Chicago-style deep dish pizza is where the crust has a high edge and the pizza is filled generously with cheese and “toppings.” It’s a delicious and filling style of pizza and has been around since the early to mid-1900s!
I take my Chicago-style deep dish pizza very seriously. When I lived in Chicago I ate at just about every deep dish parlor and had strong opinions about all of them (as one should!).
I brought my love of deep dish pizza into my kitchen before I even left the windy city, and make this pie at least a few times a year! It’s one of my favorites for large gatherings as it is always a big hit and everyone leaves satisfied and with full bellies!
These days I use vegan mozzarella, but the dough is the same! And if it sits a bit lighter in my stomach, well, I’m certainly not going to complain and miiiiight just have an extra slice!
Chicago-style deep dish pizza is all about the crust. Get the crust down and you’re basically golden! Cause the crust bakes up golden… get it? ………….
It should be thick enough to support generous amounts of filling, cheese, and sauce. The crust should be buttery tasting and tender enough to cut with a butter knife.
The dough is flavorful due to long ferment times, meaning this isn’t a recipe you can throw together in just a couple of hours. Though, I mean, the cooking time along kinda prevents that!
It’s worth every second though, and a little planning ahead either in the morning or the night before means you’ll have an easy pizza dinner!
Anatomy of a Chicago-style deep dish pizza:
Working from bottom to top, Chicago-style deep dish should have crust followed by a mixture of mozzarella and “toppings.” Of course here, the toppings are really the filling/stuffing. Then we have the sauce, which needs to be thick and not watery, because we can’t have a soggy pizza! Finally (and optionally) some parmesan sprinkled on top to finish the pie off!
So let’s work in order, starting with the all important pizza dough!
Deep dish pizza dough:
This isn’t the same kind of dough as your average thin crust pizza. [If you’re looking for that, check out my overnight pizza dough!] It has a couple extra ingredients.
For deep dish pizza you need: all purpose flour, water, oil, yeast, sugar, salt, and this last one is optional–cream of tartar.
A lot of people are under the impression that deep dish pizza contains cornmeal. This is just not true, at least not for traditional Chicago-style deep dish.
Traditionally corn oil is used to make deep dish pizza (probably because Illinois is land of the corn), and the faint taste of corn is likely from the choice of oil.
I usually use canola oil or safflower oil to make the pizza, but any mild tasting oil will work.
The second ingredient that may surprise you is cream of tartar. This is optional but works to slow down the proliferation of yeast. Slower yeast = slower rise = more flavor!
The dough itself requires very little effort to make. You whisk together the dry ingredients, add the wet, bring it together to make a shaggy dough, then just knead for one to minutes!
Yes that’s right. No long kneading times here! This is in part to keep the tenderness of the crust. The oil in the dough also effectively shortens the gluten strands which also means a more tender crust.
You then leave the dough to rise for several hours, or overnight in the fridge. This long fermentation times does some of the work of kneading for you. The gluten strands relax and start to align in the wet dough.
It also means more flavor in the crust, especially if you leave it in the fridge for a day.
Popular deep dish pizza fillings:
So with the dough done it’s time to decide on the stuffing. You can go with a plain cheese deep dish, but what’s the fun in that!
Vegetable pizza filling ideas:
- Giardiniera. This is probably my favorite, and what I used to fill this pizza. Make it yourself with my homemade giardiniera recipe.
- Garlicky sautéed spinach
- Garlicky sautéed broccoli
- Bell peppers
- Fresh Roma Tomatoes
- Artichoke Hearts
Beyond vegetables you can add your usual pizza suspects. I used a vegan pepperoni in this one, but also love a good veggie sausage!
Mozzarella is the traditional cheese, though in some you may find a mix of mozz and cheddar if you want to replicate that style.
I like to layer my filling: a little sprinkle of cheese on bottom and then some cheese in between the filling if I’m using more than one, and then most of the cheese on top of the fillings as it will melt downwards to fill in any gaps!
Note: some deep dish pizza places add a little mozzarella around the edge of the dough so that the crust bakes up cheesy and crispy. Tuck some mozz around the crust if you want this effect.
The pizza sauce:
Choose high quality san marzano style whole peeled canned tomatoes. Then crush them up by hand or a few pulses in a food processor or blender and set it to drain in a fine mesh strainer for 5-10 minutes. A bit longer is okay too!
Don’t over process the sauce because that will make it too watery. Deep dish pizza should have a slightly chunky sauce!
