There’s no denying pizza is the perfect meal on its own — just ask anyone what their favorite food is, and chances are, they’ll say it’s pizza. And what’s not to love? With stretchy cheese, warm crust, flavorful sauce and all your favorite toppings, nothing beats settling in with your favorite people and a six-pack of beer and demolishing a whole pie.
But things get a little more complicated when dessert enters the fold. How do you know what dessert pairs with pizza? Something fruity? Something cheesy or chocolatey?
Yes, some people eat cheese for dessert or feel satisfied with a glass of wine to wind down the night. Others say the only foods that go with pizza are wings, breadsticks or — even better — more pizza. But if you’re already indulging in deep-dish heaven or thin-crust paradise, why not lean into deliciousness and finish off the meal with a bang?
Next time you’re on hosting duty for pizza night, impress your guests with a dessert spread that hits all the sweet spots. Here are some of our favorite pizza and dessert pairings.
Choosing the Best Dessert to Pair With Your Pizza
When it comes to desserts, your choice generally comes down to cravings, not so much what you’re missing from a nutritional point of view. Here’s a little more about the why — yes, there’s a “why” that extends beyond taste — of dessert.
Everyone has a different opinion on what the best desserts are, as well as whether to eat them after indulging in pizza. The idea of “dessert” is actually to help you digest a meal, especially if you’ve ingested something heavy — think multi-course meals or a giant helping of pasta.
Seasonality might also come into play. In the summer, people tend to favor fruit flavors and lighter offerings like gelato, sorbet or frozen yogurt. On the flip side, fall and winter months bring in the desire to go a little more decadent, as well as indulge in comforting flavors like pumpkin, apple, chocolate and cinnamon. Richer, more indulgent treats work better in colder months, too, though there are always some exceptions to the rule.
And, it all depends on what kind of toppings you’ve decided to adorn your pizzas with. Fresher ingredients like seasonal veggies work best with lighter fare — fruit tarts, sorbet or a bowl of balsamic-glazed berries. Meaty pies will better complement desserts like cannoli, chocolate or cheesecake — all of which have a creamy quality.
So, what desserts go with pizza? Don’t feel like you have to keep things firmly in the Italian sphere if you’re serving pizza. Pizzerias these days are serving up all kinds of less authentic, but still delicious, offerings like barbecue chicken pizza or fusion pizzas. Desserts should enjoy that same flexibility and creative spirit, too.
Our Fruity Faves
Fruit-based desserts are the perfect balance of post-pizza indulgence and a light, refreshing taste. Plus, you’ll have no problem finding a tasty treat to celebrate the end of your meal with so many different fruit desserts to choose from.
Here are some of our favorite fruits to pair with pizza for the ultimate sweet-savory combination.
- Pineapple: Does pineapple belong on a pizza? No matter which camp you fall in, one thing we can all agree on is that pineapple is right at home in a dessert. Compared to other fruits, pineapple is more acidic, making it the perfect choice for those who want to cut through the sugary sweetness of traditional desserts.
- Bananas: In desserts, bananas have a strong presence, yet a lightness that allows them to complement ingredients like rum or chocolate, as well as a mélange of tropical flavors.
- Berries: Strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, blueberries — no matter your favorite, they are a juicy, sweet fruit pairing that is also incredibly versatile and easily adaptable to fit your favorite recipes. Plus, berries naturally pair well with cheese!
On top of all that, some fruits — including those listed above — even have high levels of enzymes that can aid in digestion and help you feel your best.
Here are some of our other favorite fruity dessert options.
Sorbet is both a refreshing post-pizza dessert and a killer palate cleanser. After a hefty helping of pepperoni and all that extra cheese, nothing beats sorbet as the ultimate clean slate. Lemon boosts salivation and clears out the taste buds. If lemon isn’t your preferred flavor choice, try one of your favorite berries or pineapple — whatever hits the spot.
Individual fruit tarts are delicious and a lot of fun because although they look like little pies, you can top them however you want — just like pizza! The fundamentals of a fruit tart include a flaky crust, decadent pastry cream filling and a colorful array of fruit to top it off. As long as you have those three things, you are free to be as creative as you’d like. You could whip up a sticky fruit glaze for the top of your tart or use fruits that create an interesting pattern or shape when laid on top. You also don’t have to stick to a single fruit topping — choose as many or as few fruits as you’d like.
Banana splits might contain ice cream, but they also have bananas and cherries — that technically makes them a fruit dessert, right? We’re going to go with “yes.” Similar to pizza, banana splits give you the freedom to mix and match your favorite toppings, like nuts, whipped cream, chocolate sauce or coconut flakes. If you’re hosting a get-together, you could even turn your banana splits into a fun dessert bar, so each person can create their ideal masterpiece.
