It’s official, you don’t have to give up pizza if you’re cutting down on carbs! This highly-versatile, low-carb/keto and gluten-free crust recipe can be used as a base for both pizza and garlic bread. It’s a miniscule 3g of carbs per serving, saving you at least 84g. And what it’s made of might surprise you!
I absolutely adore my low-carb way of eating. I stick to it most of the time these days – and that’s usually easy to do because it’s filling, indulgent, full of flavour, and keeps me slim. So I’m full of motivation.
But I’ve also got a HUGE thing about pizza. And ooooh, garlic bread! So on a low day on a low-carb regime, it has at times felt like a massive sacrifice not to have them. Until, that is, I discovered this way of making a low-carb/keto pizza crust.
The surprise low-carb ingredients predominantly used here – in place of very high-carb wheat flour – are actually almond flour and mozzarella cheese. I know, I know, it sounds deranged! But you need to trust me that – whipped up with little more than an egg to bind them – these ingredients makes a fabulous alternative pizza crust.
To make this crust, I buy bags of ready-grated mozzarella, which is cheaper than the more expensive buffalo mozzarella which I reserve for a pizza topping.
It comes out pleasingly crunchy, and nice and firm, and so can be picked up and eaten Italian street food-style with your fingers. It’s certainly not a thin-crust pizza, and for nutrient comparison purposes – because it’s a little thicker and much more filling than a slice of thin-crust pizza – I’m likening it here to a deep-pan crust.
This pizza crust is very versatile. One option, after its initial cooking, is to return it to the oven to warm through, having slathered it in garlic butter. I make my own, by crushing garlic into room-temperature butter, along with a little rock salt and chopped parsley.
Or, of course, use it to make a pizza! Add a tomato sauce and buffalo mozzarella, plus your favourite pizza toppings. In the one pictured here I went for black olives, plus mushrooms and pancetta lightly sautéed in advance. All that went back into the oven for 10 minutes to warm through and brown, and then I finished it with a scattering of fresh basil.
I’ve tried this pizza crust out on many people – made into garlic bread or into a pizza. They have all liked it very much, and could not guess that it was made of cheese and almonds!
You’ll notice from the pictures that this pizza crust comes out quite brown after only 10 minutes in the oven. But it isn’t burnt and it doesn’t taste burnt – it’s just made of different ingredients to those you’re used to. And once it’s been topped, you’ll find that it doesn’t get much browner after its second go in the oven.
Portion-size control is one of the bedrocks of healthy eating, and servings-wise, you most definitely aren’t going to need, or want to eat, a whole one of these pizza crusts, as you might with a regular thin-crust one. And that is especially if you’ve loaded it with pizza toppings. I’ve got a good appetite(!), and I’m suggesting that around a quarter of a pizza – served with lots of lovely dressed mixed leaves – should suffice. If you’re really hungry, and serving this as garlic bread, at a push you might want half a pizza.
And then perhaps if you do have any room left, you could try some low-carb coffee ice cream for pudding!
I’ve found that this pizza crust freezes well and can be used straight from the freezer if you want to double up the recipe.
On a final note, this is what is commonly known in keto and high-fat/low-carb diet circles as a fat head pizza crust. See Tom Naughton’s Fat Head website, which pulls together lots of information seeking to debunk the paradigm that low-fat eating is good for you, and that high-fat eating isn’t.
Nutrition Count: Regular Pizza Crust vs. Low-Carb Pizza Crust
As I’ve mentioned above, I think the fairest comparison with this low-carb pizza crust is a deep-pan crust. Since you can’t usually buy those without toppings, I found a Jamie Oliver recipe for a deep-pan crust, and calculated comparative nutrient information based on that.
There’s more protein and fat in the low-carb pizza crust, as that is what has replaced the absolutely ginormous amount of carbs – can you believe 87g for just a quarter of a pizza crust! – in the deep-pan recipe.
