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Make a Pizza Toppings Bar

Nothing puts a damper on pizza night faster than people arguing about what toppings to choose. But why choose at all? Instead, go with a make-it-yourself pizza toppings bar.

Slice of pizza cheese crust seafood topping sauce. with bell pepper vegetables delicious tasty fast food italian traditional and soft drink carbonated fresh on wooden board table classic in side view.
Photo credit: Adobe Photos.

What is a pizza toppings bar?

A pizza toppings bar is a way to celebrate pizza night and ensure everyone gets the exact pizza they want. It is an interactive event where everyone participates not just in eating but also in creating the meal.

At its most basic, a pizza toppings bar is similar to a taco bar or salad bar. But in this instance, you’ve got a spread of sauce bases along with toppings set out for each person to customize their own pizza. Everyong starts with a personal pizza-sized crust or ball of dough to top.

Interactive meal time

Making pizzas is fun. It gives guests something to talk about, encouraging conversation and socializing.

A pizza toppings bar makes a great ice breaker for teen parties or work events. It’s also a fun way to offer many options for people with different dietary needs or preferences. In addition, it might just get a picky eater in the family to try something new, as my friend Michelle Price, who writes the Honest and Truly blog, discovered.

“DIY pizza night is the perfect time to try something new in a low-stakes environment,” she says. “Put out different toppings each week from artichoke hearts to blanched asparagus on the veggie side to Canadian bacon and grilled chicken on the meat side. It’s a great way for kids, especially, to expand their palates in a fun way.”

How to create your pizza bar

Setting up a DIY pizza bar is a fun and interactive way to enjoy pizza night with friends and family. Here’s how to do it.

Choose your base

When it comes to setting up a pizza bar, the first thing you need to consider is the base. Will you make your own pizza dough or buy pre-made crusts? Here are a few options to consider:

Homemade pizza dough: If you have the time and inclination, making your own pizza dough is a great option. It’s not as complicated as you might think, and it allows you to customize the thickness and flavor of the crust. Also, you can make a fast dough using a no rise pizza dough recipe.

Store-bought pizza dough: If you don’t have the time or energy to make your own, you can buy pre-made pizza dough from your local grocery store or pizza shop. You can usually find it in the refrigerator or freezer section. Market Basket, the New England supermarket chain, has dough for about $3. On sale, we’ve seen it for as little as $1.99.

Pre-made pizza crusts: Another option is to use pre-made pizza crusts. You can usually find them in the freezer at your favorite grocery store. They’re great if you want to save time and don’t want to fuss with dough.

Specialty crusts: If you are feeding people with allergies or dietary restrictions, offer some specialty crusts so they can participate as well. These days you can buy delicious pizza crusts that are gluten free, grain free or low carb.

Choose and set out your toppings

One of the best things about a DIY pizza bar is that everyone can customize their pizza to their liking. Here are some popular toppings to consider:

Sauce: Tomato-based pizza sauce is the classic choice, but you can also offer pesto, alfredo sauce, or even BBQ sauce or Thai red curry sauce. Try creating a white pizza with garlic-infused olive oil as the sauce. Or, our favorite: goat cheese sauce. Yum.

Cheese: Mozzarella is the traditional pizza cheese, but you can offer other options like cheddar, parmesan, gorgonzola, goat cheese, gouda or feta. Consider offering dairy-free cheese alternatives for guests who are vegan or who have a dairy allergy. We love a good white pizza. All that requires is ricotta and mozzarella.

Meats: Popular pizza toppings include pepperoni, sausage, bacon or ham. Get a little fancy with prosciutto or Spanish chorizo. You can also offer grilled chicken or shrimp. Some people love anchovies, too, or even clams.

Vegetables: Offer a variety of veggies like eggplant, onions, bell peppers, mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, olives, artichoke hearts, spinach and fresh tomatoes. Some creative options include chopped broccoli or cauliflower, shaved Brussels sprouts, corn, fennel or thinly sliced potatoes.

grilled vegetables to put on top of pizza
Grilled veggies go great as pizza toppings. Photo credit: Leah Ingram.

Fruit: Pineapple is a controversial pizza topping — you either love it or you hate it — but it’s not the only pizza-friendly fruit. Some other fruit options, all thinly sliced, include:

  • lemon
  • apples or pears — they go great with gorgonzola cheese
  • grapes
  • apricots
  • peaches

Herbs and Spices: Don’t forget to include some herbs and spices for added flavor. Offer options like basil, oregano or Italian seasoning; minced or caramelized garlic; red pepper flakes, harissa paste or Calabrian chile paste; thinly sliced jalapenos or freshly ground black pepper.

Finishing touches: To impress your guests, offer some finishing drizzles like aged balsamic vinegar, truffle oil or chili oil. A handful of fresh arugula or a shower of fresh herbs like basil, cilantro, dill, parsley, chives or oregano brighten up a pizza when added after the pizza comes out of the oven.

partially eated sourdough pizza
Photo credit: Bill Behre.

Don’t Forget the Extras

While the toppings are the star of the show, you can include a few extras to take your DIY pizza bar to the next level. Here are a few ideas:

Dipping sauces: Provide a variety of dipping sauces like Buffalo ranch, sriracha ranch, marinara or garlic butter.

Salad bar: Set up a small salad bar with greens, veggies and various dressings. Some people will appreciate having salad to balance out their pizza.

Drinks: Don’t forget to have plenty of drinks available to wash down all that pizza. You can provide soda, beer, wine or even homemade kombucha or a signature cocktail.

Dessert: Finish off the meal with a sweet treat. Serve a simple dessert like cookies or brownies, hit up an Italian bakery for some fancy cannoli, or go all-in on the pizza theme with a dessert pizza drizzled with chocolate sauce and topped with fresh fruit and whipped cream.

“When we have another couple over for pizza night, I always invite them to bring one or two of their favorite toppings,” said Susannah Brinkley Henry who writes the Feast + West blog. “I make dough ahead of time, then we put together two pizzas with everyone’s customizations while we drink wine and catch up before dinner.”

Setting out your spread

Now that you have all your ingredients and accompaniments, it’s time to set up your DIY pizza toppings bar. Here are some tips:

  • Put ingredients in separate bowls or containers to make it easy for people to choose their toppings. It also makes it easier to keep things separate in case of allergies or intolerances.
  • Label everything. Labels are essential if you have guests with dietary restrictions or allergies.
  • Make sure you have plenty of utensils and plates on hand.
  • Consider using a pizza stone or pizza oven for even cooking.
  • Set your oven to the highest temperature and have two racks so you can cook at least two pizzas at a time. If you have a pizza oven, you’re in luck because they’ll cook each pizza in just a few minutes.

The original version of this article appeared on Food Drink Life.

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