A soft, fluffy, pillowy naan is everyone's favorite Indian flatbread. And a surefire testament to its popularity is the fact that in recent years, it's become a common offering at grocery stores like Aldi's and Trader Joe's, rubbing shoulders with other favorites like pitas and tortillas.
Jay loves it so much that every time we are at the store, he'll beg me to buy some so once we get home, we can pop it into the oven to warm it up, then tear it with our fingers and dunk it into a spicy hot curry for a delicious weekend lunch.
But easy as it is to buy a naan, or eat one at a restaurant, it's not that much harder to make one yourself, in your own kitchen. So on days when I am not madly rushed, I'll stop Jay right before he tosses a packet of naan into the grocery cart. Instead, when we get home, I'll roll up my sleeves and make some naan breads myself.
A homemade naan not only tastes better, because it doesn't have all those preservatives that store-bought bread does, it also has a better texture, and it's, of course, better for you. Once you've made it, you might find it hard to go back.
Making a naan bread is super simple too, and it really doesn't need any fancy equipment. All you need is your hands. And while you'll hear a great deal of talk about how naan made in a traditional clay tandoor oven needs temperatures as high as 800 degrees to cook -- a range a humble home oven cannot achieve -- don't lose heart. This naan recipe I am about to share with you today is made on a screaming-hot griddle on the stovetop, and it's faster than any oven with results just as good as anything you'd get from the restaurant or store. Or better.
Tips for making the best vegan naan
- A naan, unlike most Indian flatbreads, is a leavened bread, with added yeast giving it that puffy, glorious texture. Make sure the yeast you use is active. Let the dry yeast "bloom" for five minutes in a warm (not hot) water-milk mixture with some sugar added to wake the yeast up and feed them. If your yeast doesn't become frothy after five or 10 minutes, you need new yeast. (Here's a tip for storing dry yeast for a long time and helping it stay alive: keep it in an airtight container in the freezer.)
- Use warm water to knead the dough, and make sure you don't add all of the water in the beginning. Rather, drizzle it in a little at a time until you get a dough that's still a little sticky but not wet. You don't need to continue kneading the dough once it's come together.
- Let your naan dough rise, like you would any bread dough. This step is important, because you want the yeast to go to work so your naan is puffy and soft, not flat and brittle. You may want to speed the process up, but don't. You just need an hour to 90 minutes in a warm environment (like the oven with just the light on). And good things come to those who wait.
- After the naan dough has risen, divide it into eight balls and coat them lightly with flour. Let them stand, covered, for about 15 minutes so the dough relaxes and is easier to shape.
How to shape a naan
- The naan you'll find in restaurants and stores is usually teardrop shaped, but there really are no rules here. You can make your naan oval or round or you can just let it go free-form. Once your naan is baked up, and covered with the herby butter garlic mixture, it will look beautiful and incredibly appetizing no matter how you shaped it.
- I usually shape a naan the way I would pizza dough -- by hand. I just lift it by the edges and let the weight of the dough and gravity do the work. Let your fingers move around the edge of the dough, so you get an even shape. If there is a tear, patch it up by pressing the dough together. Once the naan is about five inches wide and seven inches long, rest it on a baking sheet and pull the long side a little more to give it that teardrop/oval shape. You can also just use a rolling pin and roll it into a teardrop shape.
What do you serve with a naan?
Naan is best eaten by tearing off pieces of the soft, hot bread and dunking it a hot, spicy curry. Because a Naan is a north Indian bread, it will go well with just about any north Indian curry. Here are some ideas for curries to serve with naan:
- Tofu Palak Paneer
- Aloo Matar
- Tofu Cubes in a Black Pepper Curry Sauce (Tofu "Paneer" Kalimirch)
- Instant Pot Vegan Butter "Chicken" with Tofu
- Instant Pot Vegan Dal Makhani
- Chana Masala
- Mirchi ka Salan, Chili Peppers in a Peanut Sauce
- All purpose flour
- Nondairy milk
- Vegetable oil
You will need garlic, cilantro and vegan butter for the topping. And salt and water, of course.
Let's make bread!
Garlic Vegan Naan Recipe
- 2.5 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 tsp sugar
- 0.5 cups nondairy milk (lukewarm)
- 1 to 1.5 cups water (lukewarm)
- 3.5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
For the garlic butter topping:
- 4 tbsp vegan butter (olive oil works too)
- 6 cloves garlic (crushed or put through a garlic press)
- 2 tbsp cilantro (finely chopped. You can sub with another herb like mint)
- Place the yeast in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the sugar, nondairy milk, and ½ cup water. Let the yeast stand at least five minutes until it starts to look frothy and "blooms"
- Add the flour and salt to the bowl and begin to knead, slowly drizzling in additional water until your dough comes together in a ball that's just slightly sticky (traces of the dough will stick to your fingers when you touch it). Keep in mind that you may not need all of the water, so don't dump it all in at one go.
- Drizzle the oil on top of the dough, turn it over once or twice to make sure the oil coats the dough, cover the bowl tightly with cling wrap or a lid or a kitchen towel, and set it aside to rise in a warm place for an hour to 90 minutes.
- After the dough has risen, turn it out on your work surface. Knead it lightly, form into a disc and cut into eight even pieces, the way you would a pizza. Roll each piece into a ball (it won't be firm), dust each ball lightly with flour, and set them aside, covered, for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make your garlic butter mixture by heating the butter in a small saucepan along with the garlic. Let the butter and garlic cook together for 3-4 minutes over medium-low heat until the garlic flavor infuses the butter and the garlic starts to turn a light golden. You don't want the garlic to burn. At this point, turn off the heat and stir in the herbs. Set aside.
- To shape the naan, either roll each ball into a teardrop shape or a round with a rolling pin. You can dust your work surface lightly with flour if needed. Or use your fingers to shape each ball into a small disc, then lift the disc by its edge and let the dough stretch and fall with the aid of gravity. Continue shaping by moving your fingers along the edges. If you're not used to doing this, it's possible your dough could tear, so be careful. If you do get a tear, patch it up by pressing the dough together and continue shaping with a rolling pin.
- Heat a cast-iron or any griddle over high heat until it's screaming hot. Place the naan on the griddle. You will immediately see it start to bubble up and turn opaque. Once the underside gets golden-brown spots, turn over and continue cooking the other side. This process should take you no more than two minutes or less on either side.
- As soon as you take the naan off the griddle, brush it with the garlic-herb-butter mixture on one side. Keep your naans wrapped in a kitchen towel until ready to serve.
- You can reheat any leftover naans on the griddle before serving.