This savory vegan pizza is piled high with dairy-free basil ricotta cheese and juicy balsamic-spiked caramelized onions. Decadent, intensely flavorful, and easy to make!
Caramelized onions are one of my top cravings during the fall and winter months. They're sweet and savory at the same time, so delicious, and when I cook them my house smells wonderful for days.
I'd been wanting to create a vegan fall-themed pizza and I was also feeling my normal fall hankering for some caramelized onions. Why not tick both things off the list together? I did!
How to Caramelize Onions
Caramelizing onions is actually super easy, and relatively hands-off. It can take a while, but for most of the cook time all you need to do is give the onions a stir every now and then.
Start by slicing your onions. The thinner you slice them, the quicker they'll caramelize. I like to go with about an ⅛-inch thick slice. Place your onions in a large skillet or pot with some olive oil and a pinch of salt.
We're using yellow onions here (because that's what I always have on hand), so I like to add a bit of brown sugar for sweetness. You can skip this if you prefer, or use a sweeter variety of onion like Vidalia.
Stir everything together and place the skillet over low heat. You can go with medium-low heat if you want your onions to cook a bit quicker, but don't go higher than that — to truly caramelize onions they need to cook slowly!
The onions should take between an hour and an hour and a half to fully caramelize. Stir them every so often and keep an eye on the heat level — if they start to brown too quickly, cook unevenly, or get crispy, you've probably got the heat too high.
Once the onions have caramelized you can season them with some salt, and any other seasonions you'd like to use. For this recipe I've used a bit of balsamic vinegar to add some tartness. Add it to the onions, give them a stir and turn up the heat slightly for just about a minute to cook off the excess liquid.
How to Make Dairy-Free Ricotta
Start with some raw cashews that have been soaked overnight in water. Soaking the cashews softens them up so they're easy to blend. Rinse the cashews and then add them to a food processor bowl along with a bit of non-dairy milk. Blend everything to a smooth paste.
Next, add some lemon juice for tartness, tofu for texture, salt, and fresh basil. This time you just want to pulse the food processor. Keep the mixture chunky, so that it resembles ricotta cheese.
Assemble the Pizza
I used my homemade whole wheat pizza dough to make the crust, but you can use store-bought dough if you prefer. Either way, roll it out to a large circle and brush it with some olive oil. We're going to prebake the crust for about 10 minutes at 450°F.
Once it looks lightly browned and puffy (not quite fully cooked), pop it out of the oven and slather it with the ricotta, then distribute the onions on top. Bake it for about 5 minutes more, just to heat up the toppings.
Arrange some fresh baby arugula over your pizza, slice it up, and devour!
FAQ & Caramelized Onion Pizza Tips
- Make ahead options: the caramelized onions and vegan ricotta can both be made in advance. Store them in sealed containers in the fridge for up to 2 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- Can this recipe be made gluten-free? Yup! Just use your favorite gluten-free pizza crust.
- Use a good quality balsamic vinegar. It should be thick and dark with a bit of sweetness to it. Lower quality balsamic vinegars will be very sour and your onions will likely taste too tart.
- Is there a substitute for the cashews? Try doubling the tofu. This will give you a lighter ricotta.
- Is there a substitute for the tofu? You could double the cashews, but this will give you a very rich ricotta. Other options: steamed cauliflower or white beans might work, but I haven't tested either option.
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Caramelized Onion Pizza with Vegan Basil Ricotta
This savory vegan pizza is piled high with dairy-free basil ricotta cheese and juicy balsamic-spiked caramelized onions! Decadent, intensely flavorful, and easy to make!
For the Caramelized Onions
- 1 ½ pounds yellow onions
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon organic brown sugar
- Salt to taste
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
For the Vegan Ricotta
- 1 cup raw cashews, soaked in water 4-8 hours, rinsed and drained
- ½ cup unflavored and unsweetened non-dairy milk, divided
- 7 ounces firm or extra firm tofu
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- ½ cup fresh basil
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
For the Pizza
- 1 pound whole wheat pizza dough, or store-bought dough
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2-3 tablespoons cornmeal
- 2 cups baby arugula
To Make the Caramelized Onions
Place the onions, oil, brown sugar, and a pinch of salt in to a large skillet. Stir everything to distribute the sugar and salt.
Place the skillet over low to medium low heat and cook the onions slowly, stirring occasionally, until they become very soft and brown, about 1 hour.
When the onions have caramelized, stir in the balsamic vinegar and raise the heat slightly. Cook the onions for a minute or two until the liquid from the vinegar has cooked off.
Remove the skillet from the heat and season the onions with salt to taste.
To Make the Vegan Ricotta
While the onions caramelize, place the cashews and milk into the bowl of a food processor fitted with an s-blade. Blend them to a smooth paste, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed.
Add the tofu, lemon juice, basil, salt and pepper to the food processor bowl and pulse until the mixture takes on a chunky, ricotta-like texture.
To Make the Pizza
Preheat the oven to 450°F. Lightly oil a baking sheet and sprinkle it with a tablespoon or two of cornmeal.
Roll the pizza dough into a 14-inch circle and place it on the oiled baking sheet. Brush the top with olive oil and sprinkle the edges with cornmeal.
Place the baking sheet into the oven and bake the crust for about 10 minutes, until puffy but not yet browned.
Remove the crust from the oven and spread the ricotta over the top. Distribute the onions over the ricotta.
Return the crust to the oven and bake for about 5 minutes more, until the crust has browned a bit around the edges.
Remove the pizza from the oven and sprinkle with arugula.
Slice and serve.
This recipe is vastly improved if you use a cartouche to sweat the onions before you increase the heat and caramelize them, this is how I was taught (by a very angry Frenchman) 30 years ago when I did my chef's apprenticeship. It is very easy and happens without the need to supervise the cooking and takes about 15 minutes or so, it makes the onions sweeter and very yummy.
Alissa Saenz says
Thank you for the tip! I will give it a try next time I caramelize onions!
Joann Lakes says
Are you using tofu from the refrigerator in water or shelf stable silken tofu?
The recipe sounds delicious. I love that it doesn’t have a bunch of store bought cheese all over the top. So unnecessary. Though, I would probably throw arugula or spring green on the top the moment I took it out of the oven. I love greens wilted on top of my pizza
Alissa Saenz says
Regular extra firm tofu from the refrigerator! It's better for getting a chunky texture like that of ricotta cheese. I hope you give it a try! Enjoy!
I’m very new to a plant-based diet. This was AMAZING! :) Thank you! If only all the recipes that looked this good tasted this good!