Simple and completely delicious Vegan Focaccia is chewy yet soft with a super crispy exterior and immense flavor. You don’t need to be a pro baker to make this tasty yeasted bread. This dough rests overnight in the fridge for more flavor and hands-off time.
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Hey Internet, it’s been a while since I did some real baking, and focaccia is one of my favorite breads.
Focaccia is a yeasted bread originating in Italy. It’s very similar to pizza dough.
I know what you’re thinking: isn’t focaccia already vegan?
Technically the dough is vegan, yes. But every focaccia loaf I’ve ever seen at the store has been covered with cheese, and sometimes meat.
So I decided to have a go at making my own completely vegan focaccia. And holy yum, it’s delicious and actually, it’s pretty easy to make.
It’s even easier than my vegan challah, although they’re honestly both really easy when it comes to bread making.
Now, I haven’t tried my hand at more complex baking like sourdough or sandwich type bread (but now I really want to)... but honestly, this focaccia is really quite easy.
I’m not even a super confident baker. Cooking, yeah, I can throw stuff and make it taste great (most of the time, everyone makes mistakes lol, but they’re few and far between), but baking? Baking is kind of scary.
So I went into this scared, but I took it step by step. From proofing the yeast to mixing, to kneading (only a tiny bit of kneading!), to rising, to letting it sit in the fridge, to the super fun dimpling process, and decorating (!!!) the top, and finally baking--it’s a lot of pretty easy steps put together to make this recipe.
As you can see from the photos, I also decided to decorate the top of my vegan focaccia with vegetables.
Garden focaccia--this is a thing! And many people make very elaborate art on theirs.
I kept mine pretty simple, but I love the flavor that the onions, chives, bell peppers, and tomatoes add.
If you don’t want to put veggies on yours, that’s fine, it will still taste delicious.
Let’s get into the recipe.
What You’ll Need
- Warm water: You’ll need two cups of warm (but not hot) water to proof the yeast (not as scary as it sounds!). If you like to measure, you’re looking for the water to be between 105 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit (or between 40 and 43 degrees Celsius) for proofing yeast. I just run the warm water on my sink until it’s definitely warm on my hand (best to test the inside of your wrist which is more sensitive) but not hot or uncomfortable. Divide this water--we’ll use half at first then add half later.
- Active dry yeast: One packet of active dry yeast is all this recipe requires. Make sure yours is relatively new--old yeast won’t rise. For best results, buy new yeast for this recipe and refrigerate the packets until you’re ready to use them.
- Organic sugar: This recipe is NOT sweet--but we need just a smidge (two teaspoons) of sugar to proof the yeast (as yeast feeds on sugar). I use organic cane sugar--organic is important, at least in the United States, as non organic sugar can be not vegan as it’s often filtered through animal bone char.
- Flour: I used unbleached all purpose flour for this recipe. There are recipes for gluten-free focaccia so I’ve linked to my friend Kristen’s recipe… I’m not well versed in baking gluten-free bread so I don’t feel like I can say “just use gluten-free flour and this will turn out great.” So if you can’t have gluten, I’d go and try Kristen’s recipe!
- Sea salt: This is to flavor the dough--if you’re watching your sodium you can reduce the salt by half, but don’t remove it completely. If you’re using table salt, use half the amount I list since table salt is finer and ends up tasting much saltier than larger grain salt.
- Extra virgin olive oil: Unfortunately, this can’t be an oil-free recipe. Extra virgin olive oil is really important for a good focaccia. If you really can’t have oil, you can try substituting the oil in the dough with canned coconut milk--I’ve baked yeasted breads with coconut milk before and had good success, like with my chocolate vegan babka. For the drizzle on top of the bread (before baking), you could brush on vegan egg wash which is three tablespoons of almond milk with one tablespoon of agave. This will give it a lightly sweet flavor and the crust won’t be as crispy, but it will help it brown and create a crust.
- Minced garlic: This is optional, but I added it to the top of my focaccia just before baking and it gives a lovely flavor to the bread.
- Toppings: If you like the idea of decorating your vegan focaccia, any light-weight, quick cooking vegetable will work well. We used chives, mini bell peppers, red pearl onions, cherry tomatoes (use a paper towel to squeeze out some of the liquid so your bread stays crispy), and parsley. You could also try experimenting with any other herbs, green onions, sliced garlic, corn, thin asparagus spears, sliced zucchini or yellow squash, finely chopped broccoli florets, etc. If you’d prefer not to decorate, I recommend a topping of finely minced garlic (mix it in with the olive oil and brush it on top), finely chopped herbs like fresh rosemary, thyme, parsley, etc. Keep in mind that delicate herbs like basil tend to turn brown when cooked. Other great topping ideas include vegan Parmesan cheese (we like Violife cheese, or you can use my homemade vegan Parmesan topping that takes 2 minutes to make), vegan pepperoni, sesame seeds, pine nuts, olives, pesto (like my cashew pesto), or olives which would be delicious.
