From your classic cheese and tomato pizza to pizzas with mashed potatoes, squid ink, fermented soybeans and crocodile meat, there is something for everyone on this list. We will learn how some pizzas do not even need any pizza dough at all, and how cultures play a huge role in what is considered desirable. This pizza tour around the world will make you hungry- or leave you shocked. Read it to believe it.
Table of Contents
If when you think about pizza you imagine biting into loads of cheese and sauce, look no further than Chicago deep dish pizza. Each bite is so satisfying with its buttery-crunchy crust, chunky tomato sauce and copious amounts of cheese. Due to the high edges, you do not need to skimp on the filling and other toppings such as vegetables and meats. The layering is a bit different from more traditional pizzas as the order of the ingredients goes like this: cheese on the bottom, toppings on the cheese and finally the sauce, usually with a nice amount of grated parmesan cheese to top it all off.
Outside of Italian pizza, New York-style pizza might be the most popular style in the world. It started when Neapolitan immigrants moved to New York and brought their pizza recipe there, which was changed into its own “US” style over the years. For example, Neapolitan sauce is made with just tomatoes and salt, whereas NY pizza adds garlic, oregano, sugar, and crushed red pepper to the tomatoes; Neapolitan pizza dough only has yeast, salt, and flour but NY pizza adds sugar and olive oil to the mix; finally, low moisture shredded cheese is used instead of fresh mozzarella. NY pizza is generally quite large and is sold in triangular slices. It can come with all kinds of toppings and is usually “dressed” at the end with extra oregano, crushed red pepper, and parmesan cheese.
Not all pizzas are a circle, and the Detroit-style pizza is an example of thick, rectangular pan pizza that will leave you wanting for more (although -interesting tidbit- they call it a square). What is the advantage of a rectangular shape? Delicious crispy corners! This pizza is inspired by Sicilian pizza, with a light, airy and crispy texture. The cheese used is usually Wisconsin brick cheese, similar to cheddar, and it is placed on the bottom, topped with meats or other ingredients, and finally by the sauce (similar to the Chicago deep-dish pizza). When the cheese spreads to the corners of the pan it caramelizes into a crispy crust- it is no surprise that everyone fights over that corner slice!
When you think about California, if you think about trendsetting vegan food, organic products, a healthy lifestyle, and sustainable practices, you will not be surprised that these are what make up a California-style pizza! Whereas the crust is similar to that of a New York Pizza, the toppings are very, well, California style. Think avocados, goat cheese, seasonal veggies like beets and kale, and other locally sourced and farmed ingredients. These pizzas are usually baked in a wood-fired oven similar to Gozney's Dome. The vast array of original and sometimes exotic ingredients will never leave you bored.
Bienvenido a Miami! With a large slice of its population being from Cuba, it is no wonder that Miami developed its own style of pizza- Cuban pizza. The dough is thick, as it is left to rise longer than usual. The toppings are actually pressed into the dough and held together by a generous layer of whole milk low- moisture mozzarella and gouda cheeses. The toppings range from your usual ham and pepperoni to picadillo beef and even plantains.
Maybe the least known among typical Italian pizza styles, the Milan-style pizza is a “newer” version created in the 1950s. It is thick and fluffy, like focaccia, even though it only needs to rise for one hour. The toppings include peeled crushed tomatoes and a mountain of mozzarella cheese, sliced into thin strips that must cover the WHOLE surface of the pizza. This is then topped with oregano and sardines.
Roman pizza is similar to what in other places people would call flatbread: a thin, crispy and slightly charred pizza crust with a variety of light toppings. It is opposite in many ways to the Neapolitan pizza which is soft, wet and with a fluffy crust, so people usually hate one and love the other. To make everyone happy, Romans developed another kind of pizza named “pinsa”, which is really a hybrid between the two styles- a little thicker and fluffy crust with a crunchy base. Pinsa is made with easy to digest ingredients- sourdough starter (it rises for 48 to 72 hours) and rice, wheat and soy flours. The toppings are genuine and typical of any Italian pizza.
