Chicago Thin-Crust Pizza Recipe

Chicago is most known for its deep-dish pizza, but there’s another style of pizza that’s been popular in the Windy City for decades: tavern-style “cracker crust” pizza. This thin-crust pizza is characterized by its crispy, cracker-like crust, which is often cut into smaller, bite-sized pieces.

Chicago Thin-Crust Pizza History

Chicago’s thin-crust style pizza dates back to the early 20th century, when many Italian immigrants were settling in the city. These immigrants brought with them their traditional pizza-making skills, but they had to adapt their recipes to the ingredients that were available in the Midwest. This led to the development of a thin crust pizza that was made with flour, yeast, water, salt, and olive oil, and topped with tomato sauce, cheese, and various meats and vegetables.

The exterior of Vito & Nick's pizzeria in Chicago, featuring neon lights reading "Vito Pizza Old Style" and "Nick Restaurant On Draft"

The first tavern-style pizzeria in Chicago is believed to be Vito & Nick’s which opened on the city’s South Side in 1946. Since then, many other pizzerias have opened throughout the city, each with their own unique  take on tavern-style pizza.

Chicago Thin-Crust Pizza Recipe

Here’s my recipe for a light, and perfectly crisp tavern-style crust pizza that you can make at home, in your oven:

Check out the undercarriage of our Chicago thin-crust pizza!


For the dough (makes 4 – 285 gram dough balls, 15″ to 16″ pizzas):

  •          728 grams – High Protein Bread Flour
  •          328 grams – Spring Water
  •          2.77 grams – Instant Dry Yeast
  •          10.94 grams – Fine Sea Salt
  •          10.94 grams – sugar (optional)
  •          58.30 grams – vegetable oil
  •          *Cornmeal needed for peel

For the sauce:

  •        1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
  •        1 teaspoon dried oregano
  •        1 teaspoon garlic powder
  •        1/2 teaspoon salt
  •        Optional toppings: cupping pepperoni, cooked Italian sausage, sliced mushrooms, diced green peppers, sliced onions, etc.


  • Add the water, IDY, and oil to your mixing bowl and use a mixer to mix the ingredients together on low to medium low for 2 minutes.
  • Add the flour, sea salt and *optional sugar and mix for another 2 minutes at low speed. The resulting dough will appear very rough and shaggy. Do not over mix. This is what you want. Remove the shaggy mass from the bowl along with any loose ingredients and mash together until you have a rough looking, but complete dough ball.
  • Place the dough ball in a lightly oiled bowl and wrap tightly with stretch wrap and place the bowl into the refrigerator for 24 hours.
  • After 24 hours, remove the dough from the bowl and proceed to ball up your dough by simply cutting (4) 285 gram chunks of dough and molding them into round-ish balls. (these do not have to be perfect like regular pizza dough).
  • Place the dough balls onto a lightly floured sheet pan, in a dough box or in individual containers and cover tightly with plastic wrap or lids, and place the dough back in the refrigerator for at least another 24 hours before using.
  • On the day you plan on making your pizza, remove the dough from the refrigerator and allow the dough to rest at room temperature (68 to 70 degrees F) for at 1.50 to 2 hours before using.
  • Preheat your oven at 500 degrees for about an hour before you plan on making your pizza. The use of a baking steel plate is preferred but a stone can be used as well although you may not get the same leoparding on the base. You can also use a cutter pan on top of a steel or stone.
  • Remove a dough ball from the container and place on a lightly floured work surface. Lightly dust the dough ball as well and use a rolling pin to work the dough ball in all directions, gradually forming a round, very thin sheet of dough. You will need to continue to lightly dust the dough as you roll it to keep the dough from adhering to the rolling pin.
  • Once you have rolled the dough paper thin and to the size of the pizza you are making, you must dock the dough using either a docking tool or a fork. You want to poke small holes in the surface of the dough to keep the dough from puffing up too much
  • Sprinkle a generous dusting of *cornmeal on your pizza peel. Place the dough on your floured peel and either par bake for 2 minutes first or simply build your pizza. Par baking can make it a little easier to manage the baking of the pizza if you are not confident in your ability to release the pizza from the peel.
  • Add sauce close to the edge of the dough, and sprinkle with some parmigiana cheese. Add your ,mozzarella and your optional toppings and now it is time to bake.
  • Bake for 5 to 7 minutes based on your preference.
  • Take out, allow to cool on a cooling rack for a minute or so and finish to your taste. Cut as desired with either a pizza wheel or a rocking knife and enjoy!

Be prepared to be amazed. If you are a thin crust lover, you are going to want to make this style of pizza quite often. It is one of my favorites!

Enjoy your homemade Chicago tavern-style pizza and be sure to leave some thoughts about your results!