If you don’t have time to make pizza dough from scratch, these fresh store-bought doughs are solid picks.
Nothing tops a freshly-made homemade pizza, but let's face it—making it entirely from scratch is a labor-intensive task, especially when it comes to the dough. And don’t get us wrong, if you have the time, we 100% recommend making your own pizza dough.
The basic recipe for pizza dough is yeast, flour, water, and salt. Sounds simple, right? Well, kind of. First, there’s proofing the yeast for the dough. Then, once you form the dough, you have to knead it, let it rise, let it rest, roll it out, and pile on your toppings—all before you can bake it in the oven.
Yes, the traditional method yields a perfectly chewy-crispy pizza crust, but we realize that this is 2018—and most of us don’t have the multitude of hours it takes to cultivate a crust from scratch. So, how do you get that homemade flavor and texture in a quarter of the time?
Luckily, plenty of grocery stores and food brands these days offer fresh refrigerated or frozen pizza dough. Store-bought pizza dough isn't quite the same as what you’d make in your own kitchen—but in a pinch, it’s a pretty good workaround. With so many options out there, how do you know which doughs will make the best crusts?
To find out, we scoured all the major grocery stores and retailers in our area—Whole Foods, Trader Joes’s, Publix, Target, and Wal-Mart—and bought every refrigerated and frozen pizza dough we could get our hands on. The only type we ruled out was pre-baked pizza dough (the kind you find in the bread aisle).
Our findings included a mix of traditional, whole-wheat, and gluten-free fresh pizza doughs. Some of the doughs were refrigerated in the deli section of the grocery store, some were frozen, and another one even came in a tube. We rolled and baked all of them according to the package instructions and conducted a blind taste test to choose our favorites. After plenty of carbo-loading and debate, we chose winners from three different categories—traditional, whole-wheat, and gluten-free.
Best Traditional Pizza Dough
Trader Joe’s Ready to Bake Pizza Dough ($1.19)
Hands down, Trader Joe’s fresh pizza dough packs the best bang-for-your-buck value. Priced at $1.19 per ball of dough (enough to make about one large pizza), this was the least expensive dough we purchased. The packaging isn’t the prettiest, but this is hardly a con when compared with the pros. The dough felt very sticky out of the package—but a sprinkling of flour on our work surface quickly solved that problem. The dough was easy to roll out and held its shape much better than other pizza doughs we tested.
We baked this dough on a pizza stone for about 15 minutes in a 400 degree oven. Compared to other doughs, this one browned relatively quickly on the bottom and edges. One taster immediately identified this pizza crust as Trader Joe’s—and said it was her favorite store-bought one to buy. Other tasters praised the “chewy-crispy texture and yeasty flavor.” In addition to classic, Trader Joe’s also sells whole-wheat and Italian-style pizza doughs.
Pillsbury Canned Classic Pizza Dough ($2.67, Publix)
Pillsbury's pizza dough was truly the dark horse winner of the bunch. First things first—this dough is not sexy. It comes in a tube, which is totally nostalgic if you ever overdid it on canned cinnamon rolls as a kid. Out of the can, the dough feels sticky and even a touch greasy. The instructions, however, are foolproof—simply plop the dough “log” onto a cookie sheet, unroll, and bake.
In a 400 degree oven, the dough baked for about 18 minutes total. It had a more pronounced golden-brown color than other doughs we tested, and it also smelled a touch buttery. Yes, this crust was the most processed of the bunch, but everyone loved it so much, no one seemed to notice. In fact, when the brand was revealed to our tasters, no one believed it.
Tasters praised Pillsbury's pizza crust for its “slightly sweet taste and good amount of salt.” Another commented on the “super crispy outside, but buttery and fluffy inside.” One taster pointed out an unexpected quality, “It tastes a little nutty, kind of like whole-wheat.”
Note: Pillsbury also makes a classic pizza dough with no preservatives. We don't reccomend this product. The dough is a total mess and it bakes up way too crispy.
Best Gluten-Free Pizza Dough
Wholly Gluten-Free Pizza Dough ($7.99, Whole Foods)
Yes, this pizza dough is pricey, but it’s a great option if you’re looking for a gluten-free crust. The producer, Wholly Wholesome, makes a solid line of organic pie doughs and prepared shells—so we weren’t surprised when their gluten-free pizza dough came out on top.
Find this pizza dough in the frozen foods section of Whole Foods, and it will need to thaw first before you can bake it. Keep in mind that the texture of any gluten-free pizza dough is going to be markedly different from traditional pizza dough, due to a lack of flour. Wholly’s gluten-free dough is rather wet and sticky, but it’s easy to roll out if you place it between two sheets of parchment paper.
We baked the dough in a 400 degree oven for about 14 minutes on a pizza stone. It didn’t brown quite like the other pizza doughs we tested, but it held onto its fresh-from-the-oven texture much longer than other crusts. It had a prominent potato flavor, but this isn't surprising consider that the main ingredients are white rice flour and potato starch. As one taster commented, “for a gluten-free pizza crust, this is as good as it gets.”
Best Whole Wheat Pizza Dough
Whole Foods Whole Wheat Pizza Dough ($3.99)
Whole Foods’ fresh pizza dough isn’t cheap, but it’s about as close to homemade pizza dough as you’ll get. We actually tried two different types of dough—traditional and whole-wheat—and the latter was our clear favorite. You’ll find this pizza dough in the pizza section of the store, and it’s same dough they use to make their by-the-slice pizza.
This dough has a pleasant yeasty aroma, and you can tell that it's very fresh. The dough is silky-smooth to the touch, and it’s very easy to roll out. Here's a tip: Try using cornmeal instead of flour to help the dough not stick to your work surface—it has a slightly crunchy texture and it will add flavor to the dough, too.
We baked this dough in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes. The edges crisped up nicely and the underside turned an appealing golden-brown color. The flavor was nutty and subtly sweet with a touch of honey. All around, this was a very tasty crust.
The Verdict on Store-Bought Pizza Dough: While there are plenty of solid options for store-bought pizza dough, we still stand by the belief that nothing beats homemade. Yes, making dough from scratch takes time—but it's worth the extra effort, we promise.