Today’s recipe is extra special. Not only is this pizza seriously the best plant-based pizza you’re likely to taste, the recipe also came from a very special person. Kevin “Kev” Escher is the super-supportive husband of Hannah, Trendeing’s founder and CEO. In addition to being married to the brilliant woman behind this lifestyle company, Kev is also a sometimes-photographer, willing and enthusiastic taste-tester of all the food, and the inventor of the best damn vegan pizza around.
So, what makes Kev’s pizza so awesome? It’s all about building that flavor, baby. With traditional pizza, you can lean on a solid tomato sauce, fresh cheeses and meat to bring that amazing umami flavor we Americans so love. With a vegan pizza, you have to find other ways to build that cheesy, addictive taste.
And this pizza actually tastes cheesy! We use a blend of delicious vegan cheeses, along with our “secret weapon”, nutritional yeast, to create a cheesy and amazing pizza.
Here are Kev’s secrets for mind-blowing vegan pizza:
- Saute your veggies first. Sauteeing your veggies adds a delicious and complex flavor to your pizza.
- Put a coat of olive oil, fresh garlic, and seasoning on the dough before adding your sauce. This one may seem surprising, but Kev swears by it! This adds flavor directly to your dough, which gets sorta “sealed in” by the sauce and other toppings.
- Use vegan cheese blocks, instead of the pre-grated stuff. Most of the pre-grated vegan cheeses are rather dusty and don’t melt well. Kev recommends using a block instead and grating finely. (Note that the parmesan we used was an exception to this rule.)
- Use lots of nutritional yeast. Kev adds nutritional yeast directly on top of the cheese to bring out that extra-nutty flavor.
This recipe is highly customizable – you can decide what types of toppings you would like to use, and how much. We created two pizzas for our testing (and consumption!). One was a more traditional tomato sauce-based pizza and the other was a pesto pizza. The tomato sauce pizza was topped with sauteed bell pepper, red onion and mushroom, and fresh tomato – with fresh basil added when it came out of the oven. The pesto pizza was topped with sauteed bell pepper and red onion, and fresh asparagus tips. Both turned out delicious, but the consensus was that we preferred the classic tomato-sauce pizza.
If the recipe below seems daunting, don’t be scared away! It may seem like a lot of steps and tips, but it’s really pretty simple – especially if you use a store-bought dough or crust. Kev is quick to say that he’s “not really a cook” and was utterly surprised when I told him I wanted to feature his [awesome] recipe. This just goes to show that anyone can be a cook in their own kitchen. And, for the record, Kev is a pretty awesome cook.
Kev’s Awesome Vegan and Gluten Free Pizza
Amounts below are per 16(ish)-inch pizza
- Pizza dough of choice*
- Assorted veggies – we used red onions, yellow bell pepper, mushrooms, asparagus, and fresh tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil + more for sauteeing veggies
- 3 cloves fresh garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, optional
- ½ cup sauce of choice**
- 3 tablespoons of nutritional yeast
- Vegan cheese***
- Salt to taste, optional
- Fresh basil, thinly sliced, optional
* We used Trader Joe’s pizza dough for this recipe. We wanted to make the crusts chewy and medium-thick, so we used two bags of dough for each pizza. We used the plain dough for the tomato-based pizza and the garlic-herb dough for the pesto pizza. Feel free to use whatever you would like – there are several different types of pre-made doughs and crusts out there. Use a gluten-free crust to make the recipe gluten-free.
** Both the tomato and pesto sauces we used were from Trader Joe’s. They sell a fantastic “pizza sauce” in the refrigerated section near the pizza dough – as well as this Vegan Kale, Cashew and Basil Pesto. Of course, feel free to make your own – or substitute in another type of sauce. BBQ-lovers could even use BBQ sauce!
Use whatever types of vegan cheese floats your boat. I recommend a blend of at least two for some contrast. The three cheeses listed above were enough for two whole pizzas.
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees and prepare pizza dough/crust, according to the package or recipe instructions.
- If using pizza dough, it’s a good idea to let it rest at room temperature for at least an hour or so before using. This will allow you to stretch the dough more. I also recommend using oil or flour to handle the dough – and cooking on parchment paper.
- Slice and saute veggies in olive oil for about 7 minutes. Set aside. If using fresh tomatoes or asparagus, do not saute. Slice tomatoes into discs, and slice asparagus into 2-inch pieces.
- To assemble pizza:
- Coat pizza dough/crust with 2 tablespoons olive oil and use the back of a spoon to spread evenly. Top with minced garlic cloves, oregano, and crushed red pepper, if desired.
- Add sauce and spread evenly.
- Grate or slice cheese (as needed) and add to pizza. (We sliced the “fresh mozzarella” into small chunks and reserved about 2 tablespoons of the parmesan for the very top.) Sprinkle nutritional yeast evenly over the cheese.
- Add desired veggies. (Put on as many as you’d like, just be careful not to overload, or the pizza may end up floppy!)
- Sprinkle with reserved vegan parmesan and salt, if desired.
- Bake for about 20-25 minutes, until the top is bubbly and the crust looks lightly golden. If using packaged dough, check instructions first. Baking times may vary.
- Remove from oven and add fresh basil if desired. Slice and serve hot. Enjoy!