This almond flour pizza crust is crispy on the outside, soft and pillow-y on the inside, and easily carries whatever toppings you want on it. If you're craving homemade pizza without all the carbs, this is it! This pizza crust is vegan, grain-free (paleo), and oil-free.
Homemade bread, buns, and pizza crusts are all enjoying a pandemic-driven renaissance. There's one problem though - no one can find yeast in the stores. So, what do you do when you want to make pizza crust but can't find yeast? Can you use baking soda or baking powder instead? It would seem that since baking soda, baking powder, and yeast are all leavening agents, you could use them interchangeably. However, the process and the speed by which they help baked goods lighten and rise is very different.
Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is an alkaline chemical leavener. When it comes into contact with an acidic component, such as lemon juice, vinegar, yogurt, buttermilk, or even coffee, it reacts, and almost immediately produces carbon dioxide. This rather fast reaction is ideal for quick-baked goods, such as scones, muffins, or buttermilk pancakes, where quick leavening is desired. However, it's not ideal for pizza crusts, which benefit from an extended leavening reaction rather than a quick release.
Baking powder is a complete chemical leavener, meaning it contains both the alkaline sodium bicarbonate and an acid. It can be either single-acting or double-acting, with the latter of the two being most commonplace.
Double-acting baking powder contains two acids - mono-calcium phosphate and sodium aluminum sulfate. Mono-calcium phosphate reacts with sodium bicarbonate as soon as it encounters liquid, releasing carbon dioxide and causing an initial lightening as it's mixed. Sodium aluminum sulfate needs a temperature of at least 140°F/60°C to get activated, so it doesn't react with sodium bicarbonate until it hits the oven. The first reaction is smaller and only begins the process of forming gas cells. The second reaction in the oven is larger and expands the cells.
Single-acting baking powder consists of sodium bicarbonate and only one acid - sodium aluminum phosphate. So, it foregoes the first rise of double acting baking powder and only reacts once it reaches a high temperature. It is much slower to react, so most of the leavening happens during the early stages of baking. This contributes to increased/improved oven spring of the dough during baking. However, the problem with both double-acting and single-acting baking powder is that the sodium bicarbonate portion can be lost or significantly reduced by pre-reaction.
Still, there is another, newer type of baking powder — fat-encapsulated baking powder. While this baking powder can be custom-tailored to meet specific applications, the most common of this type is made using a neutralizing blend of sodium bicarbonate and sodium aluminum phosphate that has been fat encapsulated as a means of protecting both the alkaline and acidic portions from pre-reaction. The heat of the oven/baking melts the fat off of the soda and acid, allowing them to react in a much more predictable manner and allowing them to more fully react for complete neutralization of the acid component. It is possible to make a fully chemically leavened pizza crust using a fat encapsulated leavening system. But since there is no yeast for fermentation, the finished crust will be devoid of the characteristic fermented crust flavor.
Baking soda and baking powder are chemical leaveners that release carbon dioxide gas through the dough, causing food to puff up. Yeast, on the other hand, is a live, single-celled organism that feeds on sugars (glucose) and releases carbon dioxide in the process. As yeast cells ferment, they have two ways of releasing energy from sugar molecules - respiration (producing carbon dioxide) and fermentation (producing carbon dioxide and alcohol).
When you knead pizza dough, you knead oxygen into the dough, which the yeast use up rather quickly, producing gas which is trapped by the dough. Most gas in bread dough is produced within the first hour of fermentation. Then the yeast must switch to making alcohols and acids along with gas and grows more slowly. This gives yeast-risen bread special aromas and tastes. These compounds also affect the structure of the dough, changing the crumb and crust after baking.
The main takeaway here is that chemical leavening can certainly be used in making pizza dough. However, it's definitely not the most ideal.
Tips for Making Almond Flour Pizza Crust
I use the combination of psyllium, almond flour, and coconut flour a lot in my recipes. A couple of examples include almond flour tortillas, coconut flour flatbread, and now this pizza crust with both almond flour and coconut flour. I like the fairly neutral flavor of almond flour, but appreciate the soft pillow-y texture of coconut flour.
What provides elasticity, structure, and binding to this pizza crust is psyllium. Psyllium is a form of soluble fiber that works a bit like gluten in traditional baking. It essentially creates a sturdy network with the proteins present in gluten-free flours. It's important to note that psyllium comes in different grades of purity. The higher the purity level, the lighter the psyllium husk. This is why psyllium ranges from brown to off-white color. So, whenever you’re purchasing psyllium, get the highest purity level you can find (so your pizza crust turns out light-colored).
I have talked about leavening agents quite a bit in this post. So, just to summarize - yeast will give you the most authentic pizza aroma and taste. If you're not ok with yeast, the next best alternative would be baking powder.
