Recipes and Food
18 Ways to Turn Cheap Frozen Pizza Into a Healthier, Gastropub-Worthy Meal
We’re so accustomed to thinking of pizza as junk food. A lazy quick fix. A cheat meal. But you know what? Pizza deserves more than that. Pizza is classic, wonderful, beloved, and with the development of so many great thin-crust, disguised vegetables, gluten-free, dairy-free, and other options, there is absolutely no reason it can’t be a satisfying, semi-healthy, well-rounded meal. Especially when you add some home hacks and healthy tweaks to make it so.
All it takes is a handful of staples to turn a bare-bones, $5 frozen pizza into a delicious, simple meal with a good balance of protein and vegetables against the fat and carbohydrates. Granted, it’ll still be an indulgent treat if you eat the whole thing as I do, since the even the most virtuous thin-crust frozen pizzas are about 850 calories on the low end … but at least with the addition of more micronutrients, that blood sugar spike won’t be as dramatic and won’t leave you reaching for more food an hour or so after.
Here are some of my favorite tips and combos for turning that cheap grocery store freezer staple into what will feel like a gourmet gastropub dinner, but healthier.
What You Need
Obviously, you’ll first need a thin-crust pizza. I say thin-crust because these are usually the least caloric — especially compared with rising or stuffed-crust options — and for their availability and variety. Additionally, most gluten-free options are on the thinner side, too.
For many of these combinations, it’s as easy as starting with some vegetables, diced or chopped, such as zucchini, peppers, eggplant, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, kale, broccoli, or spinach. Good proteins to keep on hand are grilled chicken, chicken sausage in various flavors (I love Gilbert’s Craft Sausages for their outstanding variety and individually sealed links), lean ground meat, frozen meatballs, shrimp, or even eggs or salmon. You can also go vegetarian with firm tofu (make sure you dry it out really well), chickpeas, or just more part-skim mozzarella cheese. I also like to have dried oregano, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, basil, Trader Joe’s Onion Salt, and everything bagel seasoning in my spice rack for a final dusting of flavor.
You want to make sure that any add-ons are cut small or sliced thin. This makes it so that everything will cook evenly and you can just follow the heating directions on the box instead of having to work on the fly.
The first layer should be your vegetables, and they should be evenly distributed across the pizza. Some vegetables, like tomatoes and summer squash, may extrude moisture when they cook, so make sure they’re not overly concentrated in one spot. If you put wet veggies in the center, the moisture will pool and make the center of your pie soggy.
Your precooked meat goes on next; putting it on top lets it get toasty and will protect fragile vegetables from burning. On top of that, you can layer extra cheese if you’d like. Any spices and herbs should be the crowning touch.
Finally, because you eat with your eyes first, it’s important to plate your frozen pizza so it feels like a dinner experience. Believe it or not, there’s a world of difference between a well-presented sad circle on some soggy cardboard and a vibrant one set on top of an aptly named, beautiful FabSlabs board, which are made of camphor laurel. These are fragrant in your kitchen and naturally antibacterial — testing has actually shown that even decade-old boards reject bacterial growth.
CLASSIC CHEESE PIZZA RECIPES
Extra-Cheese Margherita Pizza
The classic sauce and cheese combo is a perfect blank slate. There’s so much you can do with this basic canvas that it’s hard to call where the limit is. Additionally, there are some excellent bargain-basement-priced ones in smaller sizes that are available, like the three-pack from Lidl, which is only about 660 calories for a personal-size pie. That one, however, is sparse on the cheese and sauce, so turn it into a Margherita. Halve some grape or cherry tomatoes and tear up some fresh mozzarella to make it a perfect crossover. Tear up some fresh basil leaves and scatter them across the pizza right before serving for a pop of freshness.
Grandma Upside-Down Pizza
Take a regular pie and turn it on its head by adding more shredded mozzarella cheese and chopped garlic, then topping it with a healthy few dollops of jarred chunky tomato sauce. Dried oregano goes on top, and red pepper flakes if you want to add some heat. I like to use veggie-forward “garden combination” ones with low concentrations of sugar to keep it healthy and lower-calorie. And because you’re not adding protein of much significance, consider using a Banza chickpea crust pizza as your base, for protein and fiber. Honestly, they’re delicious, and unlike other gluten-free alternatives, are free of pesky coconut.
