Week 15: Something (Almost) Blue

Culinary tradition is not always based on fact. Sometimes it’s based on history, on habits that come out of a time when kitchens were fueled by charcoal.

– Alton Brown
Activated Charcoal Pizza with Vegan Parmesan Slices

We started this blog because we love Italian food, especially pizza. A few weeks before the start of this year, I picked up a pre-made corn crust pizza dough in the grocery store. One night after work, I topped it with a marinara sauce from a jar and a high quality vegan mozzarella. It was so good that my partner and I made a vow before eating our last bite that we would make a pizza a week in 2020. Thus, our blog was born.

I’ve always struggled with keeping my New Year’s resolutions. Typically by spring I tell myself I didn’t really want to do the thing anyway and let myself off the hook. Not this time! We are 15 weeks into this challenge and still excited to keep trying new things.

Unfortunately, it’s been really challenging to find flour in our local grocery stores or online. Sheltering-in-place has inspired a new generation of home cooks. Everyone’s baking bread.

Since flour has been hard to come by, I started looking for flour-free pizza doughs. I found this recipe for Charcoal Quinoa Pizza from Nest and Glow and decided to give it a try.

Last summer I had the great fortune to spend almost a month in Paris, living in my friend’s apartment before she sold it. Her flat is in the Republic, which has become the ultra hip foodie neighborhood. Almost everyday I walked two blocks to the fabulous Boulangerie Utopie for this little piece of sweet heaven.

It’s called a roule sesame, a round sesame pastry. It is so good, I waited in an unusually long line the morning of my departure to purchase two and bring them home in my bag to share with my partner.

a roule sesame pastry from Boulangerie Utopie in Paris

The dark color comes from activated charcoal, made from ground coconut shells. I first discovered this ingredient by purchasing a detox lemonade, which I picked up en route to the beach one day. I just wanted something packaged in glass, not plastic.

I liked the lemonade and noticed there were just 3 ingredients- lemon juice, stevia, and activated charcoal, plus water. I was paying $6.99 for one lemonade, which seemed really high.

I found that I could buy small amounts of activated charcoal inexpensively in the bulk spice aisle at my local health food store and make my own. I made this drink almost weekly for about 2 years, then my mom encouraged me to do some research into the effects of long-term use.

Activated charcoal is often marketed as a detox product because it binds to toxins in the body and flushes them away. For some, this may be just what you need, but it can also flush away your vitamins and minerals. This article from Eater magazine has some useful info to help you decide if it’s right for you.

You can absolutely make this quinoa crust recipe withouth the charcoal. It may even look more appetizing!

backside of our quinoa pizza after baking

I love that the recipe below is so uniform and easy to follow. It’s a strange recipe! You blend the ingredients and get a black, liquidy soup. You think it won’t work out, that it can’t possibly become a pizza. But, have faith. It works!

Odd? Yes! But packed with protein and flour-free.

Ingredients- Charcoal Quinoa Pizza Base

  • 3/4 cup quinoa
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon activated charcoal
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder


  1. Preheat your oven to 375°.
  2. Rinse the quinoa in running water for at least 1 minute, then soak it in clean water for between 15 minutes and one hour.
  3. Rinse the quinoa again at the end of soaking and discard the water.
  4. Place all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.
  5. Line an 8 inch pan with parchment paper. (This is very important, do not skip this step!) Pour the quinoa mix into the lined pan.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before taking it out of the pan.

You now have baked a quinoa pizza base. Congrats!

The Nest and Glow website has a recipe for cashew cheese. I tried it but it didn’t work for me. I think I added too much water. I have yet to find a reliable vegan cheese recipe. If you have a favorite one, please let me know.

quinoa dough with marinara and vegan parmesan

Since the crust is so unusual, I decided to play it safe with the toppings. I opened a jar of marinara sauce I know I like and topped it with slices of Violife vegan parmesan cheese.

I baked it for 10 minutes at 375°. I wasn’t sure if we would like it, so I also whipped up some pasta with cauliflower alfredo sauce. The quinoa pizza was surprisingly good and very filling.

Given the flour shortage, we may be making this again.

In case you’re thinking of visiting Paris when the pandemic is over, here are some shots from last summer to get you dreaming…

Published by 52veganpizzas

We're a couple living in the Bay Area who are committed to a pie a week in 2020. Join us!

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