To make the dough, mix the dry ingredients first. Then add the oil and water, and stir until you get a pliable dough. (If you're using yeast, you will need to proof it first). It does take a little bit of time for the psyllium husk to absorb all the water, so the dough is moist at first. However, it gets dryer after about a minute and is really easy to work with.
I like to let the dough rest for a few minutes to let the psyllium absorb all the moisture and create a soft, elastic, and slightly sticky dough. If the dough is too dry or doesn’t bind well, add more water, 1 Tbsp./15 ml at a time.
When you’re ready to make the pizza, shape the dough into a smooth spherical shape. Place the dough ball on a piece of parchment paper, cover it with another piece of parchment paper and flatten the dough with the palm of your hand. Place the rolling pin in the middle of the dough (a handle-less rolling pin allows for more control than a pin with handles) and roll halfway away and halfway toward you. Turn the dough 180 degrees and repeat. Don't press too much on the rolling pin to keep a decent dough thickness and keep some air in the dough. The thinner the dough, the crispier it will get.
Compared to classic (white flour) pizza crust, this almond flour pizza crust doesn't rise as much. So, I recommend using your fingers to create the pizza border. The border will slightly puff up in the oven, but not very much.
If you have a pizza stone, use it! It will make the almond flour pizza crust extra crispy. If not, slide the bottom piece of parchment paper with the pizza crust on it onto a baking tray. Bake the pizza crust at 425°F/220°C for 15 minutes, then add your desired toppings, and bake for another 10 minutes. (Adjust the oven time up for a thicker crust or down for a thinner one).
More Pizza Crust Recipes
Everyone in my family LOVES pizza! To keep it interesting, I rotate not only the sauce and toppings, but also the crust. In addition to this almond flour pizza crust, I also make pizza crust out of legumes (red lentils, yellow, lentils, chickpeas ...), and quinoa pizza crust (I have yet to share this recipe). The great thing about the legume-based pizza crust is that it requires no kneading or rolling. All you need to do is just pour the batter (yes, batter!) into a pan and bake. You can make the pizza crust as thin or as thick, as crispy or chewy as you like.
Almond Flour Pizza Crust
- Prepare the dough (baking powder version). Add the coconut flour, almond flour, psyllium, baking powder, and salt into a medium mixing bowl and stir to combine. Add the olive oil and water, and mix to combine. Using your hands, knead the dough until soft, pliable, and elastic, about 1 minute. If the dough is too dry, add more water, 1 Tbsp./15 ml at a time. If the dough is too sticky, add more psyllium, ½ tsp./2.5 g at a time. The dough will always be a bit moist but it shouldn't stick to your hands at all. It must come together as a soft, elastic dough. Set aside for 10 minutes.Prepare the dough (yeast version). Add the yeast and water into a medium bowl. Stir and set aside until the yeast is completely dissolved, 1-2 minutes. Once activated, add the coconut flour, almond flour, psyllium, olive oil, and salt into the bowl with the yeast, and stir to combine. Using your hands, knead the dough until soft, pliable, and elastic, about 1 minute. If the dough is too dry, add more water, 1 Tbsp./15 ml at a time. If the dough is too sticky, add more psyllium, ½ tsp./2.5 g at a time. The dough will always be a bit moist but it shouldn't stick to your hands at all. It must come together as a soft, elastic dough. Set aside for 10 minutes.
- Roll out the dough. Place the dough between two pieces of parchment paper (not wax paper!) and press the ball with the palm of your hand to flatten it out a little bit. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough as thinly as you like. Don't press much on the roller pin to keep a decent dough thickness and keep some air in the dough. The thinner you roll out the dough, the crispier it will get.
- Shape the borders. Using your fingers, gently shape the pizza border. The border will slightly puff up in the oven, but not as much as a classic pizza crust.
- Bake the pizza crust. Slide the bottom piece of parchment paper with the pizza crust onto a pizza stone or a baking sheet. Bake the pizza crust at 425°F/220°C until dry to the touch and beginning to turn golden, about 15 minutes,
- Serve. When you're ready to serve the pizza, add your desired toppings, and bake at until the crust is golden, 10 minutes.
- Store. Pre-baked pizza crust keeps well in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 4-5 days. For longer term storage, freeze in an airtight container for up to 1 month.
**You can substitute the baking powder for 2 tsp. active dry yeast. You do not need any sugar to activate the yeast. A pinch of sugar will make yeast bubble up, thus proving that the yeast is still active and hasn’t expired. However, it doesn’t actually help the rising of the crust.
***Nutrition information is approximate and may contain errors. Please, feel free to make your own calculations.
***Nutrition information is calculated without optional ingredients.