We were a Hut family, meaning that Pizza Hut was the chain pizza chain we preferred and which I treasured as the world’s greatest treat. I dunked on Domino’s and Little Caesar’s lovers and they dunked right back on me. Regardless of family affinity, many of us shared fond memories of the Pizza Hut BOOK IT! program that gave you free pizza in exchange for reading books over the summer, a deal my child-self regarded as something akin to getting free diamonds in exchange for taking long baths.
At some point in the last couple decades, though, I’ve noticed that many of my generational peers regard “the Hut” with a uniquely strong disdain. I sometimes keep my chain pizza preferences private, but other times I feel moved to shout, “The pan crust is very good!”
I’ve generally moved away from regarding chain restaurant food as the pinnacle of decadence, but Pizza Hut has still managed to provide comfort at times when I needed something incredibly nostalgic and familiar. As an adult, it can be hard to find a more nourishing vegan option on a long road trip than stopping by one of those iconically-roofed buildings for an oversized fountain soda and a veggie-and-marinara-packed personal pizza in a hot pan. As my friend Kathleen recently said, Pizza Hut should really be eaten in the Hut — but that’s not so safe at the moment… *shakes fist at Covid-19 yet again*
Allow me to provide a disclaimer: Chain restaurants like Pizza Hut are gross places that exploit their employees, cheapen the supply chain, and, of course, profit greatly off the dead bodies of animals. It’s pretty much impossible to avoid contributing to suffering whether you’re vegan or not (my grocery store profits off of dead animals too!), but the global megacorp capitalism that’s personified by companies like Pizza Hut no doubt makes the world much worse, not better.
Buuuuut most of us don’t adhere to strict ethical guidelines every time we eat — as someone who does a great deal to support local vegan and vegetarian businesses, I feel okay, if not particularly proud, of occasionally giving in to an old-fashioned Hut craving. That said, if we ever overthrow the billionaire oligarchs I will happily give up my quarterly Pizza Hut indulgence and perhaps just ask if anyone copied down the pan crust recipe before burning down HQ.
[Editor’s note: We are not planning to burn down Pizza Hut HQ. Also, I’m writing this.]
So anyway, I scratched my Pizza Hut itch last night and tried this new Beyond Meat Italian Sausage pizza. Here’s my vegan* order, just what it was before plus sausage: large original pan crust (no crust flavor, those are not vegan), extra marinara sauce, mushrooms (you better believe I slammed that “extra” option), and bell peppers. Also breadsticks, but you have to ask for them without any topping to make them vegan.
Once the pizza was delivered to our doorstep and we cracked the “baked at the Hut, opened by you” sticker seal, I added some grated Violife parmesan from the fridge and some fresh basil from our backyard. You can see them pictured on the pizza—they’re the part that makes it look fancy.
Back to the pizza.… As you can see, they do not skimp on the “sausage” here. This thing was loaded with these meaty little knots that the press releases say were developed exclusively for Pizza Hut by Beyond Meat. For those of you who are already enthusiastic Beyond consumers, I should mention that despite the sausage designator, this is a lot more similar to Beyond Beef than to the packaged Beyond sausage products. To me, it seemed to be basically browned crumbled Beyond beef with a few added sausage-y herbs, notably some forward fennel (is fennel ever not forward?).
From a takeout value perspective, this was a deal: Plain breadsticks (you have to actually request no topping) and a large pizza with the max recommended toppings, plus a 30% tip, came out to just over $30. We were pretty hungry and my husband and I might normally house a Pizza Hut pie this size in one evening, but the amount of sausage on this one locked us in at two slices each, so we’ll get another full meal out of it.
Let me get what the haters would say out of the way here: Pizza Hut pizzas are, uh, unique, particularly the Original Pan crust. It’s really more of a bread than a crust, but as any French bread pizza enthusiast can tell you, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. This crust, though… It’s not for everyone. It’s light, pillowy, and salty, though too thick to be floppy. It’s maybe closest to focaccia, but with a crisp crackery crust and… less flavor. But I love it? I don’t know what to tell you. The sauce is, IMO, actually great — a thick, deep red umami-party, and they take you seriously when you ask for extra sauce. The veggie toppings are pretty basic, but you can double ’em up, as we do with our mushrooms.
My review? If you ask me, this is a pretty good pizza! Just keep in mind I am a major weirdo who already loved Pizza Hut. In Austin, I’d rate a few places pies (Lil Nonna’s, Conan’s, Via 313) above it, and many popular local pies (East Side Pies, Homeslice) below it. 😬 The mushrooms were great and dominated the toppings mix and that crust made me feel seven.
As far as the new vegan sausage, it definitely helped make this a filling meal, but I’m not sure it added much more than novelty to my average Hut feelings. Upon taking his first bite, my husband exclaimed, “Are you sure this isn’t sausage?!”, an experience I always have mixed feelings about, because 1.) YIKES OH NO I’M SCARED but also 2.) realistically meaty plant food could help to unlock a better future for animals. But it wasn’t, as I quickly established by simply tearing one open and smelling it — the Beyond scent is unmistakable.
I like Beyond Meat products sometimes, and I actually prefer them to Impossible, but I do find that I often hit a wall where enough is enough — this pizza definitely hugs that wall, and I could have probably done with about half of the amount of sausage they provide. That said, I can see the heavy hand appealing greatly to some folks seeking big, filling, affordable vegan meals — looking at you, weightlifting vegans.
Do I recommend this pizza to you? My friend, that’s between you and the Hut.
Like the Impossible Whopper and so much more that came before-but-also-in-the-last-24-months-wow-time, Pizza Hut’s Beyond Meat pizza only directly uses plant-based ingredients (if you order it without cheese!) but is cooked on equipment and by staff also making meat pies. If you don’t like that, eating at any non-vegan restaurant that doesn’t make a rare special accommodation is probably out for you. For me, it seems that the animal products used behind the scenes were not created for my meal, and so the demand-damage seems negligible.