Sourdough Salad Pizza

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Along with ice cream, chocolate, and burgers, pizza was definitely on my hit list when I started eating healthier. But like every single one of those foods, I have come up with a way of making them not only not bad for me, but actually good for me. If you live in the “pizza is junk food” world, this is the post for you, as I will single-handedly convince you that this universally loved indulgence can in fact, be nutritious.

It starts with the crust.

The pizza you’ll get at your local restaurant, in the freezer section of your grocery store, or out of the backseat of a teenage kid’s delivery car, is typically made with white flour. It also likely contains commercial yeast, the magical ingredient that makes dough rise quickly and predictably. There are of course other ways of making dough or crust, but these ingredients and methods can be more expensive and take more time. Most places stick to the quick and cheap, which almost always compromises our health. How do we make a healthier crust? The answer is fermentation!

Sourdough: what’s the big deal?
Sourdough is essentially fermented flour. And if you’re familiar with fermented foods, you’ll know that they are easier to digest, and contain far more nutrients than the original ingredients themselves. Sourdough bread is made by combining flour and water together with the natural yeasts that live on everything – our hands, our food, swirling around in the air – and after letting it hang out for a few days, you’ll have what’s called a “starter”.  This starter is added to a basic combination of more flour, water and salt, essentially inoculating it with all of the good bacteria and friendly yeasts. These organisms create lactic acid, which neutralize phytates, making nutrients more easily absorbed by the body. Lactic acid slows down the entrance of glucose into the blood stream, preventing the infamous glycemic index roller coaster. But my favourite of all, is that lactic acid helps break down the complex structure of gluten, making it far easier to digest. That means that people who have a sensitivity to gluten (except celiacs) can potentially eat sourdough bread without digestive upset, as the protein has been changed into a simpler arrangement that is easier to break down in the body.

Three cheers for that, eh?

Down below I’ve included the recipe for both sourdough starter and making pizza from that starter. I think sourdough pizza is a great place to begin because it is far easier to pull off than bread, in my experience. No matter if your dough gets a solid rise or not, you’ll still end up with a gloriously crisp, chewy crust that will your body will also thank you for.

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Toppings: not just a pretty face
The toppings on a pizza will make or break the overall flavour, but also the potential health benefits. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that gobs of cheese and pepperoni are not the most health-supportive choices. So, see topping your pie as an opportunity to get creative, while sneaking in all of those veggies!

The best advice I can give you on this front, is to remember to prepare the toppings – meaning that they should be in the state that you’d enjoy eating them before putting them on the pizza. Since this style of pizza is cooked very quickly, things like garlic, onions, mushrooms, and greens are not going to change all that much in the oven. If you wouldn’t mow down on a bunch of raw Swiss chard, take those leaves on a tour of a hot skillet first. Mushrooms should be marinated or cooked beforehand (unless you like them raw), and onions, in my opinion should be caramelized. Things like olives, zucchini, tomatoes, capers, and bell peppers can be added raw since they are delicious eaten that way.

Sauce is optional, especially if you’re going to use juicy toppings, but if you are using it, keep it sparse and don’t let it sit on the dough too long, otherwise it will get soggy and sad. Pesto is a great alternative to traditional sauce, as is tapenade, roast veggie puree, romesco, chimichurri, and harissa.

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And while we’re on the subject of health, did you know that pizza is THE perfect vehicle for salad? I discovered this a couple years ago when trying to make my healthy pizza even healthier. Instead of putting salad on the side, I thought, why not pile it on top? This delivers a fantastic textural contrast, while delivering that much-needed hit of freshness and bright acidity to cut the richness of the pizza. How is this not a thing?  I posted a shot on Instagram some time ago and it received a lot of positive feedback, so it seems like many of you are down with the salad pizza idea. It’s two of the world’s best foods combined, and that equals true tummy happiness.

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Every summer I go to my friends’ cottage, just down the river from my own in the Thousand Islands. They are enthusiastic foodies and love to cook and eat good food as much as I do. They are also passionate about a plant-based diet, fermentation, pickling, and sourdough – all things healthy and delicious! Needless to say, this weekend has become the culinary highlight of my summer.

The only difference between this year and previous ones, is that this time I was able to talk myself into snapping a few pics during this process and waiting to eat! Not an easy feat for me, you must know, but well worth it if it inspires any of you to try this recipe.

