Yes to Yummy

Pesto Pizza + Vegan Mozzarella Cheese (gluten-free, grain-free)

May 12, 2014 Leave your thoughts Print this page


Oh yes I did. I made completely vegan and gluten-free pizza.

And it actually tastes like real pizza. Real cheesy, doughy, crispy pizza that you’d get at a pizza shop. I don’t tell lies, people. This pizza is AMAZING. Probably the best pizza I’ve ever made at home, regardless of gluten and dairy content.


The dough stretches. The cheese stretches. The dough gets golden-brown. The cheese gets golden-brown. It’s incredible that there’s no gluten, dairy, or eggs to hold it all together. But it works.


I was sitting around my kitchen one Wednesday evening, procrastinating on chemistry or writing an essay and instead thinking about food, like I usually do. Unexpectedly, a little birdie whispered in my ear, repeating one word over and over again: “Pizza. Pizza. Pizza.” And when I get an idea stuck in my head, I drop everything and hit my cookbooks and the internet. I wanted to create a crispy, chewy pizza, but one without dairy and more “authentic” than my Zucchini Pizza, which, while beloved by my family, is basically a thin, crispy frittata with lots and lots of cheese. After much research, I decided to go with adapting a recipe from Zenbelly, which I’ve heard rave reviews about. For the cheese, I gave this one a shot and was pleasantly surprised by the results; naturally, I again made a few adjustments of my own to create a very, very “cheese-like” final product. And who says eating vegan can’t be fun AND delicious?


As you can see, the crust is very brown: a homage to my favorite pizza ever from Pepe’s, a Connecticut restaurant that’s famous across the state for its almost-blackened, wonderfully crunchy base for its pizzas.

Pepe’s pizza is amazing. It doesn’t look fancy–they don’t even slice their pies into even-sized pieces–but it tastes like heaven landed in your mouth. Let me elaborate: one time, when my camp took us there after going to a museum, three of my friends and I demolished an entire large pizza, which is ENORMOUS. (Mind you, we were only twelve years old at the time. That’s a lot of pizza for pre-teen girls.) It was that good. I think we all had stomach aches for the rest of the week, but it still  was worth it. That crust. That cheese. That sauce. Mmmm…

Of course, I haven’t had Pepe’s pizza in years–it would probably make me both psychologically and physically sick if I ate that amount of pizza now.

Not this pizza!


What I love about this pizza is that it’s very satisfying but doesn’t make you feel gassy, give you heartburn, or leave an unpleasant feeling in your stomach. I attribute it to the cashews: while dairy often gives me an adverse reaction, nut-based non-dairy products don’t cause me any gastronomical stress.

Instead of the traditional tomato sauce, I decided to make a thick, flavorful pesto to both lighten up the pizza for the spring and summer months and get in some greens. By the way, did you know that just 1/2 cup of basil (about 1/4 of my pesto recipe) provides almost 100% of your daily vitamin K, which helps with both blood clotting and bone health? That’s a pretty awesome nutritional benefit from eating pizza, if I do say so myself.

In the summer months, I look forward to making this pizza with really fresh vegetables and herbs for an even more amazing flavor. (Nothing tastes quite like fresh-picked basil in August.) But for now, I’ll still enjoy this delicious circle of heaven with the produce I can find at Whole Foods.


Are you ready to see how easy (and delicious) homemade gluten-free and vegan pizza can be? I hope so! Let’s get started.


In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine 2 tablespoons of yeast with 1/2 cup of warm (but not hot) water, and 2 tablespoons of maple syrup (or your preferred liquid sweetener of choice). Whisk just to combine, then let everything sit and hang out for 10 minutes. If the yeast doesn’t get all bubbly (like the picture shown above), toss it out and start over again.


Meanwhile, stir together 1 1/2 cups + 1 tablespoon of blanched almond flour, 1 1/2 cups of tapioca powder, and 1 1/2 TEASPOONS of salt, breaking up big clumps of almond flour with your hands.

