By Alex Koons

Vegan. The mere utterance of the word might elicit a range of reactions, from cringing to curiosity. Today, I write to you not as a numbers expert but as a passionate advocate for a culinary movement that’s reshaping the restaurant landscape. It’s time to set aside preconceived notions and explore the realm of vegan cuisine, a venture that could potentially breathe new life into your pizzerias.

While I’m not here to overwhelm you with statistics, it’s worth acknowledging the billions of dollars being poured into the vegan industry year after year. Major eateries are now featuring meat alternatives, and cheese substitutes are following suit. However, it’s crucial to recognize that this shift isn’t just about catering to vegans anymore. People from all walks of life are embracing plant-based options for various reasons, from dietary preferences and meatless Mondays to lactose intolerance and a desire to reduce meat consumption.

Related: What are vegan pizza customers looking for?

The takeaway is this: Veganism is not a fleeting trend. It’s an evolution, a journey towards a more conscious and inclusive way of dining. As a seasoned pizza shop owner, you’re in a prime position to tap into this growing market before your competitors do. It’s about realizing that the world of vegan food is not that foreign; it’s an opportunity to innovate and elevate your craft.

Picture this: Your dough, sauce and your restaurant’s culture are already a testament to your commitment to quality. The same dedication can be applied to crafting vegan masterpieces. The key is to view your vegan offerings not as a separate category but as culinary creations that happen to be vegan. I’ve often emphasized this approach: Don’t make vegan food; make great food that happens to be vegan.

This shows a variety of vegan pizzas arranged on a slice rack in Hot Tongue Pizza.

Hot Tongue Pizza / Instagram

Now some of you might have already integrated vegan options into your menu. But do you eat them yourself? Your personal endorsement of these dishes can catalyze genuine change. If you’re not a fan, it’s better to omit them altogether. Every item on your menu should be a source of pride.

Let me share a personal journey. I spent years savoring cheese, and my transition to veganism was gradual. Cheese is an unparalleled delight, and it’s often a stumbling block in creating plant-forward menu items. The key lies in balance and choosing the best option for your culinary identity.

Admittedly, the vegan cheese market has a lot of room for growth. However, gems like Miyoko’s, Pleese Cheese, Violife, Follow Your Heart, and Daiya hold promise when wielded skillfully. Embrace these options, and use them sparingly to let your already superior product shine!

Related: Alex Koons shows you how to make great vegan pepperoni (with video)

I know owners who keep vegan items off their menu completely because it seems like too much of a headache. It does take training. Mistakes are inevitable, but proper staff training can mitigate them. Few things compare to accidentally serving dairy or meat to a vegan cheese enthusiast. An earnest apology is the best remedy, and it’s essential not to shy away from these challenges.

Navigating concerns like cross-contamination is paramount. Communicate transparently about shared fryers or preparation areas. While some may demand airtight isolation, remember that most people are thrilled by the very existence of vegan choices. Catering to everyone’s preferences isn’t always feasible.

Now, here is my personal breakdown of the vegan protein market:

Beyond Sausage: A worthy meat substitute
Beehive Pepperoni: Hands down the best plant-based pepperoni on the market
Field Roast Sausage: A hearty plant-based option
Impossible Foods: Delivering an explosion of flavor
My Own Vegan Pepperoni: My personal creation, a vegan triumph

Now for the pièce de résistance—vegan cheeses:

Miyoko’s Liquid Mozzarella: Crowned the best for pizza crafting
Pleese Cheese: An excellent choice
Violife: A versatile option for more than just pizza
Follow Your Heart: A solid contender
Daiya: A dependable choice

Should you make your own vegan meats and cheeses? There are pros and cons. Crafting your own can yield a cost-efficient, superior product. However, this route demands time, equipment and possibly unfamiliar ingredients.

Seek inspiration from recipes and insights online. My website is a great starting point for mouthwatering basics. Wink wink!

In conclusion, infuse your vegan creations with the same love and attention that define your pizzerias. Align your culinary journey with the shifting tastes of today’s diners. Remember, the secret ingredient to a delectable menu expansion is your genuine enjoyment of the dishes. Good luck and godspeed, pizza people!

Alex Koons is a pizza industry consultant and the owner of Hot Tongue Pizza and co-owner of Purgatory Pizza, both in Los Angeles. Learn more at


Food & Ingredients