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Monday, December 21, 2009

Don't Fear the Pizza: A Vegan Pizza Guide

People always seem surprised that many vegans still eat pizza.  Is it really that weird to get a pizza without cheese?  The Italians don't think so.  Personally, pizza is one of my top 3 go-to options for eating vegan on the road.  Seems like anywhere you go in the US, you're sure to find at least one of the following: Subway, Taco Bell, or a vegan-friendly pizza place such as Little Caesar's or Papa John's (by vegan-friendly, I mean that that the restaurant has vegan sauce and vegan pizza dough).  If you're lucky, you may even be able to get vegan cheese on your pizza (Waldo Pizza in the KC area).  Many websites have conflicting information on what's actually vegan in chain restaurants...so the best policy is to always ask questions before ordering.

But nothing beats fresh homemade pizza!  I always make my own pizza crust using a recipe I've adapted from 1,001 Low-Fat Vegetarian Recipes.  This was actually my first cookbook, which I decided to pick up after going vegetarian at age 15.  I've experimented with this dough a lot over the years...and here's my favorite combination:

Wheat Beer Pizza
Makes one 12" pizza

3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 1/2 teaspoons quick rise yeast
1/2 teaspoon vegan sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup wheat beer, heated to 120°F  (careful if using microwave to heat beer...it heats faster than water)

Combine all-purpose flour, yeast, sugar and sea salt in a medium or large bowl.  Add hot beer, stirring the mixture until smooth.  Gradually mix in enough whole wheat flour to make a soft dough.  Knead dough on a floured surface, adding more flour if it gets too sticky, until dough is smooth and elastic, 3 to 5 minutes. (I like to knead mine inside the large mixing bowl so that I don't have to dirty my counter-top.)  Cover dough (a clean dish towel works nicely) and let rise 15 minutes.  While the dough is rising, I preheat the oven to 425°F.

Spread dough into desired shape on a cookie sheet.  (I've made traditional round pizzas, heart-shaped pizzas, rectangular pizzas, oblong pizzas....get creative if you want!)  Spread on the sauce and add pizza toppings.  Bake pizza 10 to 15 minutes, until crust is lightly browned and vegan cheese (if using) is melted.

  • Not sure which beers are vegan?  Check out Barnivore's Beer List.
  • This pizza works just as well with water instead of beer, but I like the flavor beer adds to the crust.
  • Another baking option is to dust a pizza peel with cornmeal and spread out the pizza on the peel.  After adding sauce and toppings, slide the pizza onto a pizza stone that has been preheated in the oven and bake 10 to 15 minutes.
  • This dough also is great for calzones (one batch of dough makes two calzones).  Divide the dough in half and spread out each half into a circle.  Put sauce, vegan cheese and toppings onto half the pizza, being careful not to put too many toppings.  Pull the plain dough over the top of the side with toppings and pinch in the dough at the edges to close the calzone.  Bake the same way as the pizza, until lightly browned on top.
Pizza doesn't need to get boring...there's plenty of sauce and topping options to keep things interesting! (Pictured above: pineapple and jalapeno pizza with a bit of vegan cheese)

Sauce ideas:
classic red sauce
vegan pesto
vegan barbecue sauce
hot sauce
baba ganoush
mazza or tapenade (olive-based spreads) 
Tofutti better than cream cheese
olive oil mixed with herbs
flavor-infused oils such as garlic or hot pepper
thai peanut sauce

Topping ideas:
bell pepper
roasted red peppers
jalapeno slices
banana peppers
sun-dried tomatoes
minced garlic, fresh or roasted
baked tofu
faux meats (I don't much care for it...but some people like it)

...and I'm sure there's more!  I just can't think of anything else right now...  Have fun!



  1. Thanks for the Barnivore mention! We actually had vegan mini-pizzas tonight (pita bread crust - all we've got at the moment is a toaster oven) with eggplant, red pepper, onion, and zuchinni, topped with Earth Island vegan cheese and accompanied by Sleeman beers. So good...

  2. No prob! You've got a very helpful Web site :-)