Homemade Naan is a popular staple comfort food and always a highlight of delicious Indian meal. This soft and tender, flavorful and buttery, perfectly browned naan bread is easier to make than you’d think and it has a restaurant quality taste!
This recipe proves that it’s often the simplest ingredients that can yield the best end results.
What is Naan?
Naan is flat-like, yeast leavened, oven baked bread. It originates from Iran and Central Asia. It’s a very popular bread in India, where you’ll usually find a slightly thicker variation.
Naan can be leavened or un-leavened, the Indian versions are usually leavened. It’s common to use torn pieces of naan for scooping and eating food by hand.
Traditionally Indian Naan is cooked in a tandoor oven but not many of us own one of those. So here we make it without a tandoor oven and use a heavy cast iron skillet instead to get a very similar result.
I’ve tried making naan several different ways using different ingredients like water, buttermilk, milk, or yogurt. I’ve also tried with and without egg, or with just egg yolk. Then using different fats.
Of course there’s also the option to use different types of flour (bread flour, all-purpose flour, or even wheat flour). Then you’ll notice some recipes include baking powder.
You’ll also find a variety of mixing methods and dough consistencies.
This recipe is my favorite blend of ingredients for it, with the ratios and method to achieve a super soft, lightly chewy, perfectly fluffy and bubbly naan. It’s my idea of the best Naan!
Difference Between Naan, Flatbread and Pita Bread
- While the three are all made up of refined white flour and have similar shapes they do have significant differences.
- Naan is usually softer than flatbread and pita bread. It can have more flavor with the additions of yogurt, milk, butter, and egg.
- Flatbread is usually thin and unleavened whereas pita and naan are leavened and fluffier.
- The cooking/baking methods between the three are also different.
Naan Bread Recipe Ingredients
- Warm water: Heating to the right temperature is critical to the recipe. If it’s not warm enough the yeast may not activate as well and if it’s too hot the yeast can be killed (and naan won’t rise).
- Active dry yeast: Instant yeast will work well too. No need to bloom in water first, just mix in with the dry ingredients and mix wet and dry ingredients together.
- Sugar: I like a little sugar in the recipe to bring some flavor and a faint sweetness. Using the 1/4 tsp along with the yeast feeds it and gets it working faster.
- Whole milk: Commonly just water is used as the liquid option but I think milk brings more flavor and a hint of richness so I prefer it here.
- Plain yogurt: Regular yogurt or Greek yogurt can be used. Preferably use whole.
- Olive oil: Vegetable oil can be used if that’s what you have.
- Egg yolk: Reserve the egg white for another use.
- Salt: Don’t forget this! The naan will taste completely flat without it.
- All purpose flour: I recommend using unbleached all purpose flour. It tastes better than bleached and also offers a light chew here as well.
- Unsalted butter: This is used after cooking to finish with flavor and richness.
How to Make Naan Bread
- Proof yeast: In the bowl of an electric stand mixer whisk together water, yeast and 1/4 tsp sugar. Let rest 5 – 10 minutes until frothy.
- Mix in wet ingredients, then some flour: Set mixer with paddle attachment then mix in milk, yogurt, olive oil, egg yolk, remaining 1 Tbsp sugar and the salt. Stir in about 2/3 of the flour.
- Knead in remaining flour: Switch to hook attachment then mix in remaining 1/3 of the flour. Let knead on low speed dough pulls away from sides and is slightly sticky (while adding a few extra tablespoons of flour as needed) about 2 minutes.
- Let rest until doubled: Transfer to a large, lightly oiled bowl cover with plastic wrap and let rest until doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 – 2 hours.
- Deflate dough then divide into portions: Gently punch down dough then divide dough into 6 equal portions (using a bench scraper or knife, you can cut like a pizza into 6 wedges). Round out edges and keep covered with greased plastic wrap.
- Preheat skillet: Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat (a non-stick skillet works too just not quite as well).
- Roll dough round on floured surface: Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll into 9-inch oval or tear drop shape over lightly floured surface (roll to about about 1/6-inch thickness). Dip fingertips in water then dot across top of rolled out dough or mist lightly with water from a spray bottle.
- Cook until golden brown spots appear on each side: Cook naan moistened side down, until golden brown spots appear on bottom about 30 seconds. Flip and cook opposite side until golden brown spots appear, about 30 seconds.
- Repeat process: Repeat with remaining naan. Reduce burner temper if needed if browning to quickly.
- Finish with butter: Brush naan with melted butter serve warm.
How to Keep Naan Warm
- If desired you can keep naan warm in an oven.
- To do so preheat oven to 175 degrees.
- Wrap cooked naan in foil then keep in warm oven up to 15 minutes until ready to serve.
How to Reheat Naan
- Oven: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wrap naan in foil and heat until warmed through, about 10 minutes.
- Microwave: Heat individual portions in the microwave on high power for about 15 – 20 seconds.
Storage and Shelf Life
- Cooked naan bread keeps at room temperature about 3 days, 1 week refrigerated or 3 months frozen.
- Cool slightly before storing in an airtight container.
How to Make Recipe by Hand
- Use a mixing bowl and spoon to mix yeast, water and sugar as directed and rest.
- Mix in liquid ingredients.
- Add in 2/3 flour and mix with spoon. Add remaining flour and start to mix by hand.
- Knead on a floured surface for about 3 minutes.
- It will be sticky, you’ll find it sticks to the counter but that’s ok careful not to add too much flour.
Can Naan Dough Be Frozen?
- Yes. Freeze after dough has risen.
- Deflate and transfer to an airtight container.
- Freeze up to 3 months, thaw overnight in the fridge then let come to room temperature before using (about 30 minutes).
Making Mini Naan
As is recipe makes medium size naan but you can also divide the dough into 12 portions (instead of 6) to more mini sized portions, about 4 inches.
- Try flavoring by adding seeds such as nigella, sesame, fennel, cumin, anise, caraway or poppy seeds to the dough.
- Finish with garlic butter rather than just plain butter. Melt 3 Tbsp butter in a small saucepan or skillet then add 2 – 3 cloves minced garlic and cook until fragrant and just beginning to turn in color, about 30 – 60 seconds.
- Finish with fresh herbs such as parsley or cilantro for a pretty garnish and hint of flavor.
- Naan can be rolled a little thicker or thinner depending on personal preference. I like it fairly thin at about 1/6-inch thickness.
- Naan dough should be slightly sticky. Not unmanageable after kneading but with some sticking. It’s a moist dough.
- For optimal softness don’t skip the egg yolk.
- Don’t over-work the dough. You don’t need to knead very long, just a few minutes will do for a great tenderness.
- Use a seasoned cast iron skillet. It should be coated in some sort of fat (which is usually coming from the last time you cooked with it).
- Use a preheated skillet. It will make a world of difference. Cast iron takes about 5 minutes to preheat on a gas stove, 10+ on an electric stove.
- Dot rolled out dough with a little water (or spritz with water) before cooking. This creates steam and more little air bubbles.
- If you find naan are cooking too quickly and browning too much reduce burner temperatures slightly. Or on the other hand if not browning properly or cooking fast enough increase burner temp slighlty.
What to Serve with Homemade Naan Bread
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- 3 Tbsp warm water, 110 - 115 degrees
- 1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 Tbsp + 1/4 tsp granulated sugar, divided
- 1/2 cup whole milk, warmed to 110 - 115 degrees
- 1/3 cup (77g) plain yogurt, warmed to room temperature
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 1/4 cups (318g) unbleached all-purpose flour (scoop and level to measure)
- 2 Tbsp butter, melted (salted or unsalted)
- In the bowl of an electric stand mixer whisk together water, yeast and 1/4 tsp sugar. Let rest 5 - 10 minutes until frothy.
- Set mixer with paddle attachment then mix in milk, yogurt, olive oil, egg yolk, 1 Tbsp sugar and the salt. Stir in about 2/3 of the flour.
- Switch to hook attachment then mix in remaining 1/3 of the flour. Let knead on low speed dough pulls away from sides and is slightly sticky (while adding a few extra tablespoons of flour as needed) about 2 minutes.
- Transfer to a large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rest until doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 - 2 hours.
- Gently punch dough down then divide dough into 6 equal portions (using a floured bench scraper or knife, you can cut like a pizza into 6 wedges). Round out edges and keep covered with greased plastic wrap.
- Preheat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat (a non-stick skillet works too just not quite as well).
- Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll into 9-inch oval or tear drop shape over lightly floured surface (roll to about about 1/6-inch thickness). Dip fingertips in water then dot across top of rolled out dough or mist lightly with water from a spray bottle.
- Cook naan moistened side down, until golden brown spots appear on bottom about 30 seconds. Flip** and cook opposite side until golden brown spots appear, about 30 seconds.
- Repeat with remaining naan. Reduce burner temper if needed if browning to quickly.
- Brush naan with melted butter before serving. Serve warm.
- *To warm the yogurt I microwave on 50% power in 20 second increments just until no longer cold.
- **When you flip naan if there are large bubbles you can press down on naan with spatula to flatten those extra large bubbles so it cooks evenly.
- Naan can be kept warmed wrapped in foil in 175 degree oven for up to 15 minutes.