Naan shiva.jpg
Alternative namesNan, Noon
Region or stateWestern Asia, South Asia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar and the Caribbean
Main ingredientsFlour, yeast, salt, water

Naan (Persian: نان, romanizednān, Urdu: نان, Kurdish: نان, Pashto: نان, Uyghur: نان, Hindi: नान, Bengali: নান) is a leavened, oven-baked (usually using a tandoor) or tawa-fried[clarification needed] flatbread[1] which is mainly found in the cuisine of the Indian subcontinent (India, Pakistan and Bangladesh) but is also found in Western Asia, Central Asia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, and the Caribbean.[2][3][4]


A Naan Bakery in Iran, Qajar era (circa 1850 CE)
A Naan Bakery in Iran, Qajar era (circa 1850 CE)

The earliest appearance of "naan" in English is from 1803 in a travelogue of William Tooke. A common English misconception is to say 'naan bread' but you can simply say 'naan' as naan is a bread. [5]

The Persian word nān 'bread' is attested in Middle Persian as n'n 'bread, food', which is of Iranian origin, and is a cognate with Parthian ngn, Kurdish nan, Balochi nagan, Sogdian nγn-, and Pashto nəγan 'bread'.[6] Naan may have derived from bread baked on hot pebbles in ancient Persia.[7]

The form naan has a widespread distribution, having been borrowed in a range of languages spoken in the Indian subcontinent and also Central Asia where it usually refers to a kind of flatbread (tandyr nan).[7] The spelling naan has been recorded as being first attested in 1979,[8] but dates back at least to 1975,[9] and has since become the normal English spelling.


Western Asia

Naan as known today originates from Mesopotamia, ancient Egypt, and South Asia.[7] The most familiar and readily available varieties of naan in Western countries are those from South Asia. In Iran, as well as in other West Asian nations or ethnic groups in the region, from which the word originated,[10] nân (Persian: نان) does not carry any special significance, as it is the generic word for any kind of bread.

Indian subcontinent

Naan spread to Indian subcontinent during Islamic Delhi Sultanate period, earliest mention of naan in the region comes from the memoirs of Indo-Persian Sufi poet Amir Khusrau living in India during 1300s AD. Amir Khusrau mentions two kinds of naan eaten by Muslim nobles; Naan-e-Tunuk and Naan-e-Tanuri. Naan-e-Tunuk was a light or thin bread, while Naan-e-Tanuri was the heavy bread and was baked in the tandoor.[11] The Ain-i-Akbari, a written record of the third Mughal emperor’s reign also mentions naan and it was eaten with kebabs or kheema (spiced minced meat) in it. By 1700s naan had reached the masses in Mughal cultural centers in South Asia.[12]

Naan in parts of the Indian subcontinent usually refers to a specific kind of thick flatbread. Generally, it is usually leavened with yeast or with bread starter (leavened naan dough left over from a previous batch); unleavened dough (similar to that used for roti) is also used. Naan, similar to some other breads of South Asian cuisine is cooked in a tandoor, from which tandoori cooking takes its name. This distinguishes it from roti, which is usually cooked on a tava, which is a flat (or slightly concaved) pan. Modern recipes sometimes substitute baking powder for the yeast. Milk or yogurt may also be used to impart distinct tastes to the naan. Milk used instead of water will, as it does for ordinary bread, yield a softer dough.[13] Also, when bread starter (which contains both yeast and lactobacilli) is used, the milk may undergo modest lactic fermentation.

Typically, it is brushed with some water but in some other cultures such as those in the Indian Subcontinent, they brush ghee or butter and maybe sometimes some garlic. It enjoys a special position in the Indian cuisine as it can be used to scoop other foods and gravies or served stuffed with a filling.[14]

A typical naan recipe involves mixing white or whole wheat flour (also known as maida) with active dry yeast, salt, and water.[15] The dough is kneaded for a few minutes, then set aside to rise for a few hours. Once risen, the dough is divided into balls (about 100 g or 3.5 oz each), which are flattened and cooked.

In South Asian cuisine, naans are typically flavored with fragrant essences, such as rosewater, khus (vetiver), or with butter or ghee melted on them. Kalonji seeds (Nigella seeds ) are commonly added to naan as cooked in Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani restaurants.

Raisins, lentils and spices can be added. Naan is a natural marriage with Indian and Bangladeshi curries and gravies and can also be covered with, or served as a wrap for, various toppings of meat, vegetables, or cheeses. This version is sometimes prepared as fast food. It can also be dipped into such soups as dal and goes well with sabzis (also known as shaakh) as well as sweet dishes.


In Indonesia, naan is popular in Indian Indonesian and Arab Indonesian community as well as Malay, Acehnese and Minangkabau–with other variant of roti like roti canai. This dish usually locally known as roti naan or roti nan and cooked using Indonesian spices, such as garlic with local taste.[16]


Naan bya (Burmese: နံပြား) in Myanmar is sometimes served at breakfast with tea or coffee. It is round, soft, and blistered, often buttered, or with pè byouk (boiