Not that the matter is settled, but after all these years, can’t we just agree that it’s time to move on? Because there’s a new, potentially controversial pie making its way onto menus across the country that deserves our attention instead: Ladies and gentlemen of the social media debate scene, I give you pickle pizza. Discuss.
However you feel about this development in human history, it might be time to get your talking points ready. The pickle pie is having a moment.
It is a new food product this year in Minnesota and Indiana State Fairs and reports of it attracted attention from local media and social media viewers. Pickles also appear among the more traditional pizzeria offerings chain compounds of the head chef of pizzerias. Most often served over white or ranch sauce instead of the classic red, pickles are proving to be more than just a novelty in the pizza topping game.
“It has a nice sweet, sour, tangy bite,” says Rachel Jennings, who recently opened her own pizzeria. Boogie and Peelein Washington after years as a chef at white-hot Rose’s luxury. Pickles are the star of her Big Mac-inspired pie, which layers a version of the fast-food icon’s special sauce (spoiler alert: it’s basically Thousand Island dressing, she says) with American cheese and ground beef. Hot out of the oven, the pie is topped with crisp iceberg lettuce, sliced white onions, a drizzle of extra special sauce — and house-made pickles.
Jennings admits that her pies, which she calls a “neo-neo-Neapolitan” style, aren’t even close to traditional. “If you take this to your nonna in Sicily, she’ll spit in your face,” says Jennings. “But, try it and tell me it doesn’t taste good.”
Many pickle lovers would agree that pickles have earned their place in the pantheon of tops. While there’s no definitive history of the pickle pizza, a Nexis search of news stories shows that after the odd appearance in a few restaurants over the years, they started getting wider attention around 2018.
That same year, a video of a pickle pizza being made in New York went viraland Al Roker and his gang from the Today show bravely tried out a pickle pie for on-screen badasses – theirs came from Pizzeria Reno in upstate New York, who they touted as the inventor of the creation.
Since then, he’s appeared at a handful of state fairs, including in Ohio, Florida and West Virginia, as well as the Calgary Stampede — places where cheat food thrives. The pickle pizza looks set to be the star though.
An early innovator was Dennis Schniklot, owner of QC Pizza, which has two locations in Minnesota and specializes in quirky recipes (think Rangoon and avocado-inspired pies). He was brainstorming ideas for his latest quirky offering and came up with a pizza based on a popular stateside delicacy, the pickle roll, sometimes called Minnesota sushi. This breakfast includes pickles spread with cream cheese and wrapped in a slice of ham.
“I posted about it in a Facebook group and people said, ‘No way, that sounds terrible,'” he says. “But I had a feeling about it.”
After some tinkering and sourcing fresh pickles that could withstand the 500-degree heat of his ovens, Schneekloth found what he decided was a winning combination. Its base is a white sauce accented with garlic and dill, layered with pickles, mozzarella and strips of Canadian bacon that has been smoked for 48 hours. Because he makes his pizza in Quad City style — a lesser-known genre of pie named for its origins in the region spanning four cities in Iowa and Illinois — most of the toppings are under the cheese (a final topping of more pickles and fresh dill tops it all off), and the pizza is cut into strips, and not on wedges.
He proved his Facebook friends wrong – customers loved him. It gained international attention when the FoodBeast blog presented his creation in 2019
“It just blew up,” he recalls. ‘I was in UK papers’ Now he sells his frozen pizzas on food delivery service Goldbelly and drives a Mercedes Sprinter van covered in pictures of pickles.
Since then, he’s seen many more pickle pies sprout up. “More power to them,” he says.
He’s back in R&D mode, working on a pickle pizza he calls the Mega Dill. “If I can perfect this, people will buy it,” he says.
At Slice Coal Fired Pizza Company in Vernon Hills, Illinois, pickle pizza was recently a special menu item. Graham Niland, the restaurant’s general manager, said the creation was a team effort. He had made a case for it, pointing to the mile-long lines for the pickle pizza stand at the Wisconsin State Fair, thinking they could do it a higher way.
Slyce’s version uses extra virgin olive oil and garlic as a base, topped with prosciutto, sliced tomatoes and pickles cooked inside with English cucumbers. A drizzle of chili oil finished it off. Nyland praises the star ingredient’s culinary qualities—and its divisive appeal.
“It just has that nice vinegar kick that kicks things off,” he says. “Pickles are something that people either love them or hate them, and there are others who love them.”