The Great Pizza Experiment


The most popular page on my site, by far, is the photo tutorial for cauliflower pizza. Pizza seems to be the number one thing that people miss when they embark on any diet, but particularly when people decide to eat low-carb, gluten-free, and/or grain-free. Fortunately, there are many, many options out there for those missing their favorite treat. The cauliflower pizza has been my standby, but I started to wonder: which is the best option out there? So I got a crazy idea: I decided to make pizzas using every popular low-carb grain-free substitute and photograph, rank, and review them all.

I made pizza out of:



Cauliflower


Cream cheese


Pork rinds
 
 
Coconut flour
 
 
Milled flax seed
 

Almond flour


Ground chicken ("meatza")


Spinach


Shredded cheese
 

Eggplant
 

Zucchini
 

Hybrid: cheese, flax meal, and coconut flour


"Realest" (most closely resembling a traditional pizza): Hybrid
Best thin crust: Cauliflower
Best thick crust: Cream cheese
Best dairy-free crust: Almond flour (though I think cheese would improve this!)
Lowest calorie: Eggplant (this too would be improved with more cheese!)
Lowest carb: Meatza
Best veggie-based crust: Cauliflower
Best make-ahead option: Cream cheese

NOT recommended at all: Coconut flour, flax meal. Though if you need something that is nut-free AND dairy free, I suppose the flax crust could work in a pinch.

My favorite: Hybrid pizza with half of the cheese replaced with well-drained cauliflower


What I learned about low-carb pizza:
  • I never get sick of eating pizza ;)
  • Adding cheese, especially lots of cheese, ALWAYS improves the crust. Parmesan adds moisture, flavor, and helps act as a binder. Shredded mozzarella adds the chewiness and stretchiness which would otherwise be provided by a high-gluten wheat flour dough.
  • Parchment paper is an absolute must. Nothing else will suffice.
  • The top of the crust gets more brown than the bottom, so flip the crust over so that it has a crunchy, sturdy base. There's no point in covering the crunchy part with sauce and cheese but having the soggier part on the bottom!
  • If you add any vegetables they must be thoroughly, THOROUGHLY drained. This is kind of a pain, but well worth it.



Some other alternatives:

57 comments:

Anonymous said...

I know you posted this at a popular low carb message board but the topic has been removed, what happened?

Erica said...

@Anon: I'm not sure, they said that my blog violates their TOS but they weren't specific about how. Ah well, rules are rules, it's fine :) I hope you enjoy the recipes!

Carrie said...

Wow, what an awesome round up! Very cool that you did this. Can't wait to read through them all and try some of them out. I've tried just a few of these before and was thinking of trying the meatza next!

Thanks for visiting my blog, and very glad to have found yours. Adding you to my reader. It's hard to find any lower carb food blogs out there, so I'm always happy to stumble upon one!

Erica said...

@Carrie: Thanks, I added yours too :) Your taste is seriously right up my alley, can't wait to see more. And definitely let me know if you try one of the pizzas!

eatthecookie said...

sorry my coconut flour pizza crust didn't work for you. i find it pretty tasty and a pretty nutritious and quick alternative from the gooey cheesey stuff. that being said, i am excited about trying the cream cheese crust recipe.

Erica said...

@eatthecookie: You know, it's funny, after I wrote the article a lot of people told me "I hate the cauliflower pizza!" or "my favorite is the one that's just all shredded cheese!" and so forth...chacun a son gout I guess? ;) That being said I DID enjoy the recipe, just not so much as a pizza crust; I might try it as a focaccia with prosciutto and caramelized onions or something.

eatthecookie said...

thanks for the quick reply! i may try futzing around with my recipe and using a few of the recipes you posted here to slightly alter it... use the same recipe and add cauliflower and cream cheese.. you know combining a few of the recipes you reviewed to improve.
rock on, lady.

Erica said...

NP! Yeah I think that a lot of promise lies in the hybrid recipes (ultimately my fave was a combo of shredded cheese, egg, cauli, coconut flour, and golden flax meal). I wanted to try the flour substitutes on their own to get an idea of what kind of texture it lends. For example, the almond flour crust was too dry and crumbly but almond flour with coconut flour and extra eggs (plus maybe a little dairy) would be great. I love your blog btw, it's on my Google reader :)

christina said...

