When I started a ketogenic diet, I knew that the first recipe I needed to conquer was pizza. At our house, we have movie night every Sunday night and movie night means pizza! Since I didn’t want to be the only one in the family not able to enjoy a good pizza, my quest for the perfect low-carb pizza was born.
I tried A LOT of pizza crust recipes. So many. Most of them fell in the “meh” category. Not terrible, but not great. Only one recipe was so bad that I threw the remainder outside, and even the squirrels wouldn’t touch it. Ha.
I started with this recipe from Diet Doctor and, for being sort of a strange recipe of literally just eggs and cheese, once it was topped it was surprisingly decent. And while it’s super simple to make, I found that it was really difficult to spread nicely. It kind of ran all over the pan.
The “holy grail” of low-carb pizza, according to the internets, is the “Fathead” pizza dough, which is a cheese-based dough that gives back some of the structure that low-carb doughs usually lack. So of course this was the next recipe I tried. I tried the basic recipe that’s floating around out there, and while it was ok, it was a bit firmer than I like. So I scoured the internet and tried several other recipes before circling back to the basic Fathead dough and playing around with it until I got it to be as close to my beloved high-carb pizza as possible.
Before I share my recipe, let me just say that these low-carb alternatives will never be exactly like the high-carb version you remember. Our aim is to make them as close as possible, and always delicious, but just know going into any low-carb baking endeavor that what you’re making is an alternative and not a replica. Got it? Good. Now you can keep reading. 😉
Adjusting the Recipe
In the base recipe, you start by melting together mozzarella and cream cheese. Then you add an egg, almond flour, and a little salt. I do this in my recipe as well, only I made a couple of additions. First, I added 2 teaspoons of baking powder. This creates a bit more lift and makes the dough less dense and a little softer, while still having a nice chew to it like a regular pizza. Secondly, I added a teaspoon of yeast.
Now, yeast will not create any rise in this dough because there is no gluten structure. It’s only here for flavor and as such is a completely optional ingredient. If you have problems with candida or otherwise don’t tolerate yeast well, feel free to leave it out. (If you choose to leave it out, I suggest adding 1 tsp vinegar to give the dough a hint of sour-dough flavor.) But for those of us who can eat it, it gives a lovely familiar, comforting flavor that I really missed in my pizza.
The next change I made was to bake it in a cast iron skillet. Cast iron gives the dough a really nice crust on the bottom and keeps it from ever being soggy. Then I topped it with a stunningly delicious roasted-garlic Alfredo and steak. These few changes turned a solid recipe into a spectacular one, in my opinion, and everyone to whom I’ve fed this pizza has been a fan.
Here are the detailed instructions for the recipe, with helpful tips and photos. To head straight to the recipe, click here.
The first step in this recipe is to melt together 6 oz of mozzarella cheese with 1 oz of cream cheese. I use a microwavable bowl and microwave for 90 seconds and it comes out perfectly. You can do this on the stove as well, just make sure you use very low heat or do it in a double-boiler so you don’t risk overheating your cheese and causing it to separate. Using pre-shredded mozzarella works just fine. I’ve only used part-skim, low-moisture mozzarella, but I’ve heard whole-milk works as well. I would guess that fresh mozzarella would be too wet for this recipe, but I’ve never tried it.
In a separate bowl, whisk together almond flour, baking powder, yeast, and salt. (Note: you can successfully substitute half of the almond flour with the coarser almond meal. Why would you want to do this? Because it’s cheaper!) Add this along with one egg to the cheese. I find I get the best results if I mix this all together rather than one before the other. If your cheese (or the bowl it’s in) got screaming hot, let it cool slightly before adding the egg or it might scramble. You do, however, want the cheese to be very warm as it will make it much easier to mix.
A note about mixing: this dough is not the easiest to mix. I’ve done it with a spoon, but honestly I mostly just use my hands. It goes so much quicker and I think it mixes it better. However, this dough is super sticky. If you do this, it will get stuck on your hands. You could try oiling your hands first, but it’ll still probably get a little sticky. Just warning you. Whichever way you choose to mix, make sure you really get it mixed all the way. It should look like the picture of the finished dough.
Press the dough into a cast iron skillet, going up the sides just slightly to form the crust. You can make this in a pie plate or just on a cookie sheet as well, but I really find it comes out best in cast iron. My pan is huge, a good 12 inches (and weighs as much as a small child) but I think it should work fine in a slightly smaller pan, just make sure you watch the cooking time.
Important note: Even if your cast iron skillet is well seasoned, grease it extra with some olive oil to make your life easier removing it. This is especially important if you want to freeze all or half the pizza.
Bake this at 400°F for 8-10 minutes or until it’s just starting to turn golden. The picture above is about as far as you can pre-bake it before you end up with overly-dark crust at the end, so feel free to take it out a little earlier. If at this point you find that it’s getting bubbles, poke them with a fork to deflate. I’ve tried docking the dough at the beginning, but I find it doesn’t actually prevent bubbling at all.
