Homemade Pizza School

What’s California Style Pizza?

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Updated: October 23, 2021
what exactly is california style pizza made at home
Photo by Taryn Elliott from Pexels

California brings to mind sunny weather, sandy beaches, and Hollywood celebrities. We don’t usually think of pizza and palm trees. But that has changed. There is a new style of pizza attributed to the California healthy lifestyle. California style pizza is not as heavy as Chicago deep dish or as greasy as a New York slice.

Instead, it’s a unique style of pizza all its own.

So, what exactly is California Style Pizza?

California pizza is a healthy version of pizza that is well known among pizza lovers who like to indulge in delicious pizza while also watching their waistlines.

California pizza is similar to a traditional Italian pizza. It has a thin crust and is eaten as a single-serving pizza. It shares some similarities to traditional Italian pizza. In Italy, a traditional pizzeria serves thin-crusted single pies. This is quite a contrast from the American style of thicker crust and extra-large family-sized pizzas.

These single-serving pizzas are topped with healthy, usually locally sourced ingredients. It’s rare to see heavy hitters like sausage and pepperoni on a California pizza. It’s more common to top a California pizza with fresh local mushrooms or seasonal artichokes. The toppings tend to veer towards creating a gourmet pizza experience.

A Bit of History

The flavorful California pizza fad is believed to have been started by chef Ed LaDou from Chez Panisse, located in Berkeley, California.

In the early 1980s, chef Ed La Dou at Chez Panisse influenced chef Wolfgang Puck with his creative pizza style. Chef Wolfgang Puck then decided to open a new pizzeria based on Chez Panisse. This new pizzeria was designed with an open floor plan and a central focus on a wood-fired pizza oven.

Both chefs worked together in creating over 250 different pizza combinations with healthy and locally sourced ingredients. They encouraged each other and made a name for themselves and this delicious pizza in the foodie world.

Later, chef La Dou helped a couple of new chefs use the same concept to create the restaurant chain California Pizza Kitchen or CPK. The healthy, gourmet pizza chain was so popular that both chef Wolfgang Puck and CPK made frozen California pizzas for the home market.

Chef Puck’s brand didn’t last, but CPKs frozen pizza was a huge success and was ultimately bought by the Kraft Corporation. Today, CPK frozen pizzas are sold in most major grocery stores.

California Pizza Toppings

Fresh toppings make the California pizza style a particular type of pizza. It is common to see pizzas with asparagus, green beans, artichokes, zucchini, peaches, corn, baby tomatoes, and other seasonal toppings. The combinations are endless, but some of the most popular California pizzas are:

  • BBQ chicken
  • Thai chicken with peanut sauce
  • Poached eggs and herbs
  • Scallops and zucchini flowers
  • Fish roe and caramelized onions
  • Black truffle oil with Parmesano-Reggiano
  • Smoked salmon creme fraiche, capers, and dill
  • Calamari and Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Pulled pork with apple slices
  • Bacon, pears, and gorgonzola

Seasonal gourmet ingredients have elevated the California Style Pizza to an elegant take on the typical tasty pizza.

How to Make California Style Pizza at Home

To make California style pizza at home. You will want to make your dough and stretch it out very thin. Using a rolling pin can help get that thin crispy crust. Before you put the toppings on, brush the stretched dough with olive oil. A pastry brush is the best way to do this without tearing the dough. You should really have a pastry brush. They are an essential kitchen tool. But if you don’t, you can use the back of a spoon.

Bake the crust at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about four minutes, depending on if you have a gas or electric oven. Check it frequently. Once the crust is solid, take it out and add your sauce and toppings. Now, this is where the fun begins. Get creative and try different combinations.

You can check your local Farmer’s market and see what produce is in season. A good tip is to remember not to overload the pizza with toppings. 

Sauce Ideas

Fresh Produce

fresh vegetables for california style homemade pizza
Photo by Mark Stebnicki from Pexels

You’ll want to think in terms of seasonal produce, and depending on where you live and what time of year it is, it might look like:

  • Artichoke hearts
  • Red onions
  • Peas or green beans
  • Heirloom tomatoes
  • Arugula
  • Basil
  • Pears
  • Baby red potatoes
  • Crooked neck yellow squash
  • Butternut squash
  • Rosemary

Just to give you a few ideas. But there are no rules here, so you can really mix up flavor combinations.

What About Cheese?

You can’t forget the cheese. Unless you are vegan, you might want to go cheeseless or use a vegan cheese which is not uncommon for a healthy California pizza. 

But for the cheese lovers out there, the sky is the limit. A fresh mozzarella ball is always in season, but you can try other cheeses like:

  • Fontina
  • Myzythera
  • Feta
  • Blue Cheese
  • Goat cheese
  • Manchego
  • Provolone
  • Pecorino

So now you have some ideas you can try and make your own homemade version of California pizza.

Have you tried California Style Pizza? What unusual or seasonal toppings do you like on your pizza? Tell us in the comments.

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DK & Eliana

DK & Eliana

Thanks for reading about our homemade pizza journey! We're a young married couple who started making pizza at home on our wedding night and haven't looked back yet. We've learned over countless attempts of trial and error how to make the perfect pizza sauce, pizza dough, and exactly which pizza accessories to buy for your home setup...

FYI When you make a purchase or, sometimes, carry out some other action as direct result of clicking on a link at Homemade Pizza School, we will receive a small commission. Gratzie!


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