Move Over Cheese, Make Room for Vegan Pizza!

When I first switched to a vegan diet the question I got most frequently (and still get, as a matter of fact) was whether or not I missed eating pizza. My answer was that I did, but I also didn’t. What I had always loved about pizza wasn’t the gobs of stringy, melted, gooey cheese (although that was pretty nice), but the combination of doughy-sweet crust, tangy tomato sauce, and the toppings I most love: kalamata olives, or jalapeno peppers, or pineapple. What I missed the least was the heavy, I-ate-something-greasy feeling that pizza always left me with, no matter what type it was (if you have to blot your food with a napkin before you eat it, you know it’s too greasy). Now my family’s favorite night of the weekend food-wise is Friday night, which is pizza night. I have discovered the deliciousness that is vegan pizza and, if I say so myself, can put together a pretty mean one. So before you turn your nose up at the thought of pizza without cheese, give vegan pizza a try and you just might fall in love.

Here are some tips for making vegan pizza–give them a try!

1. Start with your favorite pizza dough. You can make this from scratch, or do as we do on many weekday nights and use a frozen or refrigerated dough ball. Our favorite, taste-wise and budget-wise is Trader Joe’s pizza dough, which you can find in a handy little ball in the refrigerated section with the cheeses. I buy two dough balls for our family, because they are small. One I use to make a strictly vegan pizza for myself and for my daughter, who never liked cheese on her pizza, and the other for my husband and son, who are pizza purists to the core. I also like the dough ball from Whole Foods. It’s larger and can be split into two, but it comes frozen and planning ahead in terms of thawing it in time is often not something I manage to pull off at the end of a busy week!

2. Let the dough warm slightly–it will be easier to work it.

3. Use lots of flour when you roll it out. Sprinkle some in your pizza pans, too. Oh, you don’t have pizza pans? Make sure you buy a couple of these–they aren’t expensive, and will be worth every cent.

3. Have fun with toppings! What I love about vegan pizza-making is that it allows you to get more creative with the toppings. My favorite combination so far is to top my pie with handfuls of fresh arugula, shredded basil leaves, and a sprinkle of capers or olives. I also love jalapeno peppers, mixed in with pineapple chunks, and more fresh basil. Another trick to add protein to your pizza is to grate seasoned tofu over the top of the sauce, just as you would cheese. In the summer you can go crazy with fresh roasted veggies: eggplant, peppers, squash, you name it!

4. Get creative with the sauce. You can make your own, or buy pre-made. I like to mix in some olive tapenade on top of the tomato sauce, with delicious, tangy results. You can also cook veggies right into your own stovetop sauce, or puree veggies into the sauce ahead of time if you’re trying to sneak some veggies into your kids.

5. Have fun, and let go of unreasonable expectations. Vegan pizza will never be quite like the cheese-laden version you grew up on, but it can be the perfect way to celebrate all that is good and tasty and comforting about pizza. Better yet, it’s a healthier way to indulge your pizza craving, while still satisfying that love for tomato sauce, dough, and those toppings you love. So, move over cheese, and make room for the deliciousness that is the perfect vegan pizza pie!

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