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Sourdough Deep Dish Cast Iron Pizza (Chicago-style!)

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Whether looking to expand your repertoire of sourdough recipes or it’s your first time, this deep dish sourdough cast iron pizza is our favorite and beginner-friendly!

We both grew up in the Chicago area and Chicago-style pizza is deep dish pizza. Finding the best thick crusted, topping packed pizza in town was a must for Birthdays and special events. Pile high the cheese, meat, and veggies and, of course, the sauce on top was the only way to go. But making our own—that always seemed downright impossible!

Fast forward to about 7 years ago and we decided to begin incorporating sourdough into our family’s routine. It started pretty basic—loaves of sourdough bread, and basic pan pizza.

Eventually, we asked, “Why can’t we make our own sourdough deep dish pizza?” With a little experimentation, this amazing sourdough deep dish pizza recipe was born.

sourdough deep dish cast iron pizza recipe

It now makes an appearance every weekend for our family pizza night and there are smiles all around every time it pops out of the oven.

So get your cast iron skillet ready, it’s pizza time!

The History of Chicago-Style Deep-Dish Pizza

Many Italians immigrated to Chicago in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in search of factory jobs. They brought with them their love for pizza. Ike Sewell and Ric Riccardo were two of these Italian men who decided to begin experimenting to create something unique that blended their Italian heritage and their new American traditions. Riccardo and Sewell opened their first pizza shop—Pizzeria Uno—making pizzas that more closely resembled a cake than the traditional Neapolitan pizza.

chicago style deep dish cast iron sourdough pizza

The key difference in their pizza was making it in a deep pan so that it could have a tall crust, leaving room for loads of toppings. Because of the density of the pizza, it needed to be cooked longer. But, to keep the cheese from burning, they put the cheese on the bottom, added meat and veggies, and finished it off with a layer of tomato sauce, giving rise to this Chicago tradition.

Why Make Sourdough Pizza?

There are many reasons to opt for traditionally prepared sourdough as opposed to the more modern quick yeasts and refined flours.

1. Easier to Digest. Sourdough is made through a slow fermentation process which breaks down many of the plant compounds that are difficult for the body to digest.

2. Blood Sugar Balance. Because of the fermentation process and high fiber content in sourdough, the body responds differently to it than with modern, commercially made bread products. There is less of a spike in blood sugar with sourdough allowing the body’s blood sugar levels to more easily stay balanced.

sourdough starter and freshly ground wheat

3. More nutritious. Because sourdough breaks down the phytic acid—a naturally occurring compound in grains that is difficult to digest—it causes an increase in bioavailable vitamins and minerals making it more nutritious.

Making the Perfect Deep Dish Crust

This recipe makes a thick crust with crispy edges that are gooey and dense on the inside. The honey adds a delightful amount of natural sweetness.

This pizza is best made in a cast iron skillet. The rim helps give the crust its distinct deep dish form allowing for a thick layer of toppings. It can be made on a pizza stone, however, you’ll want to add lots of flour for a firm crust. Note that the crust is still likely to sag or flatten some while par-baking.

deep dish sourdough pizza crust

We buy our flour from a local organic mill that we love—Janie’s Mill. Our preference is to use a 50/50 blend of Einkorn flour and Glenn flour (a hard spring wheat). However, you could use whatever whole wheat flour or all-purpose flour that you prefer.

Sourdough Deep Dish Pizza Recipe

Equipment: 12” Cast Iron Pan

Yield: 1 Crust

Ingredients: 

– 3 cups flour
– 1 cup active sourdough starter (Not sourdough discard)
– 1/2 cup water
– 1/8 cup olive oil
– 1/2 tbsp honey
– 1/2 tsp salt
–  2-3 tbsp lard (or other heat-stable cooking fat)

Directions:

1. Add fat to 12” cast iron pan and place in oven to preheat at 450°F.

2. Start with 1.5 cups of flour in large mixing bowl. Add starter, water, olive oil, honey, and salt. Mix.

3. Once stirred, continue to mix in a ½ cup of flour at a time. Stop once the dough is moist but not too tacky to handle.

4. Place dough on a floured surface and knead 5-7 minutes until a smooth ball of dough is formed. 

four pizza crust dough balls

5. Lightly coat the dough ball in olive oil (If freezing dough, see section below on how to freeze dough balls).

6. If baking fresh, place dough ball back in large bowl and allow to rise at least 30 minutes* before baking.

7. For fresh eating, remove preheated cast iron pan from oven. Spread cooking fat around bottom and sides of pan.

8. Remove skillet from oven and make sure bottom and sides of pan are coated in fat. Place ball of dough in preheated skillet. Spread dough by hand working it down and outward. Make sure dough is spread evenly along the bottom with extra dough around the rim. Form crust roughly 1” up the edges of the pan. Note, dough will rise while baking.

9. Use a fork to poke holes in dough every inch across bottom of crust. Prebake crust for 4-5 minutes.

sourdough chicago style deep dish pizza crust

10. Top pizza** and bake at 450°F for 15-20 minutes until crust is golden brown and pizza is cooked through. Let sit 5 minutes before serving. 

*We usually bake the pizza crust soon after making, but you can proof the dough in a covered bowl for 6-8 hours or until doubled for added fermentation.