- Flaky salt and black pepper, optional: Right before baking I like to season the top of the bread with fancy flaky salt (although a sprinkle of regular sea salt is fine too) and a few grinds of fresh black pepper.
How to Properly Measure Flour
We want to measure our flour by weight, not by volume. When you scoop flour out of a bag or tin with a measuring cup, you're packing it in there and not necessarily getting the same amount each time.
What's better is to use a food scale with a tare function (allowing you to zero out the scale after you've put the bowl on it so your bowl isn't playing a factor in your equation.
Working in grams, put your bowl on the scale and zero it out. Scoop the flour into the bowl until you reach the desired measurement.
What Size Focaccia Are You Looking To Make?
If that seems like a lot of focaccia to you, keep in mind that the leftovers freeze wonderfully.
You can also freeze half of the dough and make another loaf of vegan focaccia at a later date. To do this, split the dough after you’ve punched it down after the first rise and brush all sides of one half of the dough, then wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and then freezer paper or a ziplock bag.
When ready to bake, let it thaw overnight in the fridge (up to 24 hours) and remove. Let it come to temperature on the kitchen counter and stretch it to fit your pan and continue with the recipe. You still will have to put it in the greased pan and let it rest overnight in the fridge as this is an important part of the baking process.
Note that now you have half the dough, you should use a quarter size sheet pan (13 x 9).
You may also put the full dough for this focaccia in a deep rectangular baking pan but it will require a longer baking time because it will be thicker. I cannot promise how this will turn out as I have not tested it.
How to Make Vegan Focaccia
Make the Dough
- Equipment note: A stand mixer with a dough hook is very helpful with this recipe but if you don’t have one, a strong arm with a strong wooden spoon and a big mixing bowl will work. If you’re going to be baking lots of bread though, I can’t recommend a stand mixer enough.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a large mixing bowl, mix one half of the warm water (1 cup) (ideally between 105 and 110 degrees Fahrenheit (or between 40 and 43 degrees Celsius)--definitely warm but not uncomfortably hot), the two teaspoons of sugar, and the packet of active dry yeast with a whisk (or using the whisk attachment on your mixer) briefly until combined. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel and let it do its thing for 5-10 minutes.
- While the yeast is proofing, measure out your flour (preferably using a kitchen food scale, or if you can’t, at least spoon and level the flour. Spooning and leveling consists of spooning flour from the bag into a measuring cup over a bowl until it creates a little mountain on top, then leveling it off with the straight side of a butter knife or icing spatula. This is the second most accurate way of measuring flour, with the food scale being the first. Digging the cup into the flour bag will pack more flour into the cup, causing your measurements to be grossly inaccurate which may ruin the recipe. One time I tested this recipe I added too much flour and I was unable to save it (it turned into a very crunchy flatbread, not in a good way). You can also measure out the salt and oil at this time.
- A note about the flour: After measuring, remove about 1 cup and set aside. We’ll mix the flour in at different steps which helps develop a soft and smooth dough.
- Remove the cloth from the yeast--it should look somewhat foamy. If it doesn’t, and the yeast just kind of sank to the bottom, your yeast is likely dead and you’ll need to purchase some new yeast and start over with the proofing process before continuing.
- Now add the second half of the warm water (check to make sure it’s still warm--if you already measured it and it cooled down, warm it back up again), the olive oil, the sea salt, and the one cup of flour you set aside. Mix on low with a dough hook or paddle attachment (or with a strong wooden spoon if working by hand) for about 30 seconds.
- Now add the remaining flour but save about a half cup of it and set that aside. Mix for another 2-3 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl every so often. Check the dough now--is it still very sticky and sticking to the sides of the bowl/your hands? If so, add the half cup of flour you saved and mix until incorporated.
- Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. With lightly floured hands, knead the dough for about 5 minutes. While you can knead in your stand mixer, I found it easier and faster to do by hand due to the thickness of the dough. While you’re kneading, if you find the dough to be at all wet or sticking to the board, you can sprinkle on a little more flour (about 1-2 teaspoons at a time) and work those in and reassess. Don’t add too much flour, it’s much harder to get it to the right consistency if it has dried out too much.
- You can check the gluten development with your finger--press it gently into the dough. If the dough slowly bounces back, it’s ready for the next step. If not, knead for a few more minutes and check again.
Let The Dough Rise
- Lightly oil a large mixing bowl and place the dough in it and then turn the dough over so all sides are lightly coated. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel or plastic proofing bag. I like to rise my dough in the oven since my house is always a little cold. I place the bowl on the upper rack (still covered with a towel) and turn the light on and close the door. For an extra boost, I like to boil a small pot of water (I use just a 1 quart sauce pan) and place that on the rack directly below the bowl and shut the door again. The steam helps heat the environment just enough for the dough to rise nicely.
