This onion and pepper focaccia is stuffed full of finely minced red onion and poblano pepper with even more rings of red onion and poblano pepper on top. It's also topped with lots and lots of cheddar cheese, plus some flaky salt and cracked black pepper for a bit of a kick.
Sliced into thin strips, this onion and pepper focaccia is the perfect appetizer or side dish, though it can also be used for sandwiches. It's super squishy, airy dough with a crispy bottom and golden brown top. It's so easy to make, I just know you're going to love it!
This onion and pepper focaccia is a riff on my basic no-knead overnight focaccia recipe, and there are lots more tips in that post about the dough and folding process. I've adjusted the amount of water in this recipe to account for the addition of peppers and onions, but otherwise they're pretty much the same.
🌶 Ingredient notes
Here's what you'll need to make this overnight onion and pepper focaccia. (Not pictured: warm water.)
- All-purpose flour - Just like my base focaccia recipe, this uses all-purpose flour. Nothing fancy to see here!
- Sugar - Sugar helps with browning. You need it to get that crispy bottom and golden brown top.
- Kosher salt - I use Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt which has larger, airier crystals than most salt brands. This can require conversions when you measure by volume, but since you'll be measuring by weight you can use whatever salt you have on hand.
- Instant yeast - I use instant yeast which can be mixed right into the dry ingredients. Just make sure not to sprinkle it directly on top of the salt, as salt kills yeast. Store your instant yeast in the freezer and it will last 2x as long.
- Warm water - Around 100-105F. It should be warm to the touch but not hot. Anything over 110-120 will kill the yeast.
- Olive Oil - Use a high quality extra virgin olive oil. I like California Olive Ranch's global blend, but any olive oil with a robust flavor is ideal.
- Poblano peppers - Remove the seeds and ribs for a less spicy focaccia. Leave the ribs and seeds on for more heat. You'll need one poblano to mince and one poblano to cut into thin rings.
- Red onion - This recipe makes use of one small red onion. Half of it will be minced and added to the dough, the other half will be cut into rings for the topping.
- Cheddar cheese - I used a blend of Cabot Vermont Extra Sharp White Cheddar and Cabot New York Extra Sharp Cheddar Cheese here. The white Vermont cheddar is a little meltier than the New York cheddar, but I really liked the flavor of the New York so decided to combine them. You can use your favorite cheddar blend or just pick one cheddar and run with it.
- Flaky salt - I use Maldon Flaky Sea Salt for finishing. The big pyramid crystal shapes are really fun and fancy.
- Cracked black pepper - Honestly, this is totally optional, but I like adding a few light grinds of pepper right before baking for a bit of a snappy kick.
See recipe card for quantities.
🥣 Mixing and folding the dough
Mix the flour, salt, sugar, and yeast together in a medium sized mixing bowl. Be careful not to put the yeast and salt down on top of each other in the bowl — the salt will kill the yeast.
Pour the warm water and olive oil into the center of the bowl and mix until you have a cohesive, wet, shaggy dough. I like to use a dough whisk for this step, but a spatula or your hands will work just fine too.
Gather the dough loosely in the middle of the bowl. Cover, and let it rest for five minutes.
After the dough has rested for five minutes, it's time to do the first set of folds. This is a no-knead focaccia, so the dough just needs two quick and easy sets of folds to build strength and structure so it rises the way we want it to in the pan.
We're also going to use the folds to incorporate the minced peppers and onions so they end up dispersed throughout the dough.
Sprinkle half the minced peppers and onions over the surface of the dough. Use wet hands to grab the top edge of the dough. Stretch it away from you, then fold it down over itself. Rotate the bowl 90 degrees and repeat. Repeat two more times. This should seal most of the minced peppers and onions inside the dough.
Cover the bowl and let it rest for 15 minutes. Then repeat this folding process with the remaining minced peppers and onions. After the final fold, flip the dough so the seam side is down.
Spray the baking pan with non-stick spray. Then drizzle one tablespoon of olive oil inside and tilt the pan to spread it around.
Gently slide your dough out of the bowl and into the middle of the baking dish. If any of the edges come untucked, that's okay. Gently lift the dough to tuck them back under.
Cover the focaccia and let rise at room temperature for 8-12 hours. It's ready when it has filled out the corners of the pan and is looking quite bubbly and airy on top.
🧀 Dimpling and topping focaccia
About an hour before you plan to bake the focaccia, preheat the oven to 400F and top the focaccia.
Thirty minutes prior to baking, dimple and top the focaccia. (If your kitchen runs cold, you can do this step when you begin preheating the oven.)
