Mar 26, 2023
The 5 Best Frozen Pepperoni Pizzas of 2023
What a uniquely modern pleasure—to keep a whole pizza on hand, ready to bring to
What a uniquely modern pleasure—to keep a whole pizza on hand, ready to bring to life at a moment's notice.
But frozen pizza can be pretty polarizing. For some, it's a welcome blast from the past, catapulting you back to childhood or college days when it was the easiest thing to cook for yourself. For others, it's a pale imitation of the real deal, a far cry from an ideal slice, nostalgia best held at a distance.
We think frozen pizza is its own category, different from the offerings at your local slice shop or chain pizzeria, and special in its own right. But not every pizza is worth the freezer space. We tasted 12 widely available, mainstream frozen pepperoni pizzas. Here are our favorites.
DiGiorno Rising Crust Pepperoni Pizza (about $7.50 at the time of publication)
This pizza was one of the overall favorites in our taste test. Among the only rising-crust pizzas we tested that actually rose, the DiGiorno pizza came out well browned, with a voluminous, puffy crust that was crispy on the bottom and bready but fully cooked throughout. Whereas other crusts were overly salty or sickeningly sweet, completely flavorless, or strangely spiced, this crust was well seasoned with a nice balance of salt and sweetness. Even tasters who don't favor thick crusts noted that the crust tasted pretty good and supported a solid, pleasant slice. The pepperoni slices were thin and plentiful, and they crisped up nicely. The sauce was garlicky, without any overpowering dried herb flavor—an off-putting commonality among many of the pizzas we tasted. The cheese was plentiful and decent. Though not mind-blowing, this was an ample, satisfying pizza greater than the sum of its parts. Each ingredient blended well with the others, making for a cohesive, tasty bite.
Screamin’ Sicilian Holy Pepperoni (about $7 at the time of publication)
This frozen pizza is a pepperoni-loving maximalist's dream, with tons of sauce, cheese, and almost two full layers of pepperoni, making it satisfying—if messy and oily—to eat. (Some tasters thought this pizza had too much sauce, noting that it oozed off the slice and dripped down their hands.) Tasters remarked that the cheese actually tasted like cheese, with satisfying salt and tang levels and a gooey texture that made for great cheese pulls. The crust leaves a bit to be desired—it's a slightly thicker version of the crunchy, crumbly, almost cracker-like thin crust offered by Red Baron and Tombstone—but it's well seasoned, and the extra crunch offers a balance to the oodles of toppings.
Trader Joe's Wood Fired Naples Style Uncured Pepperoni Pizza (about $6 at the time of publication)
This pizza finds a middle ground between fancier wood-fired or coal-oven frozen pizzas like Table 87's and more classic, nostalgic, frozen pies like the ones from Red Baron and Tombstone. One taster likened it to pizza they would be happy to receive and snack on at a bar. The sauce was tart—a decently well-balanced marinara. Though the crust doesn't live up to its Naples-style designation, lacking the dynamic crust texture and airy chew of an actual Neapolitan pizza, it was still among our favorites, with large air bubbles throughout, even into the center of the pizza. It came fully cooked, emerged from the oven crispy on the bottom and chewy inside, with no doughy flavor or underdone bits to be found. The crust maintained a nice toasty, pizza-oven flavor, but being precooked may also be why this pizza dried out quickly. This pie was best right out of the oven—we wouldn't want to snack on it cold. And it could use more cheese.
Tombstone Original Thin Crust Pepperoni Pizza (about $5 at the time of publication)
Tombstone's thin-crust pepperoni pizza was our favorite among the category of nostalgic, relatively inexpensive, thin-crust options like those from Totino's and Red Baron. This pie screams sleepover pizza—delightful, if not wholesome—and does what it does well. The crust was crunchy but still maintained a slightly open, airy crumb—not dense, tough, or overly cracker-y. The ratio of sauce to cheese to pepperoni was spot on, and the toppings covered the pie nicely, with well-browned cheese. Perhaps most distinctively, this pizza delivered on pepperoni flavor, with tasters noticing that the smoky, meaty flavor seemed to permeate their entire slice. On closer inspection, we realized why: This pizza has little cubes of pepperoni in the sauce, in addition to good coverage of salty, smoky pep on top of the cheese.
