This red lentil pizza crust is crispy on the edges, firm but tender in the center, and hearty enough to hold a lot of toppings. Since it’s made entirely from red lentils, it’s also naturally gluten-free, low in carbs, and high in fiber and protein. The best part? It doesn’t require any rolling.
I don’t know about yours, but my family LOVES pizza, Tanner (my husband) especially! I have actually never seen anyone like pizza as much as this guy. Sometimes I wonder if he would be happy if all he had was pizza (and mac & cheese) for the rest of his life. As Tanner says, if he’s having pizza twice a day, it’s a good day.
When I first met Tanner, he would eat pizza for lunch and dinner. At that time we were both attending university and had pre-paid meals at the university culinary center. I pretty much lived on salads (because I found all the cooked meals very unappealing) and Tanner lived on pizza.
When we finished university and moved out of the dorm, I started cooking my own meals and Tanner started buying frozen pizza. The kind that sells for less than $3 and has many ingredients you can’t even pronounce. Obviously, not the best choice. So, I bought a pizza stone, a pizza peel, and delved into pizza making so Tanner could enjoy a healthier pizza. Well, to this day, Tanner says that my pizza is the reason he married me, haha.
So, here is a pizza recipe that is on a regular rotation in our house now. It’s not the same recipe that won Tanner’s heart, but it’s delicious nonetheless. (In case you’re wondering, yes, Tanner does devour the whole pizza every time I make it).
Tips for Making Red Lentil Pizza Crust
Red lentils make the perfect base for this vegan and gluten-free pizza. The cuisines of India, Algeria, France, Italy and most of the countries that border on the Mediterranean all have their own special versions of bean bread – socca in France, farinata in Italy, and besan roti in India to name a few. While bean bread is traditionally made with chickpea flour, it doesn’t really matter what type of legume you use. So for this recipe, I am using red lentils.
The texture of the final lentil pizza crust is a cross between a crispy pizza and a semi-thick bread. It’s wonderfully soft in the center, with a lightly crisp and brown exterior. Like the best of foods, this red lentil pizza crust is wonderfully simple to prepare. It contains only a handful of uncomplicated ingredients: red lentils, baking powder, salt, and water.
The baking powder helps the pizza crust to rise (just like regular pizza crust does) so don’t omit it.
A little bit of salt, some of your favorite herbs (I recommend using Italian herbs), and voila – you’ve got red lentil pizza crust.
The most time-consuming part of this recipe is soaking the lentils. Red lentils, like all nuts and seeds, grains and pulses, contain food phytate. Food phytate can bind minerals, and prevent their full absorption. And, red lentils, like other pulses, can be difficult to digest. The process of soaking can help to not only make the minerals they do contain more bioavailable, but that process also renders the bean easier to digest. More importantly, soaking the red lentils overnight also gives the final pizza crust a wonderful, faint, tartness that complements the naturally earthy, nutty flavor of the red lentils.
I have tried making this crust with unsoaked (dry) lentils and it works. However, the crust has a darker color (soaking diminishes the red color) and tends to crack (because unsoaked lentils will begin to absorb water and expand during the baking process). So whenever possible, soak the lentils for at least 4 hours before blending.
Soaking the lentils ahead of time also saves you time later. If you’ve ever made traditional socca bread from chickpea flour, you probably know that the batter needs to rest before cooking. The reason is hydration – chickpea flour needs more time to hydrate than say all-purpose flour. Since red lentils are already hydrated from the soaking, there is no need to let the batter rest before cooking.
Since I baked the pizza in a cast iron pan, I oiled the pan first to make sure the pizza crust doesn’t stick. If you’re using non-stick cookware or a silicone mat, feel free to skip the oil. If you’re using anything other than cast iron, non-stick or a silicone mat, line your dish with parchment paper to prevent the crust from sticking.
Also, while bean bread is traditionally cooked over a fire, a broiler or oven can work nicely instead.
Tools You’ll Need
1. Blender (Vitamix 5200) | 2. Pan (12-Inch, Lodge, Cast Iron) | 3. Cookware Set (Calphalon, Stainless Steel) | 4. Knife Set (6 Pieces, Utopia, Stainless Steel) | 5. Cutting Board (24″x 18″, Michigan Maple Block, Maple) | 6. Mixing Bowls (Set of 3, Pyrex, Glass) | 7. Mesh Strainers (Set of 3, Cuisinart, Stainless Steel) | 8. Measuring Cups (Set of 6, Stainless Steel) | 9. Measuring Spoons (Set of 6, 1Easylife, Stainless Steel) | 10. Turner (5-Inch, Stainless Steel)
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- 3/4 cup red lentils, soaked*
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 clove garlic
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 tsp. fine sea salt (or to taste)
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 (8-oz) jar tomato sauce
- 2 Tbsp. tomato paste
- 1 tsp. dried basil
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 tsp. maple syrup (or a sweetener of choice)
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. olive oil
- 1/4 green bell pepper, diced
- 1/4 red bell pepper, diced
- 1/4 yellow bell pepper, diced
- 4 cremini mushrooms, sliced
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- cashew Parmesan cheese**
Preheat oven to 400°F (205°C). Place a 12" cast iron pan into the oven as the oven is preheating so the pan heats up as well.
Drain and rinse soaked lentils. Add them to the blender together with water, garlic, baking powder, and salt. Blend until smooth. You'll end up with a batter that looks quite thin and watery: That's okay, it's what you want.
Remove the cast iron pan from the oven and add a little bit of olive oil to the pan. You want the bottom and the sides of the pan to be coated with oil so the crust doesn't stick. Pour the batter into the pan and put the pan back into the oven (onto a rack positioned in the middle of the oven).
Cook the crust for about 30 minutes or until the edges turn golden brown. Remove it from the oven and let it cool. You should be able to remove the crust from the pan without any problems.
Bring medium saucepan to medium heat, Once hot, add olive oil, onions, and garlic, and saute until translucent over medium heat.
Add tomato sauce and tomato paste and stir until smooth.
Add remaining ingredients. Turn the heat down to low-medium and allow the sauce to simmer for 30 minutes. Taste the sauce and adjust seasonings to preference. If you’d like a more concentrated tomato flavor, you can continue to simmer the sauce for an additional 15 minutes.
Once cooked, remove the bay leaf.
Bring medium saucepan to medium heat, Once hot, add olive oil, bell peppers, mushrooms, and salt. Cook until soft and slightly charred – 10-15 minutes.
Top the pizza crust with the prepared pizza sauce, sauteed veggies, and cashew Parmesan cheese (optional). I also like to add chopped black olives.
*Soak red lentils in water for at least 4 hours, ideally for 8-12 hours. If you don't soak your lentils, you will need to add more water when blending (about 3/4 cup instead of 1/2 cup).
**You can find the recipe for Parmesan cheese here.
***Prep time does not include soaking the lentils (4-12 hours).