Pizza is one of the most popular fast-foods in the world; I mean who doesn’t love it? It’s many people’s go-to meal when they want something delicious to indulge in. Many are under the impression that if you are a vegan you wouldn’t be able to enjoy this little slice of happiness any longer. Vegans don’t consume animal products and by-products, and this definition conflicts with all the animal-based ingredients usually found in pizzas.
Luckily, with the rise of veganism, vegan-friendly options and alternatives for animal-based products are also on the rise. And today, we are going to focus on pizzas.
So, can vegans eat pizza? The simple answer is yes. There are so many ways to get creative with pizza recipes, customising every element from the base right up to the toppings, so you can create only plant-based pizzas. If you are buying your pizza, enquire about every single ingredient used to ensure it is 100% vegan.
Pizza has become a staple among those following a vegan diet with plant-based options becoming even more delicious and creative than ever. Many pizza chains are, in fact, keeping up with the vegan demand and are now offering totally vegan-friendly options. Better yet, you can make vegan pizza at home that is not only vegan-friendly but also healthier. From plant-based pizza dough to vegan cheeses to vegan toppings, I’m excited by what the vegan pizza scene has to offer. In this text, I’m going to show you how you can still include pizza in your vegan diet. Let’s get right into it!
Can Vegans Eat Pizza?
We’ve already determined that there are both vegan and non-vegan pizza options. So, to help you understand what you can include in your vegan diet, let’s take a step by step look at the ingredients used in making pizza.
How is the crust made?
The best pizza starts with a solid foundation. Traditional pizza dough is vegan-friendly as it simply consists of flour, water, salt, yeast, and maybe vegetable oil. Making vegan pizza crusts from scratch is quite easy thanks to the plethora of simple recipes available online. Alternatively, you can get the store-bought, pre-made, frozen dough as most brands are naturally vegan. With that being said, it’s not safe to assume pizza dough is vegan as some contain a handful of non-vegan ingredients, including:
- Whey: It’s not vegan because it’s a cheese by-product
- Natural flavours: This is a general term for flavours derived from both plants and animals
- Honey: This is derived from bees and definitely not vegan
- Mono- and di-glycerides: This can also be derived from both plant and animal sources. The only way to know for sure is to contact the manufacturer.
This is where the real fun begins. If you like your pizza traditional, you’ll be pleased to know that most traditional store-bought sauces are vegan. There is a vegan version of whatever you’re craving, from plain tomato sauces to the classic marinara sauce, vegan pesto, a savoury beet-pumpkin puree sauce, white sauce from cashews, and even those that combine mushrooms, delicious herbs, garlic, and other delectable vegan ingredients.
Here is where it gets a bit tricky since cheese is one of pizza’s primary ingredients. Vegans cannot consume it since it’s a milk-derivative. You can always embrace your minimalist side and go cheese-less, just sprinkle a little nutritional yeast and you’ll be good to go.
If you must use cheese on your vegan pizza, consider vegan cheese, which is derived from plant-based ingredients like nuts, soy, vegetable oil, nutritional yeast, etc. The combination process brings together proteins of various plants to mimic the texture and taste of real cheese, giving you every bit of delicious vegan pizza as their traditional counterparts. Just make sure it’s pizza cheese as some store-bought vegan cheeses don’t melt well. Of course, you can always make your own vegan cheese at home following simple recipes available online.
There’s an endless supply of vegan toppings, so you can keep it simple here or go all out. Popular vegan topping choices include pineapples, mushrooms, black olives, broccoli, sautéed onions, zucchini, jalapeno peppers, sun-dried tomato, artichoke hearts, eggplant, thinly sliced potatoes, and spinach just to name a few. In short, you can add to your vegan pizza every vegetable or fruit imaginable.
And there you have it! What is left is a delicious vegan pizza. Make sure you experiment with different vegan ingredients until you find your desired combinations and flavours.
Vegan Pizza Brands
Several tasty frozen vegan pizzas have hit store shelves recently and they include:
Most people know this company from their dairy-free dressings, coconut yoghurt, and cheese alternatives. And, as one of the industry leaders in plant-based foods, they make vegan pizzas that are dairy-free, gluten-free, soy-free, and very delicious.
The frozen vegan pizza from this company features homemade tomato sauce, garlic, fresh herbs, and is free of dairy. It is also GMO-free, preservative-free, and comes with a thin, crispy consistency.
Whole Foods 365 Everyday Value
The vegan pizza by this Whole Foods brand is made with whole wheat flour, Daiya cheese, and topped with olives, tomatoes, and spinach.
This legendary company is best known for its cruelty-free meaty creations and now makes impressive vegan pizza options. Three new vegan flavours just hit the market and they are all mouth-watering as well as meat- and wheat-free.
This company has a fairly wide range of vegan products, including vegan pizzas with flavours such as pesto and roasted artichoke, roasted vegetables, and meatless supreme pizza.
Head over to the freezer aisle of your local grocery store and pick up one of these. You can even upgrade them when you get home. Remember to check the ingredients list to ensure the product fits your vegan and dietary needs.
You can also get vegan pizza options from your favourite pizza chains, including Papa John’s, Domino’s, Little Caesars, Pizza Hut, Mellow Mushroom, etc. Ordering a vegan pizza is not as simple as requesting ‘no cheese’, you need to take into account all the possibly non-vegan ingredients found in most pizza dough, sauces, and toppings.
Concerns in Otherwise Vegan Pizzas
While the above pizzas are vegan-friendly in the basic sense that they don’t have any animal-based ingredients, they do contain some ingredients that might raise eyebrows in the vegan world. This includes:
- Sugar: Some sugar is not vegan-friendly as manufacturers use bone char, which is derived from charring animal bones, to bleach it and give it the pure white colour.
- Palm oil: Although this is technically vegan, its cultivation contributes to deforestation, thus destroying animals’ natural habitat and killing some in the process.
- Natural flavour: As I had mentioned earlier, these can be sourced from both animals and plants
While some vegans are okay consuming these controversial ingredients, stricter vegans may write them off completely.
Secondly, most vegan pizzas are made using the same equipment as their non-vegan counterparts, thus risking cross-contamination and cross-contact. This means that your vegan pizza might contain trace amounts of non-vegan ingredients. While most vegans don’t judge such foods harshly, if you are a stricter vegan, you may want to stay away from these otherwise vegan pizzas as well and just make yours at home.
Is Vegan Pizza Healthy?
A vegan diet is generally healthier as it consists mainly of legumes, vegetables, and fruits. But with the rising wave of vegan junk food, there are a lot of vegan foods that are unhealthy. In fact, some vegans are consuming just as much, if not more, processed foods as the average diet.
Traditional pizza has a bad rap for containing too much greasy cheese and processed meats, which are obviously not good for our health. This makes one wonder whether vegan pizza is a healthier option. People become vegan for different reasons and this part of the text is mostly for those who choose the vegan diet for its health benefits.
Well, vegan pizzas are generally much healthier but some can be just as bad for you as the regular pizzas –albeit in different ways. The best way to skip all the calories, cholesterol, and saturated fat found in most traditional pizzas is to include plant-based ingredients in your crust, sauce, and toppings. Cheese-less vegan pizza has the least calories but, of course, the total calorie count will vary depending on the type and amount of vegan toppings you add. You may want to stick to fresh fruits, veggies, and herbs.
As with any healthy diet, moderation is key. Therefore, if you are craving vegan pizza or other vegan junk foods, go for it but don’t make it a habit.