But Rome is a big metropolis, with people and millions of tourists always on the go, so a third style of pizza was naturally created there: pizza a taglio (“cut pizza”). Walking around Rome you will see thousands of these little to-go pizza joints, which carry giant rectangular pizzas with a great variety of toppings. The beauty of pizza a taglio is that you can try as many flavors as you like- and you should! A typical order would be :” Can I have an inch of the salmon pizza, two inches of the pesto and 2 inches of the margherita?”. You choose how little or how big you want your slice to be, and the server will cut with scissors the portion requested and sell it by weight.
The most popular kind of pizza on this beautiful island is the Sfincione. It originates in Palermo and it is a fluffy and spongy rectangular pizza topped with tomatoes, sardines, lots of onions, oregano and caciocavallo, a Sicilian cheese. It is extremely tasty and cheap, as it is often sold by the slice by street vendors. Another typical Sicilian pizza is the Scacciata, from the Catania side, a stuffed pizza- pizza dough base, toppings and another pizza on top! The filling is usually broccoli, cauliflower, sausages and potatoes. Sicily is a happy place.
The pizza by excellence, the mother of all pizzas. It is no surprise that pizza became so popular all over the world and every country has made its own version after seeing what the original looks and tastes like. Neapolitan pizza has a long history, but the main characteristics involve a simple dough that is left to rise for a long time, topped with homemade tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and some other wholesome toppings, all cooked at incredibly high temperatures for just 60-90 seconds for a soft, thin and yet fluffy texture. It is easy to digest and does not cause the bloated feeling many other pizzas give.
Neapolitan pizzas come in a personal size. But Napoli has not stopped at their classic pizza: another specialty in Naples is fried pizza. The dough is the same as regular Neapolitan pizza dough, but it is then folded like a calzone, stuffed with various ingredients- the most common being buffalo ricotta cheese and pork rinds- and then deep-fried. It sounds heavy, but it is incredibly light and airy. When well done it should not be greasy at all and it is still easy to digest. Amazing, right?
This controversial pizza was created, not in Hawaii, as many would think, but in Canada, by a man who enjoyed the contrast of sweet and savory flavors in the Chinese cuisine and tried making a pizza with pineapples and ham toppings. Hawaiian pizza is now served in many countries (interestingly enough, it is hard to find in Hawaii). Do you like pineapples on pizza?
True Mexican pizza is called “tlayuda” and is made with giant flour tortillas topped with lard, mashed beans, fresh queso, chile sauce and sometimes meats and avocado. A dream come true if you love both tacos and pizza! The recipe is from Oaxaca and the tortillas are made by hand and griddled on large stones. Not surprisingly, it is one of Mexico’s best street foods.
Aside from the Hawaiian pizza, Canadians can be credited with other topping combinations. Although the dough is not made in a specific manner, what sets Canadian pizzas apart are the toppings. The most common is the Quebecois pizza which is topped with tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, bacon, pepperoni, and mushrooms. Poutine pizza is topped with the popular Canadian dish- french fries, cheese curds and gravy. The most peculiar Canadian pizza is probably the Pizza-ghetti, from Quebec. You guessed it: a combination of pizza and spaghetti, where the spaghetti are hidden beneath the melted cheese. Interesting eh?
Not actually from Thailand, but a Thai-ispired US creation, Thai pizza features ingredients such as a peanut-based sauce, tofu, bean sprouts, scallions and chicken. Again, the Thai-style is more about the toppings than about the way the actual pizza dough is made- although this one works very well with flatbreads.
Pizza was introduced in Brazil by Italian immigrants (like in most other other countries) around the 1930s. Brazilian pizza has a thin crust (closer to Italian than American pizza) and sometimes a crust filled with a Brazilian cheese called Requeijao. The amount of sauce used is sparse, but the toppings are extremely varied, from corn to cream cheese, curried chicken with coconut milk and mashed potatoes. They even make sweet pizzas topped with Nutella, strawberries, bananas and other sugary treats. Surely a cuisine as colorful as the country is!
Fugazza is the name of a remarkable Argentinian-style pizza. This pizza dough contains olive oil and it is not rolled out but just pressed into the pan- so as it bakes it becomes airy and soft, perfectly absorbing the toppings’ flavors. It is topped with sweet onions sauteed in olive oil and sprinkled with oregano and parmesan cheese.Other toppings may include olives and ham. Another version called Fugazzeta is loaded with mozzarella cheese and comes with a thicker crust.
