Learn how to make soft and tender naan bread at home, just like your favorite Indian restaurant. It’s a simple yeast-leavened flatbread made with flour, yogurt, egg, and oil. After a quick 1-hour rise, the dough is ready to roll and cook in a hot skillet.
Restaurant-quality Indian flatbread
When a basket of hot, pillowy naan bread hits the table, it usually disappears fast. This popular yeast-leavened flatbread is a staple in Indian cuisine. Its soft chew and pliable fold make it perfect for dipping in fragrant curries and sauces. like my chicken tikka masala. You’ll be delighted to know that the recipe is super easy to make from scratch!
Naan is made from an enriched dough composed of wheat flour, plain yogurt, water, egg, vegetable oil, and yeast. It’s traditionally cooked in a blazing hot tandoor oven. However, we can closely mimic that environment with a preheated skillet on the stovetop. Once you let the active yeast ferment and elevate the dough, you’ll have fresh pieces in no time.
Don’t kill the yeast!
I use active dry yeast in this recipe, which needs to proof first in warm water between 100 to 110ºF (38 to 43ºC). Note that yeast are living organisms and can die in temperatures above 138ºF (59ºC).
A lukewarm environment ensures that they stay properly hydrated and alive. The main role of yeast is fermentation which produces new flavors and helps the dough rise.
Making dough from scratch
You can make naan bread in 5 easy steps; proofing the yeast, kneading the ingredients, rising, shaping, and cooking. Using simple pantry ingredients like yeast, all-purpose flour, salt, vegetable oil, and egg yolks ensures a light and tender texture.
Once the yeast is active and bubbly, mix it with the egg yolk, oil, and yogurt. Add flour and knead until a smooth and slightly sticky ball of dough forms. Cover it with a towel and let it sit in a warm area until it doubles in size. I recommend using an oven proofing box to ensure ideal conditions.
Divide the puffy naan dough into 8 equal portions. Roll each piece on a floured surface into an oval shape. Using a large skillet, cook one by one until the bottoms are golden-brown on each side.
The essential ingredients
- Yeast: Use active dry yeast to help create air pockets in the bread for lightness.
- Flour: All-purpose flour has 10 to 13% protein to help with gluten formation and gives a flexible chewy consistency. You can use other types of flour like gluten-free whole wheat, but the texture will be slightly different.
- Egg yolks: This enriches the dough with more fat and makes it tender. Avoid the egg whites to prevent the bread from becoming tough.
- Yogurt: The acids add flavor. You may substitute with Greek yogurt as long as there is some fat in the product to help balance out the gluten formation of the flour.
- Oil: Makes the dough easier to roll out and shape. You can use olive oil or another neutral-tasting oil.
- Salt: Adds a savory flavor and helps to control fermentation.
A tandoor oven is not required
Most Indian restaurants use a well-insulated cylindrical clay oven for cooking naan. However, since most of us don’t have a portable or permanent tandoor in our homes (lucky if you do!), we need to improvise. Thankfully, a large cast-iron skillet does the trick!
Once the pan is preheated and the surface lightly greased, place one of the rolled-out naan doughs inside. Cook until it puffs up and a few brown blisters form, then flip it over and finish it off. The process only takes a few minutes for each piece. A nonstick pan will work, but I prefer cast iron as it retains heat better.
For soft bread with a blistered surface
There are two tricks to nailing that characteristic airy, soft bread with a lightly charred surface. First, after shaping the dough into balls, roll them out one-by-one in between cooking each piece. This ensures that the dough is briefly deflated and doesn’t lose those important air pockets that the yeast worked so hard to create.
Second, make sure that the pan is hot before you begin. A consistent medium heat lets the dough cook through completely without burning the surface too quickly. The radiating heat from the pan will create large air bubbles inside the dough, like blowing up a balloon. Once the pockets separate and set, the naan bread will have a nice pillowy light texture.
Want to make it garlicky?
