If you’re like most people, you would instantly think about the beautiful scenery, mountains, beaches, sunshine, and Hollywood, when you think of California.
But, if you’re a foodie, this list will also include pizza, which is one of California’s most iconic dishes.
California Pizza Kitchen takes it to another level with its loaded pies and non-traditional, gourmet toppings. The restaurant chain also offers a variety of appetizers, salads, and pasta to make their menu diverse and more inclusive.
There are also gluten-free options. While it’s all great, we particularly want to know if there is a CPK vegan menu.
Does CPK Have a Vegan Menu?
California Pizza Kitchen, or CPK as it is commonly called, offers a vegetarian & vegan menu guide to help its non-meat-eating customers make the right food choices.
It includes general guidelines about which of its menu items and ingredients meet the vegan dietary guidelines, along with a list of dishes that come standard as vegan or can be made so easily with slight modifications.
What are the Vegan Options at CPK?
Here are the California Pizza Kitchen vegan options as given in the CPK vegan guide:
- California Veggie Pizza – requires modification
- Lettuce Wraps – require modification
- Dakota Smashed Pea + Barley Soup
- Mediterranean Salad – requires modification
- Chips and Guacamole
- Asparagus + Arugula Salad – requires modification
- Roasted Veggies Salad – requires modification
- Shaved Mushrooms + Spinach Flatbread – requires modification
- Tomato Basil Spaghetti/ Penne Arabiata
- Banh Mi Bowl – requires modification
- Fresh Fruit
Following are some CPK dishes that aren’t on the restaurant’s vegan guide but, I believe, can be made vegan upon request.
I am listing them here for reference, but I strongly recommend confirming their vegan status with the server at your local California Pizza Kitchen before ordering.
- Mexican Street Corn
- Wild Mushroom Pizza
- Santa Fe Bowl
And, of course, there are choices of drinks that you can get with your food to have a full vegan meal at CPK.
Keep reading to learn more about these items and how to order vegan at CPK.
CPK Vegan Menu 2022 – A Detailed Overview
Let’s dig deeper into the California Pizza Kitchen vegan menu to know more about the restaurant’s plant-based choices and the modifications they require to become suitable for the vegan diet.
CPK Vegan Pizza
As mentioned earlier, the California Pizza Kitchen vegan guide given on the restaurant’s website provides general instructions along with a list of dishes. Here are the guidelines it provides about ordering vegan pizza at CPK:
- All the pizza crusts are vegan-friendly except the Cauliflower Crust. There are two other options – Original Hand-Tossed Crust and Crispy Thin Crust.
- All vegetables are fine for vegan consumption.
- There is no vegan meat choice.
- Remove cheese – they are all dairy-based.
- Only Pizza Marinara and Spicy Marinara Sauces are vegan-friendly.
- Apart from vegetables, you can add Vegetarian Black Beans to your pizza topping.
Now you have two options to get yourself a vegan pizza at California Pizza Kitchen – use these guidelines to build-you-own pizza or (if you’re short on time or just don’t want to go through the hassle of placing a custom order) order a meatless pizza without cheese.
There is only one meatless pizza listed on the CPK’s vegan guide, and that is:
California Veggie Pizza
As evident from the name, this is your classic veggie pizza made in Californian style. CPK menu doesn’t tell what sauce it includes.
But, I am pretty sure that it’s one of the marinara sauces because the restaurant’s vegan guide says that it only requires one little modification to be vegan-friendly, and that is skipping the cheese.
So, take the word, and hold the cheese. You will get a vegan pizza made with the crust of your choice topped with broccoli, cremini mushrooms, red onions, roasted corns, eggplant, and sun-dried tomatoes. You can also have pineapples added to it if you want.
Wild Mushroom Pizza
Love mushrooms a little too much? Get CPK’s Wild Mushroom Pizza customized to your vegan diet. This pizza variety isn’t listed on CPK’s vegan guide, but it is there on almost all third-party guides on eating vegan at CPK.
CPK’s Wild Mushroom Pizza doesn’t seem to have any animal-derived ingredient except cheese, which has three different types. Omit them all, and you’re good.
You will get a pizza with Portobello mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, shaved cremini mushrooms, slivered scallions, and cracked black pepper. Simple and delicious.
