Naan | Description, History, Ingredients, Preparation, & Varieties (2024)

naan, teardrop-shaped, leavened flatbread traditionally baked in a tandoor oven (a beehive-shaped clay oven) or on wood charcoal. Although still a staple of South Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines—and especially associated with Indian cuisine—the versatility and flavor of naan have led to its incorporation into many different dishes and cuisines worldwide.

Ingredients and preparation

Naan is a single-layer bread with a light and slightly fluffy texture and golden-brown spots from the baking process. It is made primarily from white flour or wheat flour and a leavening agent (usually yeast), which results in the formation of air pockets in the dough that impart fluffiness and softness. Other ingredients used to make naan include warm water, salt, ghee (clarified butter), and yogurt. In some cases, milk, egg, or honey may be added, and baking powder or baking soda may be substituted for yeast, which shortens the amount of time needed to prepare the bread.

When baked in a tandoor, balls of naan dough are rolled flat and then pressed against the inside walls of the tandoor, which can reach a temperature of 480 °C (900 °F). The bread bakes in just several minutes, browning in spots from the heat. Naan also can be made on a stovetop on a flat pan called a tawa, with the baker flipping the pan upside down over the flame to achieve the characteristic browning of the bread’s surface.

Once naan is baked, it usually is brushed with ghee or butter and served hot. The soft, flexible bread often accompanies the main meal and serves in place of utensils to scoop dahls, sauces, stews, and curries. It is also eaten with dry dishes, such as tandoori chicken.

Varieties

There are different varieties of naan, some of which are filled. To make filled naan, during preparation, the ball of dough is rolled flat, and the baker places the filling in the middle. The dough is then folded and carefully rolled flat again, with the filling in the center. Among the varieties of filled naan are: keema naan, which contains spiced lamb; Peshawari naan, which is sweet, being filled with combinations of coconut, raisins, sultanas, and nuts; Kashmiri naan, which uses candied cherries, golden raisins, almonds, cumin, and fenugreek; aloo naan, which contains spiced mashed potatoes; garlic naan, which has garlic pressed into the bread’s surface or mixed into the dough; and nan-e roghani, which is an Afghan naan prepared with nigella seeds, sesame seeds, and extra oil for a soft, pillowy texture.

History

The history of flatbreads extends back thousands of years to the civilizations of Mesopotamia, ancient Egypt, and the Indus valley. The word naan comes from the Persian nân-e sangak, meaning “bread baked on [hot] pebbles.” In 1300 ce, Indian poet Amīr Khosrow documented two kinds of naan: naan-e-tunuk (light or thin bread) and naan-e-tanuri (bread cooked in a tandoor oven).

Naan | Description, History, Ingredients, Preparation, & Varieties (2)

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Due to the lengthy process of making a leavened bread, naan historically was available primarily to royalty. The breads, accompanied with kebabs and keema (minced-beef curry), became popular among the Mughal nobility in the 1500s. About 1799, the word naan was introduced into the English language by historian and clergyman William Tooke. Today, naan can be found worldwide in restaurants serving South Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine, and it is available in many supermarkets. Fusion cuisine has introduced new dishes that incorporate naan, including naan pizza and naan tacos and even huevos rancheros (an egg dish) served over naan.

Jennifer Murtoff

Naan | Description, History, Ingredients, Preparation, & Varieties (2024)

FAQs

Naan | Description, History, Ingredients, Preparation, & Varieties? ›

Naan is a single-layer bread with a light and slightly fluffy texture and golden-brown spots from the baking process. It is made primarily from white flour or wheat flour and a leavening agent (usually yeast), which results in the formation of air pockets in the dough that impart fluffiness and softness.

What is the history of naan food? ›

Originally, naan was developed after the arrival of yeast in India from Egypt. During India's Mughal era in the 1520s, Naan was a delicacy that only nobles and royal families enjoyed because the art of making Naan was a revered skill, known by few.

What is traditional naan made from? ›

My favorite homemade naan recipe is made with basic bread ingredients (flour, water and yeast) plus a generous dollop of yogurt, egg and baking powder to make the bread extra soft and chewy. I also prefer to use touch of honey as a natural sweetener for the bread.

