It’s time to have a talk, kids. Lately, there’s a new trend in town that’s infecting our youth, and it’s way more dangerous than bath salts or tide pods or taking an active and earnest interest in politics. They call it “cauliflower pizza” and It. Is. Terrifying.
It’s relatively hard to mess up pizza. Bread, tomato sauce, cheese — it’s perfection. It’s the nectar of the gods. And, quite honestly, with all respect to my wonderful human life partner, pizza is my actual true love. I love it all, the late-night New York slice, the Chicago deep dish, the chain pizza. I love it gourmet style and I love it frozen. I love it on a hamburger and I love it on bagel! Give me pizza in the morning, pizza in the noontime or pizza at supper time because when pizza is, well, pizza, I could literally eat pizza anytime. I’m currently in the throes of rewatching season two of The Good Place, and I’m dead certain that if I was in the Good Place, pizza would be matched up as my one true soulmate. That’s just undebatable.
But lately, I’ve been trying to watch my carb intake. Which…. brings me to the rise of cauliflower crust pizza. It’s having a real moment right now. A lot of stores and restaurants are trying to capitalize on this latest ‘health’ obsession by dipping their toes into the gluten-free dough. California Pizza Kitchen, who added it to its menu this year, says ten percent of their pizzas are ordered with cauliflower crust now. Supermarkets from Costco to Whole Foods to Trader Joe’s have come out with their own versions of the style that are flying off the shelves. And this week, Oprah came out with her riff on a frozen cauliflower crust pie. If Oprah “I LOVE BREAD” Winfrey is claiming this is the healthy alternative to pizza, people are going to get more excited than a lovesick Tom Cruise jumping all over her couch.
So is cauliflower pizza the answer to all of our low carb prayers? If it were pizza without the bread that still tasted like pizza, I would be the first to sign up and begin worshipping at the altar of cauliflower crust. But after trying it, there is one thing that has become very, very clear to me.
This is the bad place. I mean really, the evidence for Cauliflower pizza being invented by a literal demon who resides in Hell and whose only job is to torture humans is pretty overwhelming. Because I’d argue that cauliflower pizza is worse than frozen yogurt masquerading as ice cream. Of course, it’s not as good as the real thing, but it isn’t just that. It’s that cauliflower pizza crust takes all the excitement and joy of eating pizza and somehow gets it to taste the way the concept of disappointment feels. I have no doubt that it originated in the fake Good Place with a restaurant name like ‘Cauliflower Dreamin’, or ‘Cauliflower By My Name’ or my personal favorite, ‘The Cauliflower Is Coming From Inside The Pizza.’ And unlike the normal torture methods of turning people into soup or filling them with butthole spiders, the sneakiest part of the cauliflower pizza torture is that it’s pretending to be a healthier pizza alternative.
It tricks poor, desperate people into believing they can still eat as much pizza as they want (if only that can convince themselves that it’s not that bad). But it is that bad. Cauliflower pizza is a very bad ‘pizza’ from a very bad place.
IT’S NOT BETTER FOR YOU.
People don’t choose cauliflower pizza because they love pizza but hate the taste of bread. “Why can’t pizza taste more like vegetables?” said no one ever. Who even particularly likes cauliflower as a vegetable? It has to be covered in sauce to taste like anything all. Cauliflower is like Broccoli’s weird, bland cousin who only listens to Christian rock and whose favorite TV show is reruns of Everybody Loves Raymond but comes to the party because it’s in town from Cincinnati for the week and Broccoli’s mom said he had to “be nice”.
Most people choose cauliflower pizza crust because they’re trying to either lose (or maintain) weight. And because riced cauliflower (which is just chopped up cauliflower) has way less carbs and more nutrients than rice, people (understandably) assume that the crust is way better for you. But I hate to break it to you, cauliflower pizza isn’t that unicorn food that’s a way lower carb and calorie alternative to regular pizza. That’s because like some of your favorite illegal drugs, it’s probably being cut with some powders that are going to make it worse for you.
Take Oprah’s new offering, O, That’s Good! First, the serving size of this 11 inch pizza is 1/5 of it. That’s like a small slice and a half of pizza, at best. But fine, let’s say you and four of your closest friends would all feel full after splitting one 11-inch frozen pizza. How many calories is that measly offering if you go with the basic, pepperoni pizza? 320 calories. That makes the whole pizza about 1600 calories.
