Naan is one of the simplest bread recipes you could make. There is no kneading, which allows the dough to come together very quickly, and after a short rise, you simply divide, roll, and griddle. The dough is so soft and tender thanks to yogurt, and a brush of melted butter out of the skillet makes them completely irresistible!

Just baked naan in a bowl.

My friend Deb messaged me last week with a few questions about making naan. I hadn’t made it in ages, and having recently revisited and loved making homemade tortillas, I felt up for a little project.

As you might imagine, if you search the internet for “naan”, you will find all sorts of recipes, nearly all of which include yogurt, some of which include oil, and others that include eggs.

But what has always perplexed me about naan recipes is the variety of leavening agents. I’ve seen recipes that call for:

  • baking soda alone
  • a combination of baking soda and baking powder
  • a combination of yeast, baking soda, and baking powder
  • yeast and baking powder
  • yeast alone

Though I knew in my heart I would likely go with a yeast-only naan, I felt the need to explore a little bit. Would there be any reason to include a chemical leaven (baking soda or powder) with yeast? Any reason to use all three leavening agents? Any reason to forgo yeast altogether?

Before I share my results, shall we quickly review the difference between baking soda and baking powder? This is something I will never ever commit to memory, but I enjoyed the recent refresher. This Bob’s Red Mill article was particularly helpful and interesting.

Baking Soda vs. Baking Powder

  • Baking soda is a base and reacts with acid (vinegar, yogurt, buttermilk), which produces gaseous carbon dioxide bubbles, which causes baked goods to rise.
  • Baking powder is made of baking soda (a base), cream of tartar (an acid), and sometimes cornstarch. Most baking powder is double-acting, meaning CO2 will be produced at two different phases: first when the batter is mixed (due to the liquid in the batter activating the base and acid), then when the dough is placed in the oven (due to the acid being both hot and wet).
  • Baking soda is 4 times as strong as baking powder.
  • Batters made with baking soda should be baked shortly after mixing because the gaseous bubbles dissipate quickly.
  • Batters made with baking powder can be stored for longer (even in the fridge overnight).

Naan Experiments

  • I started with the Bread Toast Crumbs dough ratio: 2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon instant yeast, 1 cup liquid.
  • After several experiments, I found a mix of 1/2 cup Greek yogurt and 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons water created a perfect dough: not too wet, not too stiff. Interestingly, the liquid (yogurt + water) and the flour here weigh the exact amount: 256 g.
  • I omitted the sugar. This is something I’m doing more and more with my breads. So many recipes call for a small amount (2 to 3 teaspoons), and I suspect this is mostly to help activate the yeast, especially when using active-dry yeast. With instant yeast, sugar isn’t necessary, and I don’t think such a small amount imparts enough flavor in the dough to warrant including.
  • I tried various combinations of baking soda, baking powder, and yeast, and I liked all of them, but, especially when baking soda was in the mix, I could detect a slight metallic taste in the dough. It wasn’t a bad taste, but it was noticeable. I also found the baking soda doughs burned more easily.
  • The baking powder-yeast dough compared to the yeast-only dough were nearly identical — similar air bubbles in the pan, similar dough texture, similar flavor — so, in the end, I stuck with yeast alone as a leaven.

Friends, making naan is SO much fun. The dough takes no time to whisk together, rises relatively quickly (just over an hour), and each naan cooks for a minute and 30 seconds stovetop.

I would be happy eating naan and naan alone — sprinkled with sea salt it is irresistible — but it is an especially nice accompaniment to many a stewy dish, namely lentils and curries. Here are a few ideas:

Here’s the play-by-play: Combine 2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon instant yeast, and 1 teaspoon kosher salt in a large bowl. As always, a digital scale is best for measuring. (Weight measurements included in the recipe)

A bow of flour aside yeast and salt.

Combine 1/2 cup Greek yogurt with 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons boiling water.

A liquid measure filled with equal parts hot water and yogurt.

Pour the liquid into the dry ingredients, and stir with a spatula to form a ball. You’ll likely need to knead with your hands for about a minute to get the dough to come together (see video for guidance.)

A ball of naan dough all mixed up.

Cover the bowl and let it rise in a warm spot for about an hour and 15 minutes, or until the dough looks slightly puffed.

A bowl of naan dough, risen.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface.

Risen naan dough turned out onto a work surface.

Divide the dough into 4 portions.

Four portions of naan dough on a floured work surface.

Ball each one up.

Four balls of naan dough balled up.

Roll each into an 8- or 9-inch round.

Two rounds of naan rolled out onto a floured work surface.

Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat till it’s very, very hot. Place one round in, cover, and cook for 1 minute. Uncover, flip, and cook for 30 seconds.

Naan in skillet.
A skillet of naan being cooked aside a freshly cooked naan in a bowl.

Brush each round with melted butter once it is out of the pan.

A skillet of naan aside freshly cooked naan.

Stack the cooked, buttered naan on a plate or platter and cover with a towel till ready to serve.

Fresh naan on a plate.

Friends, these are sooooo yummy ….

A freshly griddled round of naan.
Homemade naan in a platter.
Fresh naan on a board.