by Chelsea Low
Pizza, generally regarded as one of the stereotypically unhealthiest foods, turns healthy with a vegan makeover. Whether you’re trying to lose weight for summer, get healthy, or enjoy your favorite foods at a lower cost of calories, this pizza alternative is far more delicious and nutritious than its meaty counterpart. I promise that after trying this version, you’ll never go back to the bland, nutritionally void diet buster. Here, I’ll take you through the steps to create the perfect vegan delight that tastes as sinful as it is healthy.
Step 1: Start with the dough, of course! Go for whole wheat dough and roll it out into a thin crust. If you’re feeling adventurous or if you love to cook, I recommend making your own pizza dough (there are a million recipes for reference online), but if you’re looking for a quicker alternative, I recommend the ones sold at Trader Joe’s. I believe Whole Foods also makes whole wheat pizza dough that would certainly be worth a try.
Step 2: Next is sauce. Sauce also has the choice of the homemade route or the premade route. Again, I would highly recommend making it yourself, but if time is an issue or if cooking isn’t your thing, Trader Joe’s and Raley’s both sell great pizza sauces to try. If you’re going to make it yourself, start with a simple oregano sauce (store-bought, or self-made if you’re feeling really crazy), then, while simmering on the stove, gradually thicken it with either cornstarch or the thickener of your choice until it’s regular pizza sauce consistency. As a result, the oregano sauce adds the perfect punch of herby spice to the foundation of your creation.
Step 3: Cheese on a vegan pizza sounds like a bit of a paradox. But soy cheese offers an oozing alternative to the real thing and often can have just as much flavor. The only thing I’d caution against is the type of cheese you use. Do a little research and find the types that melt the best.
Again, Trader Joe’s is top in this category too. I love their regular soy mozzarella—I dare you to find a difference between it and real mozzarella—but recently I’ve been loving their other variety of mozzarella which comes shredded in a bag. Not only is it way more convenient and a huge time-saver (shredding cheese is like pulling teeth to me) but I actually prefer the more complex, nuttier cheese flavor. It definitely takes my pizza from run-of-the-mill to gourmet with just one tiny tweak. If you’re looking for something even more gourmet, I’ve heard nothing but rave reviews about Daiya cheese, and I know for a fact that it is excellent on pizza (the one time I’ve been lucky enough to devour it is on the unforgettable vegan pizza at Hot Italian in midtown). It is off-the-charts expensive though, so if you have extra money for gourmet vegan cheese, this is the one to buy. Otherwise, Trader Joe’s is the way to go (then again, when is it not?).
If “fake” vegan versions of products are not your thing, forgoing the cheese is an option. I used to do this, and it tasted fine, but I would recommend trying soy cheese even just once. I promise the authentic flavor and natural texture will surprise you!
Step 4: Now for the fun part—toppings. There are a couple categories for this: the veggies and the meats.
For veggies, I personally like the classics—olives, tomatoes, mushrooms—mixed with a couple of twists—artichoke hearts, spinach—for the most interesting combination. In particular, I like to be extremely liberal in my spinach application because it shrivels up in the oven, so a lot goes a little way (if you’re like me and you love it, you can completely cover your pizza with spinach and still not overdo it). I’ve also heard of and/or tasted squash, zucchini, bell peppers, onions, eggplant, and jalapenos on pizza, and they are all excellent options.
You’re probably surprised to hear about a meat topping on a vegan pizza, but again, vegan versions save the day. Obviously if you’re not into vegan versions of non-vegan food, skip this step, but I love Tofurkey sausage on pizza. Thinly sliced and placed sparingly over the pizza adds a nice spice and is a healthy alternative to greasy pepperoni or the traditional ground sausage.
Step 5: Once you’re satisfied with your array of yummy toppings, drizzle your pizza with olive oil and pop it in the oven for about 20 minutes at 425 degrees.
Note: the time and oven temperature are very relative because everyone’s oven is different and, depending on your dough, it could cook faster or slower. Check your pizza every few minutes or so to ensure it doesn’t burn, and take it out once the crust is lightly browned.
Step 6: Finally, once your pizza is out of the oven, I love to top mine with arugula, another favorite leafy green of mine. You could always cook this on top of your pizza, but I prefer the fresher, more organic taste of the raw arugula melting together with the gooey, warm pizza. This final topping really adds a luxurious finishing touch and a fantastic juxtaposition.
Step 7: Devour your healthy creation!
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