**Room temperature toppings give the best results. See how we top our Chicago-style pizza below.

How We Make Our Chicago-Style Pizza

A true Chicago-style pizza always has the pizza sauce on top. But what’s below the sauce is up to you! Here are our family’s favorite toppings:

Pesto Layer – We start with a layer of homemade pesto on the bottom! This isn’t traditional with Chicago-style pizza, but it adds a unique taste, color, and nutritional boost that we love.

chicago style deep dish skillet pizza

Cheese Layer – Topping your deep-dish pizza with mozzarella cheese is a must! But we also like to shred up a wedge of our homemade farmhouse cheddar for the added taste and texture. 

With whatever cheese you buy, make sure you don’t use pre-shredded. Cheeses that come pre-shredded contain added anti-caking agents so they don’t melt as well. It’s well worth the extra few minutes to buy a block of cheese and pull out that grater!

Meat Layer – Nothing says Chicago-style deep dish like sausage! That’s what our family typically uses. But pepperoni or whatever your protein of choice will also do!

Veggies Layer – Between the pesto and tomato sauce layer, we typically don’t add additional veggies. But toss in what you like!

Sauce Layer – Any tomato or pizza sauce will do—as long as it’s on top! To avoid making separate pizza sauce, we just use our standard canned tomato sauce and then sprinkle some Italian seasonings on top.

sourdough deep dish pizza slices

When loaded with toppings, a single pizza is so filling it might give your whole family a run for their money!

And if, for whatever reason, Chicago style isn’t your jam, you can always go for more of a Detroit-style pizza by making it in a rectangular pan and topping accordingly.

Batch and Freezer Friendly Sourdough Pizza Dough

We do a once-a-month batch sourdough session. Since this is our only time making sourdough all month, we rely heavily on freezing what we make, then thawing as needed over the next month.

So, when we make our pizza dough, we usually make 4 crusts at a time. The above recipe is very easy to scale up for making larger batches at a time.

To freeze, we first lightly coat the outside of each dough ball in olive oil, then place each crust in a quart-sized, freezer-safe ziplock bag. You can store them in the freezer for up to 3 months.

freezing deep dish pizza dough

When you want to use one, take it out of the freezer a couple of days in advance and move it to the fridge. Then, the morning you plan to make your pizza, place the dough in a large bowl on the counter, cover with a tea towel, and let rise at room temperature.

We’ve found that when the crusts are used quickly within a month or two, you can still get a great rise!

So, the real question is, what are your favorite toppings? And do you go with Chicago style, or do you have your own pizza tradition? 


Our family’s weekly tradition is to make deep dish pizza accompanied by homemade ice cream, a match made in heaven.

best deep dish cast iron pizza

Deep Dish Sourdough Cast Iron Pizza

Yield: 1 Crust
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes

Whether looking to expand your repertoire of sourdough recipes or it’s your first time, this deep dish sourdough cast iron pizza is our favorite and beginner-friendly!

Ingredients

  • 3 cups flour

  • 1 cup active sourdough starter (Not sourdough discard)

  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/8 cup olive oil

  • 1/2 tbsp honey

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 2-3 tbsp lard (or other heat-stable cooking fat)

Instructions

      1. Add fat to 12” cast iron pan and place in oven to preheat at 450°F.
      2. Start with 1.5 cups of flour in large mixing bowl. Add starter, water, olive oil, honey, and salt. Mix.
      3. Once stirred, continue to mix in a ½ cup of flour at a time. Stop once the dough is moist but not too tacky to handle.
      4. Place dough on a floured surface and knead 5-7 minutes until a smooth ball of dough is formed.
      5. Lightly coat the dough ball in olive oil (If freezing dough, see section below on how to freeze dough balls).
      6. If baking fresh, place dough ball back in large bowl and allow to rise at least 30 minutes* before baking.
      7. For fresh eating, remove preheated cast iron pan from oven. Spread cooking fat around bottom and sides of pan.
      8. Remove skillet from oven and make sure bottom and sides of pan are coated in fat. Place ball of dough in preheated skillet. Spread dough by hand working it down and outward. Make sure dough is spread evenly along the bottom with extra dough around the rim. Form crust roughly 1” up the edges of the pan. Note, dough will rise while baking.
      9. Use a fork to poke holes in dough every inch across bottom of crust. Prebake crust for 4-5 minutes.
      10. Top pizza** and bake at 450°F for 15-20 minutes until crust is golden brown and pizza is cooked through. Let sit 5 minutes before serving.

Notes

*We usually bake the pizza crust soon after making, but you can proof the dough in a covered bowl for 6-8 hours or until doubled for added fermentation.

**Room temperature toppings give the best results. See how we top our Chicago-style pizza below.

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8 Comments

    1. Awesome! We hope you love it! We’ve often just eaten it fresh right after making and it has a great taste and texture. You can let it rise also which will allow it to ferment more and give it a more sour taste. But I wouldn’t say that even with it rising that it is the type of recipe that doubles in size or anything like that. It will only have a slight rise. Enjoy!

  1. We tried this tonight. Not impressed, but that may be because we used 1/4 the recipe and that may have skewed the outcome. The crust was brown on the bottom, only about 1/4 inch thick and gooey and undercooked on the upside.

    1. I’m sorry you had that experience. Ours has always cooked very evenly and been a nice thick crust. Did you cook in cast iron or another pan? Does your oven often do that to baked goods? I know my parents’ oven tends to cook things this way with being brown on the bottom but not cooked throughout. Just trying to troubleshoot what may have happened. Also, if you let it rise for an hour or two with using a nice and active sourdough starter before baking that should help get a fluffier and thicker crust. All the best!

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