Canadian Pizza Magazine

Vegetarian and vegan pizzas: The Pizza Chef

Diana Cline   

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As I write this, I am freshly back from the Canadian Pizza Show, and I want to say that it was great to meet so many of you! I really enjoyed hosting the Seasonal Pizza Challenge, and I am thrilled that my talk about vegan and vegetarian pizzas became an open discussion with everyone in attendance!

I feel it’s important to share what were some very important takeaways from this year’s show. My purpose isn’t to discuss the rights and wrongs of things but only to inform and educate other independent pizzeria owners as to what changes are occurring in your marketplace, namely, that there is a starving market ready to be catered to with just a little tweaking of your menu.

In the last two years, the vegan market has grown by leaps and bounds, mainly because many of our aging population and millennials are turning to clean living vegan diets. Google Trends shows a 90 per cent increase in searches for the word “vegan” in 2016. The biggest growth is in meat eaters who are cutting back.

People choose vegan or vegetarian diets for three main reasons:

  1. They need to accommodate food allergies: In North America, we are lot of ingredients that simply did not exist when we were kids – from artificial food dyes and artificial growth hormones, to excess levels of pesticides now used on genetically engineered foods (GMOs). A lot of Canadians suffer allergic reactions or serious health issues if they don’t change their diets.
  2. They wish to eat in accordance with their religious or spiritual beliefs: There is a growing spiritual movement that urges us to “do no harm.” This includes environmental damages caused and created by our current animal farming and processing methods. Also under this banner is cruelty to animals: many of our current animal farming and processing methods are seen as inhumane.
  3. They want to live a clean lifestyle that includes clean eating. Clean eating is a deceptively simple concept. Rather than revolving around the idea of ingesting more or less of specific things (for instance, fewer calories or more protein), the idea is more about being mindful of the food’s pathway between its origin and your plate. At its simplest, clean eating is about eating whole foods, or “real” foods – those that are un- or minimally processed, refined, and handled, making them as close to their natural form as possible.

A vegetarian is someone who does not eat meat, but still eats dairy like cheeses and milks. Many also eat eggs. A vegan is someone who eats only a plant-based diet. They do not eat meat, dairy or fish. Vegivore, semi-vegetarian and flexitarian are all words used to describe someone who has cut most of the meat out of their diet but still eats some every now and then.

There are a few ways to enhance your menu to cater to vegetarians and vegans. You can offer roasted and marinated veggie options. The easiest way to do this is to marinate your veggies with some olive oil, minced garlic, sea salt, pepper and basil, and roast them in the oven. Also good are oven-roasted red peppers, oven-roasted zucchini and oven-roasted marinated mushrooms.  

Try caramelizing your onions. Add
olive oil and brown sugar to some onions in a pan, roast them for a few minutes then add balsamic vinegar and roast them a few more minutes to get phenomenally enhanced flavours for your pizza that any customer will love! I also like to toast cashews and pecans. They offer a nice “bite” and are very satisfying to a vegan and vegetarian palate.   

Another topping line of mine features roasted and marinated beans, peas and lentils. Each of these has incredible nutritional value and is unique to find on pizzas. You could be the first in your area to offer them!

When creating new specialty combinations, think about temperature, flavour, and texture. Textures are extremely important. Here is a great combination: spicy roasted pecan, olive-oil-and-herbs-roasted zucchini and caramelized onions topped with fresh arugula. Also, consider toppings like diced pickles, mango salsas and chutneys to enhance the textures of your pizzas after baking.

Diana Cline is a two-time Canadian Pizza magazine Chef of the Year, three-time winner of “Canada’s Best Pizza Chef” at international pizza competitions, a judge for international pizza culinary competitions in Las Vegas, Italy and France, and a partner with Diana’s Cucina & Lounge in Winnipeg. In addition to creating award-winning recipes, Diana is a consultant to other pizzeria owner/operators in menu development, creating systems to run a pizzeria on autopilot, and marketing to help operators grow their business strategically. She is available for consulting on a limited basis; for more information contact her at

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