Plant Based Lifestyle

How to Enjoy Pizza and Pasta on a Whole-Foods, Vegan Diet

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Pizza and pasta are among my most favorite comfort foods. Not only are they easy to make, but they’re also an inexpensive way to feed a family on a budget. Today I’m going to show you healthy swaps you can make to re-create your favorite pizza and pasta at home using healthy, whole-foods ingredients.

The Meat-How to swap it for Healthy and Delicious Plants!

If you aren’t already following a meat-free diet, this can easily be the biggest barrier to eating a healthier version of your favorite pizza and pasta.

Some delicious plant-based options for swapping out the meat in your pasta are:

  • Green/Brown Lentils. I use canned lentils in my “meat” sauce all the time! They are a very inexpensive way to boost the fiber and nutrition in your favorite spaghetti. penne, or rotini dish. To use them, simply open the can, drain and rinse. Then add them to your sauce.
  • Red lentils. I use red lentils to “hide” nutrition in my pasta sauces. When you cook red lentils up, they basically dissolve. This is such a great hack for thickening a red pasta sauce. My kids never know the difference! To use these, add about 1/2 a cup of dry red lentils (rinsed) to your pasta sauce. Add an additional 1/2 cup-1 cup of water as well. Simmer for 10-12 minutes until they soften and dissolve. Voila!
  • TVP (Textured Vegetable Protein). Tvp is a soy derivative that comes in dry granules. You can easily re-constitute it using vegetable birth or tomato sauce. Often I’ll just shake about a cup of it into my sauce and simmer 5 minutes until it’s re-hydrated.
  • Tofu. You can use extra-firm tofu, crumbled into your sauce as a meat substitute! I like to season mine with a little garlic salt and basil first.

This homemade Vegan Hamburger Helper was originally made using faux vegan hamburger. Swap it for brown lentils for a healthier version of Vegan Hamburger Helper!

Vegan Hamburger Helper shown in a clear glass bowl garnished with black pepper and dairy free cheese shreds

Substituting meat on pizza can be a little more challenging, depending on the final result you’re looking for. Here are a few great options to try:

  • Extra Firm Tofu (crumbled). Add black pepper, fennel seed, garlic, salt, onion powder, and some smoked paprika. This makes a great mock sausage! It crisps up beautifully while baking.
  • Extra Firm Tofu (Chunked). Use my Crispy Tofu Chicken recipe and sprinkle that over your pizza. This is extra delicious BBQ style with pineapples!
  • TVP (textured vegetable protein). This makes a really great “hamburger” for your pizza. Re-constituite it first using a bit of soy sauce, liquid smoke, and mushroom broth. Then once it’s absorbed all the flavors, sprinkle it over your pizza. This is really delicious with onion, peppers and fresh tomato slices.
  • Seitan. This is what I use to swap out pepperoni, salami, and other deli-style meats for pizza. Be careful here though, a lot of the store-bought mock meats will have added oils, preservatives and ingredients that are not really health-promoting. If you can make your own seitan at home, oil-free, that would be the best option.

This Crispy Tofu Chicken is the “dry garlic” version. It’s the most versatile tofu chicken swap.

Fingers holding crispy tofu chicken over a bowl of rice

Cheese, Anyone? How to swap dairy cheese for healthier, vegan options.

To swap some of your favorite cheese in pasta try these instead:

  • Cashew cream. This is by far my most favorite swap for all things dairy. Smooth dairy-free cashew sour cream is amazing for making creamy alfredo bases, like my Vegan Alfredo Pasta Sauce. Paired with heavy coconut milk, it’s absolutely decadent. Not something you would want to eat on a daily basis if you’re looking to lose pounds, but it makes for a delicious treat!
  • Tofu Ricotta. Use extra-firm tofu, cider vinegar, fresh garlic, and nutritional yeast. Blend it all together in a food processor or Vitamix and you’ve got delicious tofu ricotta. This is the perfect addition to a creamy pasta bake or even a vegan lasagna.
  • Cashew Parmesan. Simpler to the cashew cream, a cashew parmesan cheese takes on the perfect flavor of that iconic parm. This one is so easy to make, and I sprinkle it on everything!

Cashew Parmesan cheese can be made at home even if you don’t have a high powered blender! Click the image to find out how!

Vegan Parmesan cheese shown in a glass bowl being lifted by a metal spoon

Cheesy pizza….how to make that work eating whole-foods, plant-based.

Vegan cheese has come a long way! I personally enjoy the Daiya Farmers Block cheeses. My local farmers market never disappoints either!

As delicious as these vegan cheeses are, they are still not health-promoting.

Often vegan cheese will still contain oil and other ingredients that I like to stay away from on a regular basis. That doesn’t mean you can’t indulge once in a while, but it’s better to try these instead:

  • Cashew Cream. Just like with the pasta, blending up some thick cashew cream to dollop on your pizza is a great win! I usually drizzle mine on after my pizza is finished baking. Top with fresh herbs like basil or dill and you’ve created a gourmet dish!
  • Creamy Tahini. You can make a deliciously creamy tahini sauce to top your pizza as well! Add some tahini to a blender with some fresh garlic, vinegar, and basil. Blend on high until it’s combined. This is a great option if you don’t have a high-powered blender like a Vitamix to properly blend cashews.

I hope this article has helped you see easy swaps you can make right at home for healthier plant-based versions of your favorite pizza and pasta comfort foods.

Comment down below with any of your favorite tips and tricks you use!

PIN IT and come back when you’re ready to cook!

pinterest pin that says "healthy vegan swaps for pizza and pasta

Are you looking for support in making a lifestyle change that sticks? I now offer a 90-day coaching program! You can see if it’s right for you here:

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Megan Kerry

Megan Kerry is a Vegan Lifestyle Educator and Licensed Practical Nurse. Her content focuses on vegan recipes and ethical living. She is a mom of four children, a long time vegan, and an even longer time foodie. She loves veganizing any and all dishes and sharing her recipes and lifestyle tips with all of you!

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