Last Updated on October 10, 2023 by Carne Diem
Method: Oven, Pizza OvenJump to Recipe
This thin crust pizza recipe is one of our favorites to make at home. The pizza's cracker thin crust supports the homemade sauce and any toppings you throw on it. This easy Chicago Tavern-Style pizza is a great recipe to introduce you to making pizza at home and can be loaded with all of your favorite pizza toppings. For this Chicago thin crust pizza recipe, we cook the pizza "garbage style" loaded with meats and veggies.
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Table of contents
- What is Chicago Tavern-Style Pizza?
- Making Chicago Tavern Style Pizza at Home
- What to eat with Chicago Style Pizza
- Frequently Asked Questions
What is Chicago Tavern-Style Pizza?
Tavern style pizza is a Chicago thin crust pizza, which some consider to be Chicago's signature pizza style. Chicago Tavern Style Pizza consists of a cracker thin crust and is often loaded with toppings, especially handmade sausage. The Chicago thin crust pizza style has been made famous by Chicago pizza staples like Pat's, Aurelio's, Barnaby's, Phil's and Vito and Nick's. The style is believed to have originated at local bars where slices of the thin crust pizza were handed out on napkins to encourage more drinking at the bar.
If you are in the mood for more of the best pizza recipes, be sure to check out some of our favorites here:
- Pequod's Inspired Cast Iron Pizza
- Detroit Style Pizza on Your BBQ Grill
- Traditional Turkish Pide: Turkish Flatbread Pizza
- Best Sicilian Style Pizza
- Pizza Oven Sausage and Pepperoni Stromboli
Making Chicago Tavern Style Pizza at Home
Making the Chicago Thin Crust Pizza recipe at home couldn't be easier. Both the dough and sauce are fairly easy to make compared to other pizza styles. This thin crust pizza can be made in your home oven and does not require ultra-high temperatures like some other pizza styles. We find the recipe works best when cooked on a baking steel like a Cooking Steel, but the recipe is just as easy to make on a traditional pizza stone or even pizza pan.
Making the Chicago Thin Crust Dough
To make the thin crust pizza dough recipe, place the flour and cornmeal in the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a dough hook, and mix to combine. When it comes to pizza dough, it is always best to weigh your ingredients. Using measuring cups, tends to be very inaccurate.
Proof the yeast in the warm water by adding the yeast to the water and mixing thoroughly. Ideally the temperature of the water should be about 105-115 degrees to proof dry yeast.
Next, mix the yeast mixture into the flour and use the 2 tablespoons of the cold water to rinse the yeast bowl. Add to the flour. Continue to mix for a couple minutes, stopping and scraping the sides of the bowl as needed.
Next, add the salt and olive oil and mix for 3 minutes. The dough should form a ball and grip on the dough hook. Remove the dough ball and knead by hand for 2-3 minutes.
Cover the pizza dough with a warm, damp towel and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
Next, cut the dough into 3 equal sized pieces and form into balls by gently pulling and stretching the dough and tucking the dough back under. Rotate and repeat this process until you have a dough ball with a smooth top. Repeat with the remaining dough balls. Place the dough balls on an oiled pan and then cover with plastic wrap. At this point the pizza dough can be refrigerated up to 48 hours covered in plastic wrap, if desired.
When you are ready to make your pizzas remove the dough balls from the refrigerator allow to sit for 1-2 hours in a warm place, until doubled in size.
Making Chicago Style Pizza Sauce
To make this simple pizza sauce recipe you will need tomato sauce, basil, oregano, tomato paste, salt, olive oil, and butter. We also highly recommend adding some anchovy paste, but it can be omitted if desired. Combine all sauce ingredients in a bowl and mix well to combine. The sauce can be made a day or 2 ahead of time and stored covered in the refrigerator. If made ahead of time and refrigerated, bring back to room temperature or heat on the stove before applying to the pizza.
While preparing your Chicago thin crust pizza, preheat your oven to 500 degrees. If you are using a Cooking Steel or pizza stone, preheat the steel or stone as well. Allow the oven at least 30 minutes to preheat.
Assembling a Tavern Style Pizza
On a well-floured surface, roll your dough balls into circular pizzas.
Use a pizza docker or fork to poke holes in the crust prior to adding any toppings. Docking allows steam to escape and prevents the dough from over rising.
Next, place the dough on a well-floured pizza peel (we find a mixture of four and semolina or cornmeal works best). Top the dough with sauce, cheese and toppings. Traditional Chicago style thin crust pizza places the toppings, beneath the cheese.
This pizza recipe we made garbage style, which is loaded with an assortment of veggies and meats. Feel free to top with your favorite pizza toppings.
