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Pizza Is America’s Favorite Comfort Food

We all have the foods we reach for over and over again, and for many Americans, the answer is pizza.
Pizza Is America’s Favorite Comfort FoodPhoto by Dan Engongoro

You had a rough day. Work was terrible, you forgot your umbrella, you sank calf-deep into a puddle, you dropped your phone at just the right angle to crack the screen, and when you finally got home, your cat was totally judging you. Comfort food to the rescue! And if you’re like most Americans, the comfort food you’re going to reach for is…pizza.

How pizza became America’s favorite comfort food

That’s right, pizza is the most popular comfort food in the U.S., according to a study by Sara Lee, a brand that’s basically made its fortune on providing our country with soothing snacks.

More than half of those surveyed in the poll chose the gooey, cheesy, saucy goodness of pizza as their go-to comfort dish—beating out what we think of as the all-American classic, burgers, which were relegated to the number-two spot. The full top 10 list, in order of preference, is: pizza, burgers, fried chicken, French fries, pasta, macaroni and cheese, grilled cheese, mashed potatoes, chili, and tomato soup.

Pizza’s win is not that surprising. It has its own holiday (National Pizza Day is February 9), and it’s been showing up as the favorite comfort food in polls for the past few years. It’s even earned the superlative of Most Instagrammed Food. Yup, Americans share #pizza more than any other savory dish.

If you’re wondering how a slice would stack up to classic standbys like ice cream and chocolate, rest assured it would still hold its own. In a Harris Poll survey from a few years ago, those dessert foods tied for second place, while pizza still came out on top.

Popular pizza toppings vary across the US

But how do Americans top their top comfort food? The most popular pizza topping in the U.S. (not including the obvious combo of cheese and sauce) is pepperoni, which is so popular, it has its own holiday on September 20, aka National Pepperoni Pizza Day.

The runners-up in that top 10 were (in order of preference): sausage, garlic, olives, mushrooms, onions, chicken, and oregano. Please note that pineapple did not make it onto that list at all, despite Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s recent Instagram vote for it in the great Pineapple on Pizza debate that’s been dividing social media users for years.

In fact, topping preference seems to vary by state. For instance, in a poll conducted by Yelp of the most-ordered pizzas in each state, South Dakota residents turned out to have a thing for chicken bacon ranch pies; while Montana and Oregon were in line with the overall national trend, voting for pepperoni as their No. 1 pick. However, Louisiana, West Virginia, and Wyoming refused to limit themselves to just pepperoni—those states order meat lover’s pies more than any others.

Surprisingly, Hawaiians did not go for “Hawaiian” pineapple-and-ham pizza; their favorite is a caprese pizza. Instead, it was Georgia, New Mexico, and North Dakota that ordered the most Hawaiians.

But no matter how diverse we are in terms of what we choose to put on top of our slices—or whether we choose to order in or make healthier DIY pies at home—there seems to be one thing we Americans can all agree on: Comfort starts with a warm pizza.

Now, if we could just settle the thin crust vs. deep dish controversy…

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