So many naan recipes are nothing more than a basic flatbread recipe. But this one? Fluffy, bubbly and CHEWY, just like you get at Indian restaurants. It’s so incredible, you’d swear it’s just been pulled from a tandoor!
Bonus: It’s mind-bogglingly easy. Yes, really!
Welcome back to Indian Week!
This week there will be three brand new, iconic Indian recipes to make your very own Indian feast:
- Palak Paneer – The famous Indian Spinach Curry with homemade Paneer (cheese!)
- Naan – This recipe, FIVE YEARS in the making, it’s finally here!
- Samosas – Oh yes we did … and it’s AMAZING!!! Coming Friday.
Plus a colourful side salad – a Cabbage & Carrot Thoran-style Salad! (PS I am literally obsessed with that salad…)
Truly fluffy, chewy, bubbly naan has eluded me for years. Every other recipe I tried – and believe me, I’ve tried so many I’ve lost count – are just basic flatbread recipes with no real crumb integrity and absolutely none of the signature elasticity that real restaurant naan has.
As for the versions made without yeast? Forget it. They were more like pancakes.
Fact: You can’t make naan that bubbles up like THIS without using yeast!! ↓↓↓
It’s difficult to capture how chewy and fluffy this naan bread is in a photo – so let me try to show you instead with some live action:
Yerrrrrssss. And the most incredible thing? Naan dough is so easy to make. There is no kneading involved. Really. There is nothing tricky about it at all!
What goes in Naan
Here’s what you need to make the puffiest, fluffiest, bubbliest naan of your life. No fiercely hot tandoor required (unless that’s how you roll … )
- Flour – Bread flour produces a slightly fluffier, softer naan than using plain/all-purpose flour. But the difference is actually quite marginal, so I’m not going to recommend it as strongly as I do in other recipes where using bread flour really makes a difference (eg. like in our favourite Crusty Artisan Bread).
So in short, use bread flour if you have it. But if you don’t, I wouldn’t make a special trip to the supermarket because this naan is excellent made with all-purpose/plain flour too;
- Yeast – Instant / rapid-rise yeast is called for here. The recipe also works with standard active / dry yeast, but we’ve found the naan is slightly fluffier and softer using instant yeast.
Unusually, we dissolve the instant yeast in warm water then leave it to become foamy – a step usually bypassed with instant yeast, which is typically mixed straight into dough. However, for this recipe, we found that the naan is fluffier if dissolved in warm water first. Yes, we’ve made a LOT of naan in recent weeks!!!
- Ghee or butter – Ghee is basically the same thing as clarified butter. This is simply normal butter but with milk solids and water removed, leaving behind pure butter fat. Ghee has a more intense butter flavour than normal butter, with the added bonus that unlike butter, it doesn’t burn even on high heat.
You can either make your own Ghee (it’s cheaper, really easy and keeps for months), buy it, or just use normal butter; and
- Egg, milk, white sugar, salt – All fairly standard bread inclusions. I use cow’s milk, but given the small quantity used in this recipe, I see no reason why non-dairy alternatives wouldn’t work.
No yoghurt? I used to be an advocate of yoghurt in naan bread, believing it to be the “secret ingredient” that made naan different from “just another flatbread”.
But actually, yogurt weighs the naan down and makes it a bit gummier inside. Added yoghurt is no challenge for the nuclear-level 480°C heat of a tandoor … but in a home kitchen, the naan is better without yogurt. It’s just fluffier!
How to make Naan
This section may look lengthy, but I promise this naan recipe is not hard. I’m just breaking down the steps for you and showing thorough process photos so you can have total confidence that you’ll nail this – even if you’re new to working with yeast doughs.
And guess what? Naan dough doesn’t requiring kneading!!
Proof the yeast
First step: Let’s get the yeast activated and ready to work its magic on our naan dough.
- Mix instant yeast with warm water and sugar – This is not a typical step you see in bread-making when using instant yeast. Usually the whole point of instant yeast is that you can add it straight into dough without mixing with warm water and letting it foam first.
But, for naan, we found that proofing instant yeast in a warm water and sugar mixture (ie. letting it sit until it goes foamy) makes the naan fluffier and softer. It also is an excellent safety test to ensure your yeast is still alive – nothing worse than discovering your yeast is dead once your bread is in the oven! ;;
- Leave until foamy – Leave the mixture for 10 minutes until it becomes foamy, which means the yeast is alive and kicking. The warm water “wakes up” the yeast and the sugar helps too because yeast “eats” sugar to do its thing;
Make Naan dough
- Mix dry and wet ingredients – In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, salt), then add the foamy yeast, butter / ghee, and the milk + eggs;
- Mix – Start by mixing with a firm rubber spatula or a wooden spoon to bring the dough together. We use spoons for no reason other than saving a sticky mess on your hands!