This is amazing, you are a rockstar lady!!

PatrĂ­cia said...

Absolutely... absolute.

Thanks so very much for the surprising, useful, awesome, winner post. :D

DEVON said...

Awesome! Thanks so much for doing this...
I have been experimenting for a while and haven't found anything I like yet.
Flax is too sweet for crust. Coconut flour is so dry. Almond flour doesn't hold together and doesn't roll out that thin. I am very pleased how well a tsp of arrowroot flour helps hold a dough together. I recommend it!
I am excited to try with some veggies.
Unfortunately my fiance doesn't eat dairy, so that option is out.
Thanks again!

Erica said...

@Patricia: Thanks!!

@DEVON: If you want to try a veggie version, you could probably try the eggplant crust with almond flour substituted for parmesan :)

Meghanne said...

I made a killer dairy free pizza tonight. It went a little like this:
1.5c frozen spinach steamed and drained well
1/4 cup egg whites
1.5tsp chopped garlic
1 tbs coconut flour
Salt and pepper to taste
Tsp coconut oil
All baked up on a greased cookie sheet until firm in a 350 degree oven. It needs to cool on a wire rack until it's room temperature. It was delicious and I piled it high with low carb tomato sauce, chicken, sundried tomatoes, mushrooms, olives and broccoli. AMAZING. For the peeps who can't do dairy, this is a good option.

Erica said...

Meghanne, great idea!! I love eating stuff like that, especially since it packs so much spinach into a pizza.

Jen said...

We have tried several of the same pizza crusts like you, and I gotta say... your HYBRID crust was the BEST!!! We made two crusts tonight, so that we could vary our toppings, and they were both sooooo tasty!!!
Many, many thanks for experimenting through the Paleo spectrum for us! This is our new pizza crust for the future!!! ;)

Erica said...

Jen: I think the hybrid is the best one as well :) Glad it worked out for ya!

Anonymous said...

can i marry you! ha ha! great recipes please keep them coming

Anonymous said...

Hey Erica,

What are some good healthy low carb sauces to use on the pizza? I just found your blog and I can't stop reading it. It's like healthy food porn.

Erica said...

@Anon: You can use pesto, alfredo sauce, a light brushing of garlic and olive oil, or just a small amount of pizza sauce that has no sugar added. I often mix pizza sauce and one of the fattier-but-lower-carb options to get the best of both worlds. I'm glad you like the blog!

Danielle said...

I made the cauliflour pizza last night and it was too die for!! My 2 year old ate it, 4 year old wouldnt wouch it cause it had spinach on it (lol) and my husband looved it. Thanks for posting this!

Aesir Sports said...

Cheers Erica,
I like your article and I like the idea behind the Pizza Experiment, therefore I have a brief question to you:

May I translate respectivley feature your article on my blog Aesir Sports? For the german auditition, who isn't that much into the english language. I'd like to translate your article, so that german folks may profit from your genius work.

Of course with credit to you and a link to your blog-site!

tell me please, if thats okay with you.

greetings from Germany
Furor Germanicus

Erica said...

@Aesir sure that is fine as long as you include credit and a link back :)

Jennifer said...

Awesome! If your blog allows it, I will be following you now. I keep a semi-keto related blog. I tried making a pizza crust following a recipe that was parmesan, almond flour and egg. YUCK! It tasted only like eggs..I wanted to throw up!

grace said...

Awesome! I had seen all of the various pizza recipes floating around but they all seemed kind of iffy to me. Thanks for compiling the list!

Erica said...

@jennifer and @grace: Glad that this was helpful for you :)

Steve said...

Absolutely brilliant round up thank you so much for sharing. I think you need to do a bread one now :-)

Anonymous said...

For the hybrid, have you tried almond meal instead of the coconut flour?

The Queen of Quinoa said...

Love the idea of a cauliflower and flax meal crusts! I've scoured the internet for a dairy-free option of the cauliflower recipe (that doesn't use vegan cheese0, but i haven't found what I'm looking for yet. Do you have any ideas for what I could use to bind the cauliflower rice together without using cheese?

