Easy Vegan Pizza With Tofu Ricotta
I’m half-Italian, so I practically grew up on pizza. It’s always been my favorite fast, easy, go-to meal, but now that I’m a vegan, I can’t just call Joe’s Pizza on the corner and have him deliver. I’m pretty sure Joe would have a heart attack if I asked him to make a pizza with vegan cheese.
My solution was to find an easy way to make pizza at home. Armed with a simple faux ricotta recipe, some fresh-picked veggies from my garden, and an accidentally vegan commercial pizza crust, I set out to satisfy my vegan pizza cravings once and for all.
While I was plotting my overthrow of the pizza universe, I was looking through PETA’s list of foods that are accidentally vegan to help a friend with a newly vegan teenager solve her breakfast problem. This list, updated regularly, is of foods that aren’t marketed as vegan, made by people who probably don’t know vegans exist. Somehow, these foods are free of animal products. One of them, as of this writing, is Pillsbury’s Pizza Crust, found in the refrigerator case with all the bake-it-yourself cookies and biscuits they manufacture.
So, now we have a way to cheat through the crust part. Yay! I keep a couple of these crusts in my fridge at all times, for those pizza emergencies that seem to happen so often at my house.
Step 1: Make the Tofu Ricotta
There are tons of vegan cheeses available at just about any grocery store, including a pretty decent ricotta fake from Tofutti and a shredding mozzarella from Daiya. Always check the ingredients on lactose-free cheeses, because they may include products such as whey or casein, which are dariy-based.
The vegan cheese I used is homemade. It’s sort of a faux ricotta thing that’s spreadable when made with firm tofu and crumbly when made with extra-firm.
- 1 (12-ounce) box tofu, firm or extra-firm
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- salt and pepper, to taste
- To make the vegan cheese, start by draining and weighting the tofu. I usually do this by putting the block of tofu on a plate between several layers of paper towels and putting a baking dish on top of it. It takes ten or fifteen minutes for all the liquid to drain out of the tofu. If it seems particularly wet, change the paper towels and weight it a little longer.
- Place the drained tofu in a bowl.
- Pour the nutritional yeast over the tofu. Using a fork, blend the yeast and the tofu, mashing it with the fork to create a crumbly texture.
- Add the oil, lemon juice, and spices to the tofu mixture, and continue blending with a fork. The texture should be a little chunky, rather than completely smooth.
Step 2: Choose and Prepare Your Toppings
In the spring, summer, and fall, I usually have plenty of vegetables growing in my garden. I topped my inaugural pizza with veggies and herbs fresh from the backyard: eggplant, tomatoes, and basil. Zucchini, peppers, onions, or anything you have a bunch of that needs eating right now will make great toppings. You can put anything on this pizza. Even pineapple. I won’t tell.
Some of my favorite combinations:
- Chopped fresh tomatoes, basil, and oregano. Plain and simple.
- Tomato sauce, sliced black olives, and veggie sausage.
- Sauteed onions, Daiya mozzarella, and chopped artichoke hearts.
Step 3: Assemble the Pizza
- Vegan pizza crust, your own, or from Pillsbury
- Tofu ricotta cheese (recipe above)
- Tomato sauce or paste, seasoned as desired
- Toppings, your choice
- If you're using the Pillsbury pizza crust, it requires a little baking before adding sauce and toppings. To make things go faster, follow the package instructions to bake it while you’re making the vegan cheese.
- Remove the crust from the oven, and start assembling your pizza. I started with a thin layer of tomato sauce. The cheese is very spreadable, so it could be your bottom layer.
- Layer on the veggies, toppings and herbs! The crust is pretty sturdy, so it held up well to my thick topping of eggplant slices, tomatoes and chopped basil.
- Add the cheese. I opted to put the cheese on top, because I felt the eggplant needed a little covering while it cooked, but you can add the cheese whenever you like, even as the bottom layer.
- Bake the pizza according to the crust instructions. I left mine in a little longer than suggested to make sure the veggies all cooked completely. As long as the crust edges are nicely browned rather than burned, you’re good to go.
Leftovers store well in the refrigerator overnight. Just reheat in the oven for 20 minutes or so.