What are the variations of naan bread? ›

Some of the most popular flavoured variations are plain naan, Peshwari naan, garlic and coriander naan and cheese naan. A good plain naan dough needs strong bread flour, yeast, black onion seeds, milk, and yoghurt – to give the naan that tanginess.

What is the ingredient in naan? ›

Flour, yeast, milk, and butter make a tender dough that's simply seasoned with garlic and salt, but there is a wide array of naan bread flavors. You'll find everything from coconut and raisin-stuffed bread to saucy lamb-topped naan in restaurants and home kitchens around the world.

What is a key ingredient in the unique feature of Indian naan bread? ›

Primarily composed of white or wheat flour combined with a leavening agent, typically yeast, naan dough develops air pockets that contribute to its fluffy and soft texture.

What is a fact about naan? ›

Naan is a type of flatbread that was originally cooked on pebbles. Naan is derived from the Persian word for bread, and you can use flour to bake it at home.

Where is naan originated? ›

originating from over 2,500 years ago, naan, today identified as a leavened indian flatbread, traces its history back to old iran or persia, where the word “naan” referred to bread baked on hot pebbles.

Is naan healthy or unhealthy? ›

Naan bread can be part of a healthy diet, especially if you choose whole grain varieties. Naan bread contains vitamins and minerals like niacin, fiber, and iron, as well as fiber. It also is a good source of carbohydrates, which provide energy.

Does traditional naan contain yeast? ›

Though they're flatbreads, naans traditionally get their bubbly texture from yeast (and, very traditionally, from wild yeasts). Some more modern variations, such as that in Vivek Singh's Curry, use baking powder instead, with Jaffrey also adding extra bicarbonate of soda.

What is a special naan? ›

£2.75. Leavened bread bakes with onions, garlic and green pepper, with a touch of coriander.

What is the most popular naan? ›

One of the most well-known varieties of Naan is the traditional Indian flatbread known as butter naan. Flour, yeast, salt, sugar, and yogurt are used in their preparation.

What is a healthy alternative to naan? ›

What most people don't realize is, most Indians don't eat naan everyday. It's a treat reserved for special occasions. A healthier alternative that is eaten daily in most indian households, is roti (also called chapati or fulka). It's an unleavened flatbread made of just two ingredients - whole wheat flour and water.

Why does naan have yogurt? ›

The yogurt also adds some fat. The fat keeps the dough nice and soft and prevents the naan from hardening too much during the cooking process. Another great thing about this recipe is to refrigerate the dough overnight after letting it rise. This creates a great flavor development from the yeast.

What grain is naan made from? ›

Made with ancient grains, spelt, buckwheat, Khorasan wheat and quinoa! These sweeter, smaller naan are sized just right to fit in your toaster. Perfect for breakfast and snack time.

What is the Indian bread that is not naan? ›

Naan, Roti, and Paratha are three distinct Indian breads, each with its own unique characteristics and flavors.

Who invented the naan? ›

Although it is believed that the dish could have been a staple in India centuries earlier, the first recorded mention of naan bread is around 1300 AD from Amir Kashrau (1253-1325 AD).

What is the purpose of naan? ›

One of the most popular Indian delicacies that we know of; curries are creamy with the right amount of spicy, curries pair perfectly with warm, fluffy naan. Naan bread also serves as the perfect companion to soups and stews, absorbing their rich flavors and adding a delightful textural contrast.

Is naan Indian or mediterranean? ›

Usually softer, naan originates in India, by way of Persia. The name comes from the Persian word, non, for bread. Unlike pita, naan has yogurt, milk, and sometimes eggs or butter in it, resulting in a softer texture.

Is naan bread Chinese or Indian? ›

Naan is an Indian flatbread made from wheat dough, which is traditionally baked against the side of a tandoor oven and then coated with ghee (clarified butter). It is often served as a side dish to curries and other main meals. Naan is mainly eaten in the Punjab region and the north of the country.

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