Fried Pizza Dough is So Delightful, You'll Need No Toppings

January 31, 2017

Pizza crust is undervalued. I know it because I pass not one, not two, but three dollar-slice establishments on my way to work, wading through frowns of dough morning and night.

Truly :( pizza crust.

A photo posted by Saddest Food of NYC (@saddestfoodofnyc) on

But the crust, when done well, is the best part. I save it for last, not to kick it to the curb, but to eat it slowly, end to end. To think, what would pizza be without crust? On a thin pizza, it's the crunch counterpart to the almost soupy middle; on a heftier one, it's plain fluff, a relieving sauce-soaker-upper at the end of a sagging slice. Crust shouldn't be tough or damp or—again, many will disagree—cold. (In those circumstances, discard it: You have my blessing.)

The crust is the best part of pizza.
A heretic!

For those of you who agree—who also have visions of gnawing off the circumference of an entire circle and leaving the saucy, cheesy inner for others—you'll want to fry your next batch of dough. Giving a disc of dough a bubble bath in hot oil makes for a crackling exterior and the airiest, fluffiest, most trampoline-like insides of anything you've had before. It's a crust so delightful that it needs no toppings. (And it's not slick or greasy: I promise.)

It's easy to do: Make your favorite pizza dough (I like the Genius recipe from Jim Lahey, because it requires patience rather than kneading), then divide it up and flatten each piece to yoga mat-thickness (too thin and you'll sacrifice a chewy interior). Next, dredge it in a mixture of flour and cornmeal and season with salt, pepper, and cayenne (experiment with other spices, if you'd like) and fry the pizza pucks in about an inch of oil that you've heated to 350°F. You'll want to use a heavy-bottomed pan with high sides (there'll be some splattering) and to strain the oil between batches if it gets too gritty. Cook each piece until golden, then flip.

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When the dough disc is a glistening golden-brown pillow, transfer to a rack or a paper towel-lined plate, sprinkle with salt (and chopped fresh herbs), and tear it to pieces like you are a pizza rat wild animal.

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Top Comment:
“It was basically pizza dough, stretched out and deep fried. You could either serve it with a marinara sauce or dust with powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar. Dinner & dessert in one batch. My college dormitory would have sell fried dough as a fundraiser for our quarterly parties. Every time I visit Connecticut, one of the must-eat items is fried dough. ”
— HalfPint

Or, use it as a dipper. At Allswell in Brooklyn, Chef Nate Smith serves their "griddled sourdough" (he uses a sourdough flatbread as the base recipe) with a spicy edamame dip, but it would be excellent with anything herby, like cilantro-lime yogurt, or fiery, like cayenne-spiced bean dip. And, yes, it'd be good swiped through tomato sauce, too.

If you're really missing the toppings and slices that make a pizza a pizza, you can always dress it up right after the fry (follow the lead of Speedy Romeo's genius grilled pizza)—you'll have eliminated any risk of a saddeningly soggy crust and avoided the scare of transferring a fully-dressed pizza to a burning-hot stone.

And before we start comparing fried pizza dough to fried Oreos, fried Twinkies, and fried Coca Cola, let's remember that the Italians did it first—they just called it montanara.

How do I top thee? Let me count the ways...

  • Chorizo + white beans + cheddar
  • Salsa verde + poached tuna
  • Smushed or chopped meatballs + mozzarella
  • Blue cheese + caramelized onions + fig compote
  • Pickled radishes + refried beans + sliced avocado + fried eggs
  • Pear + honey + goat cheese
  • Roasted broccoli rabe + sausage
  • Chive-y crème fraîche + salmon + radish
  • Ricotta + sautéed dates + flaky salt
  • Sautéed mushrooms + Parmesan
  • Shaved broccoli + sundried tomatoes + cheddar
  • Sliced persimmons + prosciutto + smoked Gouda

What would you top your fried pizza dough with? Tell us in the comments!

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • pastel
  • Izzy Sanchez-Mendoza
    Izzy Sanchez-Mendoza
  • Imogen
  • paninigirl
  • HalfPint
Sarah Jampel

Written by: Sarah Jampel

A (former) student of English, a lover of raisins, a user of comma splices. My spirit animal is an eggplant. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream. For that, I'm sorry.


pastel February 10, 2017
What does the cornmeal in the dredge contribute to the finished fried dough?
Author Comment
Sarah J. February 11, 2017
It adds a tiny bit of coarseness to the final product. I'm sure skipping it wouldn't be detrimental to the success of the fried dough, but you might get a slightly less interesting result!
pastel February 11, 2017
Thank you. I wondered if it was for structure or flavor. I've made fried dough served warm with powdered sugar several times and am intrigued by the idea of savory fried bread.
Izzy S. February 1, 2017
Looks delicious, but did you see saddestfoodofnyc come after your food styling Sarah Jampel lmao I am so sorry but I must admit I laughed
Imogen January 31, 2017
I top this with taco toppings: spicy meat, salsa, sour cream, shredded cheese, avocado. A fried egg on top if you're feeling brave.

It will also work with unyeasted doughs if you get the consistency right.
paninigirl January 31, 2017
I too grew up eating this topped with tomato sauce and a little grated parm. My grandmother used to work in the local bazaar frying these up at the Italian church in town-they were 25 cents!
HalfPint January 31, 2017
I grew up in Connecticut and we had fried dough. It was basically pizza dough, stretched out and deep fried. You could either serve it with a marinara sauce or dust with powdered sugar or cinnamon sugar. Dinner & dessert in one batch. My college dormitory would have sell fried dough as a fundraiser for our quarterly parties. Every time I visit Connecticut, one of the must-eat items is fried dough.
Olivia B. January 31, 2017
My favorite part of pizza is the half inch right before the crust that is just sauce-soaked bread—to me, that is the sweet spot, like the the oysters of the chicken. And then the crust, too. I love crust.
Franca January 31, 2017
The food of my childhood. My mother used to sprinkle sugar on them while still hot.
Gunjan S. January 31, 2017
A version of this is called bhatura in India, and is served with chickpeas curry. Flatten into disks and deep fry till puffed and golden. Use to scoop up chickpeas curry, with picked onions and green chillies on the side.
Author Comment
Sarah J. January 31, 2017
Yes! So good! I love how puffed and hollow those are inside. Using the Lahey dough doesn't produce something quite as balloon-like.
Panfusine January 31, 2017
She beat me to it , Jim Lahey's dough is my GO-to
Author Comment
Sarah J. January 31, 2017
What a coincidence!! Looks great.
Smaug January 31, 2017
I see no reason this wouldn't work as well with any sort of bread dough, at least any high hydration type.