Europeans have long understood the wonder of cheese-free pizza made with fresh and flavorful ingredients. But in North America, deep dish pizzas loaded with piles of stringy cheese are more than the norm, they are practically the rule. Nonetheless, as awareness of food allergies, intolerances, and health benefits emerge … and the rising cost of food nips at household budgets … the potential of cheese-less pizza is finally getting the attention it deserves.
5 Reasons to Choose Cheese-less Pizza
It’s time to try the healthier, lighter, cheaper, and more flavorful side of pizza! Here are several reasons to help convince you, a friend, or a family member that cheese-less pizza isn’t a sacrifice.
It’s Lower in Fat, Calories, and Salt
Unloading that layer of cheese will slice the fat and calories of your pie dramatically without compromising flavor (read reason #5). Mozzarella is one of the slimmer cheeses, yet it still packs on another 5 to 6 grams of fat, 80 calories, and 240 milligrams of sodium per ounce (vegan varieties are similar!). And lets face it, who eats just one ounce of cheese (roughly one cheese slice) while helping themselves to pizza?
Cheese-less Pizza is Way Less Expensive
Cheese prices have been rising at a fast rate for decades, but this year, they’re going exponential. In just one day, on January 5th 2022, the foreshadowing commodity price per pound of cheese jumped nearly 11%. Economists in both the U.S. and Europe say this means cheese and other dairy products will increase significantly this year. Skip the cheese and you’ll shave a little off your rising grocery bill.
Dairy-Free Cheese Alternatives Can be Questionable
Let’s face it, mimicking dairy cheese is hard, and there isn’t a brand that has completely nailed it. Some are still pretty good, while others … well, I don’t like to speak bad of anyone’s efforts. But they can be expensive, particularly if you have to try ten different brands to find the one you like. With cheese-less pizza, there is no worry. You’re topping the pizza with foods that you already know you love.
Everyone Can Enjoy It
I love being able to present food to friends and family that meets everyone’s special diet needs. Mom is following a low fat diet … cheese-less pizza. Dad has lactose intolerance … cheese-less pizza. A friend has multiple food allergies … cheese-less pizza. I’m craving a light but fulfilling plant-based meal … cheese-less pizza. Really, it is practically a one meal fits all. You can even choose a dairy-free, gluten-free crust, if needed.
You Can Actually TASTE the Toppings
Did you know pepperoni has the same umami as cheese? I’ve served cheese-less pepperoni pizza to many people, and every time, they swear there’s cheese on the pizza. One friend was convinced I was lying! Generously layer on the pepperoni, and trust me, you’ll be deliciously befuddled, too.
But beyond pepperoni, my taste buds opened up to a whole new range of flavor options when I removed the cheese. You could order a pesto pizza, a Thai pizza, it really doesn’t matter when smothered in cheese. Cheese tends to overpower both the taste and the texture. But leave off the cheese, and suddenly your tasting the sauces and toppings in their full glory.
27 Dairy-Free Cheese-less Pizza Topping Combination Ideas
These are some of my favorites, recipes from other cookbook authors, and beloved cheese-less pizza combos from our friends in the Deliciously Dairy Free Group. I hope they provide some inspiration for your home-baked pizzas, and when you order cheese-free pizzas at restaurants.
Tip: I often use extra sauce to keep the pizza crust from being too dry. Cheese tends to seal in moisture, so it’s important to add some extra moisture when making cheese-less pizza.
Sausage, Spinach, Olives, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes – This has a Mediterranean pizza parlor vibe. We mix up the olives, between black, green, and kalamata for different flavors.
Supreme – This one was shared by Julie, and is my husband’s favorite. Add extra sauce and pile on the pepperoni, ham, bacon, green peppers, black olives, and mushrooms. He likes sausage and sometimes spinach. Katie recommends arugula.
Mushroom Pesto – This is a personal favorite, which I have a recipe for in my cookbook Eat Dairy Free. Use dairy-free pesto as the base, and top with sliced cremini or baby bella mushrooms. Optional toppings include pine nuts, cooked sliced chicken breast, sliced roasted red bell peppers, chopped tomatoes, and crushed red pepper.
Ham & Pineapple – Ashley shared, “I love Hawaiian style! The pineapple gives the pizza a really good flavor so you don’t miss the cheese flavor too much. Ham and mushroom is a favorite as well.” Kathy adds bacon.
Hawaiian Supreme – Jojo starts with a generous base of ham, then tops it with pineapple, olives, mushrooms, and tomatoes.
Classic Pepperoni – As mentioned, pepperoni alone lends pizza umami. But we usually add sliced olives, oregano, crushed red pepper flakes, and sometimes, mushrooms.
