I never knew how many dairy-free people there were out there until I started a pizza blog. Now, I meet one in almost every cooking class I teach, and I hear from people on social media who are searching for cheeseless options that don't taste like disappointment. So although I've already posted two other dairy-free pizzas (Vegetarian Thai Curry and Coconut Shrimp—both relying on coconut milk or coconut cream), clearly that's not enough. Clearly, it's time to jump on the cashew cream bandwagon. And what better way to do that than with the creamy cashew "cheese" sauce in this Vegan Caesar Pizza?
Do yourself a favor: Don't think of this sauce solely as an alternative to cheese. Think of it as a tasty dressing that's creamy in the same way hummus and tahini are creamy. It gets its Ceasar flavor from a combo of lemon juice, black pepper, garlic, nutritional yeast, and Worcestershire. And it satisfies cravings you didn't even know you had, slathered on a fresh-from-the-oven pizza topped with roasted red peppers, artichoke hearts, and Kalamata olives.
Vegan Caesar Pizza
For the Cashew Caesar Sauce
- 1½ cups unsalted raw cashews soaked in water for 2 to 3 hours
- 3/4 cup filtered water
- 1 large garlic clove roughly chopped
- 1½ tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 2½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- dash vegan Worcestershire sauce (optional)
For the pizza
- 1 (14 to 16-ounce) ball pizza dough
- extra-virgin olive oil
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup sliced roasted red pepper
- 1/2 cup sliced canned artichoke hearts
- 1/4 cup sliced pitted Kalamata olives
- 1 handful shredded romaine lettuce
- Place your pizza stone or steel (if using) on an oven rack in the middle of your oven. If you plan to cook your pizza on a baking sheet, just place a rack in the middle of the oven (you do not need to preheat the baking sheet). Preheat the oven to 500°F (or the highest temperature your oven will allow, if using a pizza stone/steel) and let it heat up for at least 30 minutes while you make the dough and/or prep the toppings.
To make the Cashew Caesar Sauce
- Drain the soaked cashews and place them in a food processor or high-speed blender. Add the water, garlic, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, salt, 3 or 4 grinds of black pepper, and the Worcestershire sauce, if using. Process for 2 minutes, then scrape down the sides of the container and give the sauce a taste. Adjust the seasonings as desired. (I like it as is, but you might want to add more salt and pepper, another dash of Worcestershire, or a little more nutritional yeast to increase the "cheesy" taste.) Cover and continue processing for 2 more minutes or until the sauce is very smooth. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. (Make-ahead tip: If you're a planner, you can whip up the sauce and store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week. It's great on salad, as a dip for chips and veggies, and even as a sandwich spread.)
To stretch or roll out the dough
- Place the dough on a clean work surface and, using your hands, gently stretch it into a 12-inch circle or square, making sure that it retains an even thickness throughout. Alternatively, use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a 12-inch circle or square.
- If you’re using a pizza stone or steel: Dust a pizza peel or the back of a baking sheet lightly with flour or cornmeal. Place the dough disk on the prepared peel.
- If you’re using a baking sheet: Spray the baking sheet with cooking spray. Place the dough disk on the prepared baking sheet.
To top the pizza
- Poke the dough all over with a fork, then brush it lightly with olive oil, making sure to get all the way to the edges. Season with salt and pepper. Scatter on the roasted red pepper, artichokes, and olives.
To bake the pizza
- If you’re using a pizza stone or steel, 20 minutes before you are ready to cook the pizza, increase the oven heat to broil. Slide the pizza from the peel (or inverted baking sheet) to the hot stone or steel using quick shimmying movements. Broil the pizza just until the crust is golden , about 6 minutes. Using the peel or inverted baking sheet, transfer the cooked pizza to a cutting board. If you are making more than one pizza, allow the pizza stone or steel to reheat under the broiler for 10 minutes before you cook the next one.
- If you’re using a baking sheet, do not increase the oven to broil. Place the baking sheet on the rack in the middle of the oven and bake just until the crust is golden, 8 to 10 minutes.
- After you remove the pizza from the oven, season it with a pinch of salt and a grind or two of black pepper. Spoon 3/4 to 1 cup of the sauce into a plastic zip-top bag, snip off one of the bottom corners, and pipe the sauce onto the pizza in a zig-zag pattern. Top with the shredded romaine. Slice and serve.