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A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that the cast of “Good Morning America” sampled cucumber pizza on screen. They were members of the “Today” show. The article has been corrected.
The debate about whether pineapple belongs on pizza is more stale than a three-day-old domino disc. For proof of just how long this great national conversation has been going on, watch the finale of Netflix’s nostalgia-heavy 1980s set, Stranger Things, in which a stoner pizza delivery boy tries to sell a skeptical teenager for his earnings. or at least the virtue of keeping an open mind. “Try before you deny,” he advises, like a Reagan-era wise man.
Not that the matter is settled, but after all these years, can’t we agree it’s time to move on? Because there’s a new, potentially divisive pie making its way onto menus across the country that deserves our attention instead: Ladies and gentlemen of the social media debate stage, I’ll give you cucumber pizza. To discuss.
However you feel about this development in human history, it might be time to prepare your topics of conversation. The cucumber cake has a moment.
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It’s a new food at the Minnesota and Indiana fairs this year, and announcements about it have attracted attention local media and social media ogler. Pickles also feature among more traditional offerings at pizza shops, from chain joints to hearty pizzerias. Mostly served on a white or ranch sauce instead of the classic red sauce, pickles prove they’re more than just a novelty in the pizza topping game.
“There’s this lovely sweet, tart, tangy bite,” says Rachael Jennings, who after years as a chef at the incandescent Rose’s Luxury recently opened her own pizzeria, Boogy & Peel, in Washington. Pickles are the star of her Big Mac-inspired pie, which layers a version of the fast-food icon’s special sauce (spoiler alert: it’s basically Thousand Island dressing, she says) with American cheese and ground beef. From the glowing oven, the cake is topped with crispy iceberg lettuce, sliced white onions, a pinch of special sauce and homemade pickles.
Jennings admits that her cakes, which she calls the style “neo-neo-neapolitan,” aren’t even remotely traditional. “If you took that to your nonna in Sicily, she’d spit in your face,” says Jennings. “But try it and tell me you don’t like it.”
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Many brine-loving fans would agree that cucumbers have earned their place in the topping pantheon. While there’s no definitive history of pickle pizza, a Nexis search of news stories suggests that, after popping up occasionally in a handful of restaurants over the years, they started garnering more attention around 2018.
That year, a video of a pickle pizza made in New York went viral, and Al Roker and his “Today” show gang bravely sampled a pickle pie for on-screen yuks — theirs came from Rhino’s Pizzeria in upstate New York, which they touted as the inventors of creation.
It’s since taken off at a handful of state fairs, including Ohio, Florida and West Virginia, as well as the Calgary Stampede — venues where flashy food thrives. However, Pickle Pizza appears to be a breakout star.
An early innovator was Dennis Schneekloth, owner of QC Pizza, which has two locations in Minnesota and specializes in quirky recipes (think crab rangoon and avocado toast-inspired pies). Looking for ideas for his latest special, he came up with the idea of making a pizza based on a state-loved delicacy, the pickle roll, sometimes called Minnesota sushi. This snack features cucumbers topped with cream cheese and wrapped in a slice of ham.
“I posted about it on a Facebook group and people were like, ‘No way, that sounds awful,'” he says. “But I had a feeling for it.”
After some tinkering and sourcing fresh cucumbers that could withstand the 500-degree heat of his ovens, Schneekloth hit what he believed to be a winning combination. Its base is a white sauce accented with garlic and dill, topped with pickles, mozzarella and Canadian bacon strips that have been smoked for 48 hours. Because he prepares his pizza Quad City style — a lesser-known pie genre named for its origins in the region spanning four cities in Iowa and Illinois — most of the toppings go under the cheese (a final garnish from more pickles and fresh dill topped it all) and the pizza is cut into strips, not wedges.
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He proved his Facebook friends wrong – customers loved it. It garnered international attention when the FoodBeast blog featured his creation in 2019.
“It just exploded,” he recalls. “I’ve been in newspapers in the UK” He now sells his frozen pizzas through the Goldbelly grocery delivery service and drives a Mercedes Sprinter covered in pictures of pickles.
Since then, he’s seen many more pickle pies spring up. “More power for them,” he says.
He’s back in R&D mode, working on a deep dish pickle pizza he’s calling Mega Dill. “If I can perfect that, people will buy it,” he says.
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At the Slyce Coal Fired Pizza Company in Vernon Hills, Illinois, cucumber pizza was a new specialty item. Graeme Nyland, the restaurant’s general manager, said the creation was a team effort. He had spoken out in support of this, pointing out the miles of lines outside the pickle pizza stand at the Wisconsin State Fair, thinking they could do something a little grander.
Slyce’s version used extra virgin olive oil and garlic as a base, topped with prosciutto, tomato slices and homemade English pickles. A dash of chili oil rounded it all off. Nyland appreciates the star ingredient’s culinary qualities—and its divisive appeal.
“It just has that nice vinegary punch that gets things going,” he says. “Cucumbers are something people either love or hate, and there are more that love them.”