A Cauliflower Pizza So Delicious, You Won’t Miss the Dough

September 11, 2018
Photo by Julia Gartland

Anyone who’s attempted cauliflower pizza crust knows its primary pitfall: a soggy center. With only a few exceptions, recipes for cauli crusts often result in something that, while delicious, requires a spoon and a bowl to eat.

When we first stumbled upon a photo of Lily Simpson’s version in Detox Kitchen Vegetables, we were taken aback by its deeply tanned, amber-tinged edges, and what looked like a thin, firmly crispy center. We took things to the test kitchen, and were not disappointed. Thanks to Simpson’s instructions, plus a few improvisations of our own, we’re happy to report that we have a plant-based pizza keeper on our hands.

Follow These Steps for Max Crispiness

1. How Low Can You Go?

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As Simpson says, “A perfect cauliflower pizza has a crispy base and the key to that is making sure it is pressed out as thinly as possible.” She recommends a thickness of about 1-centimeter, or a little more than 1/3-inch. Any thicker, and you’re likely to end up with a crust that has the texture of a baked potato, rather than a cracker.

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Top Comment:
“Sounds like a win in trying to create a healthier version of pizza. As for thickness in this matter, without splitting hairs on the wording, the thinner the better is the bottom line. ”
— M

2. Chill Out.

After you’ve pressed out your cauliflower crust, if you have time, Simpson recommends popping it into the fridge to chill for 20 to 30 minutes. This step allows the crust to meld together better, and facilitates maximum crispiness once the pizza is baked.

3. Take a Page from Pie’s Book.

As with pie crusts, we’ve found that par-baking our cauliflower crust before topping it with sauce and accoutrement is crucial for firming up and drying out the center. We’d recommend baking Simpson’s crust for 10 minutes before removing it, adding the toppings, and finishing it for another 15 to 20 minutes in the oven.

Beyond The Crispy Exterior

Beyond its crisp crust, we love Simpson’s cauliflower creation because it’d be equally good as a light weekday dinner, or as the star of a Saturday night pizza party. “Marinating” the tomato topping in lemon zest is a clever way to brighten late-season tomatoes, and the addition of acid balances the starchy flavor of cauliflower. Double down by tossing in a teaspoon or so of lemon juice as well.

Like with any good pizza, the recipe is flexible: Swap out the plum tomatoes for another type, or for whatever vegetable looks best at the farmers market. You could use Simpson’s instructions just for the crust, and pile on your favorite sauce and toppings: Pesto, vegan “cheese," and thinly sliced fridge pickles would all be excellent.

Call In More Cauliflower

What are your favorite toppings for cauliflower pizza? Let us know in the comments!

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Ella Quittner

Written by: Ella Quittner

Ella Quittner is a contributing writer and the Absolute Best Tests columnist at Food52. She covers food, travel, wellness, lifestyle, home, novelty snacks, and internet-famous sandwiches. You can follow her on Instagram @equittner, or Twitter at @ellaquittner. She also develops recipes for Food52, and has a soft spot for all pasta, anything spicy, and salty chocolate things.


M September 11, 2018
Just to clarify on the subject of lemon juice, outside the body, lemon juice is acidic (pH is below 7). This is a non-issue. Everyone knows this. It’s a citrus fruit. Inside the body however, when lemon juice has been fully metabolized and its minerals are dissociated in the bloodstream, its effect is alkalizing and therefore raises the pH of the body (pH above 7 is alkaline). As the writer says, the addition of lemon juice with the tomatoes will brighten their flavor. Sounds like a win in trying to create a healthier version of pizza. As for thickness in this matter, without splitting hairs on the wording, the thinner the better is the bottom line.
Smaug September 11, 2018
The recipe calls for lemon zest, though it does suggest juice as a possible add in. I would suggest using good tomatoes, which neither need nor appreciate such add ins, but of course that limits your opportunities. I'm not sure what hairs are being split, that's a very thick crust.
Smaug September 11, 2018
A centimeter is much closer to 1/4 inch than 1/3- still a very thick crust. Lemon zest is not acidic.
Smaug September 11, 2018
Wait, that's not right- it's a little over 2.5cm/in., so +40% of an inch. That's EXTREMELY thick.