“Vegan pizza is boring”, said no one ever who had this pizza. It has a rich flavor profile and is incredibly tasty, despite it’s simple ingredients. Topped with smoky, sweet barbecue sauce, caramelized sweet onions, vegan sausage crumbles, crispy kale and creamy almond cheese, this pizza is sure to be a favorite at your next pizza night!
Sometimes Less is More
One of simplest ways to play around with pizza flavors, is to switch up the sauce. For this pizza, there’s no tomato sauce. Instead, a bit of barbecue sauce goes a long way. I chose a rich, smokey and sweet one which has loads of flavor and is the perfect match for a mild sausage like vegan Brats. The caramelized onions are so soft that they also impart a sauce like feel to the pizza. And because their moisture is very low, there’s no risk of a soggy crust.
Topping It Off
Next up for some green, I went with kale which is pretty, crisps up to kale chips when baked on the pizza, and is a nice contrast in texture to the softness of the onions and chewy sausage bits. The almond cheese adds some creaminess and zip (from the lemon and miso). You won’t miss any other forms of vegan cheese on this pizza, the flavors and textures are really satisfying as they are. I didn’t add any grated vegan mozza as I felt it would compete with what I already had and may make the pizza too rich.
Once the onions have been caramelized and have cooled down enough to handle, we stretch our dough. I used a no-knead pizza dough which I’ll be sharing soon on the blog. It’s a modification of my no-knead dutch oven bread! You can use your favorite pizza dough recipe, or pick up some ready made at the store.
I’m certainly not the tidiest person when I cook (in fact, my daughter thinks I should rename this blog to Messy Kitchen, for some insight), but having all of your toppings measured out and ready to go really makes the process so much easier. Your work surface will be covered in your pizza dough, so it’s more manageable to have the pre-portioned little bowls of toppings at the ready. Plus it’ll make you feel like a pro 😉
We use only half of the kale and almond ricotta as the pizzas bake. Once the pizza is hot out of the oven, we add some more of the kale and ricotta. This adds some extra textural and visual interest!
Tips for Perfect Caramelized Onion, Sausage and Kale Pizza with Almond Ricotta:
- caramelizing onions can be done ahead of time. They keep well when sealed in the fridge for up to a week. I like to make a double batch (this means a big pot!) and use them for pizza, burgers, wraps, and in other recipes. They’re also amazing on toast with the almond ricotta cheese! Anyway, they do take some time to make, but don’t rush them. The secret to their amazing flavor and color is the gradual caramelization during a slow cook. And make sure your pot is big enough. If you crowd it, the caramelization will take longer and you’ll have onions falling all over your stove as you stir them before they start to reduce.
- I chose a Brat style vegan sausage for this recipe because I didn’t want a bunch of other flavors competing with the onions and barbecue sauce. Breakfast style crumbles would also be a good choice for this style of pizza. We’re going for the classic sausage taste which is marked by the fennel flavor.
- quick soak your sliced almonds for a speedy ricotta (you’ll find the instructions in the recipe.) No waiting on almonds to soften for hours! Many vegan ricotta recipes call for slivered almonds, but I find the sliced ones hydrate faster and are much easier to blend up. I don’t add any extra water to mine once they are drained and blended with the other ingredients. I like it thick and a bit crumbly on the pizza once baked. Wet ricotta can cause a soggy pizza crust.
- I use 2 different oils in the almond ricotta – the olive oil helps smooth things out with a nice flavor, and the refined coconut oil helps the cheese set up once chilled. It also gives the cheese a nice mouthfeel, almost like the cheese is melting or softening when you chew it. Note that refined coconut oil does not smell or taste like coconut.
- half of the ricotta and kale is used on the pizzas when they are baking. We enjoyed how the kale became crisp when baked, and then having some fresh, bright pieces on top. This was also true about the ricotta, it was nice to mix up the texture and color a bit.
- when stretching pizza dough, I use a tiny bit of oil on my work surface and hands. The reason I use oil instead of flour is, 1) I find it easier to handle the dough this way, 2) it’s easier to clean up, and 3) lightly oiled pizza dough helps create some extra crisp on the outer bit of the crust especially at high oven temperatures.
Vegan Caramelized Onion, Sausage and Kale Pizza with Almond Ricotta
For the Caramelized Onions:
- 3 large sweet onions
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
For the Almond Ricotta:
- 2 cups blanched sliced almonds
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 4 tbsp refined coconut oil
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp light miso (Shiro or chickpea)
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- ½ tsp salt
For the Kale:
- 1 small bunch curly kale
- 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 large (100 g each) vegan sausages, preferably brat style or other mild variety
For the Rest of the Pizza:
- 1 lb pizza dough, store-bought or homemade
- 8 tbsp barbeque sauce, smokey and sweet variety
- dried red chili flakes, to taste
For the Caramelized Onions:
- Peel the onions, and cut them in half root to tip. Either using a knife or a mandolin, cut the onion halves into thin slices, about 1/8-1/4″ thick.
- Heat the oil in a large, heavy bottomed pot over medium. Add the onions and salt, stir to coat in the oil, and then even the onions out over the bottom of the pot. Stir occasionally, until softened and the liquid starts to evaporate. The color will start to change gradually after about 15 minutes. Use a metal spatula to help scrape up any browning, stirring every few minutes so the caramelization happens evenly and to prevent sticking to the pot. If the onions look like they are starting to burn rather the brown, reduce the heat a bit. The process is slow but this is how the caramelization happens and the resulting flavors to emerge. Crisping should not happen, rather a softening and then gradual development of blonde to golden to brown color. This should take 40-60 minutes. Stir in the balsamic vinegar a few minutes before turning off the heat.
For the Almond Ricotta:
- In a small pot, cover the sliced almonds in water. Bring to a simmer over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the almonds soak for 10 minutes.
- Drain the almonds and add them to a food processor. Pulse to break them up. Add the rest of the ingredients for the ricotta, then blend until almost smooth, scraping down the sides as you go. The almond mixture looks like an extra thick ricotta. Place in an air-tight dish in the fridge until you need it. It will firm up more as it cools.
For the Sausage:
- If the vegan sausage has casings, remove them. Crumble the sausage into small pieces (about 3/4″). Heat the oil in a heavy bottomed skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add in the sausage and sauté for 4 or 5 minutes, or until lightly browned.
For the Kale:
- Wash the kale and pat it dry. Remove the thick stem from each leaf. Tear the leaves into bite sized pieces and place in a bowl. Drizzle in the olive oil, and massage the leaves with your hands to coat them with the oil and to soften them slightly.
To Assemble the Pizza:
- Preheat the oven to 500°F. If you have a pizza stone, have it heating in the oven. Otherwise, lightly oil 2 large baking sheets (or use parchment paper).
- Working on one pizza at a time, stretch out the dough for the first pizza on a baking sheet. Keep your hands lightly oiled to prevent sticking. My pizzas were about 8″ x 12″ each, or you could do 10″ round ones.
- Spread 4 tbsp of the barbecue sauce on the first pizza. Scatter half of the caramelized onions, 1/4 of the almond ricotta (about 1″ lumps) and about 1/4 of the kale.
- Bake the pizza for 12-15 minutes or until the crust is golden brown and cooked in the center. Remove from the oven and slide onto a heat proof cutting board or serving tray. While the first one bakes, prepare the second pizza.
- To serve, sprinkle each baked pizza with a bit more of the remaining ricotta (you might have leftovers, it’s amazing on toast etc) and kale. Sprinkle with red chili flakes if desired. Enjoy!