd produces nothing but A2 milk. In turn, the meat products derived from this herd are produced with the intention of being easy on the body. Miller's Pork Pepperoni Salametti Snacks reap those benefits. These chemical-free snacks are made of pasture-raised pork and only contain nitrates and nitrites naturally found in celery juice powder. Their spicy savoriness comes from a secret Italian family recipe utilizing ground herbs and seeds that meet European food safety standards. As for the beef collagen casings that house them, rest assured that the traces of A2 milk they carry won't upset your stomach.

7. McLean Meats

Slapping a "nitrate-free" label on the front of a pepperoni package might be sufficient for some brands. Not McLean Meats. This deli meat company out of Ontario, Canada doesn't shy away from confronting the complications of this claim. A lot of pepperoni that is advertised as nitrate and nitrite-free makes a fine-print distinction that the product actually does contain nitrates, but only those that naturally occur in celery powder and/or sea salt. McLean Meats' pepperoni doesn't contain nitrates or nitrites of any kind.

While working in Canada's commercial meat industry founder Garth McLean was appalled by the heavy use of chemical preservatives being used. Along with some family members and friends, McLean established McLean Meats in 2004, with the goal of selling consumers truly clean meat products. McLean's uncured pork pepperoni is expertly seasoned with organic species and natural wood smoke. McLean Meats sells three uncured, pork pepperoni products: Organic Italian Pep Pizza Topping, Organic Pep-Snacks, and Pepperoni Pork Bites. The Organic Pep-Snacks (pepperoni sticks) do not contain any added sugar — another unhealthy ingredient that makes its way into most pepperoni.

McLean Meats remains the only deli company in Canada with a fully clean line of meat products. All of the farms working with McLean Meats raise animals without the use of antibiotics, GMO feed, or cages. These farms are family-run and uphold a high standard of environmental sustainability, all practices that make McLean Meats' pepperoni the highest quality it can be.

8. Foustman's Salami

Being the new kid in a meat market swathed with heritage doesn't intimidate Justin and Jessica Foust, the husband and wife team behind Foustman's Salami, which was founded in 2017. Foustman's Salami is based in San Juan Bautista, California, a small town roughly 90 miles south of San Francisco. California's Bay Area (where Jessica Foust was born and raised) holds notable historical significance for American-made salami and pepperoni. Due to its arid and temperate climate, San Francisco was named the salami capital of the U.S. 

The Fousts entered the gourmet food business as purveyors of a wide range of specialty foods, until making the executive decision to narrow the commercial focus to just artisanal salamis. Right in step with San Francisco's quirky style, the Fousts decided they wouldn't be confined to just using beef and pork in their salami products ... that would be too traditional.

Foustman's Salami makes salami with turkey and lamb, while also utilizing out-of-the-box ingredients like habanero peppers and beer. As for Foustman's pepperoni, it's a pork and beef mix. The pepperoni is uncured and skips the nitrates, nitrites, and artificial additives other pepperoni brands resort to. Sea salt and celery juice powder are the only curing agents used in the natural, slow-aged process of the meat, which is mainly sourced from ranches in California. The slow, dry-aging process of Foustman's pepperoni allows it to develop remarkable depth of flavor and keep unrefrigerated for as long as 10 months.

9. Olli Salumeria

Olli Salumeria is proud of its fancy pepperoni, and hey, the confidence is justified. If this list is any indication, Olli Salumeria has company in the uncured pepperoni market, but the brand, which was founded in 2010, stands out thanks to the careful consideration of its product ingredients and centuries-long salumi craftsmanship in the company's bloodline.

Co-founder Oliviero Colmignoli's family has been in the salami-making business since 1850, and before striking out on his own, Colmignoli worked alongside his family. Olli Salumeria was developed using Colmignoli's artisanal training and family recipes passed down over four generations. One of Olli's products is a slow-cured pepperoni that was included as one of Oprah's Favorite Things in 2013. Ten years later, Olli Salumeria raised the bar for creating high-quality pepperoni even higher.

