Pepperoni Shelf Life: Can It Go Bad?

So, you want to have a cheating day and make pepperoni pizza at home. Since one pan of pizza only calls for less than half of the pack, you end up with some leftover to store. 

Fast forward to two weeks later, and you plan to have a little-get-together with your colleagues. You’re thinking of serving the leftover pepperoni with a cheese platter. However, you’re not quite sure if the dried sausages are still okay. Does pepperoni go bad? 

Or, you are new to pepperoni and wondering which one to pick up at the store, the stick, or the sliced one? Since you’re not going to use it frequently, you want something which can last longer in the fridge. 

Whatever your situation is, knowing the shelf life of pepperoni, going bad with this cured meat, and its proper storage conditions will be useful for you. Sounds interesting? Read on! 

How To Store Pepperoni

Pepperoni is one of the most popular pizza toppings in America. This American version of spicy salami is commonly available in two forms: stick and sliced. 

Sliced pepperoni is always put on the refrigerated shelf. However, with the pepperoni stick, you can find it both on an unrefrigerated and refrigerated shelf. So, what’s the difference, and how does this affect the storage? 

Unrefrigerated pepperoni sticks are shelf-stable and can stay at room temperature as long as it is unopened. Keep it at a cool, dry place such as your pantry or kitchen cabinet. 

Refrigerated pepperoni sticks are perishable. Hence, it requires refrigeration all the time. Sliced pepperoni should also be kept refrigerated. 

After opening, squeeze out the air and close the packaging tightly. If the packaging is not resealable (usually with stick variety), transfer the leftover into a resealable plastic bag or a sealed container. 

If you don’t have them, wrap them in a plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Don’t expose any part of pepperoni, or they’ll dry out quickly. 

Can you freeze pepperoni?

Freezing pepperoni does improve the shelf life, but some producers do not recommend it since the texture might be compromised. If you don’t mind and seek a way to prolong your supply, go on, and see the result for yourself. 

Depending on the brands, a “freeze-by” date may be printed on the package. Freeze the pepperoni before this date to get the best result. 

Freezing a pepperoni stick won’t do any good when it comes to defrosting. Sliced pepperoni freezes well and is easier to thaw. Split the slices into portions or serving size as it comes handy with thawing. Place them in a freezer bag or zip lock bag and keep them frozen for later use.

To defrost it, simply move it to the refrigerator and leave it overnight. Defrosting in the microwave also works well, especially if you’re in a hurry. 

See more: How to freeze deli meat

How Long Does Pepperoni Last?

As with most products, pepperoni also has a date marking. For unrefrigerated products, find a “best before” or “best-by” on the package. While for refrigerated pepperoni, check for a “sell-by” date. 

These dates indicate a period when the products should stay in their best flavor and taste. Like most packaged foods, the real shelf life can be longer than these dates, subject to proper storage. 

Keeping unopened packs in the refrigerator stretches the shelf life for several days to weeks past the date. After opening, the pepperoni stick is generally best to eat within 1 to 3 weeks. This period varies for different brands. Frozen pepperoni is typically useful to keep up to 6 to 9 months. 

Sliced pepperoni lasts shorter than the stick variety. That’s almost a guarantee with any pre-sliced or pre-cut foods since they’re more prone to spoilage. 

Pepperoni stick (unopened, sold unrefrigerated)Best-by dateBest-by date + 2 to 4 weeks6 to 9 months
Pepperoni stick (unopened, sold refrigerated)Sell-by date + 1 week
Pepperoni stick (opened)1 to 3 weeks
Pepperoni stick (opened, sold refrigerated)5 to 7 days
Sliced pepperoni (unopened)Sell-by date + 1 week
Sliced pepperoni (opened)5 to 7 days

It’s rather impossible to precisely estimate pepperoni’s shelf life. Therefore, this table is a general guideline. If the pepperoni has been in the storage for a while, or you’re unsure about its storage, check for any spoilage signs before using it. 

How To Tell If Pepperoni Goes Bad

As we know, pepperoni is a kind of dried sausage. Like with all types of meats, pepperoni will also go bad. 

If pepperoni is not wrapped adequately during storage, it will quickly dry out. Cut the hard part, and the remaining should be fine to eat. 

Let’s start by checking the visual signs. If you see any discolored part or slimy, sticky texture, these are common traits of spoiled pepperoni. 

Fresh pepperoni comes in bright red color. If you see brownish or darker spots, toss it out. Touch this cured meat, and if it feels slimy or sticks to your hand, that’s another sign that pepperoni is no longer safe to eat. 

Spoiled pepperoni smells funny or off. It can also smell rancid since pepperoni is prepared rich in fat content from the meat. If you, by any chance, just bite a slice of pepperoni, and it tastes awful. Don’t bother to eat the rest and discard the leftovers. 

Last but not least, if pepperoni has sat in the fridge for too long than recommended, it’s also better to toss it out. 


What are the ingredients of pepperoni?

Pepperoni is cured meat, typically prepared from a mixture of ground beef and pork. Next to that, chicken is sometimes used as an alternative. The curing process involves the addition of salt (sodium nitrite), paprika powder, flavor enhancer, and preservatives.

BHA, BHT, and citric acid are the most common preservatives used in pepperoni production. BHA and BHT prevent the meat from going rancid, while citric acid preserves its flavor.

Does pepperoni need to be cooked?

No. Pepperoni is a cured meat, so you can eat pepperoni right from the package. Many people love their sandwich with slices of pepperoni.

Is pepperoni high in sodium?

Yes, as with other processed meat, pepperoni is high in sodium from the addition of salt during the curing process. Watch your consumption of cured meats, particularly if you have particular health conditions (*). 

Is pepperoni gluten-free?

Generally, pepperoni is not prepared with gluten-containing ingredients. Some brands label the package as gluten-free. To be entirely sure, check the allergen information on the label or consult the manufacturer’s website.

What are substitutes for pepperoni?

If you’re looking for the closest taste, try salami or sausage. But, if you’re looking for healthier alternatives, consider using ground chicken or turkey.

Final Thoughts

Pepperoni is cured and dried meat. It is generally sold as a stick and in slices. Each type requires different handling and has a different shelf life. No matter which pack you buy, pepperoni goes bad eventually. 

Keep unopened pepperoni similarly to how it’s stored in the store, refrigerated or unrefrigerated. After opening, pepperoni always needs refrigeration. If you don’t plan to use the leftover or the “best by” date is approaching, consider freezing it to prolong the shelf life for several months.

Up Next: How Long Does Deli Meat Last?

pepperoni shelf life

*Photo by AndreySt/depositphotos

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