Wondering if pizza is vegan? Here's what you need to know to pick out the perfect plant-based pizza for you...
Pizza is a staple food for pretty much any occasion or stage of life. It’s a perfect snack for a sleepover, is equally good as a pick-me-up on a bad day as it is for a celebration, and makes for a fun family activity when building your own pizza.
Personally, I served pizza to evening guests at my wedding, and a Dominos delivery was the first thing I ate after bringing my newborn daughter home from the hospital – it’s a food that really does work for any occasion!
But does going vegan mean that we have limited options when it comes to pizza?
Let’s explore the question “Is pizza vegan?”, including the reasons why pizzas aren’t vegan, and how we can make our favourite pizzas fully plant-based.
Vegetable bases and raw vegan toppings can be delicious, but they're not the only pizzas vegans can eat! Photo © Iblinova via Adobe Stock
Is pizza vegan?
Usually, pizzas come smothered in cheese, so it seems pretty obvious that pizzas aren’t traditionally vegan, but did you know that simply asking for no cheese on your pizza isn’t always enough to make it vegan?
A lot of commercially-produced pizza doughs can contain whey powder, and some doughs may be enriched with milk or eggs. Even the sauce can contain finely chopped meats or anchovies in rare cases.
More commonly, we need to be on the lookout for other hidden ingredients, like honey in BBQ sauce, or garlic butter used as a drizzle or brushed onto the pizza crust.
In terms of toppings, the sky’s the limit with pizzas (although pineapple is where some people draw the line).
Watch out for hidden animal ingredients, like a coating of garlic butter on the crust. Photo © Evelien via Adobe Stock
Meat toppings frequently feature on pizzas, but plenty of vegan-friendly toppings are available.
Veggies are the most common topping, like olives, mushrooms, and peppers. However stores and restaurants now offer more exciting toppings like plant-based pepperoni.
Plant-based pizzas are not a modern invention. The Pizza Marinara, topped with only tomato sauce, extra virgin olive oil, oregano, and garlic, has been enjoyed since the 18th Century.
In more recent times, the availability of vegan pizzas has really taken off, with a wide choice of flavours available from shops, takeaways, and restaurants.
Vegan pizza bases
Vegan pizza bases don’t need to be made of cauliflower and kale – although some low carb veg-based options can be pretty tasty.
It’s perfectly easy to make or buy a vegan pizza base to build your own plant-based pizza.
Plenty of pre-made pizza doughs and bases are vegan friendly. Photo courtesy of The Northern Dough Co via Facebook
A standard pizza dough is made with strong white flour, yeast, sugar, salt, water, and oil. The ingredients are combined, kneaded, and left to rise before being stretched out into a toppable pizza base.
But if you don’t have time for that, pre-made pizza bases or dough can be bought from most supermarkets.
Just watch out for hidden animal products in pizza bases, as some brands contain whey.
Vegan cheese for pizzas
It goes without saying that cheese is not vegan, but that doesn’t mean we vegans can’t have any sort of cheese on our pizza.
Pizza Marinara is naturally vegan, traditionally topped with only marinara sauce, oregano, garlic, and oil. Photo © seba tataru via Adobe Stock
As much as a cheeseless pizza can be tasty if done right, it’s basically bread with vegetables on top – definitely no substitute for a greasy takeaway if that’s what you’re in the mood for!
There are plenty of options when it comes to adding vegan cheese to your pizza.
If you’re making it at home, it could be as simple as grating up your favourite store-bought vegan cheese and sprinkling it over your pizza.
Mozzarella fans could choose a grated mozzarella-style cheese, slices of an artisan ‘buffalo mozzarella’ dupe, or even a liquid cheese alternative to emulate a more traditional Italian-style pizza.
For a lighter, less processed alternative, a sprinkle of nutritional yeast can add a cheesy flavour to pizza.
Miyoko's has launched a convincing vegan mozzarella that comes in liquid form. Photo courtesy of Miyoko's via Facebook
Vegan pizza toppings
Plenty of traditional pizza toppings are naturally vegan, like tomato, olives, peppers, mushrooms and yes, even pineapple.
But ex-meat feast fans won’t be disappointed in vegan options either.
Most supermarkets offer plant-based meat alternatives that go great on pizza.
Shredded chicken-style chunks and sliced sausages or hot dogs make great pizza toppings, and sliced vegan ham takes on a bacon-like taste and texture when cooked, and these products have been available to top homemade vegan pizzas for a while.
More recently, however, we’ve seen a boom in vegan products, and plant-based pepperoni, chorizo, and meatballs are increasingly available to elevate a vegan ‘meat’ lover’s pizza.
Meat-style vegan pizza toppings are growing in popularity and availability. Photo © Roman Rodionov via Adobe Stock
Plant-based pizza fans are also spoiled for choice when it comes to pre-made pizzas, as both supermarkets and restaurants now offer increased ranges of toppings.
