Is Detroit Pizza gluten free?

Detroit-style pizza is a type of pizza that originated in Detroit, Michigan. It has a rectangular shape, a thick, extra crispy crust, and is traditionally topped with brick cheese and sauce on top of the cheese. Detroit pizza has become popular nationwide in recent years, but an important question for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity is: is Detroit pizza gluten free?

What Makes Detroit Pizza Unique?

Detroit pizza stands out from other styles of pizza because of its thick, extra crispy crust. This crust gets its distinctive texture from being baked in a well-oiled pan in a conventional oven, allowing the bottom and edges to fry to a deep brown crispiness.

Traditional Detroit pizza crust uses high-gluten bread flour, which gives it a sturdy structure to hold up the thick layer of brick cheese. Brick cheese is another signature element of Detroit pizza. It’s a mild cow’s milk cheese that melts well and has a slightly sweet, buttery flavor.

Lastly, the sauce is spooned over the cheese, rather than under it as with traditional pizza. This keeps the crust ultra crispy. Popular sauce options include marinara, tomato-basil, and pesto.

The Role of Gluten in Detroit Pizza

Gluten is a type of protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. It’s responsible for giving bread and pizza crusts their chewy texture. Gluten helps dough hold its shape and rise properly. It also creates that familiar stretchiness that allows pizza dough to be tossed and flattened before topping and baking.

For Detroit-style pizza, a high gluten content is essential in the dough to get that crispy fried bottom and sturdy edges. Traditionally, bread flour with around 12-13% gluten content is used. All-purpose flour at around 10-12% gluten can also work, but may not achieve the same level of crispy fried crust.

So in its traditional preparation, Detroit pizza crust is decidedly not gluten free. The high gluten content from bread/all-purpose wheat flour gives it its characteristic texture and structure. Going completely gluten free would result in a very different eating experience.

Is There Potential for Gluten-Free Detroit Pizza?

While Detroit pizza crust is traditionally high in gluten, there may be potential to develop a modified gluten-free version that aims to mimic some of the real thing’s properties. However, it would require careful ingredient substitution and likely a lot of trial and error to achieve a comparable texture and taste.

Some options to potentially mimic a gluten-free Detroit-style pizza include:

– Using a blend of gluten-free flours like rice flour, tapioca flour, potato starch, and xanthan gum to add structure.

– Incorporating dairy ingredients like eggs or cheese into the dough for more binding power.

– Adding psyllium husk powder to help with dough stretchiness and moisture retention.

– Using a well-oiled cast iron skillet instead of a pan to fry the bottom and edges of the crust.

– Pre-baking the crust before topping to helpfirm it up before adding sauce and cheese.

– Opting for low-moisture, part-skim mozzarella cheese versus brick cheese to reduce pooling of liquid on the surface.

– Adding extra sauce on top to weigh down the crust and cheese.

With extensive trial and error, it may be possible to come up with a gluten-free Detroit-style pizza that has some similar textures and flavors. But it would still inherently be quite different from the traditional version in terms of exact crust texture.

Are There Any Certified Gluten-Free Detroit Pizza Options?

Currently, there are no pizza chains or brands that market a certified gluten-free Detroit-style pizza option. The thickness and dense, fried crust of Detroit pizza makes executing a faithful gluten-free version tricky.

However, some local Detroit pizzerias have started offering gluten-free Detroit pizzas, such as:

– Shield’s Detroit – Has a 10″ gluten-free Detroit pizza option made with Caputo gluten-free flour.

– Pie-Sci Detroit – Uses gluten-free crusts and offers a gluten-free Detroit pizza variety.

– Grandma Bob’s Pizza – Offers both gluten-free round and square Detroit pizzas.

These gluten-free Detroit pizzas are more widely available in the metro Detroit area. Availability in other cities and regions may be limited. Those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should always speak to the restaurant directly to validate preparation processes and prevent cross-contamination.

While these represent gluten-free options for Detroit-style pizza, reviews suggest the taste and texture is not identical to traditional, gluten-heavy Detroit pizza crust.

What About Cauliflower Crust as a Gluten Free Option?

Cauliflower crust has become a popular alternative pizza base for those eating gluten-free. Could it stand in for a Detroit pizza crust?

Cauliflower crust is made by pulsing riced cauliflower in a food processor and then combining it with eggs, cheese, and seasonings to create a dough alternative. This mixture is pressed into a pizza pan and pre-baked before adding toppings.

Some potential advantages of cauliflower crust for a Detroit pizza include:

– Having a neutral flavor profile that won’t compete with traditional Detroit pizza toppings

– The ability to get crispy and golden brown during pre-baking

– Adding moisture through the cauliflower while still maintaining structure

– Offering a veggie-based alternative to traditional gluten-heavy flour crusts

However, there are also some disadvantages:

– Cauliflower crust has a more fragile structure than gluten-based dough

– It may fall apart more easily when transferring in and out of the pan

– The texture will not be as chewy and stretchy as a traditional pizza crust

– Pre-baking could dry out the cauliflower crust

– May not support thick layer of brick cheese evenly

Overall, a cauliflower crust or something similar is likely the closest gluten-free alternative to real Detroit pizza currently available. While it won’t be an exact match, it may appeal to those who still want that thick, pan-baked style.

