Of the many pizza debates in America, by far the most divisive, the kind that turns brother on brother and starts ugly fights in otherwise happy marriages, is the struggle over whether pineapple on pizza is good. The pineapple haters have memes, Facebook pages and lengthy forum threads dedicated to denying the tastiness of this canned tropical fruit atop a bed of mozzarella and tomato sauce. Searching "pineapple pizza" on Twitter results in thousands of tweets, coming out daily, in which pineapple pizza is both rabidly denounced and cheekily defended as pineapple fans troll the haters by displaying pleasure at this cheese-and-fruit combination.
Beyond the gentle pineapple trolls on social media, there have been robust defenses of pineapple on pizza from people who are paid for their opinions. In February, Allison Shoemaker of The Takeout proudly declared, "The Hawaiian Pizza is a thing of beauty," and praising the Australians for pairing pineapple with ham on pizza. And Tim Carman of the Washington Post gathered a group of friends, some diehard Hawaiian Pizza haters, and forced them to eat the loathed concoction. It turns out that no one "actually hated" the pizza, though Carman allowed that it might have been a better preparation at We the Pizza in Washington, D.C. than one might get from, say, Domino's.
I step into this fraught debate only to say this: Everyone is wrong. Pineapple haters are wrong for all the reasons that have been carefully laid out, such as how perfect the saltiness of the cheese and acidic sweetness of the pineapple hang together. But the defenders are also wrong in focusing on the classic combination of ham and pineapple on a pizza. That's fine, no doubt, but is far from the best way to eat pineapple on a pizza.
No, the true rock star topping combination of the pizza takeout world is pineapples and jalapeños. That way you get the salt and fat from the cheese, the acid and sweet from the pineapple, and — critically — the bite from the jalapeños, thereby proving the old Texas maxim that there are few, if any, foods that can't be improved by dumping some jalapeños on it.
I learned of this combination during my wayward youth, from a friend who used to deliver pizzas for a local chain that peddled the cheapest kind of pizza in Austin, TX. He jokingly called it the "stoner special", but I can assure readers that while all pizza tastes better with THC in the veins, there is no need for chemical enhancement to enjoy this particular set of pizza toppings.
Pineapple and jalapeños work on all kinds of pizza, but are, as the name "stoner special suggests", especially ideal for cheap takeout pizza. These ingredients do a lot of work of covering up for the inadequacies of the sauce or dough by hitting your tongue with all their acidic, biting glory. And while we all might love pretending we only eat pizza in some of your nicer brick oven locales, if you have a sports-viewing event or gaming night at your house, and thus need big boxes of cheap delivery pizza, then I highly recommend getting at least one pineapple-and-jalapeño pie. People will wrinkle their noses, but, inevitably, it's the pie that gets eaten up the fastest.
No doubt this combination would work great with fresh pineapple and jalapeños straight from the garden, for those who want to do a food snobby take on a beloved takeout item. But for my money, you can't beat the version you'll get from the takeout joints, which features canned pineapple and pickled jalapeños.
Are there any two foods that are more suited to the canning process than these two? Jalapeños, in particular, may even be improved by being pickled and canned, which tends to take just enough edge off the heat that you can eat even more jalapeños, which is, of course, what any sensible person who eats food wishes to do.
The closest thing I've found to this combination in the higher end pizza market is the "green" pizza at Emily in Brooklyn, which uses a tomatillo sauce to capture that same mix of spice and sweet that makes the stoner special so much fun to eat. I remember distinctly the first time I got this pizza at Emily, and the sense of vindication watching food snob friends house it, enjoying the same combination that has dominated my cheap pizza eating habits for a couple decades now.
So, do yourself a favor and next time you need to order pizza from one of your fast-and-cheap local delivery services — and no use pretending that's not going to happen at some point in the next year — get yourself a pineapple and jalapeño pizza. It's the perfect pie for the hot summer months, when cravings for both spicy food and fruit are at their highest. It's absolutely worth the grief you'll get from the prigs who don't think pineapple belongs on a pizza.