Exploring the Controversy: Is Chicago Deep Dish Pizza Really a Casserole?

Chicago deep dish pizza, a culinary icon of the Windy City, has been at the center of a heated debate for years. Is it a pizza or is it a casserole? This question has divided food enthusiasts, critics, and pizza lovers alike. While some argue that its thick crust and hearty fillings make it more akin to a casserole, others insist that it is a pizza, albeit a unique one. Let’s delve into this controversy and explore the arguments on both sides.

What Defines a Pizza?

Before we can answer whether Chicago deep dish is a pizza or a casserole, we need to understand what defines a pizza. Traditionally, a pizza is a yeasted flatbread typically topped with tomato sauce and cheese and baked in an oven. It is often garnished with a variety of ingredients including meats, vegetables, and condiments. The key elements are the crust, sauce, cheese, and toppings.

What Defines a Casserole?

A casserole, on the other hand, is a type of dish where the ingredients are assembled and baked together. It typically includes pieces of meat or fish, various chopped vegetables, a starchy binder such as flour, rice, potato or pasta, and, often, a crunchy or cheesy topping. Casseroles are usually cooked slowly in the oven and are often served as a main dish.

Is Chicago Deep Dish Pizza a Casserole?

Now, let’s examine the Chicago deep dish pizza. It features a thick crust that lines a deep-dish pizza pan, a generous layer of cheese, various toppings, and is finished with a chunky tomato sauce. The crust is more akin to a pie crust than a traditional pizza base, and the pizza is assembled “upside down” with cheese and toppings placed before the sauce.

Those who argue that Chicago deep dish is a casserole point to its deep pan, the amount of filling, and the order of assembly as evidence. They argue that these characteristics align more closely with a casserole than a traditional pizza.

However, proponents of the pizza argument counter that despite its unique characteristics, the Chicago deep dish still maintains the fundamental elements of a pizza – crust, cheese, sauce, and toppings. They argue that the deep dish is simply a variation of pizza, much like how a calzone or a stromboli are variations of the traditional pizza.


So, is Chicago deep dish pizza really a casserole? The answer largely depends on one’s interpretation of what constitutes a pizza and a casserole. While it shares characteristics with both, it is ultimately a unique dish that has carved out its own niche in the culinary world. Whether you choose to call it a pizza or a casserole, one thing is certain – the Chicago deep dish is a delicious creation that has won the hearts of food lovers around the world.