Bring together into ball
- Bring together by hand – Once the mixture is too stiff to practically mix with a spatula, switch to hands. You don’t need to knead the dough, just mix it with your hands to bring it together into a cohesive dough;
- The dough – Once the dough comes together, it should be sticky and soft enough to easily come together into a ball. But it should not be so sticky that the dough sticks to your hands – see picture above for right texture. If the dough is too sticky, sprinkle over a little flour and work that in;
Rise dough 1 to 1.5 hours – let it double in size
- Proof dough – Once the butter / ghee is incorporated, shape dough into a ball. Cover with cling-wrap them put the bowl somewhere warm to let it proof – about 1 – 1.5 hours, until it has doubled in volume;
- Doubled in volume – The dough pictured above is after proofing for 1 1/2 hours. It has actually more than doubled because it was a very (no really, a very!) hot day. It’s ok if it more than doubles – mine is probably closer to triple. But if the dough rises way too much (as in > triple), then the yeast can run out of oomph and not rise properly when cooked. Try to limit to doubling in size!
Divide into six balls
- Cut into six pieces – Lift the dough out of the bowl on to a lightly floured surface. Cut into 6 equal pieces. This makes ~15 – 16 cm / 6 – 6.5″ diameter naans which are a nice individual serving size and comfortably cooked in a skillet;
- Shape into balls – Make the top surface smooth by tucking the dough surface to the base;
Rise 15 minutes – let increase in size 50%
- Rise 15 minutes, 50% increase in size – Place the balls on a lightly floured tray, and cover with a tea towel. Leave to rise in a warm place for 15 minutes until they increase in size by about 50%. It doesn’t take long;
- After rising – Photo #12 is what they look like after 15 minutes. Ready to roll out and cook!
- Flatten on lightly floured surface – Pick up a piece and flat it down lightly on a lightly floured surface;
- Roll out into 15 – 17cm / 6- 7″ rounds (smaller = puffier);
- Hot skillet – Heat a cast iron skillet (with no oil) over medium-high heat until it is just starting to smoke. Then place the naan in and leave to cook without touching. If you’re like me, you’ll get a kick out of watching the surface blister up and go all bubbly – it’s an extremely satisfying moment!
- 60 to 90 seconds cooking, then flip – It should only take 60 – 90 seconds for the underside to cook until it’s nicely browned. Then use tongs to turn;
Brush with ghee
- After flip, 45 – 60 seconds more – The blistered side (photo #17) will only take around 45 seconds to cook. You’re just looking for a little charring on the blisters and for the surface of the second side to be cooked.
Aim for fast cooking (also as not to burn the ghee). The faster it cooks, the closer you get to real naan like that cooked in the fierce heat of a tandoor, and the fluffier your naan will be!
The slower it cooks, on the other hand, the less fluffy the naan will be. 2 to 2 1/2 minutes total is ideal. Beyond this, the naan will start to dry out inside and you’ll lose the signature texture; and finally
- Brush with ghee or butter (optionally also garlic – because yes you absolutely should!) –- Remove naan from the stove, then brush with melted ghee or butter while it’s still hot. Garlic is an optional extra – but it’s so good!
For an authentic finishing touch, add a sprinkle of nigella seeds for a delicious onion-y pops!
Cheese Naan recipe!
I’m going to be honest, I’ve no idea whether you can even find Cheese Naan in India (please chime in, in the comments!). But it’s a firm favourite around my neck of the wood. Certainly this Cheese-loving Carb Monster considers Cheese Naan one of the great achievements of modern mankind.
Authentic or not, it’s amazing! (And really, what is it but the equivalent of an Indian-style grilled cheese sandwich– yum?)
How to make Cheese Naan
In restaurants, cheese naan is usually made by cooking plain naan first, then cutting a slit and stuffing inside the naan with cheese to melt.
That’s quite tedious and involves burnt fingertips agony I’m yet to fall in love with, so I’ve opted for a much simpler method:
- Brush naan with garlic butter – because like mentioned, well, why not?
- Pile cheese in the middle, then bundle it up like a money bag;
- Twist the top to seal;
- Flip over then roll out;
- Cook in a hot skillet just like normal naan;
- When you flip, it will puff up dramatically! Don’t get too excited, because it deflates. But it looks impressive – even if nobody else saw it!
Here’s what the inside of the cheese naan looks like – in case you’re wondering if I used enough cheese Be still my beating heart … ( excitement or cholesterol sirens, I can’t quite distinguish)
Make-ahead option – for even better flavour!
It was handy to discover that the naan recipe can be made ahead, refrigerated overnight and cooked up the next day – and it’s 100% perfect. It’s just as fluffy and soft. With the added bonus of even better flavour in the bread because as with many yeast breads, flavour develops with time!
What to serve with naan
I feel like I’m stating the obvious here by saying that the most natural, most obvious way to use naan is to scoop and slop up curry.
But then I realised: I’ve been devouring an inordinate amount of naan just as it is. Straight out of the skillet, with and without butter, cold, warm, reheated – and loving it like it is.
The lesson? Naan this good you can have it every which way. It’s 100% incredible. Make it once and I guarantee you’ll be addicted for life! – Nagi x
Watch how to make it
Naan recipe – fluffy, bubbly, chewy!