Now, let’s compare that to another frozen pizza with a similar crust thickness, Red Baron (which is slightly bigger at 12 inches). Their serving size is ¼ a pizza and clocks in at 380 calories. That means their whole (larger than the Oprah cauliflower version) pizza is only 1520 calories. GUYS, IT’S FEWER CALORIES TO JUST EAT THE REGULAR FROZEN PIZZA.
And carb wise (which is probably the number one reason people are trying to cut down on bread), you’re looking at 41 carbs in the regular pizza versus 39 in the cauliflower offering. But again, the serving size is smaller with the cauliflower pizza. It actually has more carbs than the regular frozen choice. This is insane. If you’re trying to do keto or watching your sugar intake for something like diabetes, this is absolutely not a better option.
IT’S A SOGGY MESS THAT TASTES GROSS.
Cauliflower pizza is….fine. But it’s never going to actually be like pizza crust. Not in taste and certainly not in texture. I’ve yet to try one in which it wasn’t this kind of weird, chewy, rubbery, and not crispy enough texture. And that might be acceptable if it was a magic, no calorie pie that also cleans your house once a week and becomes a carriage to take you to the ball or like happy hour, but it’s not. It’s not the worst taste in the world but it’s not actively good.
After ranting about the lie that is cauliflower pizza recently, my coworker Alia thought I was being unfair.
“It can be good,” she said. “Like… not as good as a flour crust, but good.”
But why would you want that? Crust that’s not better for you and is fine, but not as good as regular pizza. Why, Alia, answer me? (Seriously, I emailed you a “WHY” with 17 question marks yesterday; no response.)
I have yet to eat a cauliflower pizza that I would call ‘good’. My experience it that the taste is not just bland but somehow — unlike cauliflower rice which does a decent job of sucking in the flavor of sauce — the crust does the opposite of soaking in flavor and making it better. It almost feels like it takes away the flavor of the other pizza ingredients. Like a black hole sucking in all of the light around you and leaving you only darkness.
Cauliflower pizza is more the absence of pizza more than it is a pizza.
IT’S MORE EXPENSIVE.
The other day, a friend of mine put up an Instagram story of her making a small cauliflower pizza using grocery store, Erewhon’s, premade cauliflower crust.
“Ooooo. Was it good?” I messaged her.
“It was okay for a $50 pizza,” she said.
I mean. Why are we paying more for something that is, let me recap, not as good and less healthy. And while some of these crusts are more expensive than others, they all push cost up. Many of the most popular ones work out to about ten dollars a crust. Add your toppings in and you’re looking at 15-20 dollars a pizza compared to like a 7 dollar pizza from the grocery store or the 12 bucks you’d pay to order some for delivery.
So, I read about this pizza place in LA called Skinny B*tch Pizza, and I was immediately intrigued. A lower carb pizza for delivery and the reviews were so good! I decided I had to try it. The price was exhorbinant, 25-30 dollars a pizza (more when you add in tip for the driver). But if this was the holy grail of pizzas, I was willing to go the extra mile. And man, was it disappointing. Sort of like a less good pizza than you’d serve in an elementary school cafeteria but more…. slippery.
“It definitely reminds me of pizza,” was my husband said diplomatically after trying a bite and deciding to make himself something else for dinner.
And hey, I like a trip down memory lane as much as the next lady, but that’s a lot of money just to be be reminded of better times. Like times when you were eating real pizza.
So, what’s the verdict?
Well, if you like the taste of cauliflower pizza better than regular pizza, go for it. But that’s really the only reason you should eat it (because you genuinely think it tastes better). And, if you do think that, you might want to keep it to yourself, because I’ll probably accuse you of being some sort of vampire who only drinks blood but is trying to blend in with his human victims or an inflatable plastic, sex doll that came to life because of a small child’s birthday wish for a new mom. Because even if you’re gluten free for a medical reason, there are better tasting gluten-free pizza options out there.
And if there is no medical reason that you can’t eat bread, and you’re craving some of the good stuff, you should just… have some pizza. You’re better off having a slice or two in moderation paired with salad than trying its pale imitation, leaving you wholly unsatisfied with a pizza-sized hole in your heart. In terms of levels of bad place torture, I guess a metaphorical pizza sized hole is better than actually having a demon carve out a pizza shape into your heart while you scream and beg for mercy, but not by much, fam. Not by much.