White Pizza – Classic white pizza doesn’t need cheese when you’ve got a flavorful dairy-free alfredo. In the pizza section in Go Dairy Free (yes, there is a whole chapter on pizza!), I have a white garlic pizza recipe that’s cheese-lover approved. I like to top it with spinach, mushrooms, and chicken, but we sometimes add crushed red pepper, chopped bacon, or sun-dried tomatoes.
Garlic Chicken – Alexis uses a garlic olive oil base instead of red sauce, and tops it with chicken, spinach, garlic, and onion.
Margherita – The classic Italian pizza is tomato and basil. You can also add oregano or sun-dried tomatoes for a little something extra.
Thai Peanut – Use Thai Peanut Sauce instead of pizza sauce, and top with chicken, bean sprouts, shredded carrots, and cilantro.
Roasted Vegetable – This is my Amy’s pizza copycat. Tomatoes, eggplants, and other vegetables are roasted and then pulsed to make both the sauce and topping. It’s delicious! I have the full recipe in Go Dairy Free.
Mediterranean – Jennifer geniously uses hummus instead of cheese! She tops her pizza with basil, spinach, mushroom, pepper, onion, pineapple, tomato, artichoke, and “really any veggies.”
Heirloom Tomato & Olive – This pizza is a great option at the height of tomato season. The recipe is here, and uses olive tapenade in place of tomato sauce.
Puttanesca Style – This is another creative favorite rom Foods Matter. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large pan. Add 4 crushed garlic cloves and saute for a couple minutes. Add 2 (14-ounce) cans of plum tomatoes, roughly mashed, 2 teaspoons of dried rosemary (or 2 tablespoons fresh), about a dozen sliced stuffed green olives, and 6 finely chopped large anchovies (can sub 6 slices of dairy-free salami, thinly sliced or chopped). Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper, if needed. Once thick, spread over your pizza base, and sprinkle on a dozen or more sliced stuffed green olives.
Thai Curry – Skip the pizza sauce and use red curry sauce instead. We have instructions for Shrimp Curry Pizza.
African – This Superfood Pizza uses harissa sauce instead of pizza sauce.
Meat Lover’s – Jan piles on the chicken, ham, bacon, salami, pepperoni, ground beef, and sausage. Michele makes a similar pizza, but adds banana peppers and serves it with Plant Based Hidden Valley Ranch.
Artichoke, Tomato, Pesto – Why have just one sauce? This recipe layers tomato sauce, pesto, and artichoke hearts, and has some other topping options.
Bacon, Pineapple, and Onion – Michelle says this one might sound weird, but she loves it. Her husband is in if she omits the pineapple and adds pepperoni and green pepper.
Honey Garlic Chicken – Kerri says honey garlic chicken with green pepper, and pineapple is better on pizza with no cheese.
Caramelized Onions & Sardines – This is definitely on the unique side, but the people at Foods Matter swear by it. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a large pan, and add 8 thinly sliced medium onions. Cook ncovered for 5 minutes, then covered for 25 to 30 minutes, until the onions are lightly caramelized. Spread the onions over you pizza base. Drain 6 sardines packed in olive oil, mash thoroughly, and spread over the onions. Optionally squeeze the juice of 1 lemon over the pizza, sprinkle on salt and lots of black pepper, and bake!
Bacon & Caramelized Onions – If sardines is too weird for you, Rachael says this is her favorite cheese-less pizza topping combo.
Pineapple, Roasted Red Peppers, Banana Peppers – I’m still trying to wrap my taste buds around this very unique idea, but Michelle says it’s delicious.
BBQ Chicken – Tori uses barbecue sauce in place of tomato sauce on her dairy-free cheese-less pizza. She tops it with grilled chicken, banana peppers, and tomatoes. We like our barbecue chicken pizza with sliced olives, tomatoes, and spinach. Candice tops hers with bacon and onion, while Katie recommends fried onions.
Garlic Marinara – Courtney keeps it simple with chunky marinara sauce and roasted garlic, sometimes with mushrooms.
Californian – Debbie tops her cheese-less pizza with seasoned chicken, pepperoni, broccoli, onion, garlic, and yellow squash or zucchini, sautéed in olive oil and seasonings.
Bacon & Mushroom – Kelley says this simple combination is great, but always with extra marinara sauce, and sometimes garlic.
More Unique Dairy-Free Toppings not Mentioned Above
- Plant-Based Beet “Pepperoni” (really, it’s delicious!)
- Walnut “Sausage” (another healthy meatless option)
- Shelled Hemp Seeds (they add a delicious pop!)
- Roasted Garlic (whole or mashed and spread on the dough)
- Broccoli Florets (Brandi puts this on her supreme pizza)
- Prosciutto (bacon’s fancy cousin)