Chicken “Parm” Pizza
Starting again with a regular cheese pizza base, this easy and classic riff on an Italian-American favorite is easy as “pie” to get to the table. Dice up some grilled chicken breast and dollop some extra sauce across the pizza. This will help keep the small pieces from drying out. Scatter some extra part-skim shredded mozzarella on top, then sprinkle garlic and/or onion powder before baking. Alternatively, if you don’t mind the extra carbs and fat and want to go full-flavor, air-fry or bake up frozen breaded chicken breast strips until halfway done, then cut them up, put them on the pizza and top as directed (using less cheese or omitting the additional for this rendition to keep saturated fat in check!).
Healthier Meatball Pizza
Sometimes, it’s only a matter of changing out the meat you use to cut down on calories and increase your nutrition. The easiest hack is to microwave frozen turkey — versus beef and pork — meatballs, then chop them up and top with more sauce, dried basil, oregano, black pepper, and red pepper. Or, cut out the carbs in premade meatballs, which are bound with bread and breadcrumbs, by using lean ground turkey or beef. Just brown with the spices mentioned above, plus diced onion or onion powder and garlic, drain, and add to your pizza in the last five minutes of baking. Dollop on more sauce if you like.
Healthier Pepperoni Hot Honey Pizza
Pepperoni is delicious but not exactly nutritionally sound. You can take some of the sting out of that by using Boar’s Head turkey pepperoni — an ingredient I always keep in my deli drawer instead of traditional pork and beef pepperoni. It has 70% less fat and half the calories, and just as much flavor. This recipe couldn’t get any easier: Just assemble the pepperoni, spritz with the oil mister, sprinkle Italian seasonings and pepper flakes, then while it’s still warm, drizzle some hot honey on top.
Did you know traditional Bolognese sauce uses carrots, celery, and onion as its base? Turn it into a pizza easily. Brown lean ground turkey, beef, or bison with fresh diced garlic, onion, and celery. While that’s on the stove, quick-steam fresh or frozen carrots in the microwave. Drain, add it to the pan, then mix in some jarred tomato sauce — just enough to wet it, but not so that it’s super saucy. Pour it on the pizza crust and bake it on up.
VEGETABLE PIZZA RECIPES
Italian Vegetable Medley Pizza
For this, you can start with a plain or vegetable pizza, depending on if you want to start from scratch or just add on. Again, because this is a vegetarian combo, I’d recommend Banza once more for protein. But if you’re using a regular pizza, or even an already vegetable one, just add on diced zucchini and peppers and sliced mushrooms, oil-mist it, season with Italian herbs, and go.
Eggplant, olives, zucchini, roasted red peppers, thin-sliced portobello mushrooms, and canned, drained chickpeas on a cheese or veggie pizza let you tap into the Mediterranean flavor profile while adding plenty of nutrients, fiber, and protein to the mix. If you want to make it even more substantial, toss some lean pork loin in souvlaki seasoning, grill it up and cube it, and throw it on top of the veggies. Add on some crumbled feta and sprinkle dried oregano and marjoram for some good times.
Poultry Sausage or Meatball Veggie Pizza
There are so many convenient chicken product flavors that lend themselves well to pizzas. Gilbert’s Tuscan Recipe, Caprese, and Sweet Pepper and Onion; Aidell’s Italian Style with Mozzarella Cheese or Caramelized Onion meatballs; Al Fresco’s Tomato & Basil chicken meatballs; and Premio Sweet or Hot Italian Turkey Sausage (the only one that isn’t precooked) are all delicious options. Load up on zucchini, white mushrooms, bell pepper, and red onion for a classic mix. Top with the diced protein and bake as instructed. For a more focused take, make it a Sausage, Peppers, and Onions Pizza by doubling down on those two veggies.
WHITE PIZZA RECIPES
Green and White Pizza
Using the same broccoli-cooking principles as above, add diced asparagus spears directly on the pizza with the broccoli and extra spinach combo, then chopped white onion and fresh garlic. Zucchini is also delicious with these other vegetables, and one is plenty. Spritz the above with olive oil or treat yourself to a drizzle of pesto. Dust with garlic powder and kosher salt, pepper flakes, and oregano, but omit basil. Mild sweet chicken sausage flavors or grilled chicken are perfect additions if you want to add meat; broiled then shredded salmon is another fantastic fresh option. If you’re skipping the meat, a little ricotta salata — a hard, salty cheese as opposed to the soft version — or feta can go a long way.