- Let the dough rise in a dark, warm place for 1 ½ to 2 ½ hours, until the dough has doubled in size. How fast it doubles will depend on how warm the environment is.
- When the time is almost up, prepare your baking pan by brushing olive oil all over the surface and inside walls of the pan. This will create the crust so don’t be too stingy!
- When the dough has doubled, remove from the oven and punch it down to remove air bubbles. Note: If you’re going to freeze half the dough for later, do that now. You can find the freezing instructions in the notes section of this recipe or above in the What Size Focaccia Are You Looking To Make section and you’ll consequently need to use a quarter size sheet pan (13x9 inches).
- Turn the dough out onto the pan and begin lightly stretching it to fill the shape of the pan. Be very careful not to create any holes in the dough--if you do, ball it back up and start over. If the dough keeps shrinking back (this is normal and happens to me too!), cover it with a large kitchen towel and let the gluten rest for 10 or so minutes, then resume stretching and it should be much easier.
Now Let The Dough Rest
- Very tightly wrap the pan in plastic wrap, and then cover with a towel (to make sure nothing splashes on it) and place in the fridge to rest overnight. The dough should rest a minimum of 12 hours, but can rest up to 24 hours. I like to do it as close to 24 hours as I can because it is developing a lot of great flavor while it rests in the fridge! But do not remove it and attempt to bake it if it has not been 12 hours yet.
- Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature for about 30 minutes while you prepare everything else. DO NOT uncover it during this time as you do not want the dough to dry out.
Prepare to Bake
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit (232 degrees Celsius).
- Mince your garlic, measure out 3 tablespoons of olive oil, and mix them together. You can also mix in your chopped herbs if you’d prefer not to create a design on top of your vegan focaccia.
- Chop any veggies you’ll be using. I like to thinly slice the mini bell peppers and pearl onions (this also makes the skins of the onion easier to remove). For the cherry tomatoes, squeeze or dry out the insides a bit with a paper towel so the liquid doesn’t seep into your focaccia and ruin the crispy crust we’re trying to create.
- This is the fun part in my opinion--remove the covering from the focaccia and use your fingers to dimple the dough all over. Don’t press so hard you create holes--we’re going about halfway through the dough and just dimpling it.
- Use a pastry brush or your hands to cover the dough with the olive oil/garlic mixture. If just using oil and no garlic or herbs, you can drizzle it on but still use a brush or your hands to distribute it evenly.
- If you’d like, decorate the focaccia now. To create the flowers, I placed down a few chives as stems first, used parsley to create leaves, and created the flowers with red onion slices in the center and bell pepper slices as the petals. You can do whatever type of design you like--get creative! If you have kids, involve them in this process. I would have loved something like this as a kid--you get to create art and then you get to eat it! My two favorite things! Lol.
- Finally, season the top of the focaccia with flaky salt or a sprinkle of regular salt and a few grinds of black pepper.
- Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the top has lightly browned. If you can, use your oven light to check on it so you don’t release heat from the oven.
- Remove from the oven and let it cool for about 10 minutes. Then you can slice and serve--warm focaccia is incredibly delicious. Room temperature is good too though!
- Store focaccia in an airtight container on the counter for up to 3 days. It is best on the first day, and starts to go stale after that since there are no chemical preservatives unlike store-bought bread. You can freeze any leftovers though--thank goodness bread freezes so well. You can also reheat focaccia in a toaster oven to get back the crispy texture.
More Easy Baking Recipes
I don’t know about you but I’m really starting to get into baking. It’s challenging but SO REWARDING.
Here’s some of my favorite recipes for vegan baked goods--perfect for novice and intermediate bakers.
- Vegan Challah (another super easy bread)
- Vegan Bagels
- Quick Vegan Pizza Dough
- Vegan Monkey Bread
- Vegan Babka
- Traditional Thick Crust Oil-Free Pizza Dough
- Vegan Chocolate Chip Scones
- Vegan Irish Soda Bread
- Easy Pie Crust - try with my Vegan Pumpkin Pie
- Vegan Coconut Cake
- Gluten-Free and Vegan Banana Bread
- Vegan Hamantaschen (triangular shaped pastries with sweet fillings)
As always, I hope you love this recipe--I know I do, and Mr. Zardyplants does too.
This vegan focaccia is:Crispy on the outsideSoft on the insideInfused with olive oil in every biteGarlickyHerbyBreadySatisfyingAnd perfect for impressing guests or enjoying with the family!
Let me know in the comments below if you make this recipe or tag me @Zardyplants on Instagram so I can see your beautiful recreations! If you tag me on IG, I will share your post in my stories :)
Also, one quick request: if you love how this recipe looks or tastes, please leave me a 5-star rating and a nice comment–ratings help more people find my recipes which helps me keep providing them! Thank you!