Please remember to use teaspoons instead of tablespoons. In my second trial of this recipe, I added 1 1/2 tablespoons, making for a very very salty crust. It was still delicious (my dad and I thought it tasted quite like a pretzel), but less salty is always better.

Pour the dry ingredients into the mixing bowl or the bowl of the stand mixer and also add 2 tablespoons of olive oil or melted coconut oil and 3/4 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar. Mix at low speed for 2 minutes until everything is just combined, scraping the bowl down once halfway through.


Cover with a warm or slightly-damp kitchen towel and let rise for 2 hours.

Meanwhile, make the “mozzarella” cheese which, surprisingly, tastes exactly like the real thing. Scary and cool at the same time.


In the blender, combine 1/4 cup of cashews (soaked overnight) with 1 cup of hot water, 3 tablespoons of tapioca powder, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar. Once everything is combined, transfer the cashew liquid to a small non-stick saucepan.

Stir the mixture continuously over medium-high heat. If it starts to vigorously bubble or burn, decrease the heat to medium or medium-low. Within a few minutes, the “cheese” should start to thicken and will become very hard to stir. Just keep going and eventually, the mixture will look quite a lot like melted cheese. (It will feel like it, too, if you touch it!)


Look at that stretch. That’s the power of tapioca for you!

Set the “cheese” aside until pizza-making time comes around. Now is also a good time to make the pesto.


In the bowl of a food processor, combine 2 cups of fresh basil with 1/2 cup of pistachios (or your favorite nut), 1 tablespoon of nutritional yeast, the juice of 1 medium lemon, 1 clove of garlic, and 1/2 cup of olive oil. Pulse about 30-60 times to combine, then add salt and pepper to taste. This is obviously best with fresh, in-season basil; if you find your basil is very bitter, I recommend adding a little sugar or maple syrup to cut it a bit.


At this point, your dough should be about ready to get rolling. That means you should preheat your oven to 500 degrees and put a pizza stone in there, if you have one.


Pizza stones are wonderful tools to have around. As you can tell by this picture, we actually have two, but I took out the smaller one because the big one is a bit unwieldy for a person of five feet tall with short arms. My dad originally bought them for bread-baking, but we don’t do much of that nowadays.

But for this pizza, a pizza stone is your secret to getting a crispy, dark brown, restaurant-style crust. If you go to an old-school (good-quality) pizzeria, you’ll see that the pizzas are put directly on the floor of the oven which, if well-seasoned, imparts wonderful flavor and makes the crust a beautiful color and gives it a great texture. The pizza stone uses the same technique: that stone absorbs a LOT of heat, and that heat goes right to your pizza crust. That’s what you want.

Back to the crust itself.


Doing the best you can, divide the ball of risen dough in the bowl into two pieces. Take one piece and put it on a large sheet of parchment paper. Using damp hands–water will prevent the dough from sticking to you–spread the dough into about a ten inch ball. If a hole appears, use a little water to smush it back together again.

Put the dough circle on the pizza stone WITH the parchment paper and bake until just beginning to turn color, about 4 to 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, take out another piece of parchment paper and shape the second half of dough. When the first crust comes out, put the second one in.


Now, spread half of the pesto on the first crust. Using a small spoon or ice cream scooper, make the “cheese” you made earlier into balls and drop them all around the pizza to your liking. (This one was very cheesy–the other one I made only had a few dollops!)

Bake at 500 for another two minutes, then take the pizza out of the oven and turn it on broil. Slide the pizza off of the parchment paper and put it on a heavy cookie sheet. (Parchment will burn in the oven, as I learned the hard way.) Brush the top of the slightly-set “cheese” with a little olive oil, and broil until the cheese begins to turn golden brown, about three minutes. (It should bubble, too!) It’s OK if the crust gets a little burnt–it tastes better that way!

Repeat the same with the other crust and remaining pesto and cheese. Sprinkle with fresh basil and oregano before serving.


I had forgot how much I love(d) pizza.


What is your favorite pizza topping combination? Leave me a comment here or on Facebook and let me know!

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