How to Never Feel Guilty About Pizza Again

No doubt about it: Pizza is a very guilty pleasure.

But it’s one that we often rationalize.  After all, it’s vegetarian (and there are plenty of cheeseless, vegan versions), and with that old “four food groups” argument kids are so fond of, it’s easy to make pizza sound pretty healthy.

But let’s face it.  Pizza sucks for you.

The vegan versions you can buy are alright, since you skip all that cheese.  But they’re usually little more than flatbreads with a few vegetables on them, and even then, brands like Amy’s will run you five to seven bucks for a pie I could eat with half a stomach.

As for the pizzas from Thrive, they’re nutritional powerhouses, and tasty ones at that.  But if you’re going to call them pizzas, you’d better surround the word with three or four protective layers of quotation marks to avoid defaming the character of the real thing.  Even Brendan Brazier will admit that.

But yesterday, I discovered the solution to our pizza woes.

White Bean Pizza from Vegan on the Cheap

The most recent cookbook Wiley sent me is the newest from Robin Robertson, author of the outstanding 1,000 Vegan Recipes. (And far more famously, NMA interviewee.)  Her new book is called Vegan on the Cheap, which is right up this graduate student’s alley. If I need to explain to you what the concept behind the book is, maybe you should go back to bed.

The pizza is a little bit backwards: A white-bean mixture, which looks kind of like cheese, makes up the first layer.  Then tomatoes, which ordinarily would go under the cheese, top the pizza.  And they sort of look like pepperonis, which adds to the confusion.

Pizza You Can Feel Good About

But confusing as it is, this pizza is athlete-approved.  The white beans provide a healthy dose of protein and complex carbs, and you can, of course, add whatever other vegetables you’d like.

I’m sure you’ll notice that the recipe calls for white flour.  To be true to the recipe, I went ahead and used this the first time.  But I’ve made pizza dough with whole-wheat flour plenty of times, and it always turns out just fine.  So that’s what I’ll do next time.

As far as taste goes, this one was almost a huge hit.  The crust was crunchy-but-chewy, the white bean topping garlicky delicious, and the tomatoes, basil, and olives classically flavorful.  But the pizza was lacking one thing—acidity.  Perhaps some lemon juice would have done the trick, maybe a side of tomato sauce for dipping, or even some vinegary carmelized onions.  (We opted for buffalo sauce, just like countless other times.)

If you decide to try this, notice that the recipe has you make your own dough, which requires about an hour and a half of rising time.

But I’d really like to hear of what you guys come up with to jazz this pizza up a little; feel free to link to your recipes in the comments.  It’s the perfect start to making pizza something you can feel good about.

Tuscan White Bean Pizza

From Vegan on the Cheap, by Robin Robertson, Wiley, 2010

Makes 1 (12-inch) pizza. (< $1.00 per serving)


  • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup lukewarm water


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked or 1 (15.5-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/3 cup water or vegetable stock
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 medium ripe roma tomatoes, cut into 1/4 inch slices

1. Make the dough: In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast, and salt.  Stir in the water until combined, then use your hands to knead it into a soft dough.

2. Tranfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface and knead until it is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes, adding additional flour as needed so it doesn’t stick.  Shape the dough into a smooth ball and place in an oiled bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature in a warm spot until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

3. After the dough has risen, transfer it to a lightly floured work surface, punch it down, and gently stretch and lift it to make a 12-inch round about 1/4 inch thick.  Transfer the round to a floured baking sheet or pizza stone.  Let the dough rise in a draft-free place for 20 minutes.  Adjust the over rack to the bottommost position of the oven.  Preheat over to 425 degrees F.

4. Make the topping: In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the garlic and cook until softened, about 2 minutes.  Add the beans, salt, and pepper.

5. Mash the beans to break them up, then stir in the water and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is creamy, about 8 minutes.  Stir in the basil and set aside.

6. To assemble the pizza, spread the bean mixture evenly on top of the dough round, to within 1/2 inch of the edge.  Arrange the tomato slices on top and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Bake until the crust is browned, 12 to 15 minutes.  Serve hot.

Splurge a little: Add sliced pitted kalamata olives when you add the tomatoes.  Garnish with thin strips of fresh basil leaves.



Dig this post?
Spread the word!

Keep in touch:

The Nutrients You Need (With Nothing You Don't)

complementNo Meat Athlete has helped develop Complement™, the perfect nutrient formula for plant-based athletes. Complement brings together, in one place, the three essential nutrients that are missing from a reasonably diverse, whole food plant-based diet:
  • B12
  • D3
  • DHA/EPA Omega-3s
It's everything you need to complement your diet, and nothing you don't.

Click here to learn more.


  1. It’s just 10am and now, for the rest of the day, I will have pizza on the brain.

    I find that mixing Italian seasonings into the flour pre-doughifying really adds a nice extra layer of flavor. Also, I would totally load it up with mushrooms. I love the idea of bean ‘sauce’!
    .-= Lisa K´s last blog ..Spay Day! Spay Day!! Spay Day!!! =-.

