As a child of suburbia, I have a special fondness for mall restaurants, the ultimate champion of which is California Pizza Kitchen. In particular, the chain’s BBQ Chicken Pizza looms large in my memory: sweeter than pizza probably should be, but savory too, with just enough cilantro sprinkled over the top to count as the inclusion of a vegetable. It was the meal I requested for at least one grade school birthday and shared with friends many times once I got my driver’s license and had the freedom to go anywhere (of course we picked…the mall).
This recipe is a vegetarian twist on the CPK fan favorite. All of the heavy hitters are the same: tangy barbecue sauce, melty cheese (a combo of mozzarella and smoked Gouda for richness and to double down on smoky flavor), and sweet red onion. But instead of chopped chicken breast, the meaty component is mushrooms (I like a mix of king trumpet, maitake, and oyster), which go crispy and tender in the oven in a way that chicken never could. With store-bought pizza dough and your favorite barbecue sauce on deck, it’s a recipe that comes together in minutes, no trip to the mall required. —Kendra Vaculin
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Makes one 12″ pizza
oz. mixed mushrooms, cut or torn into large pieces (about 3½ cups)
Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
lb. store-bought pizza dough, room temperature
cup (or more) barbecue sauce
oz. fresh mozzarella, torn (about 1 cup)
oz. smoked Gouda, coarsely grated (about ½ cup)
small red onion, thinly sliced
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
Crushed red pepper flakes and cilantro leaves (for serving)
Place a rack in upper third of oven and preheat to 475°. Drizzle 6 oz. mixed mushrooms, cut or torn into large pieces (about 3½ cups), with extra-virgin olive oil in a large bowl; toss to coat. Set aside.
Swirl 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil in a 12″ cast-iron skillet to coat bottom and ½” up sides. Place 1 lb. store-bought pizza dough, room temperature, in pan; lift, stretch, and press dough so it fills pan. If dough shrinks from edges, cover with a kitchen towel and let rest 10 minutes before stretching again.
Bake just until crust is starting to set but hasn’t taken on any color, about 5 minutes. Carefully remove skillet from oven and spread ⅓ cup barbecue sauce over entire surface of crust. Top with 6 oz. fresh mozzarella, torn (about 1 cup), and 2 oz. smoked Gouda, coarsely grated (about ½ cup), followed by ½ small red onion, thinly sliced, and reserved mushrooms. Season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.
Return skillet to oven and continue to bake until crust is golden brown underneath, cheese is melted, and mushrooms are golden, 16–20 minutes longer.
Heat broiler. Broil pizza until mushrooms are browned and crispy and cheese is browned in spots and bubbling, about 2 minutes. (Begin checking after 1 minute.)
Drizzle more barbecue sauce over pizza if desired. Top with crushed red pepper flakes and cilantro leaves.