When you first went vegan, you probably thought about all the food you had to give up: hamburgers, steak, sushi… the list goes on and on. Fortunately, more and more people are going vegetarian or vegan every day (or are at least more health-conscious), so most brands and restaurants are now finding ways to accommodate this healthy diet.
Thankfully, pizza is one of the easiest dishes to tweak, since it only requires a few changes to make it completely vegan-friendly. This is why it’s easier to find vegan pizza alternatives than any other kind of food.
What Makes a Pizza Vegan
Everyone’s definition of a vegan differs very slightly, but generally, most vegans follow the same principle. Anything that is a meat product (e.g. beef, pork, fish, chicken) or derivative (e.g. dairy, eggs) is off-limits.
Pizzas are incredibly versatile, so vegans can still enjoy a slice without guilt. This could be as easy as choosing all-veggie toppings and not adding cheese (or just using a vegan cheese instead). However, it’s not always this simple, since crusts or sauces could also contain animal products.
Pizza crusts are usually vegan, to begin with since they mostly contain flour, yeast, salt, sugar, water, and oil. However, some restaurants will use animal fat (in lieu of oil) or honey (instead of sugar) or add non-vegan ingredients like parmesan cheese to the crust for added flavor.
If you’re ordering from a pizza place, whether big or small, don’t be scared to ask about what they put in their pizzas just to be sure. But the best way (and perhaps the only way) to guarantee that you’re getting a completely vegan pizza is by making it yourself at home.
Make a Vegan Pizza
Even with the increase of interest in veganism, vegan food is still comparatively much harder to find than non-vegan ones. Restaurants and grocery store brands have done a wonderful job of trying to include vegan-friendly options in their menu and product line-ups, but there’s still a lot of food we’re missing out on because we can’t find a good vegan substitute.
Pizza is one of those dishes that you can easily recreate at home with a little time, patience, and practice. While everyone has their own idea of what makes a great pizza, the base components usually remain the same: a crust, sauce, and toppings. The categories are pretty broad, so you can have a cauliflower pizza crust or even a dessert pizza topped with chocolates and fruits. A pizza is only as limited as your imagination...or your diet.
Traditional pizza crusts are, thankfully, already vegan, so you don’t have to spend much time tweaking recipes. Most crusts require a wheat or grain-derived flour, but you can always go for other (sometimes healthier) flour alternatives such as rice flour, almond flour, or even cauliflower. Each different kind of flour or pizza base has its own taste, texture, and consistency, and some are better at mimicking traditional pizza crusts than others.
In order to create a homemade vegan pizza from scratch, all you need to do is mix your flour of choice with salt and oil. Adding a yeast mixture (yeast and sugar dissolved in water) is totally optional, but it will give you a nice fluffy yet crunchy texture. You can also add seasonings such as onion, garlic, and other herbs to add that extra kick to your vegan pizza crust.
Once you’ve combined all of these ingredients, you have to knead the pizza dough until it’s smooth and not too sticky. If you’ve added yeast, you might need to let the dough rest until it has expanded. When it’s ready, all you have to do is roll out the pizza into a circle (or whatever shape, really - totally up to you!) and bake it, without toppings, until the crust turns a golden brown.
Pre-baking the crust (or baking it without the toppings) is a very important step in making sure you have evenly and thoroughly-cooked dough. This helps prevent any sogginess and rawness that can occur if you bake the crust with all the toppings on it.
Choose Your Toppings
Now comes the fun part - add all the toppings you want! Usual sauces are tomato or cream-based, but you can also just drizzle some olive oil. You can get these pre-packaged at a local grocery store, or make one at home.
Vegan cheese doesn’t melt as well as the real thing, so make sure to grate it before putting it on the pizza. You could also skip the cheese entirely - your pizza will still be super mouthwatering and delicious.
There are so many delicious toppings to choose from. It’s less of “can I put this on my pizza” and more of “SHOULD I put this on my pizza” (we’re looking at you, pineapples). The usual veggie pizza toppings include peppers, olives, spinach, tomato, garlic, mushrooms, onions, and so much more.
You can even get meat substitutes if you want something hearty, but don’t want to cheat on your vegan diet. These might not taste exactly like the meat you were used to eating before but combined with all the other toppings on your pizza, they’re sure to satisfy your pizza cravings.
Being vegan today is much easier than it was ten or even just five years ago. Because more and more people are joining the vegan lifestyle, many brands and restaurants have figured out ways to accommodate our healthy diets. While it still requires some sacrifice, we now have a lot of options for vegan-friendly alternatives to our favorite foods.
For your pizza cravings, tons of big-name chains like Pizza Hut, Papa John’s, and California Pizza Kitchen offer vegan pizza crusts and veggie toppings. However, you will be most confident in the quality of a homemade vegan pizza. In just a few easy steps (and under an hour - less time than it takes for pizza to be delivered to your doorstep), you too can have a personalized pie that is healthy, clean, and guilt-free.