Table 87 Coal Oven Pepperoni Pizza (about $11 at the time of publication)
Table 87 is the lowest-priced option we found in the growing category of high-end, coal-oven-baked, flash-frozen pizzas, and it is the only one to meet our requirement of being widely available in stores. Tasters favored this pie for its simple flavors and recognizable ingredients. The sauce was fresh, bright, and undeniably tomatoey, without the onslaught of dried Italian herb flavor that characterizes classic frozen or cafeteria-esque pizza. The crust was chewy and floury, with one taster remarking that it tasted like pizza crust they might make at home. The pizza was topped with slices of whole milk mozzarella, which tasted clean and milky, if a little bland.
But the quality ingredients didn't exactly cohere into a seamless whole. The cheese was dry and somewhat rubbery, and it seemed like it was plastered onto the dough in sheets. The crust was very flat, without any bubbles, char, or puff, and the pie looked wan and wimpy compared with other ones we tested. The pepperoni slices had a nice, slight spice and curled up into little cups, but they didn't seem quite at home on the pizza, which one taster said looked more like a Margherita with pepperoni on top. Though this pie did not blow us away, tasters who were not exactly frozen-pizza people said this is the one they would be most likely to buy and happiest to eat again, thanks to the quality of the individual ingredients.
If you’re in it for the cheese: Consider the Target Good & Gather Self-Rising Crust Uncured Pepperoni Frozen Pizza (about $7 at the time of publication). This pizza was another self-rising crust that actually rose, resulting in a browned, puffy crust that was slightly less pillowy and less massive than DiGiorno's. Though the crust rose and browned nicely, it didn't bring much flavor to the table, and it could use some salt. The sauce was tomatoey, sweet, and slightly garlicky—nothing special, but at least not an onslaught of dried herbs. The pepperoni slices were thin and a bit too oily, with oil dripping off each slice, and not well distributed or numerous. What set this pie apart was the cheese: Chewy, stringy, and ample, it covered the pizza crust to crust. This one's a great choice for someone who calls in their delivery order with extra cheese.
If you want nostalgic vibes, but with whole milk mozzarella and a whole-wheat crust: Consider Newman's Own Uncured Pepperoni Pizza (about $6.50 at the time of publication). This pizza felt like a slightly fancier version of the classic thin-crust style of Tombstone and Red Baron. The thin crust resembles those, but with some actual chew—the light, dynamic texture of a baked good rather than the slightly uncanny crumble of a crust seemingly printed by a machine. Newman's Own uses 100% whole milk mozzarella; the only other contender in this taste test that can say the same is Table 87. Some liked the cheese, while some remarked it tasted like string cheese, but all agreed the pizza needed more of it; the sparse globs of mozzarella did not give the pie an appealing look. Some tasters also found this one too salty, with an overpowering dried herb taste.
The Red Baron Classic Crust Pepperoni Pizza (about $5 at the time of publication) was very similar to Tombstone's pepperoni pizza, with thin, crunchy crust and reasonably ample, middle-of-the-road toppings. But the Tombstone pizza outshined Red Baron's. This pizza lacked a certain synergy that Tombstone achieved, and it had fewer pepperoni slices. The crust also had a denser crumb and a slightly mealy texture. But if you’re shopping for that nostalgic style and your store only has Red Baron, it's an adequate replacement.
Aldi's Mama Cozzi's Pizza Kitchen Pepperoni Rising Crust Pizza (about $3.50 at the time of publication) is a favorite among Aldi lovers, and we were drawn to the low price. The pizza looked pretty appealing out of the oven, with good cheese coverage and a thick, browned crust, but tasters found the pizza overwhelmingly salty, with a strange and overpowering anise or fennel flavor coming from the sauce.