A trifle is an English dessert consisting of several stacked layers of fruit, soaked sponge cake or ladyfingers and some type of cream or custard. You’ll want to serve trifles in clear glass bowls, so everyone can enjoy the visual contrast of each ingredient. They are one of the best desserts that go with pizza because you can easily adapt a trifle recipe to fit any occasion, group or season.
Summer trifles might include favorites like kiwi, strawberry and blueberries, while an autumn trifle could have more indulgent fruit toppings, like spiced pears and apples.
Unpopular opinion? Maybe. But sometimes, all you need for dessert is the exact opposite of what you ate for dinner. A little cheesed out? Hit the fruit bowl. Too much meat? Get some berries on the case.
There are plenty of ways to make plain fruit even tastier. Chop up several types of fruit and make a colorful fruit salad, or toss a few slices of pineapple and mango on the grill for an exciting, smoky flavor. You could roast fruit in a balsamic glaze, which is both simple and sophisticated.
You could also dress up a scoop of vanilla ice cream with some berries and a hint of herbs, or cut some watermelon and strawberries and enjoy with a warm cup of tea. While some people may scoff at the idea of eating fruit for dessert, plenty of people will appreciate the boost of freshness — along with an extra dose of antioxidants and vitamin C.
Classic Italian Desserts — a Winning Pizza Pairing Every Time
Honestly, when guests think of pizza, they’re probably thinking Italian — which is never a mistake. If you’re serving pizza, the Italian bakery is an excellent place to start thinking about dessert. Classic Italian desserts include tiramisu, cannoli, zeppoles and gelato — perennial choices that provide the perfect ending to a delightful meal.
Without further ado, here are some of our favorite options when it comes to Italian desserts. We may be a little biased, as we proudly feature some of these picks on Giordano’s dessert menu — but it’s safe to say, there’s a good reason.
Tiramisu is a creamy dessert made from espresso-soaked ladyfingers, topped with whipped cream and mascarpone cheese. This dreamy dish isn’t for those on the light-and-lean plan, but we think it makes the ideal way to wrap up a pizza dinner. You can serve it with a glass of dessert wine or a shot of espresso, too.
Sometimes, similarities attract. Why not finish off the evening with a nod toward pizza? Cannoli is a simple-seeming dessert with a tube-shaped construction of fried dough filled with ricotta cheese, plus chocolate and nuts. It’s a dessert take on pizza — and, of course, since cheese is the star of the show with this dessert, it’s a safe bet that it makes an excellent pizza pairing.
Zeppoles are an Italian take on traditional doughnuts. While doughnuts typically consist of either a yeast-based or cake batter dough, zeppoles come from a light and airy fried pâte à choux dough. You can eat your zeppoles plain, or stuffed with cream, custard or fruit. For a traditional zeppole, serve with a dusting of powdered sugar on top.
If you want a pizza pairing that always hits the mark, gelato is a pie’s best friend. The humble gelato shop has risen in profile over the past several years, and we’re not mad about it. Between the hundreds and hundreds of flavors and the decadent density of the dessert, there’s no better palate cleanser than gelato after you’ve scarfed down a meat-lover’s slice — or three.
Rather than scooping up plain old ice cream, go all-in on the Italian cuisine and serve the good stuff. Gelato is thicker and denser than regular ice cream, due to the higher milk content and the lower proportion of fatty eggs and cream. That way, more of the flavor — whether espresso, raspberry or mint chocolate chip — shines through.
And hey, nothing beats a little stroll down to the gelato shop after a night of delicious, but filling, meal of pizza.
It’s a Piece of Cake — or Pie
After a cheese-laden serving of pizza, it’s time for something different. Having your cake and eating it too after a round of cheesy, meaty, veggie goodness can’t be wrong.
While chocolate may feel a little rich after such a big meal, we say go for it.
We’ve seen many a trendy dessert grace the dinner table and our social media feeds alike. But one thing that never goes out of fashion is the classic chocolate cake. We prefer ours with hot fudge and a scoop of vanilla ice cream, just as nature intended.
A flourless chocolate cake drizzled with fudge or topped with berries is always a welcome choice. An option like this provides some contrast with just about any pizza, and the richness of the chocolate means a small slice will take care of those chocolate cravings.
Cheesecake is another delicious option for those times when you want that unique cheese-meets-sweet combination. It’s super-decadent, but this dessert can hold its own in a sea of intense flavors — from beers and Buffalo wings to the main event.
