This post is part of step 6 in my Complete Guide to Making Pizza. Check it out to learn how to prepare your toppings, how to finish your pizza, and much more!
One of my pet peeves in making pizza is something that it took me a long time to learn to avoid: adding too many toppings.
On the one hand, yes, I want spicy San Marzano tomato sauce and eggplant and goat cheese and basil and caramelized onions and garlic confit and agrumato and squash blossoms and gremolata and and and.
On the other hand, including too many toppings is the perfect recipe for a muddy, unclear, generic-tasting pizza. Remember in kindergarten when we learned that mixing all the colors made brown, so everyone would sit around with Crayons scribbling all over paper futilely trying to turn the red and green and blue and yellow and purple hues into a cohesive brown?
That’s how pizzas taste when you put too many toppings on. They’re messy, unintentional, and typically unsuccessful.
So, how many toppings is too many?
As a general, often-broken rule of thumb, I recommend choosing three to five toppings for each pizza you create.
In my style of pizzas, mozzarella doesn’t count as a topping; it goes on every pizza. Other cheeses like goat cheese, feta, or smoked gouda are accent cheeses that count as toppings.
However, tomato sauce definitely is a topping. It should never be something that goes on a pizza without deliberate thought. There’s no need to include it unless it serves a purpose in the flavor profile you’re creating.
Creating a cohesive flavor profile
Your priority in coming up with a new pizza combination should be to create a cohesive whole. Every topping should serve a purpose beyond just “I like pickled onions.”
Do you have something savory, rich, and full of umami?
What about an herbal note?
What about something bright and acidic?
This isn’t a definitive list, of course, and you don’t need to include ingredients with all of these characteristics on each pizza! Thinking in these terms, though, will help you find a balance of flavors and figure out what you actually need on your pizza.
How much should I put on?
Start with less than you might think you need. If you have four or five ingredients, and throw a lot of each onto the pizza, you’re going to end up with a final product that’s heavy and unbalanced.
My general rule of thumb is that the total amount of toppings on a 12” thin-crust pizza should be about what would fit comfortably (not dramatically heaping) in my cupped hands. Use that as a starting point, and adjust as necessary!