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Creating the sourdough starter
Although it may seem daunting, creating a sourdough starter, culture, or “mother” is far easier than you may think, and only requires three simple ingredients: water, flour, and a little patience. A starter takes about five days to develop, but perhaps more or less depending on temperature, humidity, and the type of flour you’re using. Nevertheless, it’s NOT complicated, and a very gratifying way to connect more to your food.

Here’s what you need:
4oz. / 115ml filtered water (un-chlorinated)
4oz. / 115g flour (choose whichever kind of grain-based flour you’d like – 100% rye and spelt are great choices)
a medium-sized glass container

Method:
1. Stir the flour and water together for about 30 seconds until it is a consistent batter. Cover the container with a tea towel, secure with a rubber band and set in a warm place.
2. After 24 hours, feed the starter with the same amount of flour and water. Stir to combine.
3. After another 24 hours, repeat with the feeding. By this time, you should see bubbles forming and smell something slightly sour. This is a good sign, and means that the wild yeasts are active. If there are no bubbles or sour aroma, keep feeding the starter and looking for signs of life.
4. After 24 hours, repeat with the feeding. By this time, you should see many bubbles of varying sizes and the aroma should be pleasantly strong.
5. Around day five, the starter should have doubled in size from day four, and is ready to use. If the starter has not risen, continue with the feeding program until it has. This process can take a few extra days if you’re in a colder environment. Don’t give up!

Storing your Sourdough Starter
If you would like to use the starter daily, then I recommend feeding it daily. Keep it at room temperature on your counter top so that you’ll remember to do so, and remove half of the starter each time so that there is always room for the fresh flour and water. If you would however like to store your sourdough for occasional use, keep it in the fridge where the fermentation process will slow down and will only require a feeding once a week.

To use again, simply remove the starter from the fridge about 12 hours prior to baking. Feed the starter to “wake it up” from hibernation. After about 12 hours from the last feeding, and once the starter is bubbly and smelling sour, it’s ready to go again!

Resources and Troubleshooting
There are so many resources for sourdough making out there, I’ll leave you with a few that I really like in case you run into any issues.
Cultures for Health
Nourished Kitchen
The Kitchn

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I hope that this post puts you in touch with your inner baker, and that you commit to starting your sourdough culture TODAY. Through this miraculous process, you’ll be joining centuries of tradition, ritual, and connection. Not to mention that your pizza will suddenly be good for you. And that is the most important thing of all, amiright?

Happy fermenting, friends!
xo, Sarah B

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In other THRILLING news, I’m co-hosting a retreat in Bali this coming January! Wild Heart, High Spirit is a 7-day revitalizing retreat for women, aimed to restore balance, cultivate inner peace, and nourish the body from inside out. Learn to take care of yourself on a deep level, and feel empowered moving forward in your life beyond our week together. Join Mikkala Marilyn Kissi of Living Yolates and I for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity on the enchanted island of Bali to connect with your wild heart and your high spirit! Click here to find out more. 

62 comments

  1. Pingback: Pizza Party: 10 Healthy Crusts & Toppings - The Health Sessions
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  3. Michael @ Restaurantji

    Wow, that’s a gorgeous pizza. Sourdough = my happy place. So sourdough pizza = my extra happy place. I always feel a bit overwhelmed at these types of cooking projects, but you make it seem so approachable… Also, amazing pics!

  4. Cassie

    Hi Sarah,
    I found this recipe last week and started my starter straight away, I have been feeding is all week (its now day 7) and it hasn’t risen, instead every morning when I wake up it has formed a hard layer on the top. I am using wholewheat spelt flour and bottled spring water. I am worried that it is probably not a good idea to eat this anymore I should probably just throw it away what do you think? I am not sure what I did wrong.
    Best,
    Cassie
    ps: thanks for all the yummy recipes! I have all your videos on Cody too and I learnt so much watching those!

  5. Pingback: Sourdough Salad Pizza – Easy Recipe Maker
  6. Sarah Macey

    I will definitely try to make a sourdough pizza. Thank you very much for sharing this recipe.
    I have always been a pizza lover, and everything about pizza is enticing.

  7. Ramona

    Hello Sarah,

    I love This recipe and wanted to make my own sourdogh a while already, and this really inspired me to start know!!! I am on day 5 know and its so mich fun to look after it. It had not risen yet so I will just continue feeding, but it smells really funny. It is kind of acidic vinegary, but smells more like bad pickels… Is that normal? Or did it go off???

