I’ve been on a vegan pizza rampage lately – today I even made vegan stromboli stuffed with spinach and homemade cashew cheese! Not only was it delicious but it also got 1/2 pound of spinach into each of our children.
Here are a few things I’ve experimented (successfully) with that I’m about to share with you:
- Homemade cashew cheese for topping pizza – it’s already stretchy and gooey, you don’t have to worry about whether it will melt or not. This is an issue with some store bought vegan mozarella – since they need it harden and then shred….and then it doesn’t melt. I say cut out the middleman (and all the oil)!
- Homemade cashew-tofu ricotta
- Kale oil-free pesto
- Crust tips and tricks
- Stromboli assembly tips (it’s like a stuffed pizza or pizza turnover)
In case you’re wondering, I spent my early years living with my extended Italian-Argentinean family and yes, I love everything to do with pizza! Except all of the oil and processed flour, which is what I’ve been striving to minimize in my experiments.
Here’s the thing: you do not need to go through all of this to get vegan pizza! Even the major chains like Pizza Hut and Domino’s can give you a fair vegan pizza if you just omit the cheese: I admit to ordering them at times and just making some extra veggie toppings. These pizzas are my attempts to mimic some of the more gourmet varieties we’ve had in NYC and growing up, while keeping it as whole foods and oil-free as possible…and I think you’ll agree, they’re pretty amazing!
So, without further ado:
Vegan Pizza Tips and Tricks
As a base, I use this recipe which is pretty much no-fail. Instead of letting the dough rise for the first hour, I preheat an oven to 200 F, turn it off, then let the dough rise in the warm oven for 30 minutes. This works to cut the second (45 minute) rise time in half as well. Some variations:
- Replace the all-purpose flour with spelt flour – this makes a much softer dough that you can’t toss, it needs to be stretched into crust shape! It has a great light texture.
- Replace the whole-wheat flour with spelt flour
- Add 4 tsp matcha powder and dried herbs (garlic, basil, oregano) for a green tea herb crust! This is especially great with kale pesto and cashew ricotta topping!
I highly recommend baking on a pizza stone for a thin crust, or in a large cast iron pan for a pan crust. Just follow the temperature and time recommendations in the above recipe, and remember to preheat the stone or pan for a good 20 minutes before baking to prevent a soggy crust!
The Vegan Cheese
I adapted this recipe from One Green Planet to make a cheese that has less (or no) oil and does not solidify:
- 3/4 cup cashews, soaked for at least two hours or soaked in hot water for 15 minutes
- 1/2 cup aquafaba (liquid from 1 can of chickpeas)
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice or 1/2 fresh lemon, squeezed
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt or Himalayan salt
- 0 – 1 tablespoons coconut oil – the original recipe calls for 5, which is totally unnecessary with the cashews, but if you’re striving for the greasier quality of cow cheese, you can add some
- 11/2 tablespoons cornstarch or tapioca starch
- 1/2 teaspoons agar agar powder (optional)
Blend the cashews with the aquafaba and water first, then add the rest of the ingredients and blend a good bit. Pour into a small saucepan and heat on medium low, whisking when it starts to thicken. When it’s done it will have this consistency:
By the way, Kite Hill makes a great almond ricotta if you’re lazy!
Here, I just mince 1/2 of a yellow onion and saute it with a a little salt. Meanwhile, I put a block of tofu in a mixing bowl and mash it up with a potato masher. Add a couple of tablespoons of nutritional yeast, salt to taste, squeeze a lemon over it, add the onions when you’re done and it makes a great base. To level it up, I sometimes add a little herbed veggie broth or unsweetened vegan yogurt (love the Forager brand cashewgurt).
It’s not hard to make your own sauce, and most recipes and pre-made sauces are vegan by default. I just buy prepared pizza sauce, and try to stick to made in Italy if possible – not Ragu or whatever. I really like this sauce, and they’ve even got it at Walmart!
At this stage of my veganhood – what, 17 years now? – I need a lot of greens on my pizza. I can’t handle eating a ton of flour with no veggies, it just feels wrong. So, here are some things I prep to top pizza with – and sometimes I’ll even just add these to a chain pizza:
- Roasted broccoli. This is by far our fave. I spread out some raw broccoli florets on some parchment, sprinkle with salt, and roast in the oven at 400 F, checking and turning as necessary – I’d check every 15 minutes. It should be slightly browned when ready
- Sauteed onions
- Sliced fresh bell peppers or small sweet peppers
- Sauteed mushrooms
- Pesto instead of tomato sauce
Kale Pesto (oil-free)
- 1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts
- 1 -2 cups of a mix of fresh basil and fresh kale
- juice from one lemon
- 1-3 tsp fresh minced garlic
- salt to taste
- add water as necessary to puree in food processor – a little at a time
You can use any of these components to make calzone, stuffed pizza, or stromboli as well and the best part is that means more vegetables!
- 2 pounds frozen spinach
- 1/2 yellow onion, minced and sauteed
- 1-3 tsp garlic
- garlic powder
- onion powder
I add about 3 inches of water to a large pot, boil, the cook the spinach for about 5 minutes and dump in a colander. Squeeze out the water and add each squeezed chunk of spinach back to the now empty large pot. Add everything else – generous shakes of the garlic and onion powders, cover and let sit for awhile before stuffing the stromboli.
In the photos below, I used 2 pounds of frozen spinach to stuff 4 strombolis made from the crust recipe above. After the first rise, I divide the dough into four portions, and then stuff and roll, dividing the spinach filling into 4 portions:
I let the stromboli rise in a warmed oven for a bit, and then bake as for pizza! Serve with warmed pizza sauce for dipping. I cut it into strips for the kids.
So many wonderful vegan pizza possibilities! Try it and let me know what you think!