If you can’t eat dairy or just want to try out a healthier alternative to cheese-laden pizza, then you’re going to love this vegan weeknight dinner recipe. Making your own dairy-free ricotta “cheese” is easy when you use almonds, which pairs perfectly with fresh, zippy basil pesto, marinara sauce and slivered kale. You’ll really impress everyone with the simple homemade crust recipe, but you can always use a pre-made one instead if you don’t have time to make it from scratch. Take your vegan pizza toppings up a notch by trying out coconut “bacon.”  Even if you aren’t vegan or want to share this dairy-free dinner recipe with your friends, you’ll find the savoury and slightly sweet bacon alternative adds the perfect crunch and a unique smoky taste that everyone will love.

Vegan Pizza with Almond Ricotta, Coconut Bacon and Pesto

Prep Time: 40 minutes (add 8 hours to soak nuts for “almond ricotta” recipe below)
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 70 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients:

Almond “Ricotta”:
1 cup slivered blanched almonds
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup water
1/2 small clove of fresh garlic, chopped

Coconut “Bacon”:
2 cups coconut flakes, unsweetened
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil or avocado oil
1 Tbsp tamari
2 tsp maple syrup
1 tsp smoked paprika

Pesto:
1 cup basil leaves
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp hemp seeds or pine nuts
1 tsp lemon juice
1 small garlic clove, minced
Sea salt and pepper, to taste

Homemade Pizza Crust:
1 packet rapid rise yeast (or 2 tsp of baker’s yeast)
1 cup warm water
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 1/2 cups spelt flour or whole wheat flour

Additional Ingredients:
2 cups green kale, chopped finely
2 cups marinara sauce

Directions:

Almond “Ricotta”:
1. Place the almonds in a bowl and cover with water so the nuts are fully submerged.
2. Place on the counter and let sit overnight. Alternatively,  soak the almonds early in the morning and then finish the rest of the steps later in the evening. You’ll want the nuts to soak for 8 hours.
3. After the nuts have soaked, drain them out of the water and rinse off.
4. Place the rinsed off nuts, lemon juice, sea salt, 1/2 cup of water, and garlic in the food processor. Blend for a few minutes until the mixture is smooth and creamy. You can scrape the mixture down the sides of the food processor to make sure it blends evenly.
5. Pour the blended almond mixture into a bowl and store in the fridge until ready to use.

Coconut “Bacon”:
1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
2. Toss together the ingredients so the coconut is evenly coated in the oil, tamari, maple syrup, and smoked paprika.
3. Spread out onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
4. Bake for 5 minutes, check and stir around. Make sure to keep your eye on the coconut so that it doesn’t burn (it can go from fine to burnt really quickly).
5. Once the coconut is beginning to crisp on the edges, remove from the oven.
6. Let it cool for 5 minutes before removing from the baking sheet.


Pesto:
1. Rinse off the basil well and make sure to dry it with a paper towel or tea towel.
2. Add all of the ingredients to the food processor and blend for 30 seconds to a minute, until everything is finely chopped.
3. Add sea salt and pepper to your taste preference.

Homemade Pizza Crust:
1. In a large bowl, mix the packet of yeast in warm water and stir for 1 minute until dissolved.
2. Add in the olive oil and flour. Using your hands, knead the dough until a smooth ball forms. Add extra flour to the bowl if the dough is too sticky.
3. Cover the bowl with a towel and let sit on the countertop for 15 minutes.
4. Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
5. If you’d like to make 2 pizzas, divide the dough in half to make 2 balls.
6. You’ll need to roll out the ball of dough to make a circular crust. The best way to do this is by placing a large piece of parchment paper on the counter. Sprinkle some flour over top. Then place the dough in the center. Place a second sheet of parchment paper over top. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out into a circular shape. Then carefully pull off the piece of parchment paper that’s on top.
7. Poke a few holes in the crust with a fork.
8. Slide or lift the piece of parchment paper with the crust on it onto a large baking sheet.
9. Bake for 5 minutes.
10. Remove from the oven and keep on the baking sheet.

Pizza Assembly:
1. Preheat oven to 375ºF.
2. Spread the marinara sauce out evenly over top of the crust.
3. Sprinkle the chopped kale over top of the sauce.
4. Add dollops of the almond ricotta cheese and pesto.
5. Bake for 15 minutes until the kale is cooked.
6. Remove the pizza from the oven. Sprinkle the coconut “bacon” over top.
7. Serve immediately by slicing into pieces.

As showcased above, making your own vegan cheese is easier than it seems. For another crave-worthy option, check out this Herbed Cashew Ricotta Cheese recipe.