Although both ciabatta and focaccia hail from Italy, there are some major differences between these two types of bread. So what makes ciabatta and focaccia so different from one another?
The main difference between ciabatta and focaccia is the texture. Focaccia is softer and lighter, but ciabatta has more of a crust on the outside with a chewier internal texture. Other differences include the flavour, ingredients and age.
What is Ciabatta?
Ciabatta is an Italian white bread loaf made from the usual bread ingredients (flour, water and yeast). It is a fairly new bread in the world, having been invented in the early 1980s in Veneto.
It was invented to combat the rising favour of French baguettes. Italians are particularly proud of their cuisine, so they wanted to do what they could to stop French cuisine from encroaching.
Ciabatta literally means Slipper In Italian. Ciabatta is named after a slipper because of its long, flat and elongated shape, which resembles the shape of a slipper.
You might assume that most bread recipes have been around for 100s of years. But, this is not the case for ciabatta. It was actually invented in 1982.
What is Focaccia?
Focaccia is often regarded as being similar to pizza as it is a flat-leavened baked bread. It can come in various forms and shapes, from round and topped with tomatoes to square and dotted with garlic and rosemary.
Like ciabatta, it contains the usual bread ingredients with the essential additional of olive oil in the dough. This gives it the texture that people love so much. Focaccia is often adorned with toppings. These can be kept simple, such as black olive, or can be more complex such as marinated peppers and anchovies.
The word focaccia comes from Panis Focacius, Latin for Hearth Bread. This is because focaccia used to be baked in coals during the Roman empire.
Differences Between Ciabatta and Focaccia
Although they are both breads from Italy, the list of differences is extensive. Here are the main differences between ciabatta and focaccia:
- Texture – Although some of the texture is similar, there are still some major differences. Ciabatta usually has a crisp crust that forms around the outside with a chewy, open centre. Focaccia will have a golden top, a soft interior, and a slightly tighter crumb.
- Flavourings – Ciabatta is kept plain when baked with no additional flavourings or toppings. Once cooked and cooled, it can then be filled. Focaccia, however, is often adorned with additional ingredients from rosemary and basil to cherry tomatoes and sliced potatoes.
- Ingredients – Although both are made with flour, yeast and water. Focaccia usually has some form of fat or lard added to it, usually olive oil – it is Italian, after all!
- Age – Ciabatta is a relatively new invention, having been invented in the early 1980s. Focaccia, however, has been around for centuries. It is believed to have been invented in the 2nd century BC!
- Variety – Ciabatta is a loaf of bread, and that’s about it. There aren’t endless varieties to choose from. Focaccia, however, comes in many forms from across Italy. You get Genovese (as shown below), Pugliese, Tuscan Schiacciata, Guastella calabrese and Seravezzina.
Similarities Between Ciabatta and Focaccia
Although the list of differences is quite extensive, there are some similarities between ciabatta and focaccia:
- Italian – The most apparent similarity between ciabatta and focaccia is that both of these are from Italy. Ciabatta was invented in Veneto, whereas focaccia is thought to have originated from Northern Central Italy.
- Bread – Ultimately, both ciabatta and focaccia are forms of bread. They are both made with the basic bread ingredients; flour, water and yeast.
- Uses – Many of the uses for both bread types are the same. You’ll often find ciabatta or focaccia sliced and dunked into olive oil. You’ll also find both sliced, filled and served as a sandwich.
- Hydration Ratios – Sorry to get all scientific about bread but ciabatta and focaccia have different hydration ratios. This is the amount of water used versus the quantity of flour. Both doughs will have between 80% and 90% hydration.
Ciabatta vs Focaccia: Which Wins?
There might be differences and similarities between these two bread types, but which is your favourite?
Do You Prefer Ciabatta or Foccacia?
Ciabatta and Focaccia FAQs
Do you still have questions about how ciabatta and focaccia are similar and different? Perhaps these FAQs will help you out:
Yes, generally, focaccia is softer than ciabatta. Although soft in the centre, ciabatta tends to have a crunchier crust and more of a chew.
The most similar bread to focaccia is Pizza Bianco. This is a pizza without a tomato sauce base. Unlike focaccia, Pizza Bianco is not usually enriched with olive oil, so the texture will be less moist and chewier.
No, focaccia is not pizza. They share some similarities, but focaccia tends to have more of a rise with more air pockets in the dough. Focaccia is rarely served with a tomato base, either. Instead, it simply has a few toppings – if any.
Lewis is the founder and editor of Let’s Foodie alongside other food-related platforms including FreezeIt and SubstituteIt. He launched Let’s Foodie to provide aspiring cooks with one place to get the answers to some of the most commonly asked cooking questions.