Finally – A Healthier Pepperoni Roll!

pepperoni roll production

Your favorite snack gets a vegan, gluten-free upgrade.

Rising concerns about nutrition have led Marion County to denounce the pepperoni roll. Look forward to a healthier snack with mouthfuls of flavor, texture, and environmentally friendly ingredients!

A cause for concern

The pepperoni roll: it’s our state food and a Marion County invention. Ever since Giuseppe Joseph Argiro combined spiced meat and mild cheese into sweetened bread dough, Appalachian baking has never been the same. That’s something to be proud of, and it’s part of our heritage for a reason.

But we have to go with the times, too. A 2015 Gallup poll gave West Virginia the highest obesity rating in the country. While there are many reasons for that (like fast-food restaurants, soda, and candy), we looked at our own county and saw the pepperoni roll. And we saw a lot.

“Basically, it’s a nutritionist’s nightmare,” said a Marion County Health Department board member, citing all the saturated fats, cholesterol, and sodium in a typical roll.

Such concerns did not exist when Giuseppe Joseph Argiro sold the first snack in 1927. To people from that generation, mozzarella cheese, meat sticks, salt, and added sugar were simple ingredients. Now, nutrition is much more complex.

“Grandma wasn’t always right,” said another health official, referring to the humble recipe. “In fact, while she was feeding you those warm pepperoni rolls, she was also feeding you heart disease and nitrates.”

a display of pepperoni rolls with some cut in half

A new champion

We’re the first to admit our undying love of the pepperoni roll. Who hasn’t splurged on a sackful?

Still, we’ve had a health problem under our very noses for years. Pepperoni rolls are even banned states like Virginia. That’s because — depending on where you live — meat has to be visible and not “hidden” by dough.

It’s a regrettable circumstance, but we found a workable solution that everybody, meat lovers and nutritionists alike, can get their forks around: a gluten-free, vegan pepperoni roll!

Here’s what our team of doctors and bakers devised:

  • Healthier dough. New pepperoni rolls will be made with quinoa flour, arrowroot, and other natural starches.
  • Healthier “meat.” Vegan pepperoni — made with soy protein isolate — replaces the nitrate-rich original.
  • Healthier “mozzarella.” Plant-based cheese is significantly lower in calories.

Marion County bakeries have pledged their support of the improved recipe. By May 2018, traditional pepperoni rolls be phased out of Marion County.pepperoni rolls

Tasting notes

So, what does a gluten-free, vegan pepperoni roll taste like? Staff and volunteers at the Marion County Convention and Visitors Bureau handed out samples to tourists last weekend from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Here’s what folks thought:

  • 10 percent answered “yes” to the question, “does this taste like Grandma’s?”
  • 37 percent approved of the healthy ingredients.
  • 12 percent could recognize it as a pepperoni roll.

Most liked the idea of a healthier snack, although a fair number remained loyal to the original. Some people also complained about the texture. Whereas all-purpose flour has elasticity and yeast rise, gluten-free alternatives do not.

Fortunately, if you’re a die-hard fan of the original pepperoni roll, you have until next year to enjoy your snack.

Do you think a healthy pepperoni roll is a good idea? Why or why not? We’d love to hear from you.

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