Are Gluten-Free Pizza Crusts an Option?

There are many pre-made gluten-free pizza crusts on the market today. Could one of these be used to make gluten-free Detroit pizza at home?

Pre-made gluten-free pizza crusts are widely available at grocery stores or can be ordered online. Common bases include rice flour, tapioca flour, potato starch or a blend.

Pros of using a pre-made gluten-free pizza crust for Detroit pizza:

– Convenient option with no dough preparation needed

– Specifically formulated to substitute for wheat flour and mimic pizza crust properties

– Uniform thickness for even baking

– Maintains integrity when transferred into and out of a pan


– Texture will not be exactly the same as traditional Detroit pizza crust

– Pre-made crusts are thinner and more dense versus fluffy high-gluten dough

– Edges may not fry up the same way in an oiled pan

– Limited options for square crusts to fit Detroit pizza pans

– Can be more expensive than making your own dough

With the right brand and adequate oil, a gluten-free pizza crust might produce reasonable results for Detroit-style. But the different dough texture and density would be noticeable.

Tips for Finding or Making Gluten-Free Detroit Pizza

For those hoping to enjoy the flavors of Detroit pizza without the gluten, here are some tips:

– Call ahead to local Detroit-style pizzerias to ask about gluten-free options and preparation processes to prevent cross-contamination

– Look for pizzerias that advertise gluten-free Detroit pizza explicitly on menus and online

– Research local gluten-free bakeries that may offer Detroit pizza varieties

– Use Caputo or other high-quality gluten-free pizza flour blends to make your own crust

– Get a 10-12 inch cast iron skillet to fry the crust edges for that signature Detroit crispiness

– Use egg or dairy-based wash on crust edges to promote browning

– Add a bit more sauce than usual to weigh down the crust

– Opt for pre-shredded low-moisture mozzarella instead of sticky brick cheese

– Boost flavor with bold Motor City-style toppings like crispy pepperoni, spicy sausage, and garlicky mushrooms

While certainly an undertaking, with persistence and the right techniques, developing a satisfying gluten-free Detroit pizza is possible for those with the motivation and kitchen skills.

The Bottom Line

Detroit-style pizza is unapologetically loaded with gluten. The high-protein wheat flour baked in an oil-fried pan gives traditional Detroit pizza its signature texture.

Currently, there are no certified gluten-free Detroit pizza options from major pizza chains. However, some local Detroit pizzerias do offer gluten-free versions. Reviews suggest the taste and texture differs from the traditional gluten-laden original.

Creating a satisfying gluten-free Detroit pizza requires gluten substitutes like rice or tapioca flours, binding agents, pan-frying techniques, and accepting imperfection. With enough trial and error, a gluten-free version may come close for those who miss the Motor City classic.

But the reality is Detroit pizza really needs gluten to achieve the ideal crispy-on-the-outside, chewy-on-the-inside crust. For the time being, those with celiac disease or gluten issues have no choice but to resist the siren song of this irresistibly crispy, square, brick cheese-laden pizza.

Frequently Asked Questions

What makes Detroit pizza unique?

Detroit pizza is unique for its rectangular deep dish pan pizza style, thick and airy crust that gets ultra crispy on the bottom and edges when fried in oil, generous amount of brick cheese, sauce spooned over the top, and classic Motor City toppings like pepperoni or Italian sausage.

Why can’t you make Detroit pizza gluten free?

The high gluten bread flour is essential to give Detroit pizza its characteristic chewy yet crispy crust. Without gluten, the crust would not have the structure to fry up crispy and support all the cheese and sauce. Gluten substitutes like rice flour result in a much denser, flaky crust.

Has anyone made a good gluten-free Detroit pizza?

A few local Detroit pizzerias have developed gluten-free Detroit-style pizzas with mixed reviews. While some say they come close, most agree the taste and especially the texture of crust is noticeably different from the traditional gluten-heavy version. There is no universally agreed upon “good” gluten-free Detroit pizza recipe yet.

Can you make Detroit pizza with cauliflower crust?

You can make a type of Detroit-style pizza using riced cauliflower as the crust base. However, it will not be exactly the same as pizza made with gluten-containing wheat flour. Cauliflower crust has a more fragile structure. But pre-baking it in a pan and loading up the toppings can help approximate the Detroit experience.

Is Detroit pizza healthier than other styles?

With its hefty amount of cheese and crunchy, greasy pan-fried crust, Detroit pizza is likely less healthy than thin crust or Neapolitan style pizzas. However, the abundance of vegetables you can pile on and protein from meat toppings adds some nutritional balance. Going for a gluten-free crust does cut the calories but removes the integral gluten structure.


Shield’s Gluten-Free Detroit-Style Pizza.

Pie-Sci Detroit Gluten-Free Pizza.

Grandma Bob’s Pizza Gluten-Free Options.

Using Cauliflower Crust for Gluten-Free Pizza.

Caputo Gluten-Free Pizza Flour.

Gluten-Free Pizza Crust Taste Test.

The Science Behind Detroit Pizza’s Distinctively Crispy Crust.

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