Homemade Dairy-Free Pizza

Half of a pizza made with mini Boboli crust.

I used to think making a pizza would be a pain. Sure, it’s a lot easier to pick up the phone and order one from Domino’s. But if you don’t eat dairy, ordering a pizza becomes more complicated, because most of the pizzerias that offer dairy-free cheese — like Blaze or Pieology — aren’t that convenient.

So that’s why I decided to make my own pizza, using a pre-made Boboli crust (*see update below), generic pizza sauce in a jar, and Daiya Mozzarella Style Shreds. Guess what? It was a cinch. No driving to the pizzeria, standing in line, and hoping the person who constructed my pizza got the toppings right. I made my own pizza in about five minutes and ate it while it was piping hot.

Boboli makes mini crusts, too, which is what you see in the picture above. These are great for personal-size pizzas — handy when not everyone in the house wants dairy-free cheese. The Daiya shreds don’t melt quite the same as real cheese, but they taste pretty good. So far they’re the best approximation of mozzarella I’ve tried.


I made a dairy-free version of my favorite pizza: sausage, pepperoni, mushrooms, green peppers, and red onions. But I can foresee more adventurous pizzas in my future — perhaps prosciutto, cherry tomatoes, and fresh basil? A Mexican-inspired pizza topped with carnitas and Daiya Pepperjack Style Shreds? A “Joe’s omelet” pizza with ground beef and spinach? A while ago I even made a chicken curry pizza using naan for the crust. The possibilities are endless.

Best of all, this is a fun weeknight meal that yields easy-to-reheat leftovers. There’s no recipe to follow — just pile the toppings on your crust and bake in a very hot oven (preferably 500 degrees F) until the cheese melts and the crust is browned.

The rule of thumb is to layer the toppings so the ones that need the most cooking (like raw vegetables) are nearest the top. Feel free to go nuts with seasonings, too; a generous sprinkling of garlic powder, crushed red pepper, dried basil and oregano, and coarse sea salt will bring your pizza to a new level.

UPDATE: One of my readers pointed out that Boboli crusts do, in fact, contain milk and cheese. As I’m not allergic to dairy (only lactose-intolerant), I failed to notice this — there isn’t enough lactose in Boboli crusts to cause any issues for me. But if you are allergic, there are dairy-free pizza crusts available. Many are also gluten-free, and unfortunately, I’ve never had a gluten-free pizza that I actually liked. If I find a good crust that is suitable for dairy-allergic folks, I will let you know.


Oat Milk Chocolate Pudding


I used to clip recipes all the time, back when I was an ambitious young cook. But these days, I don’t have the patience for complicated, time-consuming recipes. If I don’t already have most of the ingredients on hand, forget it.

This oat milk chocolate pudding recipe from The New York Times caught my eye not just because it’s dairy-free, but because it’s so easy to make. The whole process took less than fifteen minutes. I didn’t have to buy anything, since all the ingredients were already in my kitchen, including the carton of Oatly oat milk that I’ve been grooving on the past couple of weeks.

This pudding was better than other dairy-free puddings I’ve tried, like Zen Chocolate Almond Pudding or the vegan pudding from Kreation Organics. Zen was fine but tasted like the Snack Packs you put in a kid’s lunch box. Kreation’s tasted fresher but was cloyingly sweet. This New York Times pudding put them both to shame.

My husband shared some with his vegan co-workers. One sent him this text:


I urge you to try the swill for yourself!

Adapted from The New York Times

1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/3 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 cups non-dairy milk, preferably oat
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips (at least 66% cacao)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan, use a silicone spatula to stir together the sugar, cocoa, cornstarch, and salt. Slowly stir in the milk and keep stirring until smooth and combined.

Stir the mixture constantly over medium-low heat until the pudding thickens, begins to bubble, and coats the spatula, 5 to 10 minutes. (If the pudding is coating the bottom of the pan too quickly, reduce the heat.)

Add the chocolate chips and stir vigorously until they melt and the pudding is thick and smooth. (It will thicken much more after it’s chilled.)

Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Spoon the pudding into a serving bowl or individual cups or ramekins. After it has cooled slightly, press plastic wrap onto the surface of the pudding to prevent a “skin” from forming on top. Refrigerate until cold. The pudding will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Jasmine Lime Tea Cooler


My favorite beverage at Peet’s Coffee & Tea used to be the jasmine lime tea cooler, a refreshingly sweet and tart iced tea they offered during the summer. Unfortunately, they took it off the menu years ago, which left me and many other fans of this drink bereft.

A friend of mine used to work as a barista at Peet’s and told me the recipe: iced jasmine green tea mixed with Lime Odwalla. Alas, the Lime Odwalla has also mysteriously disappeared from shelves.

So I decided to make my own jasmine lime tea cooler, using fresh lime juice in place of the Lime Odwalla. I use honey as a sweetener. The key is to sweeten the tea while it’s hot (so that the honey dissolves more easily), rather than trying to sweeten the lime juice.

If you find the drink is still too tart for your taste, you can add more honey or sugar later, but make sure you stir it really well. Better yet, use simple syrup.

A pitcher of this iced tea will get you through the hottest days of late summer. Enjoy!

I use Numi organic tea, but any jasmine tea will do.


3 1/2 cups water
3 jasmine green tea bags
2 tablespoons honey, or more to taste
1/2 cup fresh lime juice (about 2 or 3 limes)

Place tea bags in a 1-quart glass pitcher. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Pour over tea bags and let steep for 4 minutes.

Remove tea bags. Add honey to the tea; stir until it dissolves. Refrigerate the tea for a few hours until chilled.

Add lime juice and 1 1/2 cups cold water; stir well. Serve over ice. Makes 4 cups.


Horchata… Dairy-Free, as It Should Be


I always thought horchata was safe for a lactose-intolerant person like me, since it’s traditionally made with rice milk. But more and more often, when I encounter horchata in L.A. and ask to make sure it’s dairy-free, the answer is no. In many cases, it contains evaporated milk, making it more like a shake than an aqua fresca.

A few days ago I read an article in the Food section of the Los Angeles Times that explains why: Even though real horchata doesn’t have dairy, “it’s easier, cheaper and involves less labor to use cow milk because you get that creamy texture without all the work of soaking, blending, then straining out the rice.”

Having just made my own horchata using a recipe printed in the article, I can say that it’s not that much work. The hardest part is remembering to make it a day ahead so it has time to soak. Straining the horchata isn’t a big deal if you have a good mesh strainer and some cheesecloth handy.

I’m grateful to live in an area where I can find things like Morelos rice and canela (Mexican cinnamon) in the international section of my supermarket. But if you can’t, just use long-grain white rice and regular cinnamon.



A popular variation in L.A. is the “dirty horchata,” a combination of horchata and espresso. I made my own version using half horchata and half Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, because that’s what I had on hand. It was delicious.

Adapted from the Los Angeles Times

2 cups uncooked Morelos rice
1 stick canela (Mexican cinnamon)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup dark brown sugar or honey
4 cups filtered water
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Combine all the ingredients in a blender and purée on high for 30 seconds to break up the rice. Turn off the blender and refrigerate the mixture in the blender overnight, or at least 8 hours.

When ready to serve, re-blend the mixture. Pour it through a fine mesh strainer, then pour it through a layer of cheesecloth to remove any remaining sediment. Taste and add more sugar, if you like. Serve the horchata over ice and sprinkle with ground cinnamon to garnish. Makes 4 servings.

Homemade dirty horchata

Dairy-Free Passionfruit Mango Smoothie


I’ve loved passionfruit ever since I was ten years old and went on a family trip to Taiwan. It was a hot summer and everywhere we went, we were given fresh passionfruit juice served over crushed ice. It’s not easy to find passionfruit in L.A., but passionfruit juice in a can is a decent substitute.


Now that summer is here, treat yourself to a taste of the tropics with this easy dairy-free smoothie. You can use plain Non-Dairy Chobani yogurt, the best non-dairy yogurt I’ve tried — or if you prefer a less sweet smoothie, Green Valley Lactose-Free yogurt (okay for lactose-intolerant people, but not suitable for those with dairy allergies).



1 cup frozen mango chunks
1/2 cup plain non-dairy yogurt, such as Chobani
1 cup passionfruit juice

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth. Chill until cold. Makes one serving.