Thanks for sharing - your pizza ideas are so creative! I will definitely be adding you to my reader :)

Nicole said...

You are awesome! I've been working my way through different crust recipes trying to convert my family - and they're about ready to mutiny :) A coconut crust I tried may have been the last straw, but the eggplant and almond flour crust didn't go over well, either. So excited to find your blog, and skip ahead to the hybrid and cream cheese crusts!

Gardenflower said...

My husband and I made the "HYBRID PIZZA!" All I can say is, "YUMMY!" It's really easy to make, holds together and is so cheesey tasting without all the salt flavoring that regular pizzas always have. This girl knows what she's doing. Ken and I give this pizza a rating of "10!"

Gardenflower said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I wish I could blow my load all over those pizzas. Erica is such a hot slut, she loves to cook for more than her husband.

Signed, Anonymous (you know who I am, bitch) ;)

Food Safety Course said...

Thanks for sharing this recipe it's definitely a really good reward for my brother who got his TABC Certification Online last week. But still work on the dough first. I'm not really the cook-type but I'd like to do something special for him.

Anonymous said...

Dreamfields pasta can be broke down in the food processor and cooked into a pizza crust. Its extremely low carb and also you can use it as rice.

Anonymous said...

I have found that baking a pizza recipe that I have, an almond flour based crust, on a pizza stone drizzled with olive oil helps to make the crust crispier and the oil keeps the crust from sticking.

Also, I found that rolling the dough out on with stone with a roller pin and wax paper helps.

Unknown said...

My family's favorite is modified from a cracker recipe from Dana Carpender and is really easy. Kind of a cross between the cheese and almond crusts.

1 c. chopped nuts (pecan is our favorite, but we have also tried sunflower seeds, pepitas and almonds)
1/2 cup shredded parmesan or romano or other cheese (parmesan is our favorite)
1/4 c. water (adjust as needed)
Garlic and spices if desired

Combine nuts and cheese in food processor or blender until thoroughly mixed. Add water a bit at a time and blend until you have a mixture that is more lumpy than runny - holds together in dough-like balls. Too wet makes it difficult to roll out, but it will bake fine.

This can be pressed out and baked in the oven (325 for 30 minutes), but is easy to make in the microwave if you have a round turntable: put parchment paper on a pizza pan, add dough in center, then put another piece of parchment paper on top and work the dough out into a circle that is a little smaller than your microwave's turntable. Should be approx. 1/8" thick. Remove the top sheet of parchment paper and trim the bottom one to be a little larger than the dough (so it clears the microwave walls). Slide the dough off the pizza pan into the microwave on the parchement paper. Bake at full power approx. 4-1/2 to 5 minutes. The first time, do it in shorter time segments and check it. It should be dry and firm and you should be able to pick it up (gently) as one piece without breaking. When it is done, the center starts to turn a little darker (at least in our microwave). If you continue, the center will burn a bit, so stop if you see that happening.

Gently loosen the crust from the parchement paper and slide it on to a bare pizza pan. Load with a light layer of sauce (too much makes the crust soggy), cheese and toppings. Broil on high for 5 minutes or until cheese bubbles and begins to brown.

Approximately 35 minutes from start to finish if you have the toppings ready. Really good cold the next day!

Roasted garlic and pepper pizza recipe said...

I had seen and visited many blogs. But around your blog the pizza are fabulous I haven't this pizza any once blog. Great work.

Grayson said...

Thank you so much for posting this information. I was about to set out on my own great pizza experiment when I happened upon yours, and your findings saved me a lot of time in developing an acceptable recipe. Just out of curiosity, have you developed a "go-to" recipe since posting these various experiments?

I've made great strides in my pizza making thanks to your advice, (my most successful recipe so far is 1 cup almond flour, 1 cup mozzarella, 1/3 cup parmesan and 2 eggs) but since this experiement of yours is now over a year old I thought perhaps you might have perfected some version of a low-carb pizza for your personal enjoyment. If so, I would very much like to hear about it! :-)

Anonymous said...

I haven’t tried any of these recipes, so they may be ok, but past experience has taught me that there is no substitute for real pizza crust. Donato’s Pizza in Cols. Ohio has a crustless pizza on their menu. Basically, it’s the sauce and toppings baked on a plate. Since I’m not sure what they put in their pizza sauce I’ve developed a crustless pizza of my own. The following recipe satisfies my craving for pizza better than any imitation crust.