  8. Candice

    Hi Sarah! My favorite post of yours to date. Just a question about the sourdough starter, do you have any great bread recipes that you use the starter in…

  9. Sara Lane

    To me, sourdough IS autumn in London. There’s something about the flavors that come through that just wrap me like a warm duffle. I’ve printed this post off and will be preparing my dough today ready for dinner later in the week.

    Sara

  10. Tisha

    Thanks for breaking down the process of sourdough fermentation! I’m excited to try this. I love the idea of adding greens–I agree, it adds a brightness to the dish.

    Great recipe and beautiful pictures!

  11. Robin

    I’ve been wanting to experiment with sourdough for a while now – this is perfect!

    Instead of a fresh salad on top of the pizza I often like to cook rapini w garlic, chile and lemon, then serve it on the side to pile on to the pizza. I started doing this on a trip to Italy and now it’s my favourite way to eat pizza. So so good. The lemon/garlic/chile combo is completely addictive, and I find the bitterness of the rapini goes really well w the cheese on the pizza.

  12. Ali

    Hi Sarah! I followed the instructions and the recipe exactly, the starter was explosively active, lovely and bubbly when I went to make the dough. Was it meant to rise while in the fridge? Mine hadn’t risen at all after 12 hours so I gave it a few extra hours at room temperature. Then I found it was very dry and crumbly when I rolled it out, so I added some extra liquid, but the result was still more like a tough pizza cracker than nicely chewy and crisp crust. Any idea why this might have been? Sourdough is a finicky creature! 😉

  13. Leo Sigh

    I love salad pizzas and don’t make them that often (don’t know why?). Will definitely be trying it with a couple of veggie modificatioins. Looks incredibly healthy and delicious, plus I love sourdough crusts. Thanks 🙂

  14. Em

    Hello Sarah.
    At the beginning of the actual recipe for the pizza, you write
    1 ½ cups / 350ml sourdough starter and 1 ½ cups / 350ml wholegrain flour.
    As I am not familiar with cups, and I don’t rellay get the 350 ML, would you please clarify how much that would be in grams?
    Thank you! You are great.

  15. Natalie

    hi Sarah.
    I have been reading your blog for about 9 months. It has, you have, inspired so many great changes in mine and my family’s life. I have always eaten well, but struggled with cooking for my new growing family. Since your blog I cook up my own beans, make my own plant based milk and have fallen deeply in love with lentils and brew komucha non stop. Thank you so much. And with all my cooking from scratch my life has in fact become more simple and more enjoyable. Sourdough and your kimchi are next on my list. I am so thankful for you. I feel proud of what I feed my family and no longer am I lost in my kitchen.
    Thank you
    Natalie
    P.s. Your black lentil borscht soup is a constant go to of mine.
    I’m asking for your new book for Christmas !

  16. Dani

    Oh my goodness this looks incredible! I’m salivating and dreaming of pizza. Just need to convince the fiancé to build a pizza oven now 🙂 xx

    • Sarah Britton

      Hi Jan,

      Here’s how I freeze pizza dough:

      1. Prepare the dough and let it rise as usual.
      2. Form the dough into individual balls, the size you would use to make one pizza.
      3. Lightly coat each dough ball with melted coconut oil.
      4. Turn the dough over so it is lightly coated in the oil.
      5. Slide the dough ball into a freezer bag and seal, squeezing out all the air.
      6. Place in the freezer and freeze for up to 3 months.
      7. When ready to use, put the ball of dough in its bag in the fridge to thaw overnight or for at least 12 hours.
      8. Before making the pizza, bring the dough out on the countertop and let warm up for about 30 minutes before stretching out the pizza.

      I hope that helps!

      Happy pizza,
      Sarah B

  17. Magda

    I’ve been making sourdough spelt pizza for years and I usually top it with piles of rocket and oven (slow) roasted tomatoes. Spread the love! Loved seeing your adventures in Warsaw and I’m very much looking forward to your next book!

    • Sarah Britton

      Hi Magda,

      Thank you very much! Warsaw was amazing…so much food! Haha! My favourite kind of trip 😉 Sounds like you’ve been on the sourdough salad pizza wagon for a while too. Spread the love indeed <3

      xo, Sarah B

  18. Claudia

    Hallo Sarah,
    I`ve been making my own sourdough bread for years now, but it never rest inside the fridge though. Is that ment to be?