Dairy-Free Skillet Taco Pie


As promised, I’m sharing my recipe for this super-easy weeknight dinner. Dairy-Free Skillet Taco Pie is like a deconstructed crispy taco — and less messy to eat. Contrary to what the name suggests, there’s no crust in it. It’s a nod to Frito Pie, a popular Southwestern dish consisting of chili, cheese, and corn chips.

I adapted this recipe from an issue of Better Homes & Gardens. One of the changes I made was to substitute Daiya dairy-free pepperjack for regular cheese. The Daiya melts easily when mixed into the meat, and you can barely tell it’s not real cheese.


Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens

1 pound ground beef or turkey
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
1 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
8 ounces tomato sauce
1/2 cup salsa
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 cup Daiya pepperjack style shreds
1/4 cup sliced green onion
2 cups shredded lettuce
1 cup chopped tomatoes
2 handfuls tortilla chips, broken

In a large skillet, cook meat and jalapeño pepper over medium-high heat until meat is browned.

Stir in beans, tomato sauce, salsa, chili powder, and cumin. Bring to boiling; reduce heat to medium. Simmer, covered, about 5 minutes or until slightly thickened.

Stir in the “cheese” and cook until it melts.

Spoon meat mixture into 4 wide bowls. Top each bowl with green onions, lettuce, tomatoes, and tortilla chips. If desired, serve with additional salsa and hot sauce.

Vegan Almond Cookies


Last weekend our family celebrated the Lunar New Year with a Chinese feast. My contribution to most family gatherings is a homemade dessert, and this year I made a batch of almond cookies, adapted from a recipe in The Complete Magnolia Bakery Cookbook.

My family loved these cookies. They’re nutty, light, and not too sweet. So much better than the stale, mass-produced almond cookies you sometimes get at Chinese restaurants — and if you use a vegan butter like Earth Balance, they’re totally dairy-free. No eggs, no milk, no animal products whatsoever.

Tip: Rather than buying ground almonds, start with whole raw almonds and grind them in a mini food processor. They’ll taste fresher.


Adapted from The Complete Magnolia Bakery Cookbook

1 cup vegan butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup finely ground almonds
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
powdered sugar, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350 F degrees.

In a large bowl, cream the vegan butter and the sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla extract, the almond extract, and the ground almonds; mix until all the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated. Slowly mix in the flour.

Roll the dough into 1-inch balls and place onto ungreased cookie sheets, leaving a few inches between for expansion. Gently flatten the balls with your palm. Bake 12 to 15 minutes until lightly browned.

Cool the cookies on the sheet for 1 minute, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. When cooled, sprinkle with powdered sugar. Makes about 4 dozen cookies.


Daiya “Cutting Board Collection” Dairy-Free Cheeze Shreds


I recently posted my recipe for Dairy-Free Chicken Curry Pizza, which uses Daiya Mozzarella Cutting Board Shreds. Having liked the mozzarella, I decided to try another shredded “cheeze” from Daiya’s Cutting Board Collection: the Pepperjack Cutting Board Shreds.

Success! This dairy-free cheese melts beautifully and doesn’t have a weird aftertaste. It works perfectly in Mexican-inspired dishes like Skillet Taco Pie, a deconstructed crispy taco that is one of my go-to weeknight recipes because it’s quick and easy. (Stay tuned… I’ll post that recipe soon.)

Skillet Taco Pie with Daiya Pepperjack mixed into the meat.

This dairy-free pepperjack is also great in omelets and scrambled eggs. It has a nice stretchy texture and just a hint of sharpness and spiciness that gives the eggs some pizazz. Add some salsa and you’re good to go.


Getting the pepperjack this weekend was perfect timing because the Super Bowl happened yesterday… and we all know that the Super Bowl is just an excuse to eat your weight in guacamole. I used the Daiya pepperjack to make Kalua Pig Quesadillas.

If you’ve never had Kalua pig, it’s like carnitas but moister. And it’s incredibly easy to make: You simply rub a pork shoulder with minced garlic and Hawaiian Alaea sea salt and cook it on low for nine hours in a Crock-Pot lined with three strips of raw bacon. When it’s done, shred the meat, and you’ve got the basis for all kinds of pork-centric entrees.

Now, I’ve actually eaten quesadillas without cheese — if the meat is flavorful enough, it can be done — but I have to admit that quesadillas without cheese are a little sad, not to mention structurally unsound because there’s nothing to hold them together. The Daiya pepperjack was the answer to my quesadilla woes.

