Photo: Greg Dupree

Our expert guide to creating healthy homemade pizza.

April 20, 2017

As a country, we love our pizza. In fact, in 2014 the USDA reported about one in eight Americans eat pizza on any given day. But our love of pie typically comes loaded with too much saturated fat and sodium. Studies show that pizza ranks as one of the top three contributors of sodium to the American diet. Clocking in at an average of 750 calories per pizza-eating session, our favorite Netflix accompaniment has a reputation for being a hefty-calorie-bomb, too. Until now, that is.

We like to think of pizza recipes as a blank canvas that's full of healthy potential. Trying to eat more veggies? Pile them onto a pizza. A disk of dough is the perfect platform to showcase a bounty of fresh produce, lean proteins, and healthy oils. And perhaps the best news is that you have the power to maximize the nutritional value of your pizza by making a few healthy choices. From the whole-grain crust to the plant-based toppings, velvety cheese, and flurry of fresh herbs, these crave-worthy handcrafted pizzas make skipping delivery easy as pie.

 Photo: Greg Dupree

Take the Pie Road

Good pizza starts with good dough. Whether homemade or store-bought, the right ratio of flour, water, yeast, and salt will create the coveted crisp-chewy texture. Look to store-bought dough for pizzeria quality and convenience—we certainly do. Out of the package, the dough should be smooth and spongy. We prefer whole-grain crusts, which add nutty flavor and toasty complexity while slipping in a few servings of whole grains.

Supermarket Dough Taste Test

WHOLE FOODS WHOLE WHEAT
Taste: Earthy profile, bran-forward flavor
Texture: Soft crust, hearty chew, sturdy base for ample toppings
Pliability: Silky smooth and easy to roll out and mold

Nutrition (per 2 oz.)
Calories 130
Protein 4g
Fiber 1g
Sodium 260mg

TRADER JOE'S WHOLE WHEAT
Taste: Pleasantly nutty, toasty flavor
Texture: Crisps up well; texture comparable to a pita
Pliability: Dough is a little tacky and sticky but easy to work with.

Nutrition (per 2 oz.)
Calories 120
Protein 4g
Fiber 4g
Sodium 170mg

TRADER JOE'S GARLIC & HERB
Taste: Powerful rosemary and garlic flavor; best with few toppings
Texture: Crisps up well; texture comparable to a pita
Pliability: Dough is tacky and more difficult to work with.

Nutrition (per 2 oz.)
Calories 140
Protein 4g
Fiber 1g
Sodium 280mg

WHOLLY WHOLESOME GLUTEN FREE
Taste: Neutral flavor lets toppings shine.
Texture: Delightfully chewy; pale in color with minimal browning
Pliability: Weak structure; difficult to roll out without breaking apart.

Nutrition (per 2 oz.)
Calories 110
Protein 2g
Fiber 4g
Sodium 200mg

Tackle the Toppings

  • The inspiration for pizza-topping nirvana can come from one trip to your local farmers' market. Take advantage of seasonal vegetables to add freshness and nutritional heft to your homemade pie. Not only do our pizzas run the gamut when it comes to tasty, plant-heavy toppings, they're also weeknight-fast and won't break the sodium or calorie bank. We can't promise there will be leftovers, but we can guarantee each slice will be love at first bite.
  • The sauce should be light and simple. Using fresh roasted tomatoes or unsalted canned whole tomatoes in place of traditional pizza sauce can save up to 150mg sodium per serving.
  • The cheese acts as the glue, helping to bind your toppings to the dough. Part-skim mozzarella is mild and melty, making it our top pick. Part-skim ricotta can serve as both the sauce and cheese when thinned out and made creamier with a splash of milk.
  • The veggie toppings need not be elaborate, but they should fill nutritional gaps for the day. Parbaking the dough can prevent the crust from getting weighed down and soggy when adding vegetables such as cherry tomatoes or zucchini.
  • The finisher should add bright flavor and fresh dimension. Add a handful of arugula to slip in some extra leafy greens, a drizzle of Sriracha-spiked mayonnaise for a spicy punch, or fresh herbs for a wispy, flavor-packed garnish.

For healthy pizza options, see our Healthy Pizza Recipes.

The Role of Gluten

Flour contains wheat proteins, which, when agitated in the presence of water, combine to form gluten, a protein that adds strength and pliability to dough. Dough without gluten is lower in protein and can fall apart more easily when not handled carefully.

Prep Pointers

  1. Rest refrigerated dough at room temperature for at least 30 minutes to relax the gluten, and make dough easier to roll out.
  2. Crank the oven temperature to 500°F, or as high as you can go without broiling, to achieve the best results.
  3. Pierce rolled-out dough with a fork to prevent it from bubbling up as it bakes.
  4. Sprinkle cornmeal underneath the dough to keep it from sticking to the pizza stone and to get the bottom of the crust extra crispy.
  5. Build your pizza on a sheet of parchment paper, and then carefully place pizza and paper on top of your hot stone or baking sheet to avoid the need for a pizza peel. This also promotes crisping.

Healthy Pizza Ideas

 Photo: Greg Dupree

View Recipe: Mushroom and Arugula Pizza

Mushrooms stand in for cured meat toppers, adding meaty, umami-rich flavor while shaving off sodium and saturated fat.

 

 Photo: Greg Dupree

View Recipe: Banh Mi Pizza

If you're craving extra protein, try cracking 2 eggs over the cheese just before baking.

 

 Photo: Greg Dupree

View Recipe: Tomato-Ricotta Pizza

Red tomatoes are richer in antioxidants when cooked, giving you better access to lycopene (a disease-fighting antixoidant).

 

 Photo: Greg Dupree

View Recipe: Garden Greens Pizza

This springtime pie taps into some of the season's superior produce for a vibrant, fresh take on pizza.

 

 Photo: Greg Dupree

View Recipe: Supremely Veggie Pizza

The dough develops a focaccia-like texture from a 24-hour resting period in the refrigerator.