For those of us following a gluten free diet, pizza might just be the one food that is hardest to give up. The good news is, you don’t have to!

Before we move on to an excellent and satisfying pizza recipe that is not only gluten, but grain free, lets learn more about the differences between going grain vs. going gluten free.

Why go gluten free?

Gluten is the protein in wheat and other glutenous grains, including spelt, rye, oats and barley. Basically, gluten is the component of bread that gives it that fluffy, sticky texture. Because of its ability to bind, it is also used in tons of products (food and other), such as soy sauce, ice cream, condiments, shampoo and other personal hygiene products.

For a complete list of foods containing gluten, see this excellent resource from the Celiac Disease Foundation.

However, you definitely don’t have to have full-blown Celiac Disease to experience acne and other skin problems from eating gluten, or to drastically benefit from adopting a gluten free diet. While this is the most extreme, auto-immune form of gluten sensitivity, you can also be intolerant to a lesser degree, and still experience serious consequences.

If you’re unsure as to whether you might be have a gluten sensitivity or allergy, you can work with a professional to do some basic testing, or you can undergo an elimination diet. Common symptoms of gluten intolerance include headaches, fatigue, muscle weakness, brain fog, depression, irritability, and skin problems.

Why go grain free?

For some individuals who are sensitive to gluten, they might find that not only going gluten free, but going totally grain-free (at least for a while), is what truly improves their symptoms. Even non-gluten grains (such as rice and quinoa), have similar molecular structures to gluten, and also increase gut permeability and inflammation.

Furthermore, both gluten and non-gluten grains can have seriously negative consequences on your intestinal flora by increasing bad gut bacteria and decreasing good gut bacteria. Refined carbohydrates and sugars have the exact same effect, as they cause a surge of insulin, which sets off a hormonal cascade that ends in an excess of acne-producing substances.

The good news? You can still eat pizza.

Learning how to bake with gluten and/or grain-free flours is an art, and some delicious end-products can come of it. Gluten free flours are usually made of gluten free grains such as rice, quinoa or a mix, while gluten free flours are typically nut-based, such as almond or coconut flours.

Depending on where you live, gluten free pizza options might be popping up, both in grocery stores and in restaurants. While there are many options for alternative, grain and gluten free pizza crusts, some are definitely tastier than others. Grain free crusts made with almond flour (a common alternative), are particularly heavy (as nuts are highly caloric), and cooks following the Paleo diet model (100% grain free), often use cauliflower in baking pizza crust, which leaves a lot to be desired in the texture department.

The recipe I swear by when craving a gluten, grain-free pizza, is the one included below and adapted from Zenbelly Catering Company in San Francisco. Serve this crust with your favorite pizza toppings, such as tomato sauce or pesto, any and all chopped veggies, pepperoni (organic and nitrate free, if possible), and an organic or raw cheese.

New York Style Gluten Free Pizza

Ingredients:

1 tbsp. gluten free yeast

1 tbsp. honey

1/4 cup warm water

3/4 cup almond flour

3/4 cup tapioca starch

3/4 tsp. salt

1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil or coconut oil

1 tbsp. egg whites

1 1/2 tsp. apple cider vinegar (raw, if possible)

Instructions:

  • First, warm a mixing bowl (you can simply pour hot water over it and then dry), and mix together your yeast, honey, and warm water. Whisk everything together thoroughly until the combination is foamy. Let this sit for 5 minutes.
  • Next, in another bowl mix together your oil, vinegar and egg whites, whisking together.
  • In a slightly bigger bowl, combine your dry ingredients, including almond flour, tapioca starch, and salt. Once the yeast mixture has sat for 5 minutes, slowly add all wet and dry ingredients together and mix well using a whisk or an electric mixer. Your dough will be wetter than a glutenous pizza dough, but this is normal.
  • In the same mixing bowl, scrape down the sides and form your dough into a ball-shape in the bottom of the bowl, then cover with a towel. Allow it to sit for an hour and a half.
  • Once your dough has risen a bit, preheat your oven to 500 degrees.
  • Using oiled parchment paper (and oiled hands), flatten the dough into your desired crust shape (square or round), making it as even as possible. Next, place the parchment paper on a pizza stone or baking sheet
  • Bake your pizza for about 7 minutes, or until it begins to brown.
  • Add your toppings, and cook for another few minutes. Enjoy!

Rachel Fiske, NC, CPT-NASM Rachel Fiske is a Holistic Nutrition Consultant and graduated from Bauman College of Holistic Nutrition in Berkeley, California, and a Certified Personal Trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Rachel works with clients individually via skype, focusing on issues of weight management, GI problems, hormonal imbalances, fatigue and more via a whole foods diet and lifestyle changes. Consultations include diet journal analysis, individualized menu planning, and herbal/supplementation protocols.