Forgot to include the giant mound of guacamole in this photo.

Keep in mind that this stuff isn’t good for snacking straight out of the bag. When I tried that, the texture made it obvious that it wasn’t real cheese. You must melt it. The application of heat is the key to its success.

My love-hate relationship with Daiya products is on a upswing with this Cutting Board Collection. If they can get these vegan cheese shreds right, maybe there’s hope for their vegan cream cheese.

Dairy-Free Chicken Curry Pizza


Many years ago, California Pizza Kitchen used to make a tandoori chicken pizza that I loved. It had a regular pizza crust, mozzarella cheese, and tomato sauce, but the toppings were Indian-inspired: tandoori chicken, onions, and cilantro.

If you’re a New York pizza snob like I used to be, you’re probably saying, “That’s not pizza!” True, but when you’ve been dairy-free as long as I have, you learn to broaden your definition of pizza.

I made a variation on the CPK pizza using Patak’s curry simmer sauce instead of pizza sauce, Daiya mozzarella style shreds instead of cheese, and Stonefire roasted garlic naan instead of pizza crust. These ingredients can be purchased at most supermarkets.


You can usually find read-to-use curry sauces in the international foods section. Patak’s makes several sauces that contain no dairy: Jalfrezi, Rogan Josh, Vindaloo, and Dopiaza. They range from mild to spicy.

The instructions on the jar will tell you to cook the chicken in the sauce, but I like to simmer the chicken in water because poaching keeps the meat moist and tender.


1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 jar Patak’s curry simmer sauce of your choice
1 package Stonefire roasted garlic naan (2 pieces)
1/2 cup Daiya mozzarella style shreds
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 tablespoon minced cilantro

Place chicken thighs in a saucepan and fill with enough cold water to cover chicken. Bring water to a boil, then lower heat and simmer chicken gently for 10 minutes. Remove chicken from water. Shred meat using two forks.

Drain water from saucepan. Pour Patak’s curry simmer sauce into pan and cook over medium heat until hot. Add shredded chicken and stir. Turn off heat.

Spoon chicken curry evenly onto two pieces of naan, spreading sauce to the edges. (You will have some leftover curry.) Sprinkle Daiya mozzarella style shreds over both pieces of naan. Top with sliced red onion.

Broil naan for 5 to 7 minutes, or until Daiya “cheese” is melted and edges of naan are browned. Remove from oven and sprinkle with minced cilantro. Makes 2 servings.

Pumpkin-Shaped Nacho Cheese Ball

Halloween 2014

Halloween is coming up, and you know what that means: MORE PUMPKIN STUFF! At Halloween parties, no one can resist this spicy nacho-flavored cheese ball that is shaped like a pumpkin. I have a thing for food that looks like other food — cupcakes that look like spaghetti, for instance. Want to make something look like a pumpkin? Make it round and orange. Done.

From the book Hello Cupcake.

I first found the cheese ball recipe in Food Network Magazine back in October 2012, and I made it using regular cheese. Every year it was a huge hit. But I’m lactose-intolerant, so I wanted to try making the cheese ball using lactose-free products. Guess what? It works!

I used Green Valley Lactose-Free Cream Cheese and Beemster Vlaskaas Cheese (which is naturally lactose-free). But you can use dairy-free, vegan cheeses if there are some you like.



Adapted from Food Network Magazine

16 ounces lactose-free cream cheese, at room temperature
2 cups shredded lactose-free cheese (preferably cheddar)
3 tablespoons minced onion
3 tablespoons salsa
2 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1-2 handfuls of spicy Doritos (e.g., Tapatío, Spicy Nacho, Poppin’ Jalapeño), crushed
1 bell pepper stem
blue corn tortilla chips

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to blend the cream cheese, cheddar, onion, salsa, and cumin. Don’t overmix or the cheese will become too soft.

Line a small bowl with plastic wrap and scoop the cheese mixture into it. Cover tightly and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Lift the plastic-wrapped cheese mixture from the bowl and shape it into a 5-inch ball. Unwrap it, roll it in crushed Doritos, and press a bell pepper stem into the top. Serve with blue corn tortilla chips.