The latest addition to Olli Salumeria's product line is preservative-free salamis. Uncured pepperoni is part of that lineup. The only nitrates and nitrites in this pepperoni are those that occur naturally in celery powder and sea salt. The all-pork pepperoni is sourced from family-owned, sustainable farms where the pigs are raised without antibiotics. Ingredients like wine and sweet paprika accent this all-natural pepperoni with an artisan's touch.

10. Buy Ranch Direct

It's all in the name. Buy Ranch Direct is perfect for pepperoni lovers who want to cut out the middleman and purchase right from the source. But Ranch Direct is a farming co-op in and around California's Sierra Nevada Mountains that specializes in meat products derived from grass-fed, pasture-raised, cows, bison, pigs, lamb, chickens, ducks, turkeys, rabbits, and even yak. Company owner Jeff Miller began Buy Ranch Direct in 2011 and has grown the co-op into a successful online ordering business. Uncured pepperoni is one of several hard salami varieties sold.

Buy Ranch Direct's pepperoni forgoes artificial preservatives, choosing to complement the natural flavors of the pork and beef pepperoni with fresh herbs, garlic, and smoke flavoring. All of the ranch's animals are free of shots, steroids, hormones, and antibiotics, Buy Ranch Direct has performed research on the grass that grows on the Sierra Nevada Pastures. All of Buy Ranch Direct's animals feed on a nutrient-rich blend of Certified Organic grass.

Buy Ranch Direct wants you to know that in addition to being delicious, its pepperoni and other grass-fed meats are in fact healthier for you than a mass-produced alternative. Pepperoni made from grass-fed meat has a lower fat content and a higher level of polyunsaturated fatty acids, omega-3, omega-6, and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). Scientists continue to study CLA due to its potential cancer-preventing properties.

11. Short Creek Farm

On the Short Creek Farm website, the description of its uncured pepperoni includes the statement, "Our pepperoni is our best friend. It is our life. Without us, our pepperoni is nothing. Without our pepperoni, we are nothing." Okay, you have our attention.

Short Creek Farms sells a homegrown craft-made pepperoni made with pork from Northeastern family farms and Short Creek's own heritage breed hogs. Non-GMO, pasture-raised pigs are the de rigueur here, and we have nothing but respect for pepperoni brands that take their farm-to-table craft seriously. Whereas some pepperoni brands veil their ingredients, Short Creek Farms comes right out with it. The pork and beef pepperoni contains naturally occurring nitrates and nitrites by way of celery powder, and yes, there's a bit of turbinado sugar in the mix. But this is an artisan's pepperoni, chock full of spices and a pure curiosity for sustainable farming.

High school friends Jeff Viola and Dave Backer started Short Creek Farms in 2015 through the leasing of land in Northwood, New Hampshire. A butchery in Maine would follow. Both Viola and Backer have an academic background in environmental science and take pride in the fact that they raise Short Creek's resident hogs themselves. Salami, sausages, bacon, and pork cuts make up Short Creek Farms product output, but what you're really tapping into when you bite into Short Creek's pepperoni is its founders' unadulterated connection with the land.


We did a ton of research on the role of preservatives in pepperoni and other cured meats to inform our selections for this article. Although pepperoni is by nature, a processed food, curing it with artificial nitrates and nitrates can be avoided. Ingesting a ton of artificial preservatives is not good for the human body — all the more reason why the pepperoni brands that go above and beyond to keep their products natural deserve recognition.

Something else we paid attention to when choosing these brands was environmental sustainability and meat quality. Pepperoni brands that put exceptional time and care into locally sourcing ethically-raised meat from sustainable farms earned a spot on our list. We also looked at craftsmanship. Making pepperoni is an art form that has enjoyed a rich history in the United States. Brands that take a modern approach to traditional pepperoni-making techniques were standouts, as were the companies that have been producing dry-aged pepperoni for generations.