The restaurant also gives you various additional topping options, only two of which are vegan-friendly. These include pineapple (which doesn’t really go with mushrooms) and white truffle oil.
Doesn’t CPK Have a Plant-Based Pizza?
If you’re anything like me, who likes staying on top of vegan food news, you would know that California Pizza Kitchen introduced a plant-based chicken pizza a few years back. It was called BBQ “Don’t Call Me Chicken” Pizza.
The reason I haven’t mentioned it above in the “CPK vegan pizza list” is because I am not sure if it’s still available or offered at all CPK locations. It’s neither on the restaurant’s vegan menu guide nor on its dine-in menu. It is on the nutrition and allergen guide, though.
Check your local CPK menu to know if it’s available in your region. If it is, you can order it too when eating vegan at California Pizza Kitchen.
Just ask for any of the two marinara sauces as the base sauce instead of the BBQ one that it originally comes with, and skip the cheese.
CPK Vegan Appetizers, Soups, and Salads
Technically, I should have discussed these items before pizza, but CPK specializes in pizza, and it is what most people (if not all) go to the restaurant for.
So, it only made sense that I tell you first about what matters to you the most. Anyways, let’s come to the main point and talk about the vegan appetizer, soup, and salad options at CPK.
According to the restaurant’s vegan guide, you don’t have too many choices in this category, but it seems you can get almost all the salads on the CPK menu customized for your vegan guide (will discuss more later in the section).
Here’s what the restaurant says you can get made vegan and how:
According to the CPK menu, lettuce wraps come with fresh shiitake mushrooms, scallions, and water chestnuts in spicy ginger soy sauce and the option to add your choice of meat from chicken, shrimps, or both. You can’t obviously have meat on a vegan diet.
But is there anything else you need to skip to make these wraps vegan? Honestly, I am not 100% sure.
While all the other ingredients look vegan-friendly to me, CPK’s vegan guide tells you to get it with Chinese vegetables only.
Does this mean water chestnuts or the spicy ginger soy sauce used in these wraps aren’t vegan? Doesn’t seem so.
Ask your server or simply do what the restaurant tells you. Order lettuce wraps with Chinese vegetables to enjoy vegan wraps at CPK.
Dakota Smashed Pea + Barley Soup
Whether you’re looking to order a healthier item to feel less guilty about having pizza or genuinely like soups, Dakota Smashed Pea + Barley soup is the only vegan-friendly choice at California Pizza Kitchen.
The main ingredients of this healthy CPK vegan soup are, as the name tells, peas and barley. Other components include onions, carrots, scallions, and a bunch of herbs.
Roasted Veggie Salad
This is a rich, healthy, and hearty mix of romaine lettuce, red and yellow peppers, eggplant, asparagus, corn, warm artichoke hearts, and sun-dried tomatoes.
No animal ingredients here. However, the Dijon balsamic vinaigrette it comes tossed with is not vegan-friendly, as per CPK’s vegan guide. So, make sure to either skip that or have it replaced with oil and vinegar.
Sadly, none of the salad dressings available at California Pizza Kitchen are fit for the vegan diet. So, your only choice is to get oil and vinegar with your salads.
The Mediterranean Salad
Listed in the category of Lunch Size Salads, this CPK salad is made with romaine lettuce, garbanzo beans, red onions, black olives, feta, and housemade mustard herb vinaigrette.
When eating vegan at California Pizza Kitchen, ask them to hold the feta and vinaigrette in it.
These are the two salads that the CPK vegan guide tells you can get made vegan easily. Following are some others on the California Pizza Kitchen menu that I believe can also be customized for the vegan diet upon request.
Super Spinach + Quinoa
Another lunch-size salad, contains marinated cranberries, spiced pecans, and Granny Smith apples in addition to nutrient-rich spinach and protein-packed quinoa.
None of these elements seem to be non-vegan. The salad also doesn’t contain egg or dairy, as per CPK’s allergen menu. But just make sure to confirm with your server that cranberries or pecans do not have honey.
You need to skip the champagne vinaigrette, as none of CPK’s salad dressings are vegan-friendly.
More Vegan Salads at California Pizza Kitchen
Now onto the main salad category. There are six choices apart from the Roasted Veggie Salad discussed above. And technically, you can have them all customized to your vegan diet by skipping meat, cheese, and egg and swapping their dressings with oil and vinegar.