If you love seafood, you will love this pizza. The Russian pizza named Mockba (meaning Moscow) after the country’s capital, is a specialty topped with sardines, tuna, mackerel, salmon and raw onions and it is served cold. Instead of a four cheese pizza, we can say it is a four fish pizza! Russians are not afraid of strong flavors, and are known to also have pizzas with ketchup instead of tomato sauce, sour cream, mayo and hard boiled eggs.
Polish pizza is named Zapiekanka and it is a popular street food in Poland. It is made with a baguette sliced in half and served open-face, topped with mushrooms and melted cheeses such as Gouda or Emmental. The peculiarity is hot ketchup squeezed all over the cheese! Other than the classic version, this pizza can also be made Diablo-style (with spicy sauce), Hawaiian-style (with pineapples) or Greek-style (with olives and feta cheese) among others.
Even though pizza is not a recognized typical Greek dish, Greek immigrants who moved to the States decades ago started making pizza with their own flair- a style that is now known as Greek pizza. Greek pizza is baked into an oiled pan (rather than straight onto a pizza stone or oven) , and has plenty of olive oil and oregano in the dough. The result is a thin focaccia with a strong olive oil aroma. Tomato paste is added to the sauce along with other fresh, typical Greek ingredients such as olives, feta cheese and peppers.
Pizza in India is an up-and- coming street food. Indian cuisine is wonderful at spicing things up, and this is true for their pizza flavors. Generally speaking, pizzas in India come with more vegetables and spices rather than meats and cheeses like in other parts of the world. They use some unique toppings such as pickled ginger, tandoori chicken, and paneer. Other countries have made their own version of Indian pizzas by baking these ingredients on naan and roti breads.
Iranian or Persian pizza boasts a thick and crunchy crust. The crust has to be sturdy as it needs to hold an exorbitant amount of toppings including a generous amount of cheese, ground beef, sausages, lamb, bell peppers, mushrooms, onions and spices like turmeric, mint, rosemary, thyme and paprika- all topped off with some mustard and ketchup. Make sure to start off very hungry.
The Danes are heavily inspired by Italian pizzaiolos. The typical copenhagen-style pizza is a sourdough version of Neapolitan pizza, but with unique toppings. You will find goat cheese, guanciale, kiwis, potatoes, smoked mozzarella and whatnot.
In a cold place like Norway, comfort food is desired- and what food provides more comfort than pizza? Especially when topped with ground beef, tomato sauce and lots of cheese, you cannot go wrong. Fun fact: Nowegians are said to consume the most pizza per capita in the world.
Finland has come up with an unusual pizza flavor combination after former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi insulted Finnish food saying it only consists of “marinated reindeer”. The Finnish were not disheartened, and decided to create a pizza (typical Italian food) topped with reindeer, naming it after the above- mentioned Italian prime minister. So far this is just a funny story. Incredibly enough, this pizza won an international pizza festival in New York and it is now quite popular in Finland as it is served at the biggest Finnish pizza chain- Kotipizza. The Berlusconi pizza features smoked reindeer, chanterelle mushrooms, cheese and red onion.
Lebanese pizza is called Manoushe and it is most often eaten for breakfast (not a bad idea to start your day off with some pizza!). This traditional recipe has a dough that is crispy on the outside and a bit chewy on the inside, with beautiful strong aromas and spices. They can be topped with just cheese, just thyme or a blend of cheese and thyme along with other spices, or with meat and pine nuts. Usual condiments include parsley, all spice, lemon juice and sumac. A Mediterrenean treasure.
Let’s move to another country full of spices and aromas, Turkey. Their traditional “pizza” is called Lahmacun and it is made with semolina flour, spread very thinly and quickly cooked in a wood-fired oven. The toppings include ground lamb or beef, paprika, cumin, cinnamon, onions, tomatoes, parsley and spicy chili peppers. It is believed to have ancient origins from Syria, thousands of years ago. We can confidently say it has stood the test of time.