Use whole canned tomatoes because these are the best quality tomatoes. One large can of tomatoes (~28 oz) is enough for one 12-inch pizza.
Add some garlic, oregano, and salt. I also added some fennel this time around for a hint of sausage flavor. If you add fennel I recommend lightly crushing it first. You could also add some dried basil for more Italian-seasoning!
What pan to use?
This recipe makes enough dough for one 12-inch pizza. You can also divide it into two 8 or 9 inch pizzas.
I like my dough on the medium thick side, but if you prefer a thinner dough, just use less. Extra dough can always be made into a small personal pie or turned into some breadsticks.
I use my 12-inch cast iron skillet to make my deep dish pizza, but you can also buy specialty deep dish pans or use cake pans!
No matter what pan you use, you’ll want to oil or butter the pan to give that slight fried dough effect and also ensure that the pie will be easily removed from the pan!
I think that’s everything you need to know to make amazing deep dish pizza at home! Feel free to drop any questions in the comments below!
If you make this Chicago-style Deep Dish Pizza, leave a comment below and rate the recipe on the recipe card. And please share your photos with me on Instagram, tag @thecuriouschickpea and #thecuriouschickpea. I love seeing your recreations!
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Deep Dish Pizza Dough
- 3 - 3 1/2 cups (400-470g) all purpose flour
- 2 tsp (7g) instant yeast*
- 1 1/2 tsp (7g) sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp (7.5g) salt
- 1/8 tsp cream of tartar (optional, slows yeast)
- 1 1/4 cups (294g) room temperature water
- 112g (1/2 cup) oil (e.g. canola, corn oil, safflower oil)
- 28oz can whole San Marzano tomatoes
- 2-4 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried basil or 1 tsp dried fennel, lightly crushed
- 1 tsp salt
- 8oz vegan mozzarella
- vegan parmesan
- choice of filling (vegetables or vegan meats)
- In a large mixing bowl whisk together 3 cups (400g) of flour, yeast, sugar, salt, and cream of tartar. Add the water and oil and mix with a wooden spoon to create a shaggy dough. See note below if not using instant yeast.
- Knead the dough for 1-2 minutes by hand, adding the extra flour if needed to make a tacky and soft dough. Shape the dough into a ball and place back in the bowl. Drizzle some oil overtop and turn the dough to coat the dough and bowl with a thin layer of oil.
- Cover the bowl and let rise at room temperature for 6 hours to make the pizza on the same day, or place it in the fridge immediately and leave it for at least 12 hours or up to 2 days. The dough should be about double in size.
- Crush the tomatoes by hand and stir the rest of the ingredients in, or place all ingredients into a food processor or blender and pulse a couple of times until the tomatoes are coarsely chopped. The sauce should be chunky.
- Place the sauce in a fine mesh strainer placed over a large bowl and let drain for 5-10 minutes (a bit longer is okay). Discard the tomato water and transfer the sauce to a container until ready to use.
- Preheat the oven to 450 ºF and butter or oil a 12 inch cast iron skillet, deep dish pizza pan, or cake pan (or use two 8 or 9 inch pans and divide the dough in half).
- Punch the risen dough down (either about 6 hours later if same day or the next day if refrigerated) and let it rest for 10-15 minutes.
- Transfer the dough to the prepared pan(s) and press it into the pan so that it can be pushed up the sides of the pan. If it resists shaping, let it rest for longer and retry every 5-10 minutes until the gluten has relaxed enough for it to be shaped.
- Sprinkle some cheese onto the dough, then layer the toppings of your choice into the pan. Top with the remainder of the cheese.
- Gently spread the thick tomato sauce over cheese and fillings so that it covers the filling. Optional: sprinkle some vegan parmesan on top of the sauce.
- Bake the pizza at 450 ºF for 30-45m or until crust is golden. If baking smaller pizzas check it after 25 minutes.
- Let the pizzas cool for 10 minutes before cutting into it! You may remove it from the pan before cutting, and if using a cake pan or deep dish pan then do so as to not scratch the pans.
Make the Pizza Dough:
Make the Sauce:
Shape and Bake the Pizza:
*If using active dry yeast dissolve the yeast in warm (not room temperature) water (1 1/4 cups/294g) along with the sugar and let activate for 5-10 minutes before adding to the rest of the ingredients.
I like a medium-thick crust, but if you prefer a thinner crust remove some of the dough (about 1/4 to 1/3 of it) and with this extra dough make a smaller personal pan sized pizza or turn it into breadsticks.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 312
Nutrition is calculated automatically so should be used as an estimate.