Drizzle the top of the focaccia with two tablespoons olive oil, then top it with thinly sliced onion and pepper rings. Rub oil on your finger tips and gently dimple the dough, pressing your fingers all the way down until you hit the bottom of the pan.
Top it with shredded cheddar cheese, flaky salt, and cracked black pepper. Place the pan back near the stove (or near the oven) so that the heat gives the yeast one final boost of activity. This will help the dough bubble up around the toppings and hold them in place.
Hint: Don't over-dimple this onion and pepper focaccia. I know it's a really fun part of the process and very tempting to keep poking, but you don't want to knock too much air out of it!
This onion and pepper focaccia bakes for about 20-25 minutes on the center rack of an oven at 400F. If the cheese looks like it's starting to burn, you can tent it with foil for the final 5 minutes of baking, but you should be fine!
🍞 Substitutions and variations
- Extra spicy pepper and onion focaccia - If you want an extra spicy focaccia, leave the seeds in the minced poblano, and use a chili pepper infused olive oil for dimpling and finishing your focaccia. You could also sub in hotter peppers like jalapeños or habaneros in place of poblanos.
- Extra mild pepper and onion focaccia - Use bell peppers or mini sweet peppers instead of poblanos. Skip the cracked black pepper when topping.
- Vegan - Use vegan cheese or omit the cheese entirely.
- Active dry yeast - If you only have active dry yeast, you can use it exactly the same as you do instant yeast. If you want to be extra precise, you'll need 3 grams active dry yeast instead of 2 grams instant yeast.
- Red onion - If you don't like red onion, you can swap it for whatever type of onion you do like.
🔪 Equipment for focaccia
You don't need any fancy tools to make this pepper and onion focaccia. Here's what I used:
- Rectangular baking pan - I like to use the shallow bottom of my cast iron Challenger Bread Pan (one of my Top 10 Favorite Things of 2021!) for this because the rounded corners give the dough a little less space to spread out; that means a thicker focaccia to support all the toppings! I also like that I can use the lid of the Challenger pan to cover the focaccia as it rises. If you don't have the Challenger pan, I recommend using a metal pan (like this 9x13" USA Pan cake pan) if you have one; it'll give you a crispier bottom. But you can also use a 9x13" glass or ceramic casserole dish and be just fine.
- Dough whisk - I use a dough whisk to mix my focaccia dough. A dough whisk is a sturdy, immovable metal coil that is great at cutting through doughs to mix them efficiently. In wet doughs, they're great for breaking up hidden lumps of flour. If you don't have a dough whisk, use a spatula or your hands to mix the dough.
- Kitchen scale - I developed this recipe using weight measurements. You will need a kitchen scale to make it. Kitchen scales are inexpensive (less than $20!) and will make you a much better baker. I promise, a kitchen scale is worth it.
🌡️ Storing focaccia with veggie toppings
A loaded focaccia like this one is best served same day, but if you do need to save it for later you can always freeze it.
To freeze: Cool completely, then wrap well and freeze. You can freeze it as one big piece, but I recommend freezing it in thinner slices or squares (wrapped individually, then stored in a large freezer bag). Defrost on your counter, then reheat in a 375F oven until warmed through.
Focaccia topping food safety: For a focaccia loaded up with lots of peppers and onions and cheese like this one, you'll definitely want to wrap and freeze it, or wrap and refrigerate it rather than leaving it to sit out, especially if you're planning to eat it over several days. The fridge isn't the ideal place for bread (colder temperatures speed up staling), but roasted veggies, onions, and cheese shouldn't sit out at room temperature for long periods of time either.
👩🏻🍳 Recipe FAQ - scaling, measuring, etc!
I tested and developed this recipe using weight measurements. Measuring your ingredients with a kitchen scale is more accurate than cup measurements and will give you the right ratio of water, yeast, salt, and flour so that the focaccia dough behaves the way you want it to during the folding and rising periods. If I were to convert it to cups, I would be using Google — just like you would. And I wouldn't be able to promise you'd get the same delicious results! A kitchen scale is very cheap (this one is about ~$20) and is totally worth it, I promise!
You can divide the recipe in half and bake it in a square or round 8 or 9" pan. The baking time and temperature don't change at all. For a truly mini focaccia, use my small batch loaf pan focaccia, and fold in the peppers and onions in batches after the first resting period. You'll only need about ⅛ cup each minced peppers and onions for the dough.
