Light Family Favorites: Mexican Pull-Apart Pizza

One of my earliest cooking memories was making Mexican Pull-Apart Pizza with my family. This was the kind of recipe my mom felt comfortable putting two elementary school children in charge of making for everyone. I can remember sitting at the kitchen table with my younger brother cutting buttermilk biscuit dough into quarters and throwing them into a bowl. Of course, there was a lot of goofing around and we probably made a huge mess, but it felt good to be able to help out with dinner.

This recipe is something that my whole family enjoys that takes virtually no effort to make. The first time we made this for dinner it was an instant hit. I loved it so much that in fifth grade I decided I would have a cooking themed birthday party, and Mexican Pull-Apart Pizza obviously had to be the main course (this party may have been the beginning of “Chef Orky”).

 
 The beginning of "Chef Orky."

The beginning of "Chef Orky."

 

My friends came over and we put on aprons and chef hats. We all worked together to quarter the dough, mix in the salsa, and sprinkle the cheese on top. As expected, everyone loved it, and there were smiles all around the table.

Making this as an adult is no different. The food still gives me the comforting feeling it gave me as a child. The thing I love most about it though is how easy it is to put together after a long day at work— I’m able to have it thrown in the oven within 5 minutes of being home.

I like to dress up my childhood favorites to make them a little more “adult.” These days, I can’t eat just plain boxed macaroni and cheese (odds are I’m not even buying it). If I ever do make it, I’ll add chicken, fresh herbs, breadcrumbs, or some fresh veggies into it. The same goes for this meal.

I could have left it as the original recipe which was just buttermilk biscuits cut into fourths, cheddar cheese, and salsa, but I decided to add a bit more nutritional value and substance to it this time around. I thought about my favorite ingredients for taco night and decided to find a way to include them. I also decided to switch out full-fat ingredients for reduced fat ones, and swapped Pillsbury biscuit dough for Pillsbury pizza crust dough. Doing this cut out a ton of fat.

 
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I was considering adding shredded chicken or ground turkey in, but this meal has always been meat-free and so I decided to keep it vegetarian in the end. To include some protein, I decided to add black beans instead. Black beans are a really easy way to add more protein into any meal— just one cup of black beans contains 15 grams of protein.

I also decided to add some fresh ingredients to the top of the pizza when it was done to liven it up a bit. I added fresh diced tomatoes, red onion, cilantro, and scallions. This made all the difference. It went from being just cheesy salsa bread to something much more. Even with all of the additions, this is still such a low-effort meal that just about anyone can make on the busiest of nights. Or, like my mom did, have your kids make it for you!

Here’s the version that I made:

Mexican Pull-Apart Pizza (Serves 6)

Ingredients

1 tube of pizza dough
Chili powder to taste
Garlic powder to taste
Onion powder to taste
15 oz. jar of chunky salsa (I used Roasted Garlic)
1 cup reduced fat cheddar cheese (divided into 1/2 cups)
15 oz. can of black beans
2 vine tomatoes
Cilantro to taste
Scallions to taste
Reduced fat sour cream
Red Onion

Directions

*Preheat the oven to 350 degrees

1. Cut the pizza dough into 1/2 inch slices, then divide each slice into fourths.

2. Put the pieces into a bowl (the quartered pieces might separate into smaller ones, but that’s fine).

3. Season the dough with chili powder, garlic powder, and onion powder to taste. 

4. Mix 3/4 of the jar of salsa, 1/2 can of black beans, and 1/2 cup of the cheese into the bowl of dough.

5. Spray a round baking dish with cooking spray.

6. Put the dough into the pan and bake for 30 minutes.

7. While the pizza dough bakes, dice the red onion, tomatoes, cilantro, and scallions.

8. Take the pizza out and sprinkle the other half cup of cheese on top. Bake for another 5 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

9. Take the pizza out and top with tomatoes, red onion, cilantro, and scallions. Cut into 6 slices and serve with a dollop of sour cream on top. Scooping the slices can get a bit messy, so you can also set up bowls with the additional toppings and each person can add what they like to their slice once it is on their plate.

 
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I needed some serious comfort food after the long week I’ve had, and this hit the spot. Although it’s a carb-heavy meal, the fresh vegetables and herbs make it feel lighter. This dish was just as good as I remembered it to be, but this version also has a lot more nutritional value than the cheesy salsa bread I ate and loved as a kid.

The best part? You can change this recipe in so many ways depending on what you’re feeling that night. I’ve made something very similar using pizza dough, garlic, turkey pepperoni, Italian herbs, reduced fat mozzarella, and marinara sauce. I’m sure you can get pretty wild using things like pineapple salsa and ham, or salsa verde. There are so many varieties of salsa out there to try in this! Next time I might use ground turkey in the mixture or try a different flavor salsa. The possibilities are really endless!

What toppings will you put on your Pull-Apart pizza?
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