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German Cooking Week – How to Make Zwiebelkuchen

One fall day back in 1986, Dave and I came home to our second floor apartment in Kurzell to find a plastic wrapped plate with slices of what looked like onion “pizza” placed in front our apartment door. Beside the plate was a small flask of Neuer Wein (new wine.)

Our German landlady would often leave baked treats in front of our door.  Dave has always been slim and I sometimes suspected that she feared that I wasn’t feeding him enough.  Or perhaps it was simply her way of trying to make us feel welcome.

In any case, we were in for a special treat as the onion “pizza” was actually Zwiebelkuchen and is a traditional early fall dish in Southern Germany.  The next day, I went down and with the little bit of German I’d acquired and the help of her daughter to translate, I begged our landlady to teach me how to make it.

You’ll find fancier recipes for zwiebelkuchen in German cookbooks or on Gasthaus’ menus.  Many of those recipes call for the addition of eggs and caraway seed.

Zwiebelkuchen is one of those peasant type dishes that the march of time and modern day has “gourmetted” up.  The hausfrau of old would have likely used whatever she had on hand the day she was making it.  This may not be the zwiebelkuchen you are familiar with but it is the recipe that our German landlady taught to me, adapted for North American ingredients.

To make the dough for the crust:

1 ½ c lukewarm water

1 ½ tsp sugar

4 ½ tsp active dry yeast

3 ¾ c all purpose flour

1 ½ tsp salt

4 tbsp vegetable oil

Add sugar and yeast to the water and prove the yeast for 10 minutes in a glass measuring cup. (<-affiliate link)

Prove yeast for 10 minutes

Combine flour, salt, oil and yeast mixture in a large bowl until it forms a shaggy mess.

Combine yeast and flour

Scoop the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until the dough is soft and pliable.

Knead until ball of dough is soft and pliable

Place in a lightly oiled bowl; turning to coat all sides of the dough.

Place in bowl

Cover with a towel and allow to rise for 30 minutes.

Cover and allow to rise for 30 minutes

For the topping you will need:

2 large onions

1/4 lb bacon, chopped

1 – 8 oz container of sour cream

While the dough is rising, thinly slice 2 large onions that have been cut in half.

Thinly slice two large onions

Saute the onions just until they are translucent.  Do not let them brown.

Saute onions until clear

Chop ¼ lb of bacon.

This is actually 1/2 lb of bacon chopped. I used the other 1/4 lb for something else.
This is actually 1/2 lb of bacon chopped. I used the other 1/4 lb for something else.

After the 30 minutes are up.  Turn the dough out onto a generously greased baking sheet. (<-affiliate link)

Pat dough out until it fills the pan

Spread the dough over the entire bottom and up the sides of the baking sheet.

Dock the dough with a fork.

Dock with a fork

Then place into a 350 degree F oven for 10 minutes.  (This is a step that I added because I found that the crust didn’t always cook completely otherwise.)

Remove the crust from the oven and spread with sour cream.

Spread sour cream to all edges

Next layer on the sautéed onions.

Spoon onions over sour cream

Make sure to spread the onions evenly over the sour cream.

Spread onions around evenly

Top with the chopped bacon.

Add chopped bacon

Return to the oven for an addition 20 to 25 minutes.  After 20 minutes, check to see if the bottom of the crust is a light golden brown.  If not, put it back in the oven for 5 to 10 more minutes.

Bake for addition 30 minutes

Slice the zwiebelkuchen and serve hot.

Cut into squares and serve hot

Enjoy any leftovers the next day.   It can be eaten cold or reheated.

Zwiebelkuchen freezes well and our kids often used to take the frozen slices to school.  By lunchtime, the zwiebelkuchen was thawed and ready to eat.

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  • Sandra :)
    October 6, 2011 11:25 pm

    OK I’m going to make this when we get home from Ottawa 🙂 I don’t quite understand the 1/4 pound of bacon part, though – bacon comes in a 1 pound package, and as far as I’m aware, the law is that you use the entire package EACH TIME. Not parts of it. I’m not willing to risk getting arrested!!! 😉

  • Lorrie
    October 6, 2011 10:44 pm

    Oh, this sounds delicious. Rich and oh, so good. YUM! I really like German food.

  • Lois Christensen
    October 6, 2011 4:15 pm

    This looks so good! I am waiting on dough to rise to make a foccacia with left over tomato salad. I want to try this soon. I love the pictures of your spaetzel! I need to try that also! YUMMY!!!!

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