Meat Free Mondays – Vegan Pizza

Veganism is something I think I could do, with one exception: Pizza.

My love for pizza is well-documented. I could eat pizza seven nights per week … and before I was married, I often did!

Vegan Pizza

Vegan Pizza

Living in Chicago, we have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to great pizza places. There are many world-class pizza places within delivery distance to my house: Palermo’s in Oak Lawn, Louise’s in Crestwood, Papa Joe’s in Oak Lawn, Lou Malnati’s, Vito and Nick’s (featured on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives), Home Run Inn, and Phil’s, to name a few.

Even the second-tier pizza places — Conte’s, Leonardo’s, Fox’s, Augustano’s, etc. — are far superior to the best pizza offerings in most cities. I’m not saying this to brag: It’s just the truth. Chicago is known for its great neighborhood pizza places.

Turning my back on pizza in Chicago would be like somebody in Indianapolis swearing off auto racing or somebody from Kansas City refusing to eat barbecue: It’s too hard because it’s what defines that city.

So when I found out that soy-based mozzarella “cheese” was an actual thing, my hopes that vegan pizza could be a reality were raised.

I found a place online called Food Fight Grocery where I could buy it — along with a lot of other cool vegan stuff — and placed my order. A few days later it arrived.

I have to admit that this tube of soy-based mozzarella sat in my refrigerator for a couple of weeks before I worked up the nerve to actually try it. I mean, what if it was really good? That would mean the final obstacle to my going completely vegan would be removed.

After all, the package stated that it tastes and melts just like real dairy-based mozzarella and that it even had the same stringy texture.

Finally, I tried it. Using my standard vegetarian pizza recipe — including the homemade whole wheat dough I always use —  I put together my pie.

057The first sign that something wasn’t right with this “cheese” was that you couldn’t grate it like you can fresh mozzarella. It wouldn’t hold together well enough to withstand the grater. It was too watery. So instead I had to cut it into discs.

Then, when I cooked the pizza, the cheese only melted slightly and wouldn’t get brown and bubbly, not even when I turned on the broiler for a couple of minutes. It stubbornly stayed the same white color.

Finally, it came time to taste it. The flavor, while mozzarella-esque, lacked the buttery undertones that real, fresh mozzarella has. In fact, it didn’t have much flavor at all.

The texture was similar to mozzarella, but despite what the packaging claimed, it didn’t have the stringiness and gooey texture we’ve come to associate with high-quality dairy-based mozzarella. While it wasn’t exactly like putting tofu on pizza and calling it cheese, it was close enough that I don’t think I’ll try it again.

In a way, I’m relieved because I don’t think I’m ready to commit 100% to vegan — or even vegetarian — lifestyle. Still, I enjoy cooking vegan much more frequently than ever before and am continually seeking out new recipes — especially on such great blogs as Becky’s at VegHotPot — so that I can cut down drastically on the amount of animal protein I consume.

But nothing will ever take the place of my Chicago pizza.

Thank God!


8 thoughts on “Meat Free Mondays – Vegan Pizza

  1. It depends on what type of vegan you are. Theoretically there are “ethical” vegans (animal rights people, PETA, etc.), and “dietary” vegans (me, for example – I like the fact that my LDL cholesterol is 61 with no meds and I am at my college weight again) – in which case a little pizza wouldn’t be disallowed. Especially if I went to Chicago.

    Have you heard of the “Paris exemption”?

    (from wikipedia)

    >>Unlike Francione, Singer is not concerned about what he calls trivial infractions of vegan principles, arguing that personal purity is not the issue. He supports what is known as the “Paris exemption”: if you find yourself in a fine restaurant, allow yourself to eat what you want, and if you have no access to vegan food, going vegetarian is acceptable.<<

    Since I've started the dietary veganism I have had pizza (homemade pita pizza) two or three times with no regrets – and at a friend's house vegan pizza which was just pizza with no cheese – it was good. I'd love to try yr homemade pizza!

    It's funny how I have gotten used to this – I make burritos all the time with no cheese – I don't even miss it any longer.

  2. I’m lactose intolerant but I still cant resist a bit of real cheese on my pizza. I’ve never actually tried vegan cheese I think I’d rather have proper cheese and on the days I dont feel up to it then I just have no cheese! I like the paris exemption Michael mentions above – when I was in New York there were a few times I thought about just trying this or that because the places we were visiting were famous for it (like katz deli pastrami) and the other options on the menu were pretty poor but in the end I just couldn’t do it.

  3. I love sometypes of vegan cheeses, like cheddar stule cheese from the brand Tofutti. We can’t get a lot of tasty vegan cheeses here in Belgium. I am also lactose-intolerant & can digest older cheeses well. A grand & tasty looking vegan pizza! I love your used topping: divine!

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