For dietary requirements and as more people get more health conscious, it’s important to know what goes into your food. Most people probably don’t know off the top of their head what ingredients go into pizza dough. So are pizza bases vegan, dairy or egg free?
Typical pizza dough used for pizza bases is vegan which means it is also dairy and egg free. The usual ingredients are flour, yeast, salt, water, optionally sugar and oil, and rarely contain anything else.
You can find my best pizza dough recipe here which is 100% vegan.
So that’s good news for pizza lovers. The main problem with pizza usually comes from the toppings, as the most common being cheese and Italian meat. In this article I’ll fill you in on the best options for vegans, and those wishing to avoid dairy or lactose.
Pizza Base Ingredients In Detail
So the ingredients I mentioned are flour, yeast, salt and water. Sometimes oil and sugar can be added which adds to the texture and flavor of the crust. Pizza dough is basically a white bread dough that gets different treatment. It’s kneaded then allowed to rise in a ball, ready to be stretched or rolled out very thin. Bread is allowed to rise to a loaf for maximum volume before it is baked.
Is yeast vegan?
Yeast is a one celled fungal organism. As a fungus, they fall into the same category as a mushroom and are neither plant nor animal. If you are happy eating mushrooms then yeast is fine for you too. For all but the most strict vegans, yeast is fine for a vegan diet.
Does pizza dough contain butter or eggs?
If we compare the recipes of bread and pizza verses an enriched bread such as brioche, you will see why eggs and butter are not included in a pizza recipe. Brioche is a french bread that crosses the line between cake and bread because it’s inclusion of eggs and butter.
Pizza dough recipe: flour, yeast, salt, water.
Brioche dough recipe: flour, yeast, eggs, butter, sugar.
The eggs and butter enrich the loaf giving it the classic soft, rich texture that makes it more of a cake. This texture is completely unwanted when trying to make a crisp, thin crust pizza base, so is not in a usual recipe.
Olive oil is sometimes used in pizza dough which makes it a little more chewy. In rare cases, melted butter could be added in replacement of oil to add fat to dough – but this is very uncommon in any recipe. If in serious doubt, check the ingredients of your pizza.
To make the best pizza you need to cook your dough on something very hot. A pizza stone is more well known, but a pizza steel is a newer method which will produce even better results. The steel conducts heat more efficiently, cooking the base through very quickly. They also don’t shatter like a stone does. I have this pizza steel and can fully recommend it (click to see on Amazon). If you’d rather get something a bit cheaper, then at least get a pizza stone made of cordierite like this one. It is less likely to crack like other pizza stones.
See all the essential tools I recommend on my pizza equipment list guide.
Best Vegan And Dairy Free Toppings
Obviously mozzarella cheese and pepperoni are off the table for any vegans or dairy free eaters. So what are your options to make pizza just as tasty?
This is the oldest and most traditional of pizza toppings. It consists of tomatoes, garlic, oregano and olive oil. Sometimes olives and anchovies are added. It comes from the birthplace of modern pizza, Naples in Italy. The name derives from Naples’ maritime history as it is a port with an abundance of sailors (marinai is Italian for sailors).
Because the ingredients are sparse, the best dough cooked in a wood fired oven is best for this pizza. It really brings out the flavors of the wood fire, fresh tomatoes and garlic. It’s not the best pizza to order if the key ingredients aren’t top quality. But if they are, it’s one of the best – you don’t even need the cheese here.
Vegan And Lactose Free Cheese
If you are lactose intolerant then mozzarella contains less lactose than milk as it is removed in the cheese making process. This means you might be able to tolerate smaller amounts of cheese on a pizza. Remember that you don’t have to cover a pizza in cheese to be tasty. Often less is more, and an attention to high quality ingredients like good tomatoes and extra virgin olive oil can make a big difference. For more info on mozzarella and lactose check here.
You can alternatively use a cow’s milk cheese that has had lactose removed. These are available in stores in the lactose free section. They taste almost the same, with just a slight hint of difference, and melt just as good on pizza. Most pizza restaurants don’t do lactose free cheese but skip straight to vegan cheese to cover more dietary requirements.
Your next option is to use a vegan cheese on the pizza. These are plant based (using plant fats) so are 100% vegan. The key thing you need with vegan free cheese is that is melts well. Having pizza with cheese that doesn’t melt and pull, is both unappealing to the eye and has poor texture.
But these are getting better and better as more people adopt vegan choices. The best one I’ve had actually tasted good and melted – the downside was it got stuck to the roof of your mouth was a bit weird. The guys at Spruce Eats have done an article on the best dairy free cheeses. See if you can get your hands on this one, or one similar:
Vegetable Pizza Toppings
Topping pizzas with different vegetables is delicious and can get you thinking outside of the regular cheese and tomato varieties. Here is a list of some interesting toppings and bases.
Pizza doesn’t have to be just tomato on the base. Instead, you can use other plant based bases such as pureed beetroot, vegan pesto, hummus or BBQ sauce. These all have widely different tastes and can make some unique varieties. Use this first on the pizza before topping with your favorite vegetables.
On top of these bases you can add vegan toppings. Some of my favorite examples which work great on pizza are; olives, artichokes, capers, mushrooms, garlic, peppers, zucchini, tomatoes and of course, vegan mozzarella.
White Pizza (Pizza Bianca)
This is an Italian pizza style where tomato sauce is not used. Instead, a white sauce is made and spread over the base in place of the usual sauce. You can make a lactose free white sauce with the substitutes – I find lactose free milk to be extremely similar to the standard version, so the subtle differences are lost in the sauce.
On top of this you can add your toppings, I’ve had tuna and capers which was perfect. Or if you don’t eat fish, then go for some zuccini, artichokes or any other vegetable pizza topping. Get the recipe for a lactose free Pizza Bianca here.
Restaurant And Delivery Options For Vegans And Vegetarians
All the major pizza chains now have vegetarian and vegan pizza menus due to its rise in popularity. I took a look at the offerings at Pizza Hut, Domino’s and Papa John’s.
The main addition is the vegan menus. These new options on the menu all contain vegan cheese. The restaurants have paired up with different vegan cheese suppliers which are explained on the menu. Some paired with your standard vegetable mix, but others with some interesting options like BBQ jack fruit. These tasty options are no longer just an after thought.
The vegetarian ranges contain the standard mozzarella but with only vegetable toppings. Veggie pizzas are nothing new, but the range in the menus is a little longer now.
You now know what goes into your pizza and if it fits into your diet, whether that be vegan, dairy or egg free. As you can see, the pizza bases are not the problem, and unless you are gluten free these should be fine – see my recipe.
Instead it is the toppings which are the problem. Hopefully you have some insight into how to top your pizzas with some alternative toppings so you can make some great vegan and lactose free pizzas. I would recommend a great marinara from a wood fired pizzeria if you have never tried one!
And with more choice on the vegan options in pizza restaurants, you’ll be able to find something for you in your local delivery or independent restaurant if you do some searching.