I always consider naan to be the “gateway” to Indian food. Those overly-critical friends that have a fear of eating anything other than sandwich meat and macaroni and cheese will loosen their stance just a bit after taking a bite of naan. They might even move on to the next least threatening thing—chicken tikka masala.
I also think that naan is the gateway to Indian cooking. Unlike a lot of other Indian dishes, naan can likely be made right now in your kitchen with ingredients that are probably already in your pantry. And that’s a great thing because Indian food is just amazing.
Do you want to know what the best thing about naan is? It can be made on your stovetop or on the grill! That makes it the perfect idea for a summer appetizer with friends or a winter comfort food.
Naan is a fermented dough that puffs and crisps slightly upon heating. Yeast is the little guy that’s responsible for that fermentation and leavening. I gave you a crash course on yeast with chocolate rolls, but as a brief refresher, yeast is a microorganism that eats sugar and in turn produces carbon dioxide and a small amount of alcohol. That carbon dioxide causes your dough to rise. At the beginning of heating, the yeast becomes super active and produces an extra push of carbon dioxide that causes the bread to puff up a little bit before the heat kills the yeast.
I love this recipe in particular because it uses Greek yogurt. The yogurt does a couple of really cool things. The added protein helps give the dough structure meaning that you don’t need to knead it. Kneading encourages gluten development in the dough which is the base protein structure of bread. The extra protein from the yogurt eliminates the importance of advanced gluten development. 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. The yeast is not very active in refrigerator temperatures, but it will continue to create a tiny amount of alcohol. This alcohol will yield an almost sourdough-like quality to your naan.
The recipe below includes instructions on stovetop for your naan. If you desire to grill it (which I’m sure tastes delicious!), follow the link below the recipe title for the technique!
Garlic Naan Bread
Adapted from Girl Versus Dough
Makes 6 large pieces
¾ cup water
¾ cup milk
1 ¾ teaspoons active dry yeast
½ tablespoon Kosher salt
¼ cup Greek yogurt (at least 2% fat)
1 tablespoon honey
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling out
2-3 large cloves garlic
Handful of cilantro
1. In a saucepan over low heat, heat the water and milk together until just warm to the touch. If you overheat it, let the mixture cool until just warm to the touch. Sprinkle the yeast on top of the mixture and let it sit for 3-5 minutes in order to activate. You should be able to smell it working near the end.
2. In a large bowl, combine the salt, yogurt, and honey. Add the yeast mixture from step one and whisk to combine. Add the flour and mix until just combined.
3. Cover the bowl loosely with plastic wrap or a tea towel and put in a warm place. Let the dough rise for 2 hours or until the dough has either flattened on top or risen and collapsed.
4. Either transfer your dough to a lidded container or cover your bowl with plastic wrap if you did not do so in step 3. Move the bowl or loosely lidded container to the fridge and store overnight, but no more than 48 hours—the gluten will begin to break down, and the flavor will become too ethanol-y.
5. When you are ready to make naan, heat a skillet over medium heat. Chop a handful of cilantro and your garlic into small-ish pieces. Melt several tablespoons of butter in one small dish and have another small dish of water nearby as well.
6. Sprinkle your countertop with flour. Take the dough out of the bowl and put on top of your floured surface. Punch the dough down and divide into six pieces. The dough will be sticky, so flouring your hands will help with this. Take one piece of dough and either roll it with a rolling pin or stretch it with your hands until the dough is about ¼ inch in thickness. It doesn’t need to be perfect.
7. Brush the top of one piece with butter followed by water. Place it water/butter-side down in the hot pan. For a puffier naan, cover for 1 minute. When the naan is browned slightly in some spots, brush the top with butter and water and flip so that the second side is now in contact with the pan. Wait a couple of minutes until the dough is finished crisping slightly and browning on the second side and transfer to a plate. Brush the top of the naan with butter and sprinkle with your chopped cilantro and garlic.
8. Repeat with the remaining dough pieces until all of your naan is made. Eat immediately, or freeze in a tightly sealed bag*.
*When you are ready to eat the frozen naan let it thaw in the fridge. The naan is still extremely good chilled, but after thawing, you can certainly heat the naan for a bit in the microwave.