“Consume plant-based foods in forms as close to their natural state as possible (“whole” foods). Eat a variety of vegetables, fruits, raw nuts and seeds, beans and legumes, and whole grains. Avoid heavily processed foods and animal products. Stay away from added salt, oil, and sugar.”
– Dr. T. Colin Campbell (Whole: Rethinking the Science of Nutrition p. 07)
A whole food, plant-based (WFPB) diet avoiding added salt, oil, and sugar, offers a host of benefits, ranging from protection against many common diseases (including heart disease, some cancers, and Type II Diabetes), to enhancing the body’s remarkable ability to selectively mix and match ingested food at a biochemical level to maximize nutritional utilization and physical vitality.
In many ways, conventional pizza is the epitome of an “anti-WFPB” diet. Loaded with fat, saturated fat, sodium, and animal protein, it is difficult to imagine a more dietarily destructive food product, and yet for those wanting to embrace a purely plant-based diet, the word “pizza” generally invokes the fear of giving up gooey and fatty cheese forever.
This is probably the single most common anxiety when contemplating the transition to a healthy whole food, plant-based lifestyle and most common complaint among those who avoid eating cheese.
Many people turn to the current generation of faux non-dairy cheeses for taste and texture satisfaction. However, these are not a solution or substitute for all the health problems associated with consuming dairy. The current generation of non-dairy cheeses, quite remarkable in their gooeyness and melting capabilities, are often as high or higher than their dairy equivalents in added fat or oil, and contain very little nutrition.
Is it possible to “think outside the pizza box” and to make a whole food, plant-based pizza at home that is truly healthy and yet satisfying in taste, texture, and nutritional content?
Yes! Making your own WFPB pizza is easy and fun to make, as well as inexpensive and nutritious.
In this article I’m going to show you how to make a delicious whole wheat & black beans pizza crust, give some suggestions for a fine tomato-based “bottom” sauce, mention a few possible toppings, and provide three easy-to-make “cheese-like” sauces from various whole grains, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. These sauces will “firm up” in texture when baked on top of a pizza and, depending upon the recipe selected, provide a custard to velvet-like “mouth feel.”
The Pizza Foundation
The easiest way to make your own pizza dough is by using a bread machine. Pre-made dough can be kept in a refrigerator for just under a week, and brought to room temperature when ready to make your pizza. However, one can always purchase plant-based pizza dough or a pre-made crust.
Many local and major grocery stores have pre-made pizza dough available, and most pizza restaurants will even sell you their dough. Note that some doughs may have a little bit of salt and oil in them. Gluten-free pre-made crusts are also common.
Once you’ve shaped your dough into the pizza shape desired (circular, amoeba, rectangular — there is no required geometry!), press your shaped pizza into a non-stick pizza pan or cookie sheet (parchment paper works particularly well underneath), and then pre-heat your oven 425 to 450 degrees F. Some parchment papers will get brown over 425o F., and Reynold’s makes an aluminum foil that is “non-stick” on one side, maintains at 450o F., and also has the benefit of being easy to “mold” into different pans.
There are many fine pizza sauces available in grocery stores that are very low in fat and sodium. In a hurry? Spread tomato paste or sliced/diced/crushed tomatoes on a shaped pizza dough and sprinkle with garlic powder and/or Italian spices. Leftover chili works well, so does any kind of salsa! I can also recommend Trader Joe’s inexpensive no oil or salt pizza sauce.
Vegetables should be cut to mouth-size, while even tender greens such as kale or chard can be chopped up and used (I like putting a layer of chopped greens on the dough 1st, then adding sliced tomatoes, onions, mushrooms, and spices). Pressed for time? There are inexpensive diced 8 vegetable mixes available that you can sprinkle on top of your pizza sauce. Cooked legumes also make a great topping, adding more fiber and superb nutrition.
The “Cheese-Like” Topping Sauce
By using grains and beans, for example, a splendid no-fat “cheese-like” topping (or bottom!) sauce can be made that provides a delightful firmness when baked. Our goal is not to duplicate cheese per se, but instead, to provide a stimulating and delectable alternative. Those sauces with beans tend to be “thicker” from the wonderful fiber they bring to the game.
Most cheese-like sauces can be made in a blender or food processor, although some will require pre-cooked grains and/or vegetables. Once the ingredients are prepared, the procedure is essentially the same in all cases:
1) Add ingredients in measured amounts, making sure that any nuts are on top of other ingredients. Some blenders don’t handle nuts well at the base of the container.
2) Gradually add water and “speed” to your blending, pulsing at first and then blending as you see the classic “sauce vortex” form.
3) Blend until you have a pourable thick pancake-like batter. Adjust seasoning to taste, and pour it over your prepared pizza and bake!
Cheese-like Sauce On Top of Pizza
These sauces can be originally warmed until slightly thickened in a sauce pot, then used in stir-fries, on baked potatoes, cooked grains or pasta (casserole!), as dips, dressings, and more. To use leftover sauce (which will keep for several days in the refrigerator), add a little bit of liquid of choice and mix.
Truly nutritious whole food, plant-based pizza is not an imagined fantasy. It is now a delightful and delicious reality. Enjoy!
‘Cheese’ Sauce Recipes