Slide the pizza onto the Cooking Steel, or pizza stone and bake for 4 minutes then rotate the pizza 180 degrees. Cook an additional 3-5 minutes until cheese is melted and golden.
If you are cooking on a pizza stone or pizza pan, the pizza may require a couple more minutes of cook time.
What is a Baking Steel or Cooking Steel?
A baking steel or pizza steel is a highly conductive piece of metal used for cooking pizzas and other foods in home ovens. Due to the way they efficiently transfer heat they enable foods to be cooked in a home oven at lower temperatures than typically required. We love the versatility of our Cooking Steels, which can be used beyond just pizza. Be sure to try some of our favorite Cooking Steel recipes here:
- Grilled Muffaletta: New Orleans Deli Sandwich
- Smoked Dry Rubbed Chicken Wings
- RumChata French Toast
- Ahi Wonton Tacos With Wasabi Sauce
- St. Louis Slinger
- Spicy Double Smash Burger on Texas Toast
- Flat Top Chicken Fried Rice
Serving the Chicago Thin Crust Pizza
Remove to a cutting board and cut into square slices. Top with parmesan cheese, crushed red pepper, pizza seasoning, or even some hot honey.
What to eat with Chicago Style Pizza
Chicago style pizza, both the deep dish and thin tavern style always pair well with an ice-cold beer. Other Chicago staples like Spinach Artichoke Dip , mozzarella sticks, garlic bread, bruschetta or Italian Style Chicken Wings are also a great dishes to serve with the pizza.
Frequently Asked Questions
While Chicago thin crust pizza has many similarities to St. Louis style pizza with the cracker crust, and cutting the slices into squares, there are also many key differences. While both crusts result in a crispy, cracker like crust, Chicago style is likely to include yeast, where St. Louis style pizza often does not. In addition, St. Louis style pizza will almost always include Provel cheese, while a Chicago Tavern Pizza is likely to include more traditional cheeses like low moisture mozzarella and provolone.
Due to its specific gluten and protein content, we recommend using pizza flour when making tavern style pizza at home, however, in a pinch you can use bread flour or all purpose flour.
According to the owners of Nick's Pizza in Chicago, taverns began using a "party cut" because it was easier for patrons of the bar to eat while they were drinking beer.
The best way to reheat thin crust pizza is in the oven on a pizza stone of preheated baking sheet, so that the crust remains crispy and not soggy.
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Chicago Tavern Style Pizza
- Mushrooms about ½ cup
- Green bell pepper diced. About ½ cup
- Yellow Onion finely sliced. About ½ cup
- Italian Sausage about ½ pound
- Spicy Salami Optional
- Low moisture Mozzarella cheese
- 15 ounce tomato sauce
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4- ounce tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon anchovy paste
- 500 grams pizza flour about 3 ½ cups
- 15 grams cornmeal about 2 tablespoons
- 250 grams warm water about 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons
- 3 grams yeast
- 2 tablespoons cold water
- 1.5 teaspoons salt
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- Place the flour and cornmeal in the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with a dough hook, and mix to combine.
- Proof the yeast in the warm water, by mixing thoroughly.
- Mix the yeast mixture into the flour and use the 2 tablespoons of the cold water to rinse the yeast bowl and then add to the flour.
- Continue to mix for a couple minutes, stopping and scaping the sides of the bowl as needed.
- Add the salt and olive oil and mix for 3 minutes. The dough should form a ball and grip on the dough hook.
- Remove the dough ball and knead by hand for 2-3 minutes.
- Cover with a warm, damp towel and allow to rest for 30 minutes
- Cut the dough into 3 equal sized balls and form into balls by gently pulling and stretching the dough and tucking the dough back under. Rotate and repeat this process until you have a dough ball with a smooth top. Repeat with the remaining dough balls. Place the dough ball on an oiled pan and then cover the dough balls with plastic wrap. Dough can also be refrigerated up to 48 hours, covered in plastic wrap, if desired.
- When you are ready to make your pizzas remove the dough balls from the refrigerator allow to sit for 1-2 hours in a warm place, until doubled in size.
- Combine all sauce ingredients in a bowl and mix well to combine. If made before and refrigerated overnight bring back to room temperature or heat on the stove before applying to the pizza.
- Preheat your oven to 500 degrees with a pizza stone or baking steel.
- Roll your dough balls into circular pizzas. Use a pizza docker or fork to poke holes in the crust.
- Place the dough on a well-floured pizza peel (we find a mixture of four and semolina or cornmeal works best).
- Top the dough with sauce, cheese and toppings.
- Slide the pizza onto the stone or steel and bake for 4 minutes then rotate the pizza 180 degrees. Cook an additional 3-5 minutes until cheese is melted and golden. Note: Cooking Steels will cook faster than stones or a pizza pan.
- Remove to a cutting board and cut into square slices.