Flatbread for the World
Naan is a favorite bread not just in India but also in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh. It is also popular around the world as an easy flatbread. Even if you aren’t a bread baker, you can make this bread. Naan is leavened with either yeast or a combination of baking soda and baking powder. I have a no-yeast naan recipe if you either can’t find yeast or simply want to make naan without it.
Easy Naan at Home
Traditionally made in a tandoor oven, naan can be made in your kitchen, either on the stovetop or in your oven on a pizza stone. For that hard-to-stop-eating soft and chewy texture, the stickier you can tolerate the dough—without adding too much additional flour—the more tender your naan will be. You can do this by using either water or oil to slightly dampen or oil your hands, the rolling pin, and the kneading surface. Instead of adding too much extra flour, this trick will help you knead and shape your bread. If you are not an experienced bread baker, you may want to use some flour to make the dough easier to work with. This is perfectly fine because your naan will still be glorious!
Outside the Naan
Use naan as a foundation for any pizza toppings of your choice. Any dry curry will work. Add a light blanket of cheese and some onions, pickled or not, and after it comes out of the oven, drizzle chutney, add some chopped pickle, and a flutter of chopped fresh herbs. Butter chicken, vindaloo, or my coconut lamb curry would all be inspired choices. I like a quesadilla idea, and as a stand-in for corn tortillas or use for an over-stuffed wrap. Here is a chance for you to play with your food.
See the Notes below before you cook.
Easy Naan with Yeast
- 1 teaspoon active yeast
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon water ~ 105°F (40°C) to 110°F (43°C); You should be able keep your finger in the water, if you can't it is too hot.
- 1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour ~ Or bread flour, see Notes
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon onion seeds (nigella/kalonji) ~ Or save for garnishing, see Notes
- 1 tablespoon neutral oil ~ Another tablespoon for kneading
- 2 tablespoons plain yogurt
- 2 tablespoons milk ~ Or use all water
- 5 to 8 tablespoons water ~ Room temperature
- 1 tablespoon fresh herbs ~ Cilantro, parsley, scallion tops, or chives
- 1/8 teaspoon salt ~ Coarse if you have it
- 1 tablespoon ghee ~ Melted
- 1/2 tablespoon seeds ~ See options below
- Gather your ingredients.
- In a small bowl add the yeast, sugar, and 1 tablespoon of warm water. Stir and allow it to sit in a warm place for 5 minutes, until frothy.
- Meanwhile, in a medium bowl mix the flour, seeds (if using), salt and baking powder and stir to combine. Make a well in the flour and when the yeast is ready, add to the flour along with the oil and yogurt.
- Mix together and gradually add the milk and water. You are looking for a slightly sticky dough. Lightly flour (or oil, see Notes ) your counter, hands, and rolling pin and tip the dough out. If the dough is too dry, add in a little more water until it is workable.
- Knead for about 5 minutes, or until the dough is no longer sticky, but is smooth and elastic. If using a stand mixer with a dough hook, knead on low speed for 3 to 4 minutes. Shape into a smooth ball.
- Lightly coat the dough with oil and place in a bowl large enough to allow it to double in volume. Place in a draft-free warm place; this will take 60 to 120 minutes. If your kitchen is cold, your oven with the light on will be perfect a perfect resting place . You can also proof in the Instant Pot or allow it to rise overnight in the refrigerator. See the Notes for instructions.
- After doubling, gently punch the air out of the dough. On a lightly floured or oiled surface, divide it into 4 equal portions, and shape into balls. Lightly brush oil over the top of the naans and let them rest covered with a damp towel for 20 minutes.
- Roll each ball into a long tear shape about 1/4-inch thick (0.5cm) and about 8 inches long. Pick up the dough from the top and pull the top slightly wider than the bottom, letting gravity stretch the dough longer. Lay it down on the counter and pat the naan into your preferred shape. Round or whatever shape your bread takes is all good; it will be delicious, so no fretting!
- Stovetop: Preheat a cast-iron or nonstick pan to medium-high. Meanwhile, gather the garnishes you will be using and turn your oven to the warm setting to keep the finished bread warm.
- Add the naan to the hot pan. Within a minute or two you will start to see bubbles forming. When the bottom side is deeply golden in patches, turn the naan over and cook for another minute or two until it starts to puff up. (This doesn't always happen, but that doesn't matter.) Turn the bread over for a third time, if needed, to ensure that there are no doughy patches. Wrap the finished naan in aluminum foil and place it in the warmed oven.
- Oven: Preheat a pizza stone on 500°F (260°C) in the oven and bake the naans for about 8 minutes. Then, turn the broiler on high and brown the tops of the flatbreads for a minute or so until nicely browned. You may need to bake in several batches. Also, the bread can puff up quite a bit so place the oven rack at least 8 inches away from the heating element.
Garnishing & Keeping
- Garnish with any or all of the ideas listed above. If you are not eating right away or have leftover bread, store them wrapped tightly in plastic wrap or a ziplock bag. They will keep in the fridge for 5 days, or in the freezer for up to 2 months. For reheating instructions, please see the Notes.
- Vegan naan: Use almond or cashew yogurt for a vegan naan.
- Flour: Bread flour gives the naan even more structure, so if you have it, try it. You can also replace some of the white flour for some brown flour. I would start with about 60g of brown flour or 2/3 cup.
- Seeds 3 ways: Nigella seeds (nigella/kalonji) can be replaced by cumin seeds, sesame seeds, melon seeds, fennel seeds, caraway seeds, or poppy seeds. You can mix them into the dough, sprinkle on the rolled out dough, pressing with a rolling pin to help them stick, or sprinkle over the finished naan, or skip seeds altogether. I either like to work them in the dough in the beginning or sprinkle at the end because I worry about the seeds burning.
- Dough texture: if your dough is dry, gradually add more liquid. It should be soft and slightly sticky. To make the softest dough possible, you can oil or add a bit of water to your hands, the rolling pin, and the kneading surface instead of using more flour. This takes a little more practice because the dough is stickier and harder to work with. This is NOT a necessary technique though!
- Kneading: Knead by hand or in a stand mixer with a dough hook. On the lowest setting, knead the dough for 3 to 4 minutes, or until it is smooth and elastic.
- Shaping: dividing this amount of dough into 4 pieces gives you a naan that fits nicely into a 10-inch pan. Make your breads larger or smaller depending on your preference and the pan you are using.
- In the Instant Pot:
- Grease the inner pot of the Instant Pot, add the dough, cover with the lid and leave the pressure release valve to venting. Select the yogurt setting for 40 minutes. Check the dough and if doubled in size, gently press the air out and shape into balls. If it needs more proofing time, replace the lid. It is not necessary to turn the Instant Pot on again. Leave the dough to proof for another 20 minutes, and check again.
- When you are finished kneading the dough, shape into a ball, lightly coat with oil, and place in a bowl or ziplock bag large enough to allow it to rise overnight. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and bring it to room temperature. This will take approximately 45 minutes. Transfer to a lightly floured surface, gently punch the dough down to remove the air. Proceed as instructed in the recipe above.
- Make ahead: This dough can be made up to 3 days in advance. Bring the dough to room temperature continuing with the instructions.
- Reheating: Bring the naan to room temperature and heat as follows:
- Microwave: Wrap one naan at a time in slightly damp paper towels and microwave on high for 10 to 15-seconds, or until warmed up. Or lightly dab each naan with a bit of water and heat singly as above. The time will depend on your microwave.
- Oven: Place the frozen naan directly on the rack in an 350°F (180°C)
oven or toaster oven until soft and warm. This works on a grill as well.