Homemade Pepperoni

Homemade pepperoni served with olives

The Spruce Eats

Prep: 60 mins
Cook: 0 mins
Cure Time: 1,032 hrs
Total: 1,033 hrs
Servings: 4 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
3087 Calories
193g Fat
11g Carbs
303g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 3087
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 193g 248%
Saturated Fat 71g 357%
Cholesterol 1061mg 354%
Sodium 9260mg 403%
Total Carbohydrate 11g 4%
Dietary Fiber 3g 10%
Total Sugars 5g
Protein 303g
Vitamin C 8mg 41%
Calcium 322mg 25%
Iron 24mg 135%
Potassium 4323mg 92%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

If you love pepperoni pizza or the flavorful taste of pepperoni in salads or sandwiches, you may be curious about how this sausage is made. It's actually thought of as the American answer to salami—which is why it shares a shape, flavorings, and some culinary uses with the Italian staple.

Pepperoni sausage is made with either pork or beef; this recipe calls for pork butt and beef chuck. The meats are ground, mixed with seasonings, and stuffed into casings. Then the pepperoni needs to hang to cure for at least six weeks. Making pepperoni requires that you plan ahead, but the end result is so worth it.

This recipe uses ascorbic acid, which speeds up the curing process, and something called saltpeter, potassium nitrate, which draws water out and makes the environment inhospitable to bacteria. (You should be able to find both online.) Once you master this recipe, you'll not only have delicious pepperoni but a fun cooking skill that's a mystery to most people. 

This recipe appears in the book "Home Sausage Making," by Charles G. Reavis (Storey Books), reprinted with permission.

Ingredients

  • 7 pounds pork butt, fat included, cubed

  • 3 pounds lean beef chuck, round or shank, cubed

  • 5 tablespoons salt

  • 1 tablespoon sugar

  • 2 tablespoons cayenne pepper

  • 3 tablespoons sweet paprika

  • 1 tablespoon anise seed, crushed

  • 1 teaspoon very finely minced garlic

  • 1 cup dry red wine

  • 1/2 teaspoon ascorbic acid

  • 1 teaspoon saltpeter

  • 4 feet sausage casing

  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar, more or less

Steps to Make It

  • Note: While there are multiple steps to this recipe, this dish is broken down into workable categories to help you better plan for preparing and drying the sausage.

For the Sausage Mix

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Homemade Pepperoni ingredients

    The Spruce / Laura Donovan

  2. Separately grind pork and beef through the coarse disk.

    pork and beef being ground into a bowl

    The Spruce / Laura Donovan

  3. Mix meats together with salt, sugar, cayenne, paprika, anise seed, garlic, red wine, ascorbic acid, and saltpeter in a large bowl.

    Mix the meats together with the salt, sugar, cayenne, pepper, paprika, anise seed, garlic, red wine, ascorbic acid, and saltpeter

    The Spruce / Laura Donovan

  4. Spread mixture out on a large pan, cover loosely with waxed paper, and cure in refrigerator for 24 hours.

    Spread the mixture out in a large pan

    The Spruce / Laura Donovan

Prepare the Casing

  1. Start with about 4 feet of casing. It's better to begin with too much than too little because any extra can be repacked in salt and used later.

    Snip off about four feet of casing

    The Spruce / Laura Donovan

  2. Rinse casing under cool running water to remove any salt stuck to it.

    Rinse the casing under cool running water

    The Spruce / Laura Donovan

  3. Place casing in a bowl of cool water and let soak for about 30 minutes.

    Place casing in a bowl of cool water

    The Spruce / Laura Donovan

  4. After soaking, rinse casing under cool running water. Slip 1 end of the casing over faucet nozzle. Hold casing firmly on nozzle, and turn on cold water, gently at first, and then more forcefully. This will flush out any salt in the casing and pinpoint any breaks. Should you find a break, simply snip out a small section of casing.

    rinse the casing under cool running water

    The Spruce / Laura Donovan

  5. Place casing in a bowl of water and add white vinegar; a tablespoon of vinegar per cup of water is sufficient. The vinegar softens casing and makes it more transparent, which makes pepperoni look better. Leave casing in water-vinegar solution until ready to use. Rinse well and drain before stuffing.

    Place the casing in a bowl of water

    The Spruce / Laura Donovan

Make the Pepperoni

  1. Stuff sausage into casings and twist off into 10-inch links.

    Stuff the sausage into the casings

    The Spruce / Laura Donovan

  2. Using cotton twine, tie 2 separate knots between every other link, creating pairs of links. Cut between the double knots. ​

    Using cotton twine, tie two separate knots between every other link

    The Spruce / Laura Donovan

  3. Tie a string to the center of each pair to hang sausages. Hang pepperoni to dry in a space that is 50 F to 55 F with 75 to 80 percent humidity for six to eight weeks. Once dried, the pepperoni will keep, wrapped, in the refrigerator for several months.

    The pepperoni is hung by a string tied to the center of each pair

    The Spruce / Laura Donovan

Tips

  • If you find the pepperoni is solid on the outside but mushy on the inside, it means it has cased and needs to be tossed out. This can be due to low levels of humidity during the drying process.
  • It is normal for cured sausage to develop a coating of mold on the outside. It is usually a dusty white, and is beneficial as it wards off the bad bacteria. It should be removed before eating.
  • If you want to calculate the dry time by weight, you will need to weigh the pepperoni before it is dried and then multiply that number by 0.65 to determine what the finished weight should be, which is 35 to 40 percent less than starting weight.
  • Pepperoni comes in different sizes, the most common being about an inch in diameter. Some commercial packers offer "pizza pepperoni," which is roughly twice the diameter of regular pepperoni and isn't as dry. This variety can better withstand the high temperature of a baking pizza. If you plan to use your pepperoni primarily as a pizza topping, you might want to experiment with the drying time for the best results. 

Preventing Trichnosis

If you're handling sausage, you should take steps to prevent contracting trichinosis. Several cases of the illness are reported in the United States annually. It is caused by a parasitic roundworm, Trichinella spiralis, or trichina. The worm, found in some pork and bear meat, can be transmitted to humans if the meat is eaten raw or untreated. Trichinae mature in a person's intestines and are usually killed by the body's defenses. Some, however, can survive in the form of cysts in various muscles for years.


Trichinosis need not be a problem for the home sausage maker. In the case of fresh pork not used for sausage, the meat needs to only be cooked to an internal temperature of 137 F. Pork to be consumed raw, as in dried sausage, can be made completely safe and free of trichinae by freezing it to -20 F for six to 12 days, -10 F for 10 to 20 days, 5 F for 20 to 30 days, or 0 F for 30 to 40 days.


A precise freezer thermometer is necessary when preparing pork for dried sausage. And remember never to taste raw pork or sample sausage if it contains raw pork.

Article Sources
The Spruce Eats uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Brian A. Nummer, Ph.D. and Elizabeth L. Andress, Ph.D., (2002) Curing and Smoking Meats for Home Food Preservation Literature Review and Critical Preservation Points, The National Center for Home Food Preservation Guide and Literature Review Series: Smoking and Curing