But, whether you would want to do it or not depends on your personal preferences.
Here’s a quick roundup of what each of the available options contains (excluding Caesar salad from the list because I am sure you wouldn’t want to munch on just plain romaine when dining out, or even otherwise), so you can decide if they are worth getting customized:
- The Original BBQ Chicken Chopped Salad – Excluding BBQ chicken, cheese, and dressing, it’s made with lettuce, black beans, Roma tomatoes, jicama, sweet corn, scallions, cilantro, fresh basil, and crispy corn tortilla strips. You can also have fresh avocado added to it.
- California Cobb Salad – The veggies used in this salad include lettuce, Roma tomatoes, avocado, and fresh basil. The non-vegan ingredients it comes standard with include chicken, smoked bacon, gorgonzola cheese, and herb ranch or bleu cheese dressing.
- Thai Crunch Salad – The description of this salad on the website says it has crisp veggies. So, we don’t know what exact vegetables it contains. Other elements include cilantro, peanuts, rice sticks, chicken, wontons, and Thai peanut dressing. You can have fresh avocado added to the salad as well.
- Waldorf Chicken Salad – With grilled chicken, has baby greens, celery, green apples, grapes, candied walnuts, gorgonzola cheese, and Dijon balsamic vinaigrette. While you know you have to skip on meat, cheese, and dressing, make sure to ask if candied walnuts have honey. Skip them, too, if they do.
- Italian Chopped Salad – Contains lettuce, tomatoes, fresh basil, and garbanzo beans with roasted turkey, salami, mozzarella, and herb vinaigrette.
CPK Vegan Small Plates
The official vegan menu guide of California Pizza Kitchen lists three small plates that vegans can eat at the chain restaurant. However, two of them are available in Hawaii only.
I am listing them all down below, anyway. Here are the vegan-friendly small plates at CPK you can get for yourself on the next visit:
Chips and Guacamole
Crispy fried blue and white corn tortilla chips made fresh in-house are served with delicious guacamole.
But, this is not your standard guac. It’s White Corn Guacamole – made with diced (not smashed) avocado, sweet corn, bell peppers, serrano peppers, jicama, cilantro, and black beans.
It’s different, but it sounds delicious and 100% vegan.
Asparagus + Arugula Salad
Since this item is available in Hawaii only, it’s not on the menu or allergen guide given online. However, as per the vegan guide of CPK, you just need to order it without cheese to befit the vegan diet.
Shaved Mushrooms + Spinach Flatbread
This is listed in the Small Plates category on California Pizza Kitchen’s vegan menu guide.
However, the California Flatbread section appears on the CPK’s dine-in menu and the Appetizer category on the delivery menu. Wherever you see it on California Pizza Kitchen’s menu, just get it without the cheese.
According to CPK’s vegan guide, this item is only available in Hawaii. However, unlike the Asparagus + Arugula Salad, it’s listed on both the standard menu and allergen guide given on CPK’s website. So, it’s most likely that the flatbread is now available at other locations too.
Mexican Street Corn
Take a trip to the streets of Mexico with this delicious, spicy corn dish. The corns are roasted with smoked paprika and topped with feta, parmesan, and cilantro before serving.
To make it vegan, ask your server to hold the cheese. Also, let go of the Ranchito sauce it comes with. You can have lime and sourdough baguette, though, that are also served on the side.
CPK’s Mexican Street Corn makes a good choice for a snack and appetizer.
CPK Vegan Pasta
If you’re to describe pasta in just two words, there aren’t any words more befitting than “delicious” and “diversity.”
Available in a huge variety, pasta is equally popular among people of all age groups worldwide. It’s hard not to love pasta, just as it’s hard to get it wrong.
There are so many ways to make pasta that almost anyone can make it; there is a recipe for people with different culinary and cooking skills levels.
California Pizza Kitchen offers a few different types of pasta. But, only one of them comes vegan-friendly.
As per the general guidelines given for pasta on the CPK vegan menu guide, you can’t even get other options customized upon request because there is only pasta sauce that’s free of animal ingredients, and that is the Tomato Basil sauce.
Here’s what the guide says about other pasta sauces:
Did You Know?