If you have a Challenger Bread Pan, the domed cast iron lid is perfect for covering the pan while it rises. Be careful when picking it up after the long 8-12 hour rise — if your dough is particularly active, it might be touching the bottom of the lid. If you don't have a bread pan like that, use plastic bowl covers to cover the focaccia during the two short initial resting periods, then use saran wrap to cover the pan itself. You want to avoid letting the plastic wrap touch the surface of the dough as it rises. It's delicate and you don't want the plastic wrap to tear the dough when you pull it up. If your pan is shallow and the plastic wrap will touch the surface, spray the plastic with non-stick spray or add an extra drizzle of oil to the top of the dough to prevent sticking.
Damp or oiled hands will prevent the dough from sticking to your hands. During the two folding steps, use wet/damp hands. If you need to handle the dough once it's in the baking pan, lightly oil your hands to prevent sticking.
Pepper and Onion Focaccia
- 480 grams all-purpose flour
- 375 grams warm water (100°F)
- 14 grams diamond crystal kosher salt
- 14 grams sugar
- 2 grams instant yeast
- 40 grams olive oil
- 1 poblano pepper, seeds removed (minced)
- ½ small red onion (minced)
For the pan
- non-stick spray
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 tablespoons olive oil (divided)
- ¼ cup extra sharp cheddar cheese
- ¼ cup Vermont sharp white cheddar cheese
- ½ small red onion (cut into rings or crescents)
- 1 poblano pepper, seeds removed (cut into rings)
- 1 teaspoon flaky sea salt
- Combine flour, sugar, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle yeast over top, then pour warm water and olive oil directly into the center of the dry ingredients. Mix with your hands or a sturdy wire dough hook until completely combined. The dough will be sticky and very messy. With a damp hand grab a corner of the dough and stretch it over itself. Rotate the bowl and repeat 2-3 more times, just to gather the dough in a loose ball in the center. Cover and rest 5 minutes.
- Sprinkle half of the minced poblano and onion over the dough. Dampen your hands and repeat the folding process, grabbing a corner of the dough, stretching it away and then down over the center of the dough. Rotate the bowl and repeat 2-3 more times. Try to get as many of the peppers and onions tucked inside the dough as you can, but if there are some that don't make it, that's fine. Cover the dough and rest 15 minutes.
- Sprinkle the remaining minced pepper and onion over the dough and repeat the folding process one more time, tucking the peppers and onions inside. The dough should be much smoother, stronger, and stretchier this time. On the final fold, flip the dough over so the seam side is down. Set aside while you prep the pan.
- Spray a 9x13" high-sided baking pan with non-stick spray, making sure to get the sides too. Drizzle 1 tablespoon oil in the center, and tilt the pan to spread the oil out.
- Slide the dough out of the bowl and into the oiled baking pan, keeping the seam side down. If it untucks at all, just gently lift and tuck the edges back under but don't sweat it too much. It'll be ok if it's not perfect. Cover and rest overnight (8-12 hours) at room temperature (~70°F). The focaccia will rise faster in a warmer environment and slower in a colder environment.
- An hour before you plan to bake the focaccia, preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the pan on top of your stove or near the oven to take advantage of the warmth for one last boost of yeast activity before baking.
- 30 minutes before you plan to bake the focaccia, dimple the surface, and add the toppings. The focaccia should have filled out into the corners of the pan and look very bubbly. Drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil across the surface. Top with rings of poblano and onion. Rub some oil on your fingers and gently poke straight down into the focaccia until your fingers touch the bottom of the pan. Don't overdo it. Then top with both cheeses and finish with a sprinkling of flaky sea salt and black pepper. (If your kitchen runs cold, do this step 1 hour prior to baking.)
- Bake. Bake on a center rack for 22-25 minutes or until golden brown on top. The focaccia should pull away from the edges of the pan. Immediately drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Let cool in the pan 5-10 minutes, then remove to a cooling rack so it doesn't get soggy. Cool completely (or almost completely) before serving.
- You can divide the recipe in half and bake it in a square or round 8 or 9" pan. For a truly mini focaccia, use my small batch loaf pan focaccia, and fold in the peppers and onions in batches after the first resting period.
- To freeze: Cool completely, then wrap well and freeze. You can freeze it as one big piece, but I recommend freezing it in thinner slices or squares (wrapped individually, then stored in a large freezer bag). Defrost on your counter, then reheat in a 375F oven until warmed through.
- Focaccia topping food safety: For a focaccia loaded up with lots of peppers and onions and cheese like this one, you'll definitely want to wrap and freeze it, or wrap and refrigerate it rather than leaving it to sit out, especially if you're planning to eat it over several days. The fridge isn't the ideal place for bread (colder temperatures speed up staling), but roasted veggies, onions, and cheese shouldn't sit out at room temperature for long periods of time either.
- Don't leave prepared food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove