Homemade Vegan Pizza

img_6339When I made the decision to go vegan more than a year ago, I thought that truly delicious pizza – one of my favorite comfort foods – had suddenly become a thing of the past. I was willing to give it up, though, because I feel strongly in my convictions to maintain a vegan lifestyle; however, I was delighted to learn that I didn’t have to. After many months of tinkering around with different recipes and trials on our weekly pizza nights, I am proud to share with you what I think is a pretty damn good vegan pizza. It possesses all of the comfort and flavor of a traditional pizza while being 100% compassionate toward animals and the environment and completely free of cholesterol.

This recipe has a lot of wiggle room for experimentation with different toppings, so feel free to vary your own version as you wish. It takes a bit of time and patience, but it is fully worth it. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

The Crust

A quick internet search will yield pizza crust recipes aplenty, but my tried and true favorite is Bobby Flay’s Pizza Dough. It is simple, rises relatively quickly, and is easy to roll to the thickness (or thinness) of your liking. One batch makes two roughly 14-inch pizzas crusts.

Ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 to 4 cups bread flour, plus more for rolling (Chef’s Note: Using bread flour will give you a much crisper crust. If you can’t find bread flour, you can substitute it with all-purpose flour which will give you a chewier crust.)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 envelope instant dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups water, 110 degrees F
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus 2 teaspoons

1. Combine the bread flour, sugar, yeast and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and combine. While the mixer is running, add the water and 2 tablespoons of the oil and beat until the dough forms into a ball. If the dough is sticky, add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together in a solid ball. If the dough is too dry, add additional water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead into a smooth, firm ball.

2. Grease a large bowl with the remaining 2 teaspoons olive oil, add the dough, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put it in a warm area to let it double in size, about 1 hour. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide it into 2 equal pieces. Cover each with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap and let them rest for 10 minutes.

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This ball of pizza dough will rise to about double its size after sitting, covered, for an hour.

The Sauce

A flavorful pizza sauce can be the difference between a mediocre pizza and a really great one. While you can purchase a ready-made sauce from the grocery store (just be sure to check that it’s vegan), making your own is quite simple and allows you to tailor is just how you like it. Mine brings together the flavors of roasted garlic, basil, and oregano, with the sweetness of sun-dried tomatoes. This recipe will make enough sauce for two 12-13 inch pizzas.

Ingredients:

  • 10 ounces tomato paste
  • 4 cloves of crushed, roasted garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Mix all ingredients together and set aside.

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Our favorite pizza sauce recipe is packed with flavor.

Toppings

The sky’s the limit when it comes to vegan pizza toppings. Some of our favorite salad ingredients double as perfect pizza toppings, while a few extra special items can really take things to the next level.

Here are some of my favorite toppings:

  • sliced eggplant (pre-bake it at 350 degrees F for about 15 minutes to ensure that it is fully cooked on your pizza)
  • sliced bell peppers of all colors
  • caramelized onions
  • sliced mushrooms
  • chopped artichoke hearts
  • sliced olives
  • sliced vegan salami
  • grated or homemade vegan cheese*
  • nutritional yeast
  • roasted red peppers
  • sliced pepperocino peppers
  • fresh spinach leaves

Feel free to omit or add any other toppings that you like! The key is to make sure you do not overload your pizza; otherwise, the crust will become soggy and the veggies will not be cooked through.

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A sampling of some of my favorite pizza toppings.

* With so many grate-able, meltable vegan cheeses on the market today (my favorite so far is Violife), adding cheese to your vegan pizza takes no more time than adding real cheese would. However, if you are inclined to make your own cheese, as I sometimes do, I highly recommend this recipe for a stretchy, meltable buffalo-style “mozzarella” which uses cashews as its base.

Putting it All Together

1. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees Fahrenheit (260 degrees C). If you have a pizza stone, I highly recommend using it. Preheat it along with the oven so that it is very hot when you put the pizza on it.

2. Roll out one ball of dough into a roughly 14-inch circle on a well-floured surface, taking care to turn it frequently so that it doesn’t stick. Once the dough is rolled out, transfer it to a lightly floured sheet of parchment paper or aluminum foil. I do this by carefully folding it into quarters and then unfolding it again on the parchment paper or foil. You may need to roll it a bit once you have transferred it to perfect the shape.

3. Spread half of the pizza sauce evenly over the crust, stopping about 1/2 an inch from the edge.

3. Add your toppings. Again, be careful not to overload the pizza, as it will become soggy and will not be fully cooked through.

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This prepared pizza is ready for the oven.

4. Very carefully, transfer the pizza (keeping it on the parchment paper or foil) to the pre-heated pizza stone. This may be a two-person job, to ensure that the pizza does not collapse.

5. Bake at 500 degrees F for about 15 minutes, until the crust is golden brown and the cheese is bubbly. Remove the pizza from the oven and slide it off of the pizza stone and onto a wire rack or cutting board. Let it stand for about 10 minutes.

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Fresh from the oven!

6. Cut and serve your homemade vegan pizza with any last-minute toppings, like crushed red pepper or fresh avocado slices. Enjoy!

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Another variation on the same recipe, this time with homemade vegan “mozzarella” and fresh spinach leaves.