The delicious California-style pies that CPK is known for weren’t the original choice for the restaurant’s signature dish.
While talking to The Wall Street Journal in 2009, the restaurant’s founders, Rick Rosenfield and Larry Flax said that they initially planned to open a pasta place inspired by a restaurant in Chicago.
The plan only changed after the duo discovered a similar restaurant in California getting good business with not-so-good pizzas.
Tomato Basil Spaghetti/ Penne Arrabbiata
California Pizza Kitchen offers just one meatless tomato-based, garlic-y, herby pasta. But, it appears as Tomato Basil Spaghetti on the restaurant’s allergen menu and vegan guide and as Penne Arrabbiata on the standard menu.
Both are essentially made the same way, but with different kinds of pasta. Get it in whatever variety it’s available at your local California Pizza Kitchen. It’s vegan.
While you can’t get any other CPK pasta made vegan, you can have vegetables added to this tomato-based pasta to make it richer and more nutritious. All the veggies are okay for vegans.
CPK Vegan Bowl
Made with super-grains and lots of fresh vegetables, CPK bowls are healthy, nutritious, filling, and delicious. Whether you want a super healthy lunch or a filling meal for dinner without stuffing yourself with unhealthy ingredients, these make great options.
There are only two varieties of Power Bowls available at California Pizza Kitchen. While the restaurant’s vegan guide says that you can only get the Banh Mi Bowl customized to the vegan diet, I think you can get the second one modified too.
Let’s take a look at both to know how you can get a vegan bowl at California Pizza Kitchen:
Banh Mi Bowl
A nutrient-rich, protein-packed bowl featuring grilled chicken, carrot, cucumber, watermelon radish, avocado, bean sprouts, mint, cilantro, serrano peppers, and sesame seeds over a bed of quinoa and baby kale mix.
You get housemade chili-lime vinaigrette on the side for an additional burst of flavors.
However, you will have to skip on it as well, along with chicken, when ordering vegan at California Pizza Kitchen because it’s apparently not vegan (why, though?)
Santa Fe Bowl
This CPK bowl is made with cilantro farro and spinach base that is topped with lime chicken, black beans, red cabbage, tomatoes, avocado, sweet corn, poblano peppers, and toasted pepitas. It’s served chilled with poblano ranch on the side.
But, as you must already know by heart by now, you gotta skip the sauce along with chicken because it’s not vegan.
CPK Vegan Desserts
There’s no vegan dessert on the CPK menu. But, you can get fruits from the kids’ menu if you’re really craving something sweet.
Listed in the CPKids Sweets category on the California Pizza Kitchen menu, it’s just your basic fruit bowl with fresh pineapples and seedless red grapes.
Not an exciting choice, but a good option for kids and satisfying your sweet cravings.
CPK Vegan Sides
California Pizza Kitchen’s vegan menu guide doesn’t list any sides that are or can be made vegan. But, the following ones may likely be vegan-friendly:
- Roasted Vegetables
- Garlic Green Beans
Make sure to confirm their vegan status with your server before ordering.
CPK Vegan Drinks
You may not expect it, but California Pizza Kitchen offers a pretty good variety of drinks, most of which are vegan-friendly. These include:
- Coca-Cola Zero
- Cherry Coke
- Dr. Pepper
- Barq’s Root Beer
- Fresh Lemonade – Strawberry, Raspberry, Green Apple, and Mint
- Frozen Lemonade
- Seagram’s Ginger Ale
- Apple Juice
- Pineapple Juice
- Mango Juice
- Iced Tea – Mango, Raspberry, Strawberry, Green Apple, and Passionfruit Mango
- Tea – Green and Black
- Fresh Strawberry Mango Cooler
- Sparkling Cranberry Cooler
- Sparkling Berry-Lemon
- Cucumber Reviver
- Melon Hydrate
- Double Berry Sparkler
- San Pellegrino Sparkling Water
- Aqua Panna Natural Spring Water
- Hand-Shaken Agave Mojito
- Citrus Passion Martini
- Moscow Mule
- Tropical Mule
- Woodford Old Fashioned
- Berry Ginger Smash
- Spiked Cucumber
- Strawberry Lime Margarita
- Fresh Agave Lime Margarita
- Platinum Margarita
- Ultimate Bloody Mary
- Red-Berry – Perfect Puree Raspberry, Lemonade, Cranberry juice, Monin Blackberry, Remy VSOP, and Red Wine
- Orchard – Cranberry and Orange juice, Monin Stone Fruit, St. Germain Elderflower, and White Wine
- Truly Lime Hard Seltzer
- Truly Wild Berry Hard Seltzer
California Pizza Kitchen also offers a range of red and white wines and beers.