If you’ve got pals over for Friday night pizza, whipping out a cheesecake is sure to delight the masses. Top it with strawberries or raspberries to freshen things up, or add a drizzle of fudge for something more even more indulgent.
Pizza and dessert pie make ideal companions. In warmer months, the perfect pies are those made with lemon, lime, rhubarb, strawberries or blueberries. Cooler months call for traditional flavors like apple, pumpkin, pecan and cranberry.
If you need easy desserts for a pizza party, individual handheld pies are a great option. You can offer several different flavors, so nobody has to make the impossible decision between their favorites.
Be it fruity, chocolatey or festive, keep the tasty crust and toppings — we mean fillings! — coming for dessert.
What if the perfect dessert after pizza is…more pizza? No, we don’t mean going back in for seconds and thirds — though we don’t blame you for doing so. We’re talking about delicious dessert pizza.
At Giordano’s, we are big fans of this creative take on dessert because it not only resembles our favorite food, but also because there are endless different ways to make the perfect dessert pizza.
Some of our favorite recipes include a crust made out of cookie dough, pie shells or cinnamon roll dough and then topped with cream cheese, nut butter, marshmallow, chocolate sauce or frosting. You can top a dessert pizza with anything you’d like.
Stick to a theme, like s’mores or peanut butter and chocolate, or treat it like a tart and add your favorite fruits. Or, if you crave simplicity, skip the toppings altogether — just like ordering an all-cheese pizza!
Many of the desserts we mentioned aren’t necessarily ideal digestifs. Topping cheese and bread off with more of the same — plus a little sugar and chocolate — sounds kind of nuts.
But, that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the more decadent dessert options, even if you have had a generous portion of pizza. Our recommendation? Order up a bunch of desserts to share with the group — cannoli, brownies, cookies or even a few pieces of cake. You might also serve delicious drinks that’ll help all those big eaters make room for more.
Drinks — both alcoholic and non — make a great addition to your lineup, especially as you enter the dessert part of the evening. Here are some drink options that’ll help you find the extra space in your stomach to enjoy the sweeter things in life.
There’s something behind the Italian tradition of drinking coffee after a big meal. Coffee provides a metabolism boost and keeps the system flowing, so to speak. It can also deliver that extra rush of energy you might need after indulging in several slices of deep-dish pizza. Coffee has the benefit of tasting amazing with, well, just about anything.
For a strong, bold flavor, brew up a pot of your favorite bean blend and serve black. For something a little more dessert-like, consider making a foamy, at-home cappuccino or a blended iced coffee with mocha sauce, caramel and whipped cream.
If coffee isn’t your thing, green or black tea can have a similar effect. The caffeine works to stimulate your metabolism, but tea is slightly less potent than its bean-based counterpart. Additionally, drinking herbal teas like ginger, mint or chamomile can help calm the digestive tract — no caffeine required. There are even dessert-inspired tea flavors to choose from, like vanilla-almond, chocolate and cake.
Looking for an adults-only pizza and dessert pairing? Dessert cocktails combine the pleasure of a post-dinner drink with the sweet indulgence of a dessert. Some of our favorite dessert cocktails include:
- Martinis flavored with chocolate, caramel or pumpkin spice. You can line the rim of the glass with dessert toppings, like sugar or sprinkles.
- Dessert shots that combine alcohol with pudding, whipped cream and decadent drizzles.
- Ice cream floats with fizzy prosecco, fruit and a scoop of fresh vanilla ice cream.
- Traditional cocktails made with flavored liqueurs, like hazelnut, almond or raspberry.
With a little creativity, you can even adapt your favorite dessert recipe into a cocktail. The best part? You can leave out the alcohol if you’d like, and these dessert drinks will still taste just as delicious!
Digestifs are a little bit different than dessert cocktails, as their primary purpose is to aid in digestion. They include beverages like fortified wines, such as port or sherry, as well as things like brandy, Kahlua, Jägermeister and a whole lot more.
Of course, just because they help you digest your meal doesn’t mean they can’t taste good. Digestifs tend to incorporate things like herbs and spices, a dose of sweetness or a hint of something bitter.
The key to picking the right digestifs lies in the flavor combinations of your desserts. If you’re serving cheesy desserts like cannoli or tiramisu, go for contrast with citrusy limoncello. You might also try complementing the nut and caramel flavors with a tawny port.
More Than Just Pizza — Order up Your Favorite Pie and a Little Something for Later
Did you know you can order pizza and desserts at the same time? Check out our menu and choose from a selection of Giordano’s Italian faves, arriving fresh alongside your favorite pie. And while we know you’ll be pretty darn stuffed after wolfing down a few pieces of Chicago deep dish, we also know there’s always room for dessert!