Another cheeseless pizza, Pissaladière is a French dish that is not afraid of strong flavors: loads of caramelized onions with marinated olives and anchovies atop a thick pizza crust. After baking, a few more anchovies and onions are added. The pizza is usually cut into small squares and served as an appetizer rather than as the main course. Bon appetit!
One thing we have learned from this list is that the concept of pizza does not always involve what many of us may think of - namely, a slice of dough with tomato sauce and cheese. A delicious Spanish pizza named Catalan Coca is an example of this. Sold all over Catalonia, the Catalan Coca is made with an oiled dough topped with bell peppers, eggplant, onions and sausages. No tomato and cheese, but surely packed with flavor. “Coca” actually means cake, and a sweet version of this dish is just as popular, with the addition of eggs and sugar in the dough, and cream and pine nuts as toppings.
Japan has a phenomenal food culture, and this translates into pizzas that are one of a kind. A Japanese specialty and a mix between a pizza and a pancake, Okonomiyaki is an Asian inspired pizza made with a flour, cabbage, egg and water “dough”- or more exactly, batter- although shrimp, bacon or other protein can all be cooked into it as well. This pizza-pancake is grilled and topped with seaweed, mayo, okonomiyaki sauce and other local flavors. You can still find traditional looking wheat flour pizzas in Japan, although the toppings may not be as familiar: from squid ink to teriyaki chicken mayo, fermented soybeans and honey cheese, there is something for all adventurous palates.
Britain does not have a national or traditional pizza, though most of the pizzas in this list could probably be found in London's melting pot of cuisines. However, British have added some interesting flavors to their pizzas like Chicken Tikka Masala and other curry toppings. Going North to Scotland, we can find a unique kind of fried pizza- not quite like the one seen in Naples. It is called pizza crunch and it involves literally dipping a whole slice of cooked pizza into a batter and then deep frying it in fish-and-chips oil. Might not be diet-friendly, but it sounds like a good snack for post-pub munchies.
The Swedes like their pizza like they like anything else, moderate. They inherited the American Pan Pizza in the 90s and have ridden the Pan Pizza train until the immigration surged. The immigrants, more specifically, the turks and the kurds, introduced a pizza that Swedes would fall in love with - the kebab pizza (döner pizza). This pizza is served with a specific sauce, made from yoghurt, mayo, sour milk and spices. And while Italians would turn in their graves over a pizza that's breaking all the rules of what pizza really is, it actually tastes amazing.
Korea might be the most outrageous pizza-maker on this list yet. Basically anything goes, and toppings on pizza range from kimchi to snails, potatoes, t-bone steak and calamari and there often are pickled vegetable sides to accompany the meal. Some pizzas even have stuffed crust, not with something you would expect - like cheese- but with sweet potatoes. Koreans are conservative with their own traditional recipes, but are happy to experiment when it comes to foreign-introduced foods.
A kind of Chinese “pizza” found only in China is called Xiang Bing, and it is an oily dough made with flour and soy milk topped with ground spicy pork, ginger and scallions. It is a street food served in brown paper bags and is eaten with chopsticks. Outside of China, “Chinese” pizzas have been created by adding Asian flavors to regular pizzas, such as soy sauce, water chestnuts and flavored meats.
Germans have come up with a quick flatbread pizza recipe that needs no leavening time but still satisfies your pizza cravings. It is called Flammkuchen (“flame cake”) and it is a traditional crispy flatbread topped with creme fraiche, caramelized onions, a pinch of nutmeg, and bacon- a winning combination. Being thin as a cracker it can be served as a delicious appetizer.
Let’s end Down Under, all the way in Australia. The traditional Aussie pizza is topped with barbeque sauce, cheese, red onions, bacon, and fried eggs, some true Outback flavors.
While Aussie bbq pizza is common, some restaurants have gone more eccentric and used local yet unusual meats as their toppings: pizzas with kangaroo meat, emu, and crocodile. A hotel in Australia serves all these, and the flavor combinations are interesting: half kangaroo and half emu meat pizza with myrtle mayo, bush tomato, and capsicum peppers; saltwater crocodile, mushrooms, buffalo mozzarella, eggplant, and olives.