  2. What a fun recipe! I love it. I just made a pizza with a cauliflower crust. It was fantastic- a whole different spin on pizza.
    .-= Erica´s last blog ..Weekend Pictures and Spiralization =-.

  3. I make pizza once a week, every Friday. It’s a tradition. 🙂 It can be healthy if you top it with tons of veggies, as this recipe shows! Also, I make a crust that only takes 30 minutes, and I use white whole wheat flour, which is amazing!
    .-= Chrissy {The New Me} ´s last blog ..thesis = defended =-.

  4. I love the idea of the beans! I just made a whole wheat pizza with an almond mixture for cheese- it was surprisingly fantastic!!

  5. Mary Ellen says:

    Sounds delish, and now I have another cookbook to buy!

  6. Wow, beans on pizza! Love this idea!
    .-= The Ordinary Vegetarian´s last blog ..Quick Garlicky Soba Noodles with Asparagus, for one =-.

  7. I probably won’t make my own crust, but the topping sounds great!

  8. I usually don’t feel guilty about pizza, but I definitely feel bloated and swollen hahaha!

    I would pizza everyday if I had enough healthy options . . . so thanks for this recommendation 🙂 I’ve made a mexican pizza before with kidney beans. It was so dense, one slice made me full for hours.
    .-= Morgan @ Life After Bagels´s last blog ..Do You Compete At The Gym? =-.

    • Morgan, is that a typo or did you just use “pizza” as a verb? I believe I will start doing that…

      • Casi Leigh says:

        I believe I would pizza every day if I could, too. 🙂

        When we went cheeseless on our pizzas while on our veg journey, we discovered that a thin layer of artichoke hearts over the tomato sauce, followed by our veggies toppings, made a great replacement for cheese. I’m thinking this bean mixture plus our artichoke hearts could equal something really yum…

  9. That looks AWESOME! We make a crust that is very similar that we got from a great book, “Vegan Planet”. I like to alter it and replace the salt with garlic salt and mix in a small scoop of ground flaxseed and a teaspoon of 2-4 different spices–pretty much anything: sage, oregano, rosemary, cilantro, etc.

  10. This looks amazing!! I do love me some good cheesy pizza, but I think trying it with beans would be totally satisfying.

    And I know making your own crust isn’t necessarily all that hard, but I really do love going to Trader Joe’s and buying their pizza dough. They have a whole wheat one and an herb one that are both delicious! And my favorite pizza toppings (besides tomatoes and basil) are eggplant and portabella mushrooms!

    • Lauren, how’s the ingredient list on the Trader Joe’s pizza crust? I’d like to find one for quick meals. I’m always tempted to buy Boboli or others but there always seems to be too much fake stuff. And making the dough is so easy!

  11. There is a great pizza place by my apartment in NYC called “Slice” that has a type of vegan pizza you can order with hummus instead of sauce and kalamata olives and sundried tomatoes on a choice of spelt, wheat, rice flour, or herbed crust. It is heaven on earth and reminds me of the lovely vision above.
    .-= Catherine´s last blog ..Inclines & Indian Food =-.

  12. I am definitely going to be trying this. We have pizza night every week here at my house – I would make this with a whole wheat crust and I would add caramelized onions, kalamata olives and roasted red peppers. My dough recipe is on my blog under the title Pizza Night!

  13. Pizza isn’t healthy? News to me.

    Granted, I very rarely buy pizza, we always make it from scratch. I’ve got a pretty good dough recipe, works great for calzones too.
    .-= Blaine Moore´s last blog ..Do Your Shoulders Hurt When You Run? =-.

  14. This recipe sounds great. I’ve been looking for a good cheese-less pizza. I think it’ll finally give me the motivation to make my own pizza. I’m always tempted to make my own pizza, but living in Brooklyn around tons of pizzerias makes me lazy.

  15. I love the bean spread idea! I’m always trying to healthify our homemade pizzas.

  16. I know some people might think it’s weird, but I love a vegan pizza with sauteed collard greens, bella mushrooms, and red pepper flakes. Very earthy and very, very good.

  17. Wow, the site looks awsome. I found you on design crowd. The winner has done well. I might even subscribe to this blog 😛

    • Hey Laura, wow, I had no idea Design Crowd would get traffic to my site… I thought I was just getting a logo! But thanks; I’m glad you like it. I do.

  18. I’m so gonna make this pizza next week. It looks delicious!
    .-= vegantickles´s last blog ..THE PLANT CAFE ORGANIC =-.

  19. I’m also a little confused by your “pizza isn’t healthy” statement. I realize that cheese isn’t the healthiest thing on the planet, but (and maybe I’m lying to myself?) I don’t think its really bad for you. Dough, a little cheese, and vegetables. How is that bad?

    As far as the “last minute pizza dough” comments, I usually make my dough in double batches and freeze some for another day. It works surprisingly well.
    .-= Emily´s last blog ..“This supermarket is trying to kill us!” =-.

