Recipes

focaccia onion board

Welcome to the cutting room floor. Whenever I finish a cookbook, there are recipes that didn’t make the final book not because they’re flawed in any way, but because they weren’t necessary. Smitten Kitchen Keepers already has a couple great savory breads and sufficient caramelized onion magnificence, so I pulled this recipe out because I knew it would be perfect for the site, right now. Why? This week is the most significant Jewish holiday of the year, Yom Kippur, a day of atonement. It is traditional fast for the day, and the fast is traditionally broken with a dairy meal, quite often a giant spread of bagels and fixings. But that wasn’t the first time I made this. In March 2020, when the whole world shut down, so of course did all of the bagel shops in my neighborhood. I started making easy bagel-y breads so we could still enjoy our cream cheese and lox weekend fix. This one has a cool history, too.

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The pletzel is an Eastern European savory flatbread smothered in onions and poppy seeds with a chew similar to focaccia, but usually thinner and more crisp. Once they made it to America, they were common in Jewish bakeries, going by the name onion board or onion flat. But they’ve fallen out of favor — wrongly, one bite of this will make clear. Let’s bring them back. Put out as part of a breakfast spread, I find them a more indulgent but less heavy bagel alternative that is still fantastic with everything we like on bagels — lox, cream cheese, paper-thin slices of red onion, cucumber, tomato, capers. While the no-knead focaccia base rises, you cook the onions; while the bread bakes, you set out your fixings. When it comes out of the oven, your home smells impossibly good, and you probably didn’t even have to go shopping to make it happen.

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A few other favorites: An amusingly divisive Cream Cheese Board [TikTok, Reel], Homemade Bagels (on my agenda for the week!), Homemade Cream Cheese, Smoked Whitefish Dip, Wild Mushroom Pate, Bialy Babka, Baklava Babka, or Better Chocolate Babka, and My Family’s Noodle Kugel.

Previously

6 months ago: Lemon Cream Meringues
1 year ago: Big Apple Crumb Cake
2 year ago: Whole Wheat Chocolate Oat Cookies and Simple Cauliflower Tacos
3 years ago: Chickpea and Kale Shakshuka
4 years ago: Crispy Spinach Pizza
5 years ago: Pizza Beans and Chocolate Tahini Challah Buns
6 years ago: Homemade Merguez with Herby Yogurt and Magic Apple Plum Cobbler
7 years ago: The Perfect Manhattan, Broccoli Cheddar Soup and S’more Cupcakes
8 years ago: Latke Waffles and The Crispy Egg
9 years ago: Frico Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
10 years ago: Crackly Banana Bread and Spaghetti with Broccoli Cream Pesto
11 years ago: Apple Pie Cookies
12 years ago: Single-Crust Apple and Plum Pie
13 years ago: Date Spice Loaf and Lebanese-Style Stuffed Eggplant
14 years ago: Summer’s Last Hurrah Panzanella, Sweet and Sour Glazed Cippoline, Majestic and Moist Honey Cake, and Best Challah (Egg Bread)
15 years ago: Red Velvet Cake, Noodle Kugel, Spaghetti Fideos with Chorizo and Almonds and Couscous and Feta-Stuffed Peppers
16 years ago: Acorn Squash with Chile-Lime Vinaigrette

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MY COOKBOOKS

Focaccia Onion Board

  • Servings: 6
  • Source: Smitten Kitchen
  • Print

Serve this with anything you like on a bagel, a cream cheese board, or just a schmear of salted butter. Note on an update: Based on feedback from comments, I’m suggesting you line your pan with parchment paper for easier removal.

  • 3 cups (390 grams) all-purpose flour
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon (3 grams) instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups (355 grams) lukewarm water
  • Olive oil
  • 2 large yellow onions, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons poppy seeds

Make the dough: In a large bowl, combine the flour, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and instant yeast. Add the water and use a spoon, rubber spatula or a dough whisk [I have this one], mix until the water is absorbed and a shaggy, sticky dough is formed. Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let rise until doubled at room temperature for 1 3/4 to 2 hours. Alternatively, you can let it rise in the fridge overnight for 8 to 10 hours.

Meanwhile, prepare your onions: Heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Once hot, add 2 tablespoons olive oil. Once the oil is heated, add the onions and 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Cook onions, stirring every minute or two, until a medium brown, almost caramel colored, about 25 minutes. [See Note at end.] Scrape onions onto a plate to cool while you finish the bread.

