There’s nothing more delicious than a slice of steaming hot pizza with all the fixings. While pizza toppings can vary, most of us enjoy a classic combo of crust, cheese, sauce, and toppings. When we can’t have cheese for dietary or personal reasons, it may feel like we’re missing out on everyone’s favorite Italian food.
Thankfully, there are some viable alternatives to cheese on pizza that will give you the same gooey goodness that this shredded dairy product provides.
I love cheese, but sometimes, when I’m entertaining vegan friends or giving my body a rest from dairy, I like to explore my other options. Also, pizza is a blank canvas that’s just begging for a wide range of different toppings. There’s nothing more fun than trying out new combinations in the kitchen.
Luckily for you, we have a list of cheese alternatives below to help you think outside the box for your pizza pie toppings–cheesy pun intended.
1. Vegan Cheese
For those who love cheese but want to cut out animal products, vegan cheese can be as close to the real thing as it gets without worrying about impacting animals. Brands like Daiya make store-bought prepackaged vegan cheeses that act and taste very close to the dairy version of cheese.
Alternatively, you can always make vegan “cheese” spread out of sweet potatoes or soaked cashews. This is as close to cheese as many vegans will get and it’s super healthy with its generous dose of vegetables.
While making vegan cheese might seem intimidating at first, it’s as simple as making a smoothie. After soaking some of the items that need to be softened, you usually toss everything into a blender and let it work its magic.
For sweet potato “cheese,” you will essentially combine oil, spices, white beans or soaked cashews, sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, broth, and lemon juice in a blender. You can find a recipe for it on eatplant-based.com.
As eatplant-based.com shares, “Most likely this cheese sauce will come out amazing as soon as you dip that spoon into the blender (after it has stopped, of course) to give it a taste. However, if it needs a little tweaking, first try adding a little more salt or nutritional yeast, as those two ingredients can make a big difference..”
Pesto is a basil-based sauce with pine nuts and olive oil, so it’s a great way to infuse a pizza with all the rich flavor cheese can offer while cutting out the dairy and animal products. Since pesto sometimes contains cheese such as parmesan cheese, it might be best to make it yourself if you want to avoid dairy at all costs.
Verywellhealth.com has a super simple recipe for homemade pesto. As their website says,
“Combine equal parts torn basil and toasted pine nuts with one finely minced clove of garlic in a food processor or using a mortar and pestle. Add olive oil in a thin drizzle until the mixture forms a thick paste. Season to taste with salt and pepper.”
Of course, you are more than welcome to find a dairy-free store-bought version and skip this step for a quick weeknight pizza dinner. You could also make the pesto ahead of time and pull it out of the fridge in a pinch.
3. Barbeque Sauce
Cheese isn’t the only decadent, rich topping for pizza–barbeque sauce adds a sweet, spicy flair sure to satisfy your craving for something salty and sugary. You can always toss your favorite protein, like tofu for vegetarians or chicken for meat lovers, in barbeque sauce before layering it over the crust.
If you want to try something different, pair barbeque sauce with roasted artichokes for a unique twist on a classic dish. You can use gold barbeque sauce for a yellow look that mimics traditional cheese pizza, too.
4. White Pizza
If you want a creamy pizza taste without the dairy, use a dairy-free white sauce as a base and layer spinach, mushrooms, and any other toppings you prefer on top of the sauce.
This will have the same delicious creamy feel of cheese without the lactose. You can enjoy a decadent pizza without milk or animal products–this pizza style proves it.
When you already like hummus and veggies, it just makes sense to put these toppings on a pizza. You can either use the hummus as a sauce to replace the traditional tomato sauce or you can layer it over the tomato sauce, piling on other vegetables for a rainbow of delicious toppings that will make you feel great after eating it.
Hummus comes in a variety of flavors, from roasted red pepper to classic to garlic to eggplant. Try experimenting with different flavors of hummus and different combinations of veggies for endless culinary fun.
6. Caramelized Onions
These decadent roasted onions give that browned flavor that cheese usually provides on a pizza. Caramelized onions are great on their own as a slightly fatty umami flavor.
They can also top a dairy-free white cream sauce pizza with an extra layer of savory tastes. They can also give that stringy feel that a good cheese pull usually adds to the pizza-eating experience.
7. Dairy-Free Ricotta
According to durangoherald.com, making your own ricotta out of firm tofu and olive oil-packed artichokes is easy.
For the ingredients, durangoherald.com lists “1 (14-ounce) package firm or extra-firm tofu, drained 1 cup (8 ounces) artichoke hearts (packed in olive oil), roughly chopped (retain the oil)1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.”
As for the instructions, durangoherald.com says to “combine the tofu, artichokes with their oil, zest, salt and pepper and process until smooth. Taste, and season with more salt, if desired. Use right away or refrigerate until needed. You should get about 3 cups; you’ll use 1½ cups on the pizza.”
While olives might seem as far away from dairy as they get, they actually share some similarities with cheese. Olives are salty, oily, and satiating.
When combined with other ingredients like mushrooms, peppers, and caramelized onions, olives can add the element of fatty salty goodness that cheese-free diets are missing.
Why would Someone Want to find Viable Alternatives to Cheese on Pizza?
It may seem untraditional, but not everyone can tolerate cheese or wants to eat cheese on pizza.
Replacing the cheese with other ingredients on pizza can open up a whole world of possibilities. You might be surprised how little you miss this shredded dairy ingredient with how delicious other ingredients are in its place.
Generally, there are three main reasons why someone might want a cheese-free pizza. You might avoid cheese due to lactose intolerance or dairy allergy.
You may also nix the cheese because you follow a vegan diet, which excludes all animal products including dairy. You might also just not like cheese–that’s a perfectly valid reason to opt for an alternative! Whatever the reason, we hope that these tips will get you started on making a delicious cheese-free pizza.