Smoked Tofu and Caramelized Onion Pizza with Vegan Feta, Olives and Rosemary
Tofu might not be the first ingredient that comes to mind as a pizza topping, but this pizza might well change your opinion forever. Tofu is an amazing flavor sponge, and when prepared well, it can lend taste, texture and substance to a pizza. It’s no wonder, then, that when we turned to best-selling author and food columnist Elly Curshen for a recipe that was both delicious and vegan, she reached into her fridge for a block of tofu.
You might know Elly Curshen and her vegetarian-friendly ethos by a different name: Elly Pear. That nom de guerre comes from The Pear Café, a tiny but famed Bristol-based restaurant she opened at just 26. While the cafe is no longer, Elly Pear remains, cooking up ever more enticing vegetarian recipes for her books and on her Instagram.
She shared this recipe for smoked tofu and caramelized onion pizza with us to kick off the new year. While the recipe is completely vegan, the smoky, chewy tofu and the depth of flavor coming from the caramelized onions give the pizza the same type of meaty, umami flavors more commonly found in animal products. If you’re new to using tofu on pizza (or in general), the sheer amount of choices can be overwhelming. For this recipe, Elly used the German brand Taifun’s Smoked Tofu with Almonds and Sesame Seeds, which adds a bit of roasted nuttiness to the dish, but a firm, smoked or marinated tofu from any brand will work just as well.
The key to using tofu as a pizza topping is being conscious of the different types and adapting your methods accordingly. Because it tends to be denser and keep its shape, a firm tofu benefits from the application of plenty of sauce complemented by soft, contrasting ingredients. That was the approach Elly took here, pairing thin slices of smoky tofu with jammy caramelized onions, a tart tomato sauce, fresh rosemary and briny vegan feta (or as she calls it, 'veta', because "it rolls off the tongue much better").
For this recipe, Elly focused on the toppings, electing to buy her pizza dough from a local pizzeria. If you’d like to make your own dough, we’ve got a few recipes below that will work well for you.
Whichever tofu (or dough) you choose, this pizza is, as Elly puts it, “a real smasher.”
Note: This recipe is for one 12-inch pizza, but the caramelized onions can be used to top around 6 pizzas . Adjust topping and dough ball quantity for multiple pizzas, or reserve leftover onions in a sealed container and refrigerate for up to 3 days. These onions work beautifully as a base or topping on pizza, or on burgers and sandwiches.
Elly Curshen is the founder of Bristol’s Pear Café, the “Sunday Times” bestselling author of Green and Elly Pear’s Fast Days and Feast Days, food columnist, food panel judge, cookery tutor and authority on all things vegetarian and delicious. Find her on Instagram @ellypear.
1 hour 20 minutes
Makes one 12-inch pizza
For the pizza
pizza dough ball
70 grams classic pizza sauce
For the caramelised onions
1 kilogram white onions (about two large), thinly sliced
28 grams vegan butter alternative (Elly recommends Naturli Organic Vegan Block)
2½ grams flaky sea salt
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
couple of sprigs fresh thyme
25 grams brown sugar
32 grams balsamic vinegar
For the toppings
5 slabs smoked tofu (Elly used Taifun Smoked Tofu with Almonds and Sesame Seeds), sliced ½ centimeter thick
32 grams vegan feta alternative (Elly used Violife Greek White), crumbled
½ gram fresh rosemary, finely chopped
a few black olives, pitted
extra-virgin olive oil
Fire up your Ooni pizza oven. 400-500°C on the baking stone inside. Use the infrared thermometer to quickly and accurately check the temperature.
This recipe would suit a variety of pizza styles, but we think sourdough, neo-Neapolitan, or classic pizza dough would be a great fit. Prepare your dough ahead of time to ensure it rises at room temperature before firing up your oven. Make your sauce in advance too, so you’re ready to dress the base.
To make the caramelized onions, melt the vegan butter in a large pan and add the sliced onions, sea
salt, black pepper and thyme. Stir well and cook over low heat for 40 minutes, stirring regularly, until soft and golden. Don’t let the onions stick to the pan or burn. After 40 minutes, add the sugar and balsamic vinegar and continue to cook on low for 25 minutes, until the onions are deeply brown and sticky. Let cool before using.
Place your dough ball on a lightly floured surface. Push the air from the center out to the crust and use your knuckles to stretch out the base to 12 inches. Lay the stretched dough over your lightly dusted pizza peel and then, starting from the outside in, spread the tomato sauce over the base, leaving the crust edge clear.
Distribute 8 to 10 teaspoons of caramelized onions evenly over the tomato sauce. Add the sliced tofu and vegan feta, sprinkle with rosemary and add a few olives. Drizzle with olive oil.
Slide the pizza off the peel and into your oven. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, turning the pizza every 20 or so seconds to ensure an even cook. Cut into 9 slices and serve immediately.