Naan is an Indian flatbread that was traditionally baked in a clay oven, called a tandoor, at very high temperatures of over 450°C! I use a heated cast iron pan to attempt to mimic the tandoor oven. If you do not have a cast iron pan, do not fret, you can still use any non-stick pan to do the job. It is originally also made with dairy yogurt, which I substitute for plant-based yogurt.
- 350g (2 1/2 cups) white (spelt) flour, plus more as needed
- 2 tsp. coconut sugar (or raw cane sugar)
- 1 tsp. sea salt or pink rock salt
- 1 1/2 tsp. (about 9g) (instant) dry active yeast*
- 1/2 tsp. baking powder
- 1/4 tsp. baking soda
- 100g (6 tbsp.) plant-based yogurt of choice (I use soy)
- 125ml (1/2 cup) warm water (about 50°C)
- 1 tbsp. (15ml) olive oil
*If using instant dry active yeast, this kind can be mixed directly into the flour without the additional step of proofing.
Additional Add-Ins or Garnish:
- optional: nigella seeds (also called black cumin, black caraway, or fennel flower), to mix into dough
- optional: fresh garlic, to make garlic naan
- optional: vegan cheese shreds, to make cheese naan
- fresh coriander, to garnish
- If your yeast isn't the instant kind that can be mixed directly into the flour, start by proofing your yeast. Proofing simply means to test the yeast to ensure that it is active, or alive. To do this, mix the 125ml (1/2 cup) warm water, the sugar, and the yeast into a small bowl. Set aside for 5 - 10 minutes, until the yeast starts to bubble and a creamy foam is formed on the surface of the water. If this does not happen, then your yeast is probably dead and you will have to repeat the process with another batch. If you are using the instant kind that does not need to be proofed, simply proceed with step 2.
- If you are using the instant yeast: Add all the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl, including the instant yeast and mix. Then add the wet (yogurt, water, oil) and mix to combine. Once it sort of comes together, transfer the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead it about 6-8 minutes. If it is too wet, add more flour accordingly. The dough should be smooth and soft to the touch and not too sticky.
- If using proofed yeast: Add all the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl and mix. Then add the proofed yeast mixture (water, sugar, yeast), the yogurt, and the oil and mix to combine. Once it sort of comes together, transfer the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead it about 6-8 minutes. If it is too wet, add more flour accordingly. The dough should be smooth and soft to the touch and not too sticky.
- Once the dough has been kneaded, brush some oil into the mixing bowl and transfer the dough back into the oiled bowl and cover the bowl with a damp tea towel (I usually run a tea towel under warm water, wring it out, and then use it to cover the bowl). Allow the dough to rise for anywhere between 1 to 3 hours in a warm spot. The less warm it is, the longer it will need to rise.
- Once the dough has risen, divide the dough equally into 8 parts and roll each one out between the palms of your hand to create a round ball.
- Sprinkle your countertop with some additional flour, and using a rolling pin, flatten and roll each ball out to about 1/2 cm thickness to shape the naan. The shape of naan is a bit rustic, and therefore does not have to adhere to any particular shape, as seen in the featured image. If you choose to use any of the optional add-ins (nigella seeds, garlic, or vegan shreds), now would be the time to do so. See my recipe notes below for clear instructions on how to do so.
- Pre-heat a cast iron pan over high heat for at least a minute (I have a very high powered induction stovetop, so a minute does it for me. If you have a different cooking source, you may want to heat it for a few minutes), allowing it to get really hot. If it starts to smoke a little, that is normal. If you do not have a cast iron, you can also use a non-stick coated pan, however, you do not need to pre-heat this the way you would a cast-iron. Simply place it over high heat and continue.
- Lower the heat to about medium, and drizzle some high-smoke point oil (refined olive, avocado, grapeseed, etc.) onto the pan and immediately place one flattened naan dough into the pan. Brush the top of each naan with some additional oil, and place a see-through lid to cover the pan. If you do not have a lid, you can simply cook them without one. You will start to see the naan dough bubble; this is a good sign, as charred bubble formation is a critical feature of naan. Cook for a minute or two or until one side is cooked, and then flip. Cook for another minute or two or until full cooked through. Do not over-cook, as doing so will yield crispy naan. There is a fine line between undercooking and overcooking. It should be soft from the inside with golden-brown or even charred patches on the outside.
- Serve your naan with a main dish, such as my Vegan Palak Tofu – Indian Spiced & Creamed Spinach Puree with Marinated Tofu or my Vegan Butter ‘Chicken’.
• It is important to knead the dough long enough to allow it to develop the right amount of gluten. This is responsible for the elastic and stretchy properties of naan. I knead mine for anywhere between 6 and 10 minutes. Do not over-knead either. You will start to get the feel of it the more you practice kneading dough in general.
• Additional Add-Ins: For the nigella seeds or vegan shreds, the process is the same. You can simply spread a small quantity onto the flattened naan dough, and then fold the dough roughly to sort of seal the contents in place, and then re-flatten each naan so that the seeds or cheese shreds are incorporated directly into the dough. For garlic naan, create a quick garlic butter/oil by mixing about 1 tablespoon of melted vegan butter or oil with 1 clove of minced garlic. Use a kitchen brush to spread some of this garlic butter/oil onto each flattened naan dough as soon as it goes into the pan.
• Naan is best eaten fresh. I recommend only cooking as many naans as will be consumed during that meal. The naan dough can always be kept covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days. If doing so, keep in mind that it may continue to rise, so place it in a bowl or container with enough room that allows for expansion.