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When you think of the great American regional pizza traditions, your mind likely jumps to New York City or Chicago. Maybe you think of L.A., land of Spago, California Pizza Kitchen, and Cal-Italian. Perhaps you even put New Haven, Connecticut, with its coal-oven tradition. But none of claim the title of “pizza capital of the United States” in a new ranking. That distinction goes to the Motor City, Detroit, Michigan.
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the survey conducted by Anytime Estimate found that Detroit has more pizza joints per capita, lower average pizza prices, and more Google search traffic for “pizza terms” compared to other cities in the study. But in addition to those possibly-questionable metrics for evaluating a city’s pizza scene, Detroit has something else going for it, too: the distinctive Detroit-style pizza.
Detroit pizza as a defined style is credited to Gus Guerra, who began serving his spin on an Italian deep-dish style at a local bar called Buddy’s Rendezvous around 1946. Now called Buddy’s Pizza, it remains in business today.
“He enlisted the help of his wife, Anna, who borrowed a dough recipe from her Sicilian mother. The Sicilian dough, topped with cheese and tomato sauce, would become the model for pizza in Detroit,” reads a history of the style on the state of Michigan’s official tourism site. “The characteristics of the pizza – the soft and airy square crust, the crunchy exterior, the caramelized cheese that edges the pizza – are all due to the deep pans in which the pizzas are baked. The pans are a thick steel that are more similar to a cast iron skillet than a cake pan. Legend has it that Gus got his initial batch of pans from a friend who worked in a factory that used the pans for spare parts. Detroiters have been fighting for corner slices ever since,” the site notes.
While the deep-dish style with its stripes of sauce and “brick cheese” has been around for decades, Detroit style has had a recent wave of trendiness across the country. Last year, even Pizza Hut rolled out a version. So, naturally, vegan Detroit pizza is not far behind.
How to Make Vegan Detroit Style Pizza
If your favorite local shop isn’t offering Detroit style (and, if they’re not, they’ll probably hop on the bandwagon eventually) don’t worry. You can swap your preferred dairy-free cheeses in for any classic recipes (we’re partial to this version by King Arthur Flour or this one from J. Kenji López-Alt) or follow this recipe created by Steph Sunshine. As Sunshine notes in the video below, Detroit style actually adapts super well to veganizing, thanks to the tradition of placing the sauce on top of the cheese. That extra moisture works well with non-dairy cheese.