Freezing: Most of the time, at this point in pizza making, I cut this crust in half and create half a pizza to eat now and half to freeze for later. It’s a little tricky removing half of the half-baked crust at this point, but with spatulas it works ok. [If you want to freeze a whole pizza, wait for the crust to cool completely before trying to remove it from the pan.] Then I top both halves and bake one and freeze the other. To freeze, I place on a cookie sheet and put in the freezer for about an hour before wrapping and storing. This keeps the toppings from sticking to the foil. To bake from frozen, place your skillet in the oven while it preheats to 400°F, then place frozen pizza in the hot skillet. Bake 10-15 minutes or until cheese starts to turn golden.
While the crust is cooking, you can work on the Alfredo sauce. The secret ingredient in this sauce is roasted garlic. I bought an enormous bag of garlic from Costco and in order to keep it from going bad before I could use it all, I made up a huge batch of roasted garlic and threw it in the freezer. (Here’s the technique I used.) But if you don’t have a ready-made batch of roasted garlic, you can easily roast a whole head. Just chop off the top of the head, place it on aluminum foil, drizzle with olive oil, and wrap into a pouch. Bake at 400°F for 20-30 minutes. For the Alfredo for this pizza, you only need 5-6 cloves. Smash them up into a paste.
Normally in my Alfredo sauce, I start with a roux of butter & flour. But now that I’m not eating flour or any other grain, I leave the flour out and use a higher percentage of cheese to thicken the sauce. Melt 1 Tbsp butter in a small saucepan, add 1/3 cup heavy cream and heat through until it starts to simmer. Stir in the garlic paste and 3/4 cup freshly-grated parmesan cheese. Turn off heat and stir until cheese is fully melted. Season with salt and pepper (but taste first, as the cheese is already quite salty.)
Top the crust with sauce. You will really only need about 2/3 of the recipe. Putting too much sauce on the crust will result in your toppings sliding off. The good news is, you’ll have extra sauce to eat straight from the pan. You’ll thank me. That stuff is basically crack.
I topped the sauce with steak. This is about half of a petite sirloin steak, for a total of about 3 oz. I seared it well on both sides, but left it rare since it was going to be cooked more on the pizza. I sliced it thin and then broke it up into bite-sized pieces and scattered it on the pizza. I topped it with more parmesan, mozzarella, and one sliced green onion.
Bake for another 10-12 minutes, or until cheese just starts to brown slightly.
This pizza is so good, you guys.
And look at how this crust flexes just like a regular crust! And the bottom browns nicely to give great texture.
This crust recipe is so versatile. Obviously, you can add whatever low-carb-friendly toppings you like, such as a sugar-free tomato sauce, other meats, different veggies. Whatever you love on your pizza. But it also makes amazing garlic focaccia, cheesy bread, bagel dogs (more recipes to come, anyone?) … and whatever else you can think to use it for. Try it out! I hope you like it as much as I do!
The Best Low-Carb Pizza
1 1/2 cups (6 oz. /170g) shredded mozzarella
2 Tbsp (1 oz/30g) cream cheese
3/4 cup (2.45 oz/70g) almond flour
2 tsp (10g) baking powder
1 tsp (4g) yeast (optional) or sub 1 tsp vinegar
1/2 tsp (2 g) salt
1 large egg
1 Tbsp (14g) butter
1/3 cup (80mL) heavy cream
3/4 cup (2 oz./56 g) freshly grated parmesan cheese
5-6 cloves roasted garlic, smashed into a paste
3 oz. (85 g) steak, cooked rare and sliced thin
2 Tbsp. (12g) freshly grated parmesan cheese
3/4 cup (3 oz./85 g) shredded mozzarella
1 scallion, sliced
Preheat oven to 400°F
Make crust: Melt mozzarella and cream cheese together until fully melted. Stir until combined. Whisk together almond flour, baking powder, yeast, and salt in a separate bowl. Add to melted cheese along with 1 egg. Mix well until dough is fully homogenous. Dough will be sticky. Oil hands and press into greased 12-inch cast iron skillet, going up sides slightly. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until just starting to turn golden.
While crust is cooking, make sauce: Melt butter in a small saucepan, then add heavy cream. Heat until just starting to simmer. Add garlic paste and parmesan, turn off heat, and stir until cheese is fully melted.
When crust is done in the oven, top with about 2/3 of the sauce. Add sliced steak, parmesan, mozzarella, and finish with sliced scallion. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until cheese is melted and starts to brown.
Nutritional Info per slice (8 slices) for pizza as made: Cal: 280 kcal, Total Carbs: 5g, Fiber: 1.2g, Net Carbs: 3.8, Fat: 21.7, Saturated Fat: 9.9g Macros: 5% carbs, 25% protein, 70% fat.
Nutritional Info per slice (8 slices) for crust only: Cal: 140 kcal, Total Carbs: 3.2g, Fiber 1.1g, Net Carbs: 2.2g, Fat: 10.8g Saturated Fat: 3.5g, Macros: 6% carbs, 25% protein, 69% fat.
- Nutritional Info as stated is an estimation, and may vary depending on the brands of ingredients used.