This one is so, so easy. Dice up pancetta from your local deli or some thick- or center-cut bacon and scatter it across a white pie with some frozen peas and diced onions. True carbonara uses egg instead of cream, but as a pizza with a creamy cheese sauce, you can skip both. Feel free to amp up the veggies with sliced white button mushrooms and frozen spinach, too. For this one, I prefer the Newman’s Own White Thin & Crispy Pizza for the added fiber.
Fig, Prosciutto, and Arugula Pizza
The beauty of this pizza is in its minimal prep. All you need is some dried figs or fig marmalade, sliced prosciutto, and fresh baby arugula for a sweet and savory flavor bomb that’s light and gourmet-good. Bake your white pizza as instructed, and 10 minutes to the done mark, pull it out and add the dried figs and prosciutto, and give it a quick olive oil spritz. Once it’s done, smother the entire thing with baby arugula, whose peppery bitterness is a perfect foil to the salt and sugar. Alternatively, you can use Gilbert’s Fig & Feta chicken sausage instead of prosciutto, especially if you’re watching your sodium intake. For that take, bake the pizza with the diced sausage, then give it the same parbake treatment. The Newman’s is a better choice for this one, too, with its more subtle garlic notes.
I prefer Al Fresco Sweet Apple With Vermont Maple Syrup for this combo. If I’m feeling more savory than sweet, Johnsonville’s fully cooked turkey breakfast sausage, which comes in little links. Cover white pizza with plenty of frozen spinach as your vegetable base, or fresh diced zucchini. You can also do peppers, onions, and ham if you’re feeling more classic. Ten minutes to done, pull out the pizza and crack two eggs on top, with some salt and pepper or everything bagel seasoning, and a sprinkle of shredded cheddar. The eggs should come out a little runny still, but fully cooked.
Coconut Cream Curry-Inspired Pizza
For this hot take, you’ll need to get — specifically — Capello’s White Pizza With Spinach and Caramelized Onion. This is because this gluten-free pizza uses organic coconut milk and coconut oil in its recipe, which comes through in the almond flour crust. From here, you can take it in a couple of directions: Indian-inspired, with chickpeas, chicken, more spinach, and a drizzle of jarred tikka masala sauce; chicken or shrimp with bell peppers and zucchini you’ve grilled with Thai red curry; or chicken, cauliflower, and peas sautéed with garam masala and curry, a riff off of aloo gobi.
SEASONAL & SPECIALTY PIZZA RECIPES
Fall Harvest Pizza
Last fall, this fall, and hopefully, every fall hereafter, Lidl releases its limited-time Sausage and Squash Thin-Crust Pizza, and honestly, it’s one of my favorite things ever. It starts you off with pork sausage, butternut squash, ricotta salata, spinach, and red onion, which sounds like plenty, right? But I like to add some kale — sauteed with more red onion and salt and pepper — for fiber and heartiness or diced asparagus for more fall flavor.
Barbecue Chicken Pizza
Aldi does a great frozen thin-crust barbecue chicken pizza, but unfortunately, its production is limited to the summer. However, this is a common-enough flavor that you can pick up the base from most brands, which is typically barbecue sauce, some kind of cheese, a smattering of red onion, and white meat chicken. For best results, season your chicken with something with a little heat, like a Buffalo marinade or a dry rub with some hot pepper in it. You’ll want to add more red onions and some sliced mushrooms, of course, but sautéed kale or Brussels sprouts do well in this flavor combination. Cool sliced scallions are also refreshing on top.
Buffalo Chicken Pizza
There are a few store brands that make frozen pizza with Buffalo sauce as its base, and this classic sports snack flavor lends itself well to a veggie-fied hot/cold take. You can double the grilled chicken, of course, but make the most of your add-on chopped cauliflower florets that you’ve tossed first in Buffalo sauce. Mist with olive oil before baking the pizza and it’ll come out slightly roasted and infused with flavor. Crunchy diced celery and carrots and a drizzle of better-for-you ranch dressing like LiteHouse Purely Balanced Garden Ranch Greek Yogurt Dressing, make for a perfect bar bite, or cover the whole thing with shredded romaine lettuce to take some of the heat off.