Perfect for slopping up your favourite Indian curries – yet so good that you’ll happily devour it plain, straight out of the skillet!
Makes: 6 naans, ~15-16cm / 6 – 7″ diameter
- 1 tsp instant / rapid rise yeast (Note 1)
- 1/2 cup warm tap water (~40°C/105°F in temperature)
- 1 tbsp white sugar
- 2 tbsp milk , full fat (low fat ok too)
- 1 1/2 tbsp whisked egg , at room temp (around 1/2 an egg, Note 2)
- 1/2 tsp salt , cooking / kosher
- 1 3/4 cups bread flour , or all-purpose/plain (Note 3)
- 30g / 2 tbsp ghee or unsalted butter , melted (Note 4)
- 30g / 2 tbsp tbsp ghee or butter , melted (Note 4)
- 1 small garlic clove , for Garlic Butter option (Note 5)
- Nigella seeds
- Coriander/cilantro , finely chopped
- Shredded cheese (for cheese naan) – Monterey Jack, cheddar, tasty, colby, anything that melts (shred yourself) (Note 6)
Foam yeast: Mix yeast with warm water and sugar in a small bowl. Cover with cling wrap, leave for 10 minutes until foamy.
Egg and milk: Whisk milk and egg together.
Flour: Sift flour and salt into a separate bowl.
Add wet ingredients: Make a well in the flour, add yeast mixture, and butter and egg mixture. Mix together with a spatula. Once the flour is mostly incorporated, switch to your hands and bring it together into a ball. No kneading is required.
Proof 1: Cover the bowl with cling-wrap, then leave in a warm place for 1 – 1.5 hrs until it doubles in size. (Note 7)
Cut into 6 pieces: Place the dough on a lightly floured surface. Cut into 6 equal pieces, then shape into balls into spheres with a smooth surface by stretching the surface and tucking it under (see video).
Proof 2: Place balls on a lightly-floured tray or plate. Sprinkle lightly with flour, cover with cling-wrap. Put in a warm place to rise for 15 minutes until it increases in size by about 50%.
Roll out: Place a round on a lightly-floured work surface, flatten with your hand. Roll out into 3 – 4mm / 0.12 – 0.16″ thick rounds (about 16cm / 6.5″ wide).
Heat skillet: Rub a cast iron skillet with a light coat of oil (unless already well seasoned). Set over high heat until starting to smoke.
Cook naan: Place a naan dough in the skillet and cook for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes until the underside is deep golden / slightly charred – the surface should get bubbly. Flip then cook the other side for 1 minute until the bubbles become deep golden brown.
Cook remaining naan: Remove, set aside, and repeat with remaining naan, taking care to regulate the heat of the skillet so it doesn’t get too hot.
Finishing: Brush freshly cooked naan with melted butter or ghee (or garlic butter, Note 5). Sprinkle with nigella seeds and coriander. Serve hot!
Roll out a naan per above directions. Brush with plain butter or garlic butter. (Note 5) Place a mound of cheese in the middle – about 1/4 cup, lightly-packed. Bundle it up, money bag-style, then twist to seal.
Turn upside down so the smooth side is up. Roll out to 6-7mm / 1/4″ thick rounds.
Heat a well-seasoned cast iron skillet preheated over high heat, but not until the skillet is smoking. Cook naan for around 1 1/2 minutes on the first side until golden – it will puff up! Turn and cook the other side for around 45 seconds.
2. Egg – I know this sounds strange, but we need 1/2 a large egg for one batch of this naan! Any more and it dries out the inside too much.
Just crack an egg in a bowl, whisk, then measure out 1 1/2 tbsp. OR just make a double batch of this naan so you can use one whole egg!
3. Flour – Bread flour makes the softest, fluffiest naan. But all-purpose/plain flour is very nearly as good. I wouldn’t make a special trip to the supermarket just to get bread flour. But if you’ve got it, use it!
4. Ghee is clarified butter, one of the traditional fats used in Indian cooking. It is simply butter without the water and milk solids, so you have pure butter fat. It has a more intense flavour than butter. Either buy it, make it (it’s easy and keeps for months) or just use normal butter!
5. Garlic butter: Place 2 tbsp/30g salted butter or ghee and 1/2 tsp crushed garlic* in a small bowl. Microwave until butter has melted (do it in bursts so it doesn’t explode!!). Stand for a couple of minutes to let the garlic flavour infuse before using.
* Garlic crushed using a garlic crusher or microplane
6. Cheese – Any melting cheese works fine here, though bear in mind if you use mozzarella it doesn’t have much flavour. Monterey Jack is a good option that has flavour and stretches nicely!
7. How to enable dough rising – One of my favourite places to proof dough is in my dryer!!! Draught proof, easy to heat up a small space. Just run it for a couple of minutes, put the bowl in, close the door and leave it. Just don’t turn it on!
Life of Dozer
Mmm, naan…. (we agree Dozer!)