The exact variety of drinks may vary across different CPK locations, so do check your local menu to know your exact options.
Items on CPK Menu That May Look Vegan But Are Not
As we all vegans know very well, food names and labels can be misleading, and the only surefire way to know the food you’re considering buying/eating is vegan-friendly or not is to check its ingredients.
California Pizza Kitchen has a few potentially misleading items on its menu too. I am listing them below so you know that these need to be avoided on a vegan diet.
- Cauliflower Crust – Contains dairy (in the form of cheese)
- Spicy Buffalo Cauliflower – Contains dairy and eggs
- Sticky Asian Cauliflower – Contains dairy
- Baked Potato Soup – Contains dairy
- Mustard Herb Vinaigrette – Contains dairy
- Kung Pao Spaghetti – Contains shellfish, according to CPK’s vegan menu guide.
The following items do not contain any of the usual non-vegan ingredients. But, CPK’s vegan guide clearly states that they are all non-vegan.
So, while we don’t exactly know why (they probably have honey), these need to be avoided too:
- Champagne Vinaigrette
- Dijon Balsamic Vinaigrette
- Fat-Free Vinaigrette
- Chili Lime Vinaigrette
- Lime Cilantro Dressing
CPK Vegan Menu FAQs
- Does CPK have vegan cheese?
No. California Pizza Kitchen doesn’t offer vegan cheese. So, you’ll have to get cheese omitted from anything and everything it’s found in when placing a vegan order at CPK.
- Is the plant-based BBQ chicken pizza at CPK vegan?
CPK’s plant-based pizza doesn’t come standard as vegan-friendly. But, you can make it vegan by ordering it without the cheese.
- Is CPK bread vegan?
California Pizza Kitchen offers the sourdough baguette, which seems vegan-friendly as per the details given in the allergen menu (ask your server to confirm). However, it’s marked as an item with a potential risk of cross-contamination.
- Is CPK pizza crust vegan?
According to California Pizza Kitchen’s vegan menu guide, all their pizza crusts, except the cauliflower crust, are suitable for vegans.
- Is CPK Kung Pao spaghetti vegan?
If you remove meat, Kung Pao spaghetti doesn’t seem to have any of the usual non-vegan ingredients. However, as per the restaurant’s vegan guide, Kung Pao pasta sauce is not vegan-friendly. Why? We don’t know, but we can’t have it.
Conclusion – Is California Pizza Kitchen Vegan-Friendly?
It’s possible for vegans to eat at California Pizza Kitchen. But can we call it a vegan-friendly restaurant? I have some reservations.
First of all, the restaurant doesn’t have vegan cheese. And I apologize in advance to whoever may not agree with me, but pizza without cheese doesn’t really make sense to me.
Secondly, none of the salad dressings available at CPK are vegan, which means you gotta have your bunch of veggies dry and with no added flavor.
Lastly, it’s clearly stated on the CPK website that there is a risk of cross-contamination. This likely means they use shared equipment, which can be problematic for many vegans.
These are my reasons for not categorizing California Pizza Kitchen as a highly vegan-friendly restaurant.
However, it’s not that bad of a place for vegans either; there are far worse eateries out there (in terms of vegan-friendliness, that is). You can get some real food here and not rely on just salad and fries while others devour topping-heavy Californian pies.
Moreover, the restaurant now offers “Take & Bake Pizzas,” too, which means you can take your favorite CPK pizza home without cheese, add your own vegan cheese to it, and enjoy delicious cheese-loaded vegan pizza from CPK at home.
Not the best option, but you gotta do what you gotta do. This is the only way to have a pizza with cheese from CPK.
Did you find this article helpful? Interested to learn about the vegan-friendliness of other pizza places around the country? Check out my article Mellow Mushroom Vegan Menu to get started.