Ditch pizza fundamentalism and embrace the glorious abomination that is Taco Pizza

Ditch pizza fundamentalism and embrace the glorious abomination that is Taco Pizza

Photo: John Carruthers

Is there a food snob worse than the pizza fundamentalist haughtily turning up their nose at anything cooked under 800 degrees for longer than 90 seconds? (Yes, technically barbecue people are worse, but that’s a discussion for another day.) The best part about pizza is how it constantly borrows from itself to create something new and amazing. Stick to D.O.P. and you’re really slamming the door on tremendous styles from New Haven to Detroit to Calgary (ancestral home of the Hawaiian pizza. Yes, seriously). And if there’s one pizza that embodies the joy and deliciousness of letting it all go and embracing pizza life, it’s the Taco Pizza.

Taco Pizza is exactly what it sounds like, providing you grew up with crunchy-shell tacos and packets of magic dust. The profile is a dead ringer: seasoned ground beef, cheddar, and a post-bake addition of tomato, lettuce, taco-flavored chips, and mild taco sauce.

I know this dish by way of my Iowa-born friends. We all have Iowa friends here in Chicago, as the University of Iowa is both a quality institution of learning and the de-facto AA ball club for half of the bars and taverns in our fair city. And they brought a longing for this particular pizza with them, whether it’s the classic Happy Joe’s or just a surprisingly good gas station slice from one of the many Casey’s locations between Chicago and Iowa City. I also used a Quad Cities–style crust with malt syrup, because it’s a worthwhile thing to master and because you often see the two pizza ideas on menus together. At least you do in... [gestures vaguely westward]. But do what makes you happy.

That’s about all the backstory I can give you, other than the insight that refried beans on pizza sounds weird but is maybe the one thing (the second being taco sauce) that makes this combination absolutely sing together.


Aerial view of Quad Cities Taco Pizza
Photo: John Carruthers

Quad Cities Malt Crust

Makes 4 dough balls, approx. 425 grams each

Three notes on this:

One is that I tested this recipe over a few days where the temperature was single digits and any ambient humidity fled in terror. The result may be a little wet if you’re rocking pizza on a muggy June evening.

Two is that I am a food processor guy when it comes to pizza dough, and I own a BIG ASS food processor. But you might not. So maybe split this recipe in half or throw it into a stand mixer instead (I didn’t test it on a stand mixer, but if you follow regular stand mixer pizza dough processes it should be A-OK).

Three is that the malt syrup makes this dough behave weird and you might suspect it will fail. It won’t. You’ll be fine.

  • 1020 grams high-gluten flour (14% protein if you can grab it, bread flour if you can’t)
  • 5 grams instant yeast
  • 35 grams salt
  • 7.5 grams smoked paprika (sweet or spicy—you pick)
  • 4 grams oregano
  • 10 grams fresh-ground black pepper
  • 480 grams cold water
  • 170 grams malt syrup

Add the dry ingredients to your food processor and pulse to combine. Add the water and malt syrup and process until the dough comes together and rides the blade. When that happens, count to 30 and stop. If it’s not happening, add little splashes of water until it does. Rest the dough for 20 minutes and go do something fun.

When the dough has rested, free the dough from the blade and process for another 20 seconds. Divide into four equal balls, plop each into a quart-sized container, seal, and refrigerate at least 24 hours.


Taco Pizza

For each 12" pizza

  • 3 oz. pizza sauce (use this one, it’s good)
  • 1/4 cup refried beans
  • 2.5 oz. shredded mozzarella (not pre-grated)
  • 1/2 lb. cooked taco-seasoned ground beef
  • 2 oz. shredded cheddar (not pre-grated)
  • 2 small ripe tomatoes, diced, to top
  • Shredded iceberg lettuce, to top
  • Crushed taco-flavored corn chips (think Taco flavor Doritos, not Nacho flavor. These things are important.)
  • Mild taco sauce, to top

Remove the dough ball from the refrigerator 3 hours before you want to cook and let it come to room temperature. An hour before baking, preheat your oven with a baking stone or steel to 550 degrees.

Press out dough into a disc on a floured surface and press out to 8", leaving a raised edge. At this point, lower your oven temperature to 500. Or you can forget and that’s fine because I do about half the time.

Continue stretching over your knuckles/wrists until the pizza measures just over 12" in diameter. Place on a generously cornmeal’d pizza peel.

Spread the pizza sauce and refried beans evenly, then top with mozzarella, taco beef, and cheddar. Don’t accidentally put the lettuce and tomatoes on top because, ew, hot lettuce—save those for later.

Slide the pizza onto your stone or steel and bake 8 minutes (possibly 10 if your oven lags), until the edges are crisp and the cheese starts to brown.

Remove from oven, let cool for 2 minutes, and slice. Add the tomatoes, lettuce, taco chips, and taco sauce.

Oh wait, I forgot to tell you to drink 3 pitchers of Busch Light before doing any of this. That’s a great way to fall in love with this dish forever. Ah well. Next time.

Quasi-legal popup operator, beer writer by day (and also night), author of two cookbooks. Third one's on the way, and it's nothing but pizza.

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DISCUSSION

dirk-steele
Dirk-Steele

Big shout-out to Casey’s pizza, a surprisingly-solid road trip choice.  For any and all of you in Illinois, I cannot recommend Filippo’s Pizza highly enough.  There’s locations in Mt. Zion, Monticello, and Mahomet and their special is the best pizza I’ve ever had.