¼ cup of Mid's Pizza Sauce, which only has 4 g of carbs, 1 g fiber and only 1 g sugars on a Corelle dish sprayed with cooking spray. Add mozzarella or provolone cheese then any toppings you want to use. If using fresh veggies like bell peppers or mushrooms spray them with a little cooking spray, so they’ll bake a little better. Lastly, sprinkle the top with Italian seasonings and shredded parmesan cheese. Since the Corelle dishes are oven proof to 425 degrees I bake the “pizza” in the oven for about 15 minutes or until the cheese starts to brown.

Whole Wheat Pizza Crust said...

I really love the kinds of pizza that you are making. They all look very delicious. I was just curious of the kind of crust that you make for your pizza. Do you make it with all-purpose flour or do you use a whole wheat flour as it is supposedly much more richer in protein.

Stacy MyPizzaTalk said...

Thanks for this post!
I have recently started my site MyPizzaTalk.com and I just wanted to share it with you! You can find there a lot of pizza restaurant reviews and actual pizza coupons. Please visit and enjoy!

Bo Duncan said...

I love you for this post. Do another "great experiment" please!!

filipino said...

oh by the way. great post. thank you.

Anonymous said...

I CANT BELIEVE MY EYES! God bless you for your creativity and love of food!! My type 1 diabetic 9 year old daughter was in tears yesterday for "nothing good to eat". I am forwarding your blog to all my low-carbing friends.

Can't wait to make these!!!!!

Diane in Maine

Heidi said...

You are a rock star! I'm on a very strict low oxalate Paleo diet and it looks like a number of these crusts might work for me and other low oxalate dieters. Can't wait to try the hybrid and cauliflower crusts - the two lowest oxalate and possibly tastiest!

Anonymous said...

have you tried maria emmerichs psyllium powder pizza crust?

Sienna Flood said...

Amazing recipes! You should build a pizzeria because you did a great job with your pizza experiments.

Maddison Hawdon said...

For me, the best pizza that you’ve made is the Milled flax seed pizza. I make it sure that I always eat flax seed so this pizza is the best one for me.

Ken Holmes said...

Cowabunga dudes! Is there a kind of pizza that uses an artificial sweetener?

Dustin Kim said...

Pizza is one of the foods I can't live without most especially when watching a movie together with my family. I wonder if there are some artificial sweetener included as an ingredient to tomato sauce which are used in making my favorite pizza.

Olivia W. Bruun said...

I am interested to try those pizzas that are made of coconut flour and flax seed. I wonder if you now have a Pizzeria because you made a good list of pizza recipe out of the exceptional ingredients.

Anonymous said...

I'm about two years late to the party, but I wanted to chime in and thank you for the excellent recipe. I tried it last night and I absolutely loved the pizza. DH enjoyed it so much that now I'm making a bigger one. This is definitely going into my normal meal rota!

Scarlett Jennings said...

Of course, to be able to create and bake a good pizza recipe, it's important that we make sure everything we needed is present. And that, the oven that we will be using is working properly to avoid any kitchen accidents.

Cindy said...

Why is everyone using frozen spinach...gross!!...unless it's organic?? It's so quick and easy to steam or saute the fresh stuff and the taste is so much better especially baby spinach, it doesn't have that strange aftertaste/texture in your mouth.

Cindy said...

And THANK YOU for these recipes for gluten free pizza! I just bought the Bob's Red Mills gluten free pizza crust mix to try making a good gluten free pizza. I don't eat dairy either but I do eat goat cheese. Going to try a gluten free crust with tomato sauce, carmelized balsamic vidalia onions, red peppers and goat cheese.

Anonymous said...

I make the Coconut Flour Pizza and use my big pizza pan, spread it really thin. My son and I like the taste of it and the texture does not bother us. Husband likes the taste, but not the texture. He just likes regular pizza. I heated a couple of pieces for breakfast the next day and really liked it and even better it held together so I could pick it up. Son and I wouldn't mind eating it every day. Just has to be spread thin.

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