There’s also more calories in the low-carb pizza crust. But the crucial difference is that you’re far more likely to feel full and satisfied with a quarter of the low-carb pizza and stop there. While with a deep-pan pizza you are likely to eat substantially more of it. So in net terms that’s not only a massive carb saving, but a saving in calories too.
|Per ¼ of a pizza crust||Deep-Pan Pizza Crust*||Low-Carb Pizza Crust*|
* Figures calculated using verified nutritional info on the MyFitnessPal database. The Deep-Pan Pizza Crust is calculated based on a Jamie Oliver recipe.
Health Impact of the Ingredients
As long as you don’t have an egg or nut allergy, then eggs and almonds are a massively healthy input to your diet. You can read the detail of what I’ve written before about the health impacts of eggs here, and on almonds, here.
So what of the other main ingredient in this recipe – cheese? Of course, cheese consumption has often been viewed as ‘unhealthy’ because of its relatively high levels of saturated fat. Cheese contains calcium, as do all dairy foods, and fat soluble vitamin A, with good amounts of riboflavin, vitamin B12, phosphorus and zinc. Full-fat cheese also contains a little conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). CLA – a fatty acid – is heavily marketed in supplements which supposedly help with weight-reduction, and protect against heart disease and cancer. But even if it does fulfil those claims, according to the University of California, it seems it’s not present in high enough levels in a normal portion of cheese to make a big impact.
So the scientific controversy continues on whether dairy foods, including cheese, help in prevention of chronic diseases. But the most recent good quality scientific evidence is promising. A review in 2013, and a 16-year prospective study of 1,529 Australian adults published in 2010, showed no association between dairy intake and death associated with obesity and cardiovascular diseases, and even hinted at potential benefits.
And two bang-up-to-date scientific reviews published in 2017 present very interesting and encouraging results from novel viewpoints. The first concluded that we shouldn’t just be looking in isolation at the individual nutrients (such as fats and vitamins) in foods to determine their healthiness profile. Instead we should be taking into account the whole ‘matrix’ of the food – that is, the nutrients, plus the whole complex structure of the foods within which they sit. (This is akin to one of the arguments you may have heard for why eating whole fruit is better than drinking fruit juice – although that is also about the amount of sugar that concentrated fruit juice contains).
So an expert panel reviewed the health effects of the ‘dairy matrix’. They concluded that current evidence does not support dairy intake increasing the risk of either stroke, coronary heart disease, or type 2 diabetes. And further, they concluded that fermented dairy products, like cheese and yogurt, generally had beneficial associations with preventing these sorts of diseases.
The second review in 2017 concluded that recent research had generally shown dairy fats to have a positive bioactive effect against chronic inflammation in the body – which triggers many chronic diseases, such as cancer, obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Recipe for Low-Carb Pizza Crust
Total prep time: 10 mins
Cooking time: 10-15 mins (plus extra, once toppings have been added)
- 360g grated mozzarella cheese (I use bags of ready-grated mozzarella for the base, saving more expensive buffalo mozzarella for pizza toppings)
- 175g ground almonds
- 2 tablespoons cream cheese (such as full fat Philadelphia)
- 1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
- 1 egg
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Preheat your oven to 200°C/180°C fan/400°F/Gas 6.
- Put mozzarella and cream cheese into a small saucepan and stir over medium heat until they have melted into each other. You can also melt the cheeses together by microwaving them for a minute or two if you prefer.
- Add the ground almonds, white wine vinegar, egg and salt, and mix well until all is combined.
- Line a pizza tray with greaseproof paper. Turn out the dough onto the paper and, using your palm and fingers, work it out as evenly as you can across the paper into the edges of the tray.
- With a fork, prick the crust all over to prevent it puffing up unevenly.
- Cook in the centre of the oven for around 10 minutes, until brown. (You will find that this pizza crust goes browner than one made with wheat flour, but this does not impair the taste in any way).
- After removing from the oven, leave to rest for 5-10 minutes. Then flip it over and carefully peel away the greaseproof paper before you add toppings. (If you don’t do this, then the paper is much harder to remove once the toppings have been added and the finished pizza is cooked).
- To make pizza: add toppings of your choice, and return to the oven for another 10 minutes until they are warmed through, and your cheese (if using) is melted and brown.
- To make garlic bread: slather with garlic butter, and return to the oven for 5 minutes to warm through and melt.