Can You Eat Pepperoni When Pregnant & Is It Safe?

Can You Eat Pepperoni When Pregnant & Is It Safe?

For every woman, pregnancy is the most beautiful and happiest time of her life. However, during this time, she needs to be extra careful of her health and nutrition to care for the new life she is creating. She is eating not just for her but for the little one growing inside her as well. This responsibility makes the pregnant woman meticulous and conscious of her eating. During the gestation period, pregnant women have cravings for many things. Pepperoni is one such popular food item which most pregnant women crave for its spicy taste. Though they crave it, they wonder how safe is to eat pepperoni during their pregnancy.  Read the article to know how safe pepperoni is during pregnancy, its benefits and side effects.

What Is Pepperoni?

Pepperoni is a spicy variant of salami or dry sausage. This Italian-American variant uses two types of meat – pork and beef for its preparation. The mixture of cured pork with cured beef in a unique spicy blend gives pepperoni its distinct taste. Conventional curing is done by using nitrates or nitrites. The general spices used to spice up pepperoni are cayenne pepper, white pepper, bell pepper, salt, aniseed and allspice. The prepared pepperoni salami looks slightly smoky with bright red colour and is extremely soft. Pepperoni is used in many dishes such as pizzas, pasta, sandwiches and wraps, giving them a distinct taste.

Nutritional Value of Pepperoni

Pepperoni may taste out-of-the-world on pizzas and scrambled eggs, but it isn’t a healthy option to have when pregnant. One ounce portion of pepperoni contains:

  • Calories – 140 kcal
  • Protein – 5 g
  • Fat – 13 g 
  • Saturated fat – 5 g
  • Sodium – 500 mg

You may debate that pepperoni has proteins and fats, we would say, it is always best to choose lean meats and healthy fats when you are pregnant for the sake of your child and your health.

Can You Have Pepperoni When Pregnant?

Many women have questions regarding pepperoni and pregnancy, like ‘is it safe to eat pepperoni during pregnancy?’ Eating pepperoni is not advisable during pregnancy as it has high fat, added sugar, spices and salt content. The main reason to avoid pepperoni sticks while pregnant is the nitrates and nitrites used for the preservation of pepperoni for curing. These preservatives are used to react with the meat and can produce some carcinogenic agents. So craving pepperoni while pregnant due to its spicy and distinct taste is normal; however, it should be consumed occasionally after taking the advice of the doctor. So, if any expect mom asks you, ‘Is pepperoni safe during pregnancy?’, you know what to answer them.

Also, it is important to eat pepperoni that is cooked, and not raw.

When It’s Not Safe To Eat Pepperoni While Pregnant?

While it is a little okay with occasional eating of pepperoni when you are pregnant, you must always avoid consuming cold pepperoni slices.

Why? Because pepperoni we get on supermarket shelves is processed and not cooked, they are technically raw. Uncooked or raw meats contain harmful bacteria and parasites, including toxoplasma and listeria, respectively. Unlike a normal person, when a pregnant woman consumes cold-processed or contaminated foods, she is more likely to get sick with food poisoning, toxoplasmosis, or listeriosis, caused by those infamous pathogens we talked about. Food poisoning, toxoplasmosis, etc., can be highly dangerous for the baby and the mother. A woman has a weakened immune system during her pregnancy, and this can cause pathogens to attack more easily.

Another reason is the nitrates and nitrites contents in pepperoni, which is also not advisable for a pregnant woman. Hence, it is best avoided by most pregnant women.

If you still crave a slice or two, you can pop the pepperoni pizza into the microwave and let the heat cook the pepperoni for you to savour.

Are There Any Benefits of Having Pepperoni During Pregnancy?

Pepperoni is a good source of essential minerals, proteins and vitamins. Some of the benefits of having pepperoni during pregnancy are:

  • Pepperoni has a high-fat content. So in cases where the pregnant woman is too thin or lean, the doctor can advise eating pepperoni for its high-fat content to gain weight.
  • Pepperoni has selenium, an important mineral known for its antioxidant properties. Selenium strengthens the immune system by fighting free radicals.
  • Pepperoni contains the right amount of vitamin B12, Riboflavin, Thiamin, Vitamin B6, Vitamin D, Vitamin K and Niacin. So foods containing vitamins and minerals are good for the health of pregnant women.
  • Pepperoni has a high content of zinc and manganese. Zinc boosts cell formation and strengthens the immune system. Manganese protects the body cells from damage and improves metabolic activity.

Side Effects of Pepperoni During Pregnancy

Pepperoni may cause certain side-effects when consumed during pregnancy. The side-effects of pepperoni are:

1. Pepperoni due to its high-fat content can cause unhealthy weight gain in pregnant women along with other issues such as gestational diabetes, preeclampsia and heart diseases.
2. The nitrates and nitrites used in its preservation can react with meat to produce nitrosamines, which are carcinogenic.
3. The high spice content used to make pepperoni can cause heartburn and indigestion.
4. Pepperoni has high sodium content, almost 443 gms in one ounce. High sodium may have an adverse effect on foetal renal function.  Also, the sodium can pose the risk of fluctuating blood pressure in the pregnant woman.

