Naan is a South Asian flatbread – naan just means bread – and the type most often seen in the global north is typical to parts of India. It’s traditionally cooked in a tandoor, a cylindrical oven (and many Indian or other South Asian restaurants in Europe/America will make it in a tandoor). Using a pan is obviously not authentic, but it’s as close as you can get without a proper oven.
I’ve been making naan (with varying success) since I was just little. It’s one of the easiest breads to make, and turns out well at home using a frying pan. I make it all the time to have with curry, red lentil patties, just with hummus, or whatever.
Even if you’re completely unfamiliar with making yeast-leavened breads at home, you can make still make this easy spelt flatbread. Only one rising period, no baking, no complicated shaping. This is great for beginners.
This vegan version uses olive oil instead of ghee and works well for a dairy-free diet. Use either light or whole grain spelt depending on how soft you want the end result to be.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Spelt flour: use light for the most tender flatbread, or go up to 100% wholegrain for a more nutritious option. Plain white flour can be substituted for the spelt. Regular whole wheat flour is harder than spelt, so I don’t recommend going over 50%. Other ancient grains like einkorn and khorasan wheat can be used.
- Yeast: there is no substitute for yeast, unless you want to use sourdough starter. For sourdough, make the same dough as my sourdough pizza dough, and then roll out and fry as instructed here.
- Olive oil: I find that olive oil makes for the best texture when frying, but it does have a tendency to splatter, so be careful or use a guard.
Since the dough only needs one rising period, it’s ready from start to finish in about an hour and a half, and easy enough for beginners to make. Follow the instructions carefully and you’ll have perfect naan the first time and every time.
1. Mix the yeast: add water, sugar, and yeast to a mixing bowl and bloom the yeast.
2. Mix the dough: add the remaining water, oil, salt, and flour, and mix into a shaggy dough.
3. Knead: mix in the remaining flour, then knead into a soft, stretchy dough.
4. Rise: set aside to rise until doubled, about an hour.
5. Divide: portion the dough into 12 balls and set aside.
6. Roll and cook: roll each ball into a very thin oval, then cook in a frying pan. Serve hot.
My trick for really good vegan naan at home is liberal amounts of olive oil in the frying pan and adding a little salt to each side as you cook it. Not the healthiest, I know, but I was told to add more sodium to my diet to help with black spots and lightheadedness and have embraced that wholeheartedly – if you follow a low-sodium diet, perhaps avoid this step.
This recipe makes a big batch, about a dozen pieces, and if you don’t want to have lots left over then I’d recommend reducing by half. It’s best fresh, but still pretty good on day two, so don’t make more than you think you can eat in two days.
Looking for something similar with no yeast? Try these spelt tortillas or sweet potato flatbread, or go with socca for a GF option. I have a sourdough naan recipe over at Baked, too, if you prefer to use starter.
Try adding different herbs and spices to the mix to change things up. There’s a garlic naan in my cookbook that’s great, or try adding cumin seeds, nigella, finely chopped parsley, and so on.
Make Ahead and Store
Make Ahead: the dough can be frozen after rising – this is great if you just want to cook half – and thawed to use later. Freeze in an airtight container, thaw in the refrigerator overnight, then roll out and cook as usual.
Storage: naan is best the day it’s cooked, but can be stored in a sealed container at room temperature for a couple of days.
Freezing: if you prefer to freeze the cooked naan, place it in an airtight container once cooled and freeze for up to three months. It will be slightly dried out when thawed, but tastes almost fresh if you reheat it slightly before serving.
- Make sure to preheat: the pan needs to be hot before starting to cook. If the bread doesn’t immediately start to bubble up when it hits the pan, it needs to heat up longer.
- Use a fan: your kitchen might get a little steamy or smokey when you’re cooking this, so keep a fan on or crack a window! I’ve had the fire alarm go off several times while making naan.
- Don’t cook the flour: if you need quite a bit of flour to roll the pieces out, try to brush as much of it off before frying as possible. This is part of what makes the kitchen quite smokey during cooking (the flour burns as it remains in the pan).
Serve with Naan
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Vegan Spelt Naan
- 60 ml warm water
- 2 ¼ teaspoons dry yeast*
- 1 teaspoon coconut sugar
- 250 ml room-temperature water
- 2 tablespoons olive oil plus more for cooking
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 375 – 450 grams spelt flour**
For the Dough
- Add the warm water, coconut sugar, and yeast to a large bowl.60 ml warm water, 2 ¼ teaspoons dry yeast*, 1 teaspoon coconut sugar
- Let the mixture rest for 15 minutes, until the yeast blooms*, or looks frothy.
- Stir in the remaining water, olive oil, salt, and 150g (1 cup) of flour with a wooden spoon.250 ml room-temperature water, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon sea salt, 375 – 450 grams spelt flour**
- Add the remaining flour 75g (1/2 cup) at a time, stirring between each addition, until it becomes too difficult to stir by hand.375 – 450 grams spelt flour**
- Turn the dough out onto a well-floured surface. Knead for 5-10 minutes, sprinkling additional flour as needed, until a soft and smooth dough forms. You can also use the dough hook in a stand mixer if you have one.
- Drizzle a little olive oil into the bowl and place the kneaded dough into it, turning the dough to coat it in oil. Cover with a tea towel and plate or beeswax wrap.
- Place the dough in a warm spot (like an oven with the light on) and let the dough rise for about 50-60 minutes, or until doubled in size.
Cook the Naan
- Heat a large, flat bottomed pan on medium high heat with a drizzle of olive oil.
- Portion the dough into approximately 12 equal pieces, then flour a surface and roll one out at a time into rough ovals, about 5mm – 1 cm (~.5 in.) thick.
- Once the pan is very hot, add add a piece of rolled out dough. The bread should immediately bubble and start to puff up.
- Sprinkle a little pinch of salt if desired, and cook for about 45 seconds. Carefully flip and cook for another 30 seconds.
- Roll the second naan while the first is cooking. Repeat until all of the dough has been used, keeping the cooked flatbreads in a warm oven while cooking.
- The naan is best eaten fresh but will still be good on day two, if stored in a sealed container on the counter. It freezes well and can be thawed to use as a side or a quick pizza base.
* For American cup measurements, please click the pink link text above the ingredient list that says ‘American’.
Nutrition is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate. If this information is important to you, please have it verified independently.
This post was first published in January 2018. It has been updated most recently as of December 2022.