Garlic naan is easy to prepare. Just add freshly minced garlic with some butter and melt in the microwave. This also briefly cooks the garlic, so the flavor isn’t too raw or sharp. After taking the cooked naan out of the pan, brush the garlic butter mixture and add a few more chopped pieces on top for stronger aromatics.
More Indian recipes
Using baking powder instead of yeast
Baking powder is an effective chemical leavening agent used in quick breads. Some naan recipes add both yeast and baking powder for extra lift. If you don’t have yeast, simply add ¼ teaspoon of baking powder or ¾ teaspoon baking soda to the dry ingredients. Mix with the wet ingredients and let the dough sit for about 20 to 30 minutes covered, then follow the remaining recipe instructions.
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Homemade Naan Bread
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- ½ cup warm water, 100 to 110ºF (38 to 43ºC)
- 2 ¼ teaspoons active dry yeast
- ½ cup whole milk plain yogurt
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for greasing bowl and pan
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- In a medium bowl, stir together sugar and warm water. Sprinkle the yeast on top, stir, and let the mixture stand for 10 minutes. If mixture bubbles and doubles in volume the yeast is active and ready to use. Whisk in the yogurt, oil, and egg yolk into the yeast mixture until combined.
- In a large bowl, whisk together 2 cups of flour and salt. Add the yeast mixture to the flour mixture and stir to combine until a sticky ball forms.
- Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Gradually use the remaining ½ cup of flour, about 1 tablespoon at a time to sprinkle and knead the dough until a soft and smooth, about 3 to 4 minutes. You may not need all of the flour, do not add too much as it will make the dough very dry.
- Grease a medium bowl with ½ teaspoon of oil, then place the dough in the bowl. Cover it with a damp towel and let it rise in a warm draft-free space until doubled in size, about 1 hour. The ideal temperature room is 75 to 85ºF (24 to 29ºC).
- Transfer dough to a lightly floured board. Cut into 8 even-sized pieces, like slicing a round pizza. Gently shape each piece into a ball, do not overwork. Place them on a plate and cover with a towel.
- Working one ball at a time, roll out into an oval shape about ¼-inch thick, about 7 inches long and 5 inches wide. Sprinkle with flour as needed to prevent sticking.
- Heat a 12-inch cast iron skillet or nonstick pan over medium heat. Lightly brush vegetable oil on the surface to prevent sticking. Once the skillet is hot add one piece of dough. Cook until bubbles form on the surface and the bottom is golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes. Flip and cook the other side until browned, 1 to 2 minutes. Wrap in a towel to keep warm.
- Continue rolling and cooking the remainder of the dough. It’s best to roll them out one-by-one while cooking. Add more oil to the pan and adjust the heat as needed. Make sure the pan stays hot in between batches to ensure bubbling.
- Melt butter in a microwave, about 45 seconds. Brush the melted butter over the hot naan and serve warm.
- Serving Size: 1 piece
- Storing: The naan bread can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or frozen in a resealable plastic bag for up to 1 month.
- Reheating: Line a sheet pan with foil. Broil naan in the middle of the oven until warmed through, about 1 to 4 minutes if fresh or frozen. Make sure to keep a close eye on the bread as it can brown quickly in the oven.
- For Garlic Naan:
- In a small microwave-safe bowl, heat 2 tablespoons (16g) minced garlic and butter in 15 seconds intervals on high power until the butter is melted, about 45 to 60 seconds.
- Brush the garlic butter over the hot naan bread and garnish with chopped parsley.
- Substituting with Instant Yeast: Use the same amount of instant yeast as active dry yeast. Mix instant dry yeast with 2 cups flour, sugar and salt. Heat the water to 120 to 130ºF (49 to 54ºC). Add warm water, yogurt, oil, and egg yolk to the dry ingredients, stir to combine. Knead with remaining ½ cup of flour until smooth. Follow the rest of the recipe instructions. Rise time may be faster, check dough after 30 minutes for the first rise, and 15 minutes after the second.
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