How to Enjoy Pizza When You Have Food Allergies

A survey conducted by CiCi’s Pizza, shared with the New York Daily News, revealed that the average American will have eaten at least 6,000 slices of pizza in a lifetime. Pizza just seems to hit the spot, wherever you are.

Homemade pizza on a wooden kitchen table
Rekha Garton / Getty Images

What can you do to enjoy pizza if you have a food allergy? You should understand exactly what ingredients are used to make your favorite slice. Additionally, you need to know what other options exist that will be just as delicious but safe for you to enjoy.

It may be surprising to learn, but the fact remains that most pizza recipes contain one or more of the top food allergens. The top eight food allergens include milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish, and shellfish. These ingredients can be found in any part of the pizza—crust, sauce, cheese, or toppings. For this reason, if you have food allergies you should find out about the ingredients prior to biting into a slice. Once you know it is safe to eat, or have found an allergen-free pizza option, you can enjoy one of America’s most popular foods. 

The Crust

When it comes to the crust, wheat is usually the issue for those with food allergies. Wheat and proteins in wheat, such as gluten, are often found in traditional pizza crust.

For those with Celiac disease or a wheat allergy, there are alternative crust options. Nowadays pizza restaurants offer gluten-free pizza crusts and there are recipes that use gluten-free grain flours such as oat, amaranth, quinoa, corn, or rice. Another option is a crust made of cauliflower, which contains no grain at all. These options are different but still delicious.

Aside from wheat, other allergens of concern may include eggs. Often people use peanut or soybean oil as well, which is problematic for those with peanut, tree nut, or soy allergies. Pizza crusts can instead be made with canola or olive oil, so make sure you find out what your favorite pizza spot is using.

The Tomato Sauce

It is not as common to be allergic to the ingredients in the sauce, but there are people who are allergic to tomatoes, as well as those with oral allergy syndrome. Some people can have an allergy to the lipid transfer protein that is contained in the skins, pulp, and seeds of tomatoes. In these cases, cooking the tomatoes will not totally eliminate the amount of allergens that remain active in the sauce.

If you cannot have tomatoes or any of the ingredients in the pizza sauce, opt for a sauce-free slice like white pizza, salad pizza, or even barbecue chicken pizza instead.

The Cheese

For those with a dairy or milk allergy, traditional pizza is not an option. Some specialty restaurants will be able to provide non-dairy cheese options for those who cannot have cow's milk cheese. For example, they may offer soy cheese as an option.

There are also slices that can be made without cheese, such as marinara slices, salad slices, and other specialty pies. If ordering a personal pie you can ask to add other toppings and to leave off the cheese as well.

Minimizing Cross-Contamination Risk

When it comes to allergies, you should also be aware of any potential cross-contamination risks. Be sure that the pizza shop knows about your allergies. If you are choosing unique toppings, they should be using fresh ingredients to make your pizza. By using the same gloves, or choosing toppings that may have been in close contact with other allergens, there is a greater risk for exposure.

You may not find these options at your typical chain restaurant, Once you are comfortable with the safety of the choice offerings, dare to be as creative as you wish with your order!

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