German Onion Pie (Zwiebelkuchen) is one of my favourite traditional German foods. I got this authentic recipe from a 90-year-old lady when I was living in Germany. Simple, inexpensive and sooo delicious!
Zwiebelkuchen, a traditional southern German dish, translates literally as onion cake. More apt would be to call it an onion pie or tart in English. As with any other tart, Zwiebelkuchen consists of a dough base and the filing.
My first taste of Zwiebelkuchen was at Stuttgart Wine Festival some 28 years ago. It’s usually served with wine. I fell in love with Zwiebelkuchen ever since. I could eat it every day. Literally.
The base in many German recipes for tarts or cakes, sweet or savoury, is often made with the yeasted dough rather than shortcrust pastry. The same applies to Zwiebelkuchen. I prefer sourdough over yeast, so here you can find the original Zwiebelkuchen recipe with the yeasted base as well as my sourdough version.
If I’m making Zwiebelkuchen as a main meal, I bake it in a round cake tin as in the picture above and serve it with salad. Sometimes I make mini Zwiebelkuchen pies or bake it in a large tray to serve as finger food (see pictures below).
German Onion Pie Base (dough)
As mentioned above, the base is traditionally rich, yeasted dough. I converted the recipe into a sourdough base and it works well. Below you’ll find both versions. If baking in a large baking tray and you might need to increase ingredients for the dough to 1.2 or 1.5 the amounts given.
Roll out the dough thinly and lay it on an oiled baking tray. Trim the excess dough around the edges.
The main ingredient for the filling, onions – lots of them, are diced finely, sauteed until soft and translucent. Then you add eggs, sour cream, flour, salt and caraway seeds. If you like, you can add diced fried bacon.
The filling is spread evenly onto the dough base. If baking in a round springform, the filling should reach the edge of the dough.
Bake the Zwiebelkuchen at 190 – 200 C for half an hour in a tray or 45-50 minutes in a springform. When baked, the top should look golden brown and the base should be crisp. If the base is pale and soft, the tart needs further baking at the lowest level/shelf in the oven.
When slightly cool, cut the tray Zwiebelkuchen into squares, thin finger size bites or into wedges if baked in a round tin. Serve with a salad or sauces of your choice. It’s delicious warm, but equally good cold the next day, although it reheats well if you prefer.
Zwiebelkuchen stores well in the fridge and it’s a great dish to bake a day ahead. It’s easier to cut well when cold. You can freeze it, too. Zwiebelkuchen is great for picnics as well as a fantastic lunch box item.
German Onion Pie With Sourdough Base (Zwiebelkuchen)
Sourdough Base (see notes below for yeasted dough base)
- 150 g sourdough starter, 100% hydration
- 250 g white flour
- 1 large egg
- 50 g softened butter
- 6 g salt
- 2 tbsp water
- 1.2 kg brown onions, diced finely
- 3 tbsp oil
- 80 g white flour
- 200 g sour cream
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- 1½ – 2 tsp salt
- 2-3 tsp caraway seeds
To Make Sourdough Base
- Mix all the ingredients together using a spoon, then knead into a firm dough. You might need extra water if using small egg.
- Put the dough into a bowl and cover. Rest for about 10 minutes.
- Knead the dough for a couple of minutes, then return to the bowl and cover.
- Leave the dough to rise at room temperature for about 8 hours or more if the ambient temperature is on the cool side. Alternatively, leave it to rise at room themperature for a couple of hours, then put it into the fridge for up to 24-36 hours.
- When the dough has risen, put it onto a lightly floured bench and roll to fit your baking dish. If you had the dough in the fridge, take it out an hour or two before rolling.
- Oil the baking tray or a springform lightly with a pastry brush, then lay the rolled dough. If using a baking tray, have the dough one cm up the edges, and five cm in the round 28 Ø cm springform.
- Cover the baking tray/springform while you prepare the filling.
- Preheat the oven to 180° C fan-forced or 200° C without the fan.
To Make Filling
- Peel and dice the onions. You can use food processor as well, however, make sure the onions aren't chopped too finely.
- Heat the oil in a large pot, add onions and saute on medium heat mixing constantly until softened and translucent, making sure onions don't brown.
- Turn the heat off, add flour and mix well. Add the rest of the ingredients. Mix.
- Spread the filling evenly over the base.
- Bake the Zwiebelkuchen for half an hour in a tray or 45-55 minutes in a springform, depending on the thickness. When baked, the top should look golden brown and the base should be crisp. If the base is pale and soft, the tart needs further baking at the lowest level/shelf in the oven.
- Cool slightly and cut to desired shape/size servings.