Finish the focaccia: When the dough is doubled, line a 9×13 cake pan with parchment paper and drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil over it. Do not deflate your dough, just scrape it onto the oiled parchment. Drizzle the top of the dough with another tablespoon of olive oil and use your fingers to dimple the dough, flattening it out. It’s okay if it doesn’t reach the edges. Let the dimpled dough rest at room temperature for 15 minutes and heat your oven to 425°F. After 15 minutes, dimple the dough only where needed a little further into the corners. Let rest for a final 15 minutes before scattering the top with onions, poppy seeds, and a few pinches of salt.

Bake the focaccia: For 25 minutes, until deeply golden brown at the edges and across the top. While it bakes, you can prepare any toppings you’d like to serve it with, such as cream cheese or butter, lox, thinly sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, or capers.

To serve: Loosen the focaccia if it’s stuck in any place and slide it into a cutting board. Cut into 12 squares, using a sharp knife to get through the onions on top without pulling them off, and replacing any that scatter. Eat right away.

Do ahead: Focaccia keeps at room temperature for 1 to 2 days. Reheat on a baking sheet at 350°F for 10 to 12 minutes.

Note: These are not caramelized onions; we do not need 60 to 90 minutes over low heat with constant stirring. That is not how any ancestor of mine cooked onions. I’m intentionally using a higher heat for more quickly developed flavor. If they’re not picking up color by 20 minutes, bump up the heat slightly. If they’re coloring too fast to make it to 20 to 25 minutes, reduce the heat. We want to stopping shy of a dark bronzed color, as the onions will finish in the oven and we don’t want them to burn.

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90 comments on focaccia onion board

  1. Trish Hooper

    If I already have some homemade carmelized onions (not too dark), could I use those in this recipe? Second question, could I use a 9×13 baking sheet as I don’t have a 9×13 cake pan, or will I regret the result?

    1. Sarah

      I am a pizza tinkerer, and enjoy finding all the things I can do with pizza/focaccia dough, and the pan really makes the difference here. The walls of the pan hold all the luscious oil in, and gives structure to a very loose dough, which contributes to the chewy texture and a higher rise.

      Cooking it on a baking sheet will give you something that’s more like pizza crust. Perfectly fine, but different. If you have a jelly roll pan (a rimmed baking sheet) that will get you closer, but I’d be tempted to divide the dough between two smaller pans.

    2. deb

      I can’t say for sure that it won’t burn if they’re already pretty caramelized (but you can see the color and texture mine were in the photo, for reference) or that it won’t spill over in a flatter pan but my hunch is that both will be fine.

    3. Deanna

      I generally use a rimmed quarter (13×9) or half sheet pan (18×13) for focaccia and I’ve had no problems with height or oil overflow… Samin Nosrat’s focaccia is very heavy on oil and made in a half sheet pan so it’s not just me being lucky. For this recipe I bet you’d be fine with a quarter sheet pan. I will say from experience don’t try to use a 9×13 glass pan… I’ve tried to use them more than once for focaccia (because I never learn), and the focaccia will adhere solidly to the bottom regardless of how much oil is used.

      1. Donna

        I almost gave up on focaccia because of the stuck like glue problem. Then I stumbled up Alexandracooks.com. She says to butter the baking dish really well, then add the oil. Voila! Comes out perfect every time.

      2. Katrin

        Same here! I made it yesterday and it stuck like glue to the pan. Thanks Deanna for the tip with butter, I try it next time. The bottom was a lovely crunchy crust but not available. (I try not to use non stick pans.)

    1. Ohiogirl

      Me too!
      The overnight rise sounds divinely easy and may give extra flavor to?
      Anyway, please, would love your guidance on this! 🙏🏼

    2. Michelle

      I let it sit on the counter for 45 minutes while I walked the dog and it was perfect for dimpling when I returned. I think you could cut that time back though to 20 minutes or so.

  2. Melvin Whitehead

    Could you please add a note about “dimpling the dough” and how deep your fingers should press into the dough while dimpling? I’m brand new to making breads, so have no frame of reference for this (and imagine others may not as well).

      1. Mick

        I recommend adding bleu cheese with the onions as a topping – I was an onion hater as a child (an error I have since corrected) but the bakery in my little town had a bleu cheese and onion focaccia I couldn’t get enough of, and the flavor combination to this day remains one of the most transcendent forms of an already magnificent food. Thank you for posting this template of inspiration!