    • Sarah Britton

      Hi Colleen,

      This is a cold-rise dough, although you can let it rest on at room temperature if you’re not going to leave it for too long (more than 5 hours). But if you have a method that works for you, stick with it! This is how I do mine 🙂

      And Anouk, that IS a great resource, thank you for the suggestion.

      Much love,
      Sarah B

    • Sarah Britton

      Hi Casey,

      Make sure you’re using expeller-pressed coconut oil without the aroma. Otherwise you’ll have a Hawaiian pizza 😉 Or ghee would also work of course. I hope you enjoy!

      xo, Sarah B

  19. Jessie Snyder

    I feel so inspired after reading all that you’ve written here about sourdough and the process Sarah! Trying my first starter out on a pizza dough seems much less daunting than a full loaf, and now you have me dreaming of pizza – something I haven’t been able to enjoy in so long. Goodness! You never cease to amaze + inspire in everything that you do, and this retreat looks like SUCH an incredible experience. You go girl, keep slaying. – xx

    • Sarah Britton

      Jessie! You are too much <3 Thank you for your kind words. YOU inspire ME all ways, always! Those caramel apples? Girrrrrrl.

      I hope you try the pizza recipe. It is easier than it seems, I assure you. Maybe one day we'll have a pizza party just you and me. Sound good? I look forward to it!

      Much love, Sarah B

    • Sarah Britton

      Hi Barbara,

      Buy some bottled water then 🙂 It’s just important that it doesn’t have chlorine in it. I know Dasani (although owned by Coca Cola…) makes reverse-osmosis water that would be ideal. I hope that helps!

      xo, Sarah B

  20. Sophie

    I’ve had a question about some fermented foods for a while. Doesn’t cooking the fermented material kill most or all of what makes it so beneficial for your lovely gut garden? Your point about gluten is awesome though, and I had no idea about that.

  21. Brooklyn Murtaugh

    I absolutely love sourdough!
    I love making my own pizzas because not only do they taste better than take out, they are way healthier!
    I have yet to make a salad pizza though, maybe I’ll have to go it a go soon 🙂

  22. Corrie

    Hi there,
    To clarify, each day you feed the starter with 115gms of flour and 115mls of water? So by the end of the process, you have used 4 x the original starting values? Thanks…..

  23. Ashley

    Yum!!! This is my kind of pizza – every last detail of it. I love sourdough but didn’t realize all the benefits of it. Thanks for sharing =) Do you think Einkorn or Sorghum flour will work for the starter and/or final dough? Have a beautiful weekend!

  24. Gabriella @ Putumayo Kitchen

    Ahh this is so great – sourdough is the best! Whenever I make sourdough or things like kombucha, sauerkraut etc I always love that idea of continuing old traditions and rituals. It’s so great to connect to these old ways from the past. Also, anything that makes pizza healthier and tastier is a total winner!

  25. Susan

    I need to get brave enough to do sourdough starter. I’ve read about it on another blog, and also in the Nourished Kitchen cookbook. I have years of experience with baking bread, and make pizza fairly frequently, so it shouldn’t be difficult. The biggest problem I have with things like sourdough is that we spend a lot of time traveling, and I’m not sure how long the starter would hibernate in my refrigerator (we’re talking two to four months at a time away from home).

  26. Ashley

    I love sourdough pizza! I always par bake my crust for a few minutes on my stone before I put toppings on. I have found that I get much crisper bottom crust that way.

  27. kristie

    This is incredibly beautiful looking food! I have always wanted to make my own sourdough starter, but didn’t know where to start. Thanks for this!

  28. Modini

    One thing I wonder about…after mixing together the sourdough starter and the flour, the dough only sits for 30 mins before baking it? But normally a sourdough sits for minimum 8 hours, to break down the gluten etc, like you write about..but will these benefits be there after only 30 mins??

  29. Cat

    I love this! I’ve been meaning to try out a sourdough starter and you’ve inspired me to go for it with this lovely post. One question, what is the weight measure for the flour in the final dough? Thanks!

  30. Kris

    I’m going to get on this right now! Your sourdough crust looks amazing and those toppings insanely delicious! Just the right way to get a jump on next week’s pizza night!

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