Alternatives to Pepperoni That Are Safer

There are pepperoni alternatives which are safer to consume during pregnancy.  The safer pepperoni alternatives are:

  • Pepperoni made from turkey as it has lower fat and saturated fat content.
  • Buy pepperoni which has no nitrate and nitrite in it. Read the packet label before buying.
  • Substitute pepperoni with lean ground turkey or grilled chicken breast in the foods such as pizza. Also, make the pizza from whole-grain tortilla or pita.

Ways to Eat Pepperoni During Pregnancy

Pepperoni is the popular topping of pizzas, however, there are many other ways in which pepperoni can be eaten. Some of the ways to eat pepperoni during pregnancy are:

  • Use the tasty salami in a sandwich. Toast the sandwich and then top it with pepperoni.
  • Mix pepperoni with black olives and cheese as a snack or salad.
  • Make a soup of pepperoni by cutting it in small pieces and then adding to any soup or stew.
  • Making bread from pepperoni is also a good option. Pepperoni bread can be eaten as a sandwich.
  • Use it as pasta topping cut in small pieces.

Pepperoni Pizza While Pregnant – Warnings and Recipe

How to Make Pepperoni Pizza

Pepperoni pizza is one of the most craved pepperoni food items during pregnancy. However eating pepperoni is not advised during pregnancy due to its high fat, sugar, spice and nitrate/nitrite content. So when a craving for pepperoni pizza arises in pregnant women, its best to make it at home with healthy ingredients. This will prevent the question of ‘can pregnant women eat pepperoni pizza.’ This will also ensure the health content and the pregnant women pepperoni craving will also be satisfied. So below is the way to make pepperoni pizza.

How to Make Pepperoni Pizza

Pepperoni pizza can be easily made at home with few ingredients. However, remember to purchase pepperoni which has no nitrates and nitrite content to avoid pepperoni nitrates pregnancy side-effects.


  • Pizza dough/ base- 1 qty
  • Pepperoni loaves- 3 qty
  • Cheese- 1 cup
  • Tomato– 1 qty (sliced)
  • Chilli flakes
  • Pepper
  • Salt
  • Onion– 1 qty (sliced)
  • Capsicum -1 qty (sliced)


  • Keep the pizza dough in a preheated oven for 15 minutes at a 300-degree temperature.
  • Cut the pepperoni loaves in small pieces or in a circular shape.
  • Take out the pizza base and add cheese on top of it. Let the cheese melt on the hot pizza to get absorbed.
  • Top the cheese on the pizza with sliced pepperoni, onions, capsicum and tomatoes.
  • Let the pizza base cool for some time.
  • Keep the pizza base again in the oven for 20 minutes.
  • Take it out and sprinkle chilli flakes, salt and pepper as per taste and enjoy the pepperoni pizza.


The common FAQs asked about eating pepperoni during pregnancy are:

1. Can pregnant women consume raw pepperoni?

Eating raw pepperoni for pregnant women is not recommended. Raw pepperoni may have bacteria and the nitrates present in it can cause toxoplasmosis. Toxoplasmosis can cause congenital disability in the baby and increase the risk of miscarriage or stillbirth for the pregnant woman.

2. Can I eat cold pepperoni while pregnant?

Women can eat cold packaged pepperoni while pregnant when it is mentioned on the package label that it is ready to eat. In cold or frozen pepperoni, the risk of bacteria is reduced, however, there is still the risk of toxoplasmosis or listeriosis. So it’s advised to eat hot and properly cooked pepperoni when pregnant.

3. Does pepperoni contain Listeria bacteria?

Cold-cured meat such as pepperoni has fewer chances of carrying listeria as the freezing kills the bacteria.

4. Is it okay to eat uncured pepperoni during pregnancy?

Pepperoni is cured to preserve it and stop it from getting spoiled. So, if pepperoni is not cured, then it may carry bacteria, hence unsafe to eat.

5. Is Turkey pepperoni safe during pregnancy?

Pepperoni made from fresh turkey meat is safe to eat by pregnant women, provided it has no preservatives like nitrites or nitrates used during its preservation.

6. Can I eat Hormel pepperoni during pregnancy?

It is best to avoid Hormel pepperoni during pregnancy. It contains a high amount of added sugar, sodium content, and saturated fats and is made by using nitrite preservatives.

Pepperoni is advised to eat occasionally and in small quantities during pregnancy, as overeating pepperoni in large quantities can lead to health issues. Pepperoni has certain health benefits, however, due to its spices and uses preservative content; it’s best to avoid it during pregnancy. In case there is a strong craving to eat pepperoni, then have it properly cooked, hot and in limited quantity in consultation with the doctor.

Also Read:

Eating Egg During Pregnancy
Consuming Tuna While Pregnant
Is It Safe to Eat Bacon in Pregnancy?

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Gauri Ratnam completed her Masters in English Literature from the University of Pune. She began her journey as a German translator soon after completing her graduation, but later moved on to pursue her passion for writing. Having written for both digital and print media in a varied range of industries, she has the ability to write relatable and well-researched content, benefical for anyone seeking advice or direction.