From basic falafel and houmous frozen pizzas to decadent ‘pepper-phony’ feasts from popular delivery chains, there are vegan pizzas available for all tastes.
Step by step: How to make your own vegan pizza
There are loads of vegan pizza recipes you could try, but if you fancy getting creative and coming up with your own topping combinations these simple steps will cover all the ‘bases’ when building your own dream vegan pizza.
1. Decide on your dough
Buy a base or dough, or make your own from scratch. Image © VFL
This step is easy with a store-bought base (and certain brands will include a sauce, so you can skip the next step, too.)
Otherwise, you’ll need to make a dough for your base. This may need to be done in advance to give the dough a chance to rise or rest.
Shape your dough as desired. Pizzas can be circular, oval, square, or even heart-shaped. For a Chicago deep dish pizza, line a deep pan with the dough to give plenty of space to fill with sauce, toppings, and cheese.
For something different, opt for a cauliflower crust or even a raw vegan base like in our raw vegan Greek salad pizza recipe.
2. Spread your sauce
A different sauce can completely change the flavour of your pizza. Image © VFL
You can buy pre-made pizza sauces, and most are accidentally vegan.
But if you really want to impress, make your own sauce from scratch. This means you can add as much flavour as you like at this stage, or even make it spicy, if you like that sort of thing.
To try something completely different, stray from tomatoes and use a less traditional sauce for your pizza.
BBQ sauce is a popular option, or you could top your base with a vegan green pesto-based sauce, or a cashew-based cream like in this Romanesco pizza recipe.
3. Choose your cheese
Choose your favourite cheese for flavour and meltability. Image © VFL
This is where your vegan pizza really comes into its own. There are lots of options, as mentioned above, and you can choose your favourite based on flavour, meltability, and nutritional value.
And don’t forget the four cheese pizzas – a mixture of different vegan cheeses can create an especially flavourful and rich vegan pizza.
The amount of cheese you choose can also be important. Certain vegan cheeses can feel a little sticky when melted, so you may want to use these sparingly.
But, if you love your chosen cheese melted you may even want to add an extra sprinkle of cheese after the toppings for even more cheesiness.
4. Throw on your toppings
From simple pizzas to extravagant creations, vegans have plenty of options for pizza toppings. Image © VFL
From a simple Margherita to a mountain of toppings, there are no limits to what you could top your pizza with, so feel free to get creative with it.
Once built, you can cook your pizza in a hot oven or use a special pizza oven, like the Ooni Karu 12 pizza oven, for amazing results. This is particularly fun for outdoor pizza parties.
Best pre-made vegan pizzas
If you don’t fancy cooking, there are plenty of pre-made vegan pizzas available. To take all of the work out of it, you could order from a takeaway pizza chain, or try heading out to a restaurant.
Major chains, like Pizza Express or Zizzi’s, offer vegan pizzas on their menus and in certain cities you can even find fully vegan pizza restaurants like Purezza.
For a slightly more budget-friendly option, lots of supermarkets offer pre-made fresh and frozen vegan pizzas. Just as long as you don’t mind the effort of turning on the oven!
Many pizza chains will offer vegan pizzas to takeaway. Photo courtesy of @papajohnsuk via Instagram
Best vegan pizzas to buy
- One Planet Pizza is a vegan brand, which sells its pizzas in certain major supermarkets and specialist vegan stores.
- Goodfellas launched one of the first widely available vegan pizzas, featuring a falafel topping, and now offers a few options across all major supermarkets.
- Chicago Town has pioneered mainstream pizzas for ‘junk food vegans’, with mini deep dish cheeseburger pizzas, and stuffed crust ‘bacon’-topped pizzas featuring in its range.
- Dr Oetker was late to the vegan scene after taking time perfecting its vegan cheese to perfectly emulate the high-quality toppings it prides itself on.
- White Rabbit Pizza Co. offers a range of pizzas that are both vegan and gluten free.
Most supermarkets also offer own-brand pizzas that are vegan-friendly. Some are specifically launched as vegan pizzas, with a range of toppings to try, while others are in the store’s ‘Free From’ ranges, and are often dairy- and gluten-free.
So, is pizza vegan?
There are plenty of plant-based pizza options available to vegans. Photo © luchezar via Getty Images
The simple answer is, yes! Vegans have plenty of options for plant-based pizzas.
And we don’t have to rely on tricky homemade pizzas and flavourless ‘healthy’ alternatives – there are loads of easy and delicious vegan options available in shops, takeaways and restaurants too!
Of course, not all pizzas are vegan and there are some pesky hidden ingredients to look out for besides the obvious cheese and meat toppings.
But, if you’ve made it this far, you know all you need to know to pick out the perfect plant-based pizza for you.
Want to make a perfect pizza topping from scratch? To make vegan chicken, sausage, meatballs, pepperoni and more, check out the ultimate guide to seitan!
Featured photo © knape via Getty Images