  3. Giulia

    I grew up with a grandma from Savona, in the prime focaccia region of Italy, and THE treat in our long summertime seaside afternoons was a slice of onion-covered focaccia. This makes me a bit nostalgic (although in the Ligurian version I’m pretty sure onions are not caramelized, only sliced very thinly and baked on top of the well oiled dough).

  4. Stacy Rosen

    I grew up on a similar “onion board” flatbread that we were obsessed with – it looked just like this but wasn’t as poofy, any suggestions on slightly de-poofing so it’s got a little more chew and crunchy edges?

  5. StevenHB

    Have a happy, healthy, prosperous new year filled with delicious food, Deb!

    Is this more focaccia or pletzel? It’s been so long since I’ve enjoyed a good onion board!

  6. Emily

    Sounds delicious! I might just have to make it as a go-with for your brisket-style chickpeas–this begs to soak up all that lovely tangy gravy…

  7. Gabriela

    I made this right away for dinner the day it was posted – because you were right, I *did* have everything I needed for it already in my kitchen – and I highly recommend! For my husband and I it was a nice flavor change of pace, and all three of our little kids were happy to eat the parts and toppings that they preferred. But now thanks to the combined efforts of my 4yo and 2yo, I am out of capers…. For those needing weeknight meals, I’d also note that a lot of this can be done in stages, so it’s easy to do over short spurts of time.

  8. J. Green

    Unless I want to put up with the results I can’t feed my husband any seeds . Do I need to add a second flavor? Any suggestions?

  9. Michelle

    Your Pletzel recipe certainly triggered some childhood memories spent in NY and Miami Beach Jewish bakeries. The intoxicating aroma of Pletzels is enough to make me drool. Nothing like smothering it with cream cheese.

  10. Lisa

    I wonder what it might be like to use the Trader Joe’s ‘everything but the bagel’ seasoning in place of the poppyseeds!

    1. Kathy D

      I made it with Kroger Everything Bagel seasoning in place of the poppy seeds because I didn’t have any. I liked how it turned out.

    2. Lisa (#2)

      I can confirm that it is amazing with “everything but the bagel” seasoning! Sadly I did not have any lox or cream cheese, so we had to eat this with chicken soup tonight. But it will make a repeat appearance for sure!

  11. Lesley Wiles

    Fabulous recipe: simple, pantry friendly, relatively quick and delish. Read your recipe at 10am and out of the oven by 2:00pm.

  12. Lisa Dreyer

    Hi Deb, I am a faithful fan. I follow your blog and own both your cookbooks and am waiting impatiently, ha, for the new one. Not to take away from your recipe for sure and I know you love helpful info. On Samin Nosrat’s docu series she does a show in the region of Liguria, known for their focaccia. The Master focaccia maker uses salted water to wet his fingers as he “dimples” the dough and uses only his middle and ring fingers to dimple.

    Thank you so much for this recipe. I will make this weekend for brunch with all the toppings. I never thought of subbing focaccia for bagels. I always learn something on your blog!

  13. Froo

    Shana Tovah Deb! This recipe couldn’t have come at a better time. My CSA is giving me more onions than I know what to do with and my grown son is home for a bit. Guess what we’re having tonight?

  14. Leah

    I wish I’d seen this in time to make it for the break fast! But alas, something storebought will have to do. It looks like an excellent offering for Sukkot, though. Nicely portable outside!

  15. Catherine

    I made this today and while I definitely used old yeast and it did not rise as it should have, it was still beyond delicious. I will be making this again with new yeast! It was very easy to make, and as Deb said, it’s easy to make this on a whim because you’re might already have all the ingredients on hand :)

  16. Ellen

    Based on what I had and needed to use up, I replaced about 1/3 (by weight) of the all purpose flour with white whole wheat and used one red and one yellow onion rather than two yellow. Both substitutions worked great and the finished product was delicious!

  17. Ildi

    I have an obsession with yeast dough so I had to make this right away. It came out absolutely delicious! The dough is out of this world, and I could already tell it was going to be really good when it was rising. I think this is what fluffy clouds must taste like. The onions took a little longer to make but came out perfect. I ended up cutting it up in the pan as I didn’t want to rip the delicate dough trying to loosen it from the bottom. This is definitely a keeper!

  18. Naomi

    Lazy onion browning ideas anyone? I’m wondering if I could dump them in a crock pot or instapot and get results that are close to as delicious.

      1. Diana

        I made this today and the process was easy. However, sadly I think I forgot the salt in the dough. :( I salted the onions extra after it came out of the oven. It’s still delicious but I know it would be stellar with salt!

    1. Maggie

      We regularly caramelize several pounds of onions in the crock pot, but it takes a looooong time (like at least 18 hours) to do it. It is pretty much hands-off, though. Just slice as many onions as your slow cooker will hold (for us, that’s about 3 pounds in the small one, or about 5 pounds in the large one), sprinkling with a little bit of salt and drizzling with a bit of melted butter as you get a nice layer in (maybe three or four layers total), PLUG IN THE SLOW COOKER (don’t be like me!), set it to low, slap the lid on, and go to bed. Poke at it with tongs every once in a while after you get up. To keep the whole house from smelling like onions, and because I’m a little paranoid about fire safety, I put the slow cooker on a sheet pan on top of the stove, with the exhaust fan on. Let them cook until they’re as soft and dark as you want them to be.

      It takes ten forevers, but the prize at the end is a big ol’ bowl of onions to keep in the fridge (I suppose they’d freeze just fine, but I’ve never had them last long enough to need to find out) and stir into every.little.thing.

      That being said, I’m not sure I’d use those onions for this, or I would pull some out before they got too soft/dark, because I think a fully caramelized onion would burn during baking.

  19. Annie N

    This reminds of the bialys from The Cheeseboard in Berkeley, CA. So much flavor with what I can only see as salt, onions, and oil. It’s amazing and I’ll bet this focaccia tastes a lot like it.

    1. Diana

      Hi Annie,
      The onion part is definitely reminiscent but the texture of the onion board is softer and lighter than the Cheeseboard bialys. Enjoy if you make it!

  20. Beth

    Thank you for this awesome recipe! It was an awesome addition to our Yom Kippur spread and got rave reviews. It was easy to make and tasted far more special than the sum of its humble ingredients.

  21. Lorraine

    Made this for break fast for me and my husband. Ate with cream cheese and schmaltz herring and it was amazing! Hubby may have eaten the rest for lunch today :)

  22. Isory

    This was easy enough and very nice focaccia. As I feared, however, the onions were almost completely burnt by the time the bread was golden brown (which was at the suggested temperature and time). In anticipation of this, I had already left the onions more pale than medium brown before they went into the oven, but clearly that was not enough.

  23. Amy

    my dad used to buy onion boards when I was little. so delicious, and I can only imagine how good a homemade one would be. definitely adding this to my ‘to be baked’ list

    also….you should visit florida!

  24. Pam McG

    Even with what I thought was a lot of oil in the pan, the entire bottom stuck and I was left with a doughy mass. Parchment paper?

  25. Alexa

    This looks so tasty!! I wonder if the onions could be slow roasted in the oven instead of cooked on the stove? I imagine it would take longer, but with a 15 month old toddling around the house I could probably pull that off more easily.

  26. Kristin Beischel

    This is perfection. Made it exactly as written (overnight rise in the fridge so I didn’t have to wake up early and make it for brunch). Absolutely incredible!

  27. Ohiogirl

    Parchment Paper and overnight rise for the win!
    I made this recipe with high gluten flour, let it rise in the fridge for two days, then brought it out and let it come to room temperature.
    I lined a 9 x 9 pan with parchment paper and oiled it, lined a 13 x 9 pan with parchment paper and oiled it. Split the dough in half and plopped one half in each pan. Let them rise for 30 minutes. (Spreading the dough in the 9 x 13 much thinner, to get it more pletzel-like). Then I topped the thinner dough with the onions, the slightly thicker dough with everything bagel seasoning. Baked.
    Excellent! Both doughs were crisp on the bottom and did not stick to the parchment in any way. Both doughs tasted excellent and very bagel like. The thicker was was splittable, if you wished, for a sandwich or toasting. The onion one crisp and chewy with some softer pockets (I did not cook my onion as much as smitten, so a few were more soft and sweet, which was perfect for me.)

    A winner of a recipe, thank you Smitten!

  28. Becca

    Made this as party of my weekly meal prep! The dough is a cinch to put together and dimpled beautifully once in the pan. Two concerns: 1. Despite all the olive oil beneath the dough, this stuck to the pan really badly. Worked it off eventually but at the cost of some tears. Deb, do you think cooling on the pan would help here, or make it worse? Would a spritz of non-stick spray under the oil do the trick, or would we lose some of the bottom crisp? 2. The onions totally burned. I covered the top with tin foil with 10 minutes left on the clock, and will do so again to reheat.

  29. Jerry Bauer

    It’s hard to believe the coincidental timing of this. You publish this probably on the same day that I was looking for an onion board recipe and thinking to myself that you should have published one. By chance, I opened your site this morning and up it popped. I’m looking forward to revisiting the onion board of my youth.

  30. Morgan

    I made this yesterday! Just FYI I was a little scant on the water and my kitchen was cold- so for the first hour mine did not rise at all. I decided to knead in a little warm water and put it in my oven (170 degrees, minimum setting) for the preheat and then I turned the oven off and let it sit in there for a few hours. It rose! So happy I rescued it because the focaccia turned out wonderfully.

  31. Kel

    Definitely making this soon. I’ll omit the poppy seeds, but hmm. Maybe caraway would make a nice addition instead.

    You could also quickly broil some grated cheese on top and have French Onion Sandwich board! =)

  32. suzanne

    This looks amazing and thank you for the tip about the onions at the end! I’m excited to make this – and for your new cookbook!

  33. DV

    Quick, easy & delicious. I wanted to serve this focaccia with spaghetti & meat sauce so I added garlic to the onions and topped the bread with chopped black olives and fresh herbs (parsley & thyme) before baking. So good! Even though I only cooked the onions until they were lightly browned, they did get a little burnt by the time the focaccia was sufficiently golden brown but, it was still delicious! The bread kept well on the counter and was great reheated @ 350 for 10 minutes.
    Thank you for such an easy, foolproof recipe; definitely going to make again soon!

  34. Kate

    Wow this was delicious and so, so easy. Kids and I ate 4 very generous pieces standing in the kitchen. 6yo daughter demanded she take the rest got lunch.

  35. Tiny

    I halved the recipe and baked it in an 8×8 metal pan. Half of a 9×13 pan would be 58.5 square inches, and an 8×8 is 64 square inches, so the bread was a little thinner, just under an inch, but nice and open crumb. I didn’t change anything else (checked at 20 minutes and ultimately went the full 25), and it was delicious and perfectly salted.

    I did have the problem that my onions were quite dark by the time the top of the bread had browned. My onions were more heterogeneous in color than Deb’s, with the darkest being about as dark as hers. I think next time I will take them to “soft with one or two showing color” in the pan and top the bread with that. Worst case scenario is probably bialy-level onion doneness, which I can live with.

  36. Torrie

    Help me be sure I understand— there is 45 minutes of resting – 3 groups of 15? Just don’t want to mess up :) Making it now and am in the first 15 min

      1. Sarah V.

        Wait, isn’t it only 30 minutes (not 45 as the other commenter said)? Dump into pan, drizzle with oil, dimple but not all the way. Wait 15 minutes. Dimple a little further. Wait 15 minutes. Scatter with onions and poppy seeds, bake. Yes?

  37. Natalia

    I made this and it was delightful! If you’re like me and you’re worried when it’s in the 9×13 pan that it didn’t stretch out enough, worry not! When it bakes it filled out the whole pan. It’s the first time I’ve made bread and it tasted like it was supposed to taste like.

  38. Meghan

    So, I made this focaccia recipe without the fixing… just salt, evoo and rosemary since I did not have onions or poppy seeds. My Mom says it’s her favorite focaccia bread I have every made. It was perfectly crunchy and not too pillowy. Bravo. This will be going on rotation.

    1. Elisabeth

      Oh excellent! I made it, a few days ago with onions (no poppy seeds) and it was great—was looking through the thread to see if someone made it without the onions as I want to serve it with a ratatouille type dish tonight (and the ratatouille has plenty of onions!).

  39. PloniAlmoni

    This was the most delicious thing I have made for a long time – definitely a recipe headed straight for the ‘family cookbook’ (highest praise there is).

    Rather than serving it with lox etc, I used it as a side dish to lentil soup.

    I wrapped the leftovers and put it in the fridge overnight. It reheated to almost the same texture the next day after just a few minutes in the oven. Excellent!

    1. Emily

      Answering my own question :) I used 1.5x what the recipe called for and it was perfect with lox, cream cheese and capers. If eating plain, I’d double the salt.

      Used a half sheet pan and loved the chewy texture with crispy edges — no trouble at all filling the whole pan. I used poppy seeds on one half and everything bagel seasoning on the other. Both were excellent.

      My onions were fairly dark and still didn’t burn. Perfect baking time!