Costco's Kirkland Signature Pepperoni Pizza (about $17 for four pizzas at the time of publication) was well cheesed and covered in pepperoni slices, but the crust was bland and overly sweet, with a tough, cracker-like texture and a slightly acrid taste.
The 365 by Whole Foods Uncured Pepperoni Rising Crust Pizza (about $4 at the time of publication) was among the least visually appealing pizzas we tested, with an uncanny seam around the crust as though the pizza had been stamped out by a machine. Some tasters liked the toppings on this pizza fine, especially the well-balanced, garlicky sauce and the crisp pepperoni slices. But the crust—which had a dense, close texture and doughy finish—was a total nonstarter.
In our pizza shopping, we found that even tiny corner stores with minimal freezer sections had Ellio's Pepperoni Pizza (about $6 at the time of publication) in stock, and this nostalgic pick seemed like a great way to test a Totino's-tier pizza without having to stomach imitation cheese. But this pizza was unappealing, both visually and taste-wise, with sparse, barely melted cheese and an undeniable cafeteria flavor.
Though cheese pizza is the obvious lowest common denominator, we wanted to assess the quality, flavor, quantity, and distribution of at least one additional topping across the pizzas we tested. Pepperoni is a common, classic choice, and one offered by most mainstream pizza brands. But if pepperoni isn't your thing, our findings can still give you a sense of the base quality of each pizza, even if you go with another topping of the same brand and crust style. (Let us know in the comments if you’d like to see us try other varieties of pizza.)
To help us decide which pizzas to test, we asked a group of Wirecutter staff from across the country to photograph the frozen pizzas available in grocery stores near them, accumulating a database of pizzas in dozens of stores across 22 cities. We also used the "find in store" function on pizza brands’ websites. We only tested pizzas that were widely available, avoiding hyper-regional options, expensive mail-order pizzas, limited-edition pizzas, or anything otherwise hard to find in the average grocery store.
We also made note of pizzas recommended in taste tests by other publications and scoured Reddit threads full of opinionated pizza lovers. We looked at the most-highly rated pizzas online at Target and read some reviews.
We wanted this guide to focus on mainstream frozen pizza options, so we set a price range of about $3 to $10, ruling out most of the pricier, high-end offerings that tend to be less widely available.
We also ruled out pizzas (like ones from Totino's) that use exclusively imitation cheese, and we focused on traditional crusts rather than outliers like french bread or croissant-crust pizzas. We defaulted to thick, rising-crust options when available, choosing thin crust when brands did not offer thick or rising. We wound up with a mix of thin-crust, Naples-style crust, and rising-crust pizzas.
We tried 12 pizzas in a two-day, brand-concealed taste test with six members of the Wirecutter kitchen team. We baked each pizza according to package instructions, making note of any inconsistencies in instructions, how long each took to bake, and any quirks or challenges, but our picks mostly cooked true to the instructions. We examined each pizza frozen out of the package and fresh out of the oven. We took note of which pizzas were more or less appealing visually, especially focusing on cheese melt, grease level, and crust integrity and color. Taste-testers rated and reflected on each pizza's crust, sauce, cheese, pepperoni, and overall taste.
This article was edited by Marguerite Preston and Marilyn Ong.
Mace Dent Johnson
Mace Dent Johnson is a staff writer on the kitchen team at Wirecutter. Their background is in creative writing and academic research, and they are always thinking about food.
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In this week's newsletter: Baking the perfect pizza at home is all about having the right tools.DiGiorno Rising Crust Pepperoni Pizza (about $7.50 at the time of publication) Screamin’ Sicilian Holy Pepperoni (about $7 at the time of publication) Trader Joe's Wood Fired Naples Style Uncured Pepperoni Pizza (about $6 at the time of publication) Tombstone Original Thin Crust Pepperoni Pizza (about $5 at the time of publication) Table 87 Coal Oven Pepperoni Pizza (about $11 at the time of publication) If you’re in it for the cheese: If you want nostalgic vibes, but with whole milk mozzarella and a whole-wheat crust: