The choice of seasoning can make the difference between a good pizza and a bad one.
Typically, pizza seasoning consists of a blend of herbs and spices, including: basil, oregano, red pepper flakes, dried onion, and dried garlic. For additional flavor, other herbs such as thyme, fennel, and sage can be added as well. Pizza seasoning can be prepared easily at home—either in advance and stored in a shaker, or mixed together on the spot.
Let’s discuss a little about the ways pizza is seasoned in America and Italy, or you can skip straight to an easy homestyle recipe and try making some for yourself.
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Premade Pizza Seasoning Blends
If you don’t feel like making your own pizza seasoning, you can always buy one of the many premade blends available locally or online. Here are a few of the ones that have caught my interest:
- King Arthur Pizza Seasoning (A simple seasoning including onion, garlic, red pepper, and basil)
- Chef Paul Prodhomme’s Magic Seasoning (A rich seasoning including parmesan cheese)
- Pizza Seasoning by Flavor God (A zesty seasoning including tomato and paprika)
- Frontier Pizza Seasoning (Includes bell peppers, parsley, and thyme)
(…or keep reading to learn more about the world of pizza seasoning.)
What is pizza seasoning made of?
First, we need to establish what style of pizza we’re aiming for: American or Neapolitan.
For the average reader who is used to eating pizza from North America, Australia, the UK, and much of Europe (etc.), you probably want American style seasoning. On the other hand, if you like Italian style pizza, you’ll prefer a simpler Neapolitan style pizza seasoning.
In the end, choose whichever blend of herbs and spices that appeals to you the most.
American Pizza Seasoning
American pizza is know for being rich and flavorful, especially as compared to the more minimalist flavor profile commonly found with Neapolitan style pizza. Therefore, when making American style pizza seasoning, you want to go big and bold.
If you’re ever had pizza from any of the major American international pizza chains (like Pizza Hut or Domino’s), you’ll know what I’m talking about. With this kind of pizza, the seasoning doesn’t take a back seat to the other ingredients—in fact (very often) the seasoning is actually the first thing you taste when taking a bite.
American Pizza Seasoning Blend Ideas
When making American style pizza seasoning, I like to blend a flavorful medley of sweet, salty, and spicy flavoring that compliment the rest of the ingredients.
So for your next pizza night, try blending some of the following spices and herbs, either to the sauce before you cook it—or even shaken on top when it comes out of the oven, if you prefer.
You don’t have to use all of these suggestions (unless you want to), so I recommend picking out your favorites and coming up with a blend that suits you.
- Dried oregano
- Dried basil
- Red pepper flakes
- Black pepper (finely ground)
- Dehydrated garlic powder (not garlic salt)
- Dehydrated onion powder (not onion salt)
- Sea salt (coarse)
- Dried grated parmesan cheese
Note: You can always substitute dry ingredients for fresh ones, like garlic powder or dried basil. But be aware that anything that isn’t completely dehydrated runs the risk of going bad and will have a reduced shelf life. Dry ingredients can be stored in a jar and can (potentially) stay fresh for years.
Neapolitan Pizza Seasoning
Neapolitan pizza seasoning is a bit of a misnomer because Neapolitan style pizza is hardly “seasoned” at all.
For traditional Italian style pizza, like Neapolitan, simplicity is key. The idea is for the taste of the ingredients and toppings (which are usually kept to a minimum) to shine through above all else.
As an example, take the iconic Neapolitan margherita style pizza. For this, you want to taste the freshness of the mozzarella and tomato sauce, not necessarily a bunch of herbs and spices thrown on top. This is why a margherita pizza is usually only sparsely topped with a few fresh basil leaves after it comes out of the oven.
Perhaps the most flavorful Neapolitan style pizza (in terms of seasoning) is the pizza marinara—topped only with tomato sauce, no cheese. For this pizza, you want to add a sprinkling of freshly ground black pepper, a pinch of dried oregano, and a few thinly sliced pieces of garlic (to be removed after baking).
All that said, we can still create a seasoning blend that puts us in mind of Neapolitan style, even if it isn’t strictly Neapolitan itself. Try mixing the following ingredients to bring the tastes of southern Italy to your next pizza, or even just a sandwich.
- Freshly ground black pepper (Italian black pepper tastes best)
- Dried oregano (crush it between your fingers to release more flavor)
- Dehydrated garlic powder (or flakes)
- Dried Basil
- Red pepper flakes (optional)
- Sage (optional)
Tip: I recommend mixing these seasonings together in a jar or shaker and use it on any pizza that you want to have a subtle, but noticeable, flavor profile that reflects classic Neapolitan cooking.
Pizza Seasoning vs Italian Seasoning
As odd as it sounds, “Italian seasoning” is really an American invention rather than an Italian one. Italian Seasoning varies by brand, but it usually contains some combination of: oregano, basil, thyme, sage, rosemary, and marjoram.
Yes, these seasonings reflect the many herbs and spices commonly used in Italian cooking, but rarely are these seasonings used all at once or in a single dish.
In America (and elsewhere outside of Italy), Italian seasoning is commonly used to season spaghetti and pizza sauces. In fact, a shaker of Italian seasoning might be just what you’re looking for on your next pizza. But, for most people, “pizza seasoning” implies something with a bit more kick than simple Italian seasoning.
Unlike “Italian seasoning”, which contains only herbs, “pizza seasoning” often contains different spices like salt and pepper, as well as other ingredients like onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes. In this way, pizza seasoning is much more flavorful than regular Italian seasoning.
When To Add Pizza Seasoning
In general, pizza seasonings are added to a pizza sauce and simmered over a low heat for an hour or more before being spread on the pizza crust. Alternatively, pizza seasonings can also be sprinkled over a fully prepared pizza, on top of the cheese, before it goes into the oven.
Both of these methods will allow the flavors of the seasoning to infuse into the other ingredients as the pizza cooks in the oven.
However, if you want even more flavor on your pizza, you can also sprinkle some pizza seasoning over individual slices of pizza after it’s been cooked. Usually this is done using a simple shaker of parmesan or red pepper flakes, but a full blend of pizza seasoning can be used as well—as long as you like the flavors of the seasoning raw.
Can Pizza Seasoning Be Added To Pizza Dough?
If you prefer, you can absolutely incorporate pizza seasoning into your dough recipe for an extra flavorful crust. To do so, simply mix 1-2 teaspoons of pizza seasoning (or however much or little you like) into your dry ingredients before mixing with water to create the dough.
Tip: While you can add as much seasoning to a pizza as you like, I recommend adding it either to the dough or the sauce—not both. In my opinion, less is more when it comes to flavoring, and adding seasoning to the dough and sauce can quickly overpower any other ingredients.
Pizza Seasoning Substitute
If you need to season a pizza and don’t have any pizza seasoning on hand, it’s simple to mix up a quick batch with whatever you happen to have in your spice cabinet. I recommend keeping it simple, with just a pinch of oregano, basil, and red pepper flakes, similar to what’s commonly found on New York style pizza.
If you’re really in a pinch, even just a small sprinkling of black pepper can add a lot of flavor to an otherwise unseasoned pizza.
What Kind Of Pizza Seasoning Do I Use?
If you’ve read any of my articles before, you’ll know I’m a traditionalist that prefers Neapolitan and classic New York style pizza. In fact, I usually don’t add much seasoning to my pizza at all, outside of some fresh basil leaves on Neapolitan or a pinch of garlic and red pepper flakes in a New York style sauce.
An exception to this is Detroit style pizza, which I think benefits from some extra seasoning due to its thick crust and heavy toppings. For this, I usually resort to my own Detroit style pizza sauce which includes several different herbs and spices.
I will also occasionally season my olive oil with a bit of garlic and drizzle it over the pizza before it cooks. I do this by simmering a small amount of olive oil over a low heat with a clove of garlic slice in half. When the garlic starts to brown (slightly), remove the cloves and set the oil aside in a container to use later. I like this method because it gives the pizza just a hint of fresh garlic without overpowering any of the other ingredients.
Homestyle Pizza Seasoning
- 2 tbsp Dried Oregano
- 1 tbsp Dried Basil
- 1 tsp Black Pepper (finely ground)
- 1 tsp Garlic Powder (not garlic salt)
- 1 tsp Onion Powder (not onion salt)
- 1/2 tsp Coarse Sea Salt
- 1 tbsp Red Pepper Flakes (if too spicy, use half)
- 1 tbsp Fennel (optional)
- 1 tbsp Thyme (optional)
- Pick out which herbs and spices from the ingredients list you want to include.
- If you’re using oregano, crush some (or all) of it between your fingers to help release the flavors.
- Add all the ingredients to a bowl and whisk them together.
- Add the whisked ingredients to a tightly sealed mason jar or, even better, an empty shaker bottle for convenience.
Note: You don’t need to use every herb and spice on this list, just pick out the ones you like. Also, the measurements here are just a suggestion—feel free to adjust them according to your preferences.
- Domenic’s Detroit Style Pizza Sauce Recipe
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- What Is The Difference Between Pizza Sauce & Spaghetti Sauce? The Simple Answer
- How To Make Pizza Sauce
- Best Cheese Blends For Detroit Style Pizza
- What Is Old World Pepperoni? Why It Makes A Difference & Pizza Recipe
What Is Pizza Seasoning?
Pizza seasoning refers to whatever herbs and spices are used to add flavor to a pizza, usually including basil and oregano. In America, “pizza seasoning” usually implies a longer list of herbs and spices including onion powder, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes (among others).
Is Italian Seasoning The Same As Pizza Seasoning?
Pizza seasoning and “Italian seasoning” are very similar and usually include many of the same herbs, like basil and oregano. However, pizza seasoning most often includes other spices such as onion, garlic, and red pepper.
What Seasonings Are Good On Pizza?
The list of seasonings used on pizza is long and varies from one country to another. In Naples, pizza is usually seasoned simply with fresh basil, oregano, black pepper, and sometimes garlic. In America, pizza is seasoned more aggressively with basil, oregano, onion, garlic, and spicy red pepper.
Do You Put Pizza Seasonings On Before Or After Cooking?
In general, seasoning should be added either to the pizza sauce or sprinkled on top of the pizza before baking. Both of these methods will give the seasoning a chance to blend with the flavors of the other ingredients as it cooks in the oven.