Zwiebelkuchen – Vegan, Whole Wheat German Onion Cake

9 Feb

Think about a dish that is made in your family – one that you absolutely love – but have a hard time explaining to others. For me, that dish is Zwiebelkuchen. A Schwäbisch (Swabian) dish, Zwiebelkuchen is soooo delicious. But when I try to explain it to non-Germans, it comes off as odd, at best: “literally translated, it means onion cake. It has a yeasted crust, a custardy sauteed onion filling, and is usually topped with cooked ham and caraway seeds.”

Zwiebelkuchen Vegan German Onion Cake |

Despite the strange description, Zwiebelkuchen is full of flavor, and as a family favorite, is always requested of my Oma to make for dinner.

Since becoming vegetarian, and now vegan, I haven’t been able to enjoy Oma’s traditional recipe, so I developed this vegan, whole wheat version as an alternative! The crust is still made with yeast, but I replaced some of the white flour with whole wheat flour, and used soy milk and coconut oil. The filling is loaded with gently-sauteed onions in dairy-free butter, mixed with flax eggs and more soy milk. The ham is crucial in this dish, so I replaced it with smoky-marinated diced tempeh.

The result? A hearty, delicious Zwiebelkuchen that everyone can enjoy. It’s even Oma-approved!


Zwiebelkuchen, adapted & translated from Daily Vegan

Makes one 9″ round cake, to serve 8

For the dough:

  • 2 C (250 g) flour – I measured with a kitchen scale and used a baking blend of 50% whole wheat and 50% all purpose
  • 1/3 C coconut oil, melted
  • 3/4 oz fast-rising yeast (three packets)
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp cane sugar
  • 2/3 C soy or almond milk, warmed

For the filling:

  • 1/3 block tempeh, diced
  • 1 tbsp olive oil + more to cook
  • 2 tbsp liquid aminos or soy sauce
  • 1 tsp liquid smoke
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • dash of cayenne
  • 4 medium yellow onions, diced
  • 1/3 C vegan butter + more to finish
  • 1 tbsp flour (same as used in the dough)
  • 2 tbsp flaxseed meal mixed with 6 tbsp warm water and set to thicken
  • 1/2 C soy or almond milk
  • sea salt, to taste
  • dried fennel seeds, to taste

Place the diced tempeh and the next 6 ingredients (through cayenne) into a glass dish. Stir to coat and set aside to marinade.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the yeast with 1/4 C of the warmed milk add the sugar and a few spoonfuls of the weighed-out flour and mix together. Place somewhere warm for 15 minutes, to allow the yeast to activate.

Mix in the remaining flour, salt, and the rest of the milk. Add the melted coconut oil and knead together. Place back into the bowl and set in the warm place for another 30 minutes to let it rise.

Zwiebelkuchen Vegan German Onion Cake |

Now preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Line a 9″ springform cake pan with parchment paper on the bottom.

Rollout the dough to 1/4″ thickness. Transfer the dough to the lined pan and press it up the edges and into the corners. The dough should go up the sides at least an inch. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and set aside for 30 minutes again.

Zwiebelkuchen Vegan German Onion Cake |

Meanwhile, cook the smoked tempeh. Heat some olive oil in a large saute pan over medium high. Transfer the marinated tempeh to the hot oil and cook through completely, stirring occasionally. Once cooked, transfer back to the bowl and set aside.

Wipe out the saute pan with a clean cloth or paper towel and return to medium heat. Add in the vegan butter and diced onions. Saute the onions until fragrant and translucent – do NOT let them get brown or burnt! Once the onions are done to your liking, stir in the spoonful of flour and cook through. Then stir in the thickened flaxseed meal and milk. Finally, stir in the cooked marinated tempeh. Taste and season with sea salt. Pour this entire mixture into the dough-lined cake pan.

Sprinkle with fennel seeds – use as much or little as you like, but the flavor is crucial to this dish!

Turn the oven down to 375 and bake, uncovered, for 30-35 minutes. Note: my oven cooks hot, which is why I have to turn down the heat. If yours cooks like “normal,” you can safely bake at 400.

Remove from the oven and let cool 10 minutes before slicing into eight pieces. Serve hot with a green salad, cooked vegetables, or on its own!


16 Responses to “Zwiebelkuchen – Vegan, Whole Wheat German Onion Cake”

  1. Abbey Sharp February 12, 2018 at 2:38 pm #

    This onion cake looks very delicious and super easy to pull off

  2. Emily February 12, 2018 at 3:50 pm #

    This sounds so interesting!! I love how you made it healthier 🙂

  3. Deborah @ Confessions of mother runner February 12, 2018 at 4:58 pm #

    I have never heard of this before! What a great vegan entree idea

  4. Chrissy Carroll February 12, 2018 at 6:51 pm #

    I’m so intrigued by this! I often make a caramelized onion tart but that’s really just pie crust, onions, and cheese lol. This onion cake looks way healthier!

  5. Miss Whisk, A Whisk and Two Wands February 12, 2018 at 6:56 pm #

    I am very intrigued by this! So like a bread or tart savory not sweet. In my head I was thinking a cake and I know I’ve seen savory like rosemary olive oil but was trying to picture the onion, although onions can be on the sweeter side. I think I’m going to have to give this a try to fully wrap my head around it!!

    • xtinaluvspink February 13, 2018 at 1:09 pm #

      Definitely savory. This is the main dish for dinner, paired with a salad 🙂

  6. Dixya @ Food, Pleasure, and Health February 12, 2018 at 7:36 pm #

    i have never seen or heard of this dish but i love the flavor combo!!!

  7. Mikki February 12, 2018 at 9:15 pm #

    Oh I love being able to take old, family favorites and make the new and adaptable to a vegan diet. This looks wonderful. So glad you were able to make it again.

  8. Jessica Fishman Levinson February 12, 2018 at 9:52 pm #

    What a creative recipe! Love that you were able to make a healthier version!

  9. Laura February 13, 2018 at 2:16 am #

    Love the onion cakes. I usually have tried the French one that is similar to this. Love the ingredients in this.

    • xtinaluvspink February 13, 2018 at 1:08 pm #

      I haven’t tried the French version! Bet it’s delicious.

  10. February 13, 2018 at 8:42 am #

    Oh my! This sounds so amazing! I have never made anything like this, so can’t wait to try it!

  11. Julie @ Running in a Skirt February 13, 2018 at 1:06 pm #

    I bet this tastes incredible! What a fun meal!

  12. Jill Conyers February 14, 2018 at 3:49 am #

    I’ve never heard of an onion cake before. If I can tweak it to make it gluten free I’d love to try it.

  13. Farrah February 14, 2018 at 6:47 pm #

    I’ve never heard of this before, but it sounds pretty awesome! That’s awesome that you made a vegan version! It just so happens that I prefer soy milk and have a bunch of butter-flavored coconut oil! :D!

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