Not that it’s a foregone conclusion, but after all these years, can’t we agree that it’s time to move on? With a new, potentially divisive, pie making its way onto menus across the country that deserves our attention instead: Ladies and gentlemen on the social media debate stage, I present to you Pickle Pizza. discuss.
No matter how you feel about this development in human history, it may be time to prepare your talking points. Pickle pie has a moment.
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It’s a new food item this year at Minnesota and Indiana state fairs, and advertisements for it have drawn attention from local media and social media dignitaries. Pickles have appeared among the traditional offerings in pizzerias, too, from chain joints to clay pizzerias. Often served over a white or ranch dressing instead of the classic red, pickles prove to be more than just the new business in the pizza game.
“There’s this delicious, citrusy, refreshing bite,” says Rachel Jennings, who recently opened her own pizzeria, Boogy & Peel, in Washington after years as a chef at White-hot Rose’s Luxury. Pickles are the star of their Big Mac-inspired pie, which pairs a version of the fast food icon’s sauce (spoiler alert: it’s basically Thousand Island sauce, she says) with American cheese and ground beef. From the toast oven, the pie is topped with crunchy iceberg lettuce, sliced white onions, more special sauce—and house pickles.
Jennings admits that her pies, which she calls her style “New Neapolitan,” aren’t even close to traditional. “If you take this to your nonna in Sicily, she’ll spit in your face,” Jennings says. “But, like, try it and tell me it’s not delicious.”
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Many saltwater lovers would agree that pickles have earned their place in the number one pantheon. Although there is no definitive date for pickled pizza, research by Nexis in news stories suggests that after its odd appearance in a few restaurants over the years, they started getting wider notice around 2018.
That year, a video of pickle pizza being made in New York went viral, and Al Roker and his “Today” show gang bravely tried to bring out a pickle pie for yuks on screen—they came from Rhino’s Pizzeria in upstate New York who they described as the inventor of the creation.
Since then, it’s been released at a handful of state fairs, including in Ohio, Florida, and West Virginia, as well as the Calgary Stampede—places where eye-catching food thrives. However, the pickle pizza seems to be a superstar.
One of the early innovators was Dennis Schneekloth, owner of QC Pizza, which has two locations in Minnesota and specializes in exotic recipes (think lobster-inspired pies – rangoon – and avocado – toast). He was scouting ideas for his recent oddball show, and it occurred to him to make a pizza based on a popular state delicacy, pickle roll, sometimes called Minnesota sushi. This snack has pickles dipped in cream cheese and wrapped in a slice of ham.
“I posted about it in a Facebook group, and people were saying, ‘No way, that sounds awful,'” he says. “But I had a feeling about it.”
After some tweaks, and searching for fresh pickles that could withstand the heat of his 500-degree ovens, Schneekloth hit what he decided was a winning combination. Its base is a white sauce topped with garlic and dill, layered with pickles, mozzarella, and slices of Canadian bacon that’s been smoked for 48 hours. Since he makes his own Quad City-style pizza—a lesser-known type of pie that’s so named for its origins in the four-city area of Iowa and Illinois—most of the toppings go under the cheese (a final garnish for more pickles and fresh dill tops it all). ), and the pizza is cut into slices, not slices.
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He proved his Facebook friends wrong – customers loved it. It drew international attention when the FoodBeast blog featured its creation in 2019.
“It exploded,” he recalls. “I was in the UK newspapers” is now selling frozen pizza on food delivery service Goldbelly and driving a Mercedes Sprinter truck covered in pictures of pickles.
Since then, he’s seen a lot of pickle pies grow. “More power to them,” he says.
It’s back in R&D mode, working on a deep-dish pickled pizza called Mega Dill. “If I can master this, people will buy it,” he says.
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At Slyce Coal Fired Pizza Company in Vernon Hills, Illinois, pickle pizza has been a special item on the menu lately. Graeme Nyland, the restaurant’s general manager, said the creation was a team effort. He argued, pointing out the long lines of the pickled pizza booth at the Wisconsin State Fair, and thought they could do it way more elevated.
Slyce’s version used extra virgin olive oil and garlic as a base, topped with prosciutto, sliced tomato, and house-made pickles using English cucumber. A chili oil spray finished it off. Nyland appreciates the culinary qualities of the star ingredient – and its divisive appeal.
“It just has a nice vinegar punch that really kicks things up,” he says. “Pickles are the kind of thing that people either love or hate, and there are more who like them.”