  20. Blaine, Emily, and any others who question whether pizza is bad for you:

    As you know, your making it at home with whole wheat and not a ton of cheese already makes it a million times better than most of what you can buy. But I used to think that even store-bought or delivery pizza was a decent option, since I run and could use the carbs, I told myself. When I read Thrive, this jumped out at me:

    “A conventional pizza is made from white flour, cheese, and processed meat—all cooked at a high temperature. These highly acid-forming ingredients combined with high-temperature cooking makes for a biologically taxing meal.”

    So yeah, it’s not like this says pizza is the worst thing you can eat, by any stretch. For me, it just made me realize that there’s a lot more to a healthy meal than the protein, carb, fat, and calorie numbers, and pizza doesn’t do too well when you look past these.

    I love regular, homemade pizza with fresh mozzarella cheese. Homemade sauce, even better. But I’m trying to make it a rarer treat than it is.

  21. I have made veggie pizza and used hummus for cheese. It’s SO incredibly delicious!

    This looks great!
    .-= Diana @ frontyardfoodie´s last blog ..Dinner at Mor mor’s =-.

  22. Thanks for sharing the recipe. I am definately going to try making this. I love that it includes some protein!! I like the idea of dipping the pizza in pizza sauce. Yummy!!
    .-= Melanie@ I Dream of Tahini´s last blog ..Date Night =-.

  23. I made a version of this pizza last week and will make it for the whole family again tomorrow night.

    I put it on an Ezekial wrap, and added sauted mushrooms and asparagus. I also used black beans instead of white and it was very tasty.

    Thanks for the inspiration!
    .-= Barb Cymanski´s last blog ..The beginning of Half Iron Man training… =-.

  24. When I do get the craving for something cheesy, I either make tofu ricotta cheese for my pasta casseroles or cashew cheese [among the ingredients: turmeric for yellowish color and salt/onion pwdr/garlic pwdr for taste] for grilled cheese sandwiches with Ezekiel bread.

    To satisfy pizza cravings, I usually head to Whole Foods to order their Vegan Grilled Veggie pizza, in which they use Daiya brand cheese. Daiya’s main ingredient is tapioca and is the best vegan cheese yet, based on melting and taste characteristics IMO.

  25. Hmm I just ordered Thrive so I’ll be reading it soon, but I am starting to wonder if I will disagree with a lot of his philosophy
    .-= RunToTheFinish´s last blog ..Cross walkers =-.

  26. Made a few adjustments, and wowza! Delicious. Even the household meat/cheese eater was convinced. Thanks!

    Here it is: pizza is delicious, even without cheese

  27. I used to have a huge love affair with pizza, and as a new vegan I was ready to cave until I saw this recipe. I followed it exactly, except I seasoned the ends of the crust with a hint of garlic was very tasty and my preschool class got a kick out of smelling it. X

  28. I made this recipe for the first time last night and it was Uh-Mazing! I loved it!!! The possibilities are endless, as far as toppings go. On top of the white bean spread, I added Marinara, some sauteed brussel srouts and red cabbage, artichoke hearts, and fresh tomato slices! It was sooo yummy! This will be a regular recipe on my agenda! Thanks so much! I am new to the vegan lifestyle and this was a God-send!

  29. Love this blog! As a newbie, I am so excited to have found this site with so many great recipes and running tips. This pizza will be my dinner tomorrow fo sho!

  30. Loved it! I added faux sausage and it was so delish!

  31. Maybe a little bit of salsa would help with the acidity issue…I’ll try that on my “pizza”

  32. Bliss Raymond says:

    We use this recipe atleast once every two weeks. Its amazing. We also take a quarter of the dough and make a few bread sticks. Just heat up some “butter” (earth balance) and garlic and brush the dough and cook for 8 min. Absolutely amazing.

    Thanks for the great recipe!

  33. This looks pretty similar to the pizzas we usually make. My family aren’t vegans, so we do half and half, and I’ve attempted a couple different ones using hummus, but recently, I’ve discovered topping the pizza with tahina and veggies is even more delicious. Tahini is expensive, so I make my own by grinding up sesame seeds. Then make the tahina by adding garlic, lemon, salt, and oil to taste. so. good.

  34. Great pizza recipe. Love the bean protein. Dipping my slices in vegan garlic butter.

  35. I think all I would do for that is add some lemon in the bean mix to make it more tangy. Also I would dribble some tomato sauce like for pasta over it as well as the tomatoes. I think I am going to make that!

    Today I had a flat bread Turkish bean pizza using wholemeal pitta bread. I used one can of drained kidney beans mushed up. I added an onion which I cooked until tender and 2 gloves of garlic cooked with the onion at the end. Then you add 3 tablespoons of tomato puree/paste, 1/4 teaspoon chilli powder, 1 teaspoon paprika, salt, pepper, a little pinch of brown sugar is optional and a sprinkle of parsley (I used dried). Half of the mixture goes on 2 pitta breads, so enough for me tomorrow. You cook for about 10 minutes or so in a medium oven. Serve with a squeeze of lemon juice over the top. Really quick, really easy, really good.

    I didn’t think it would be so delicious but it really was. The spicy mixture tasted different to usual Italian type pizza but it was gorgeous. The lemon over the top was lovely too. It was nice for my dinner but I think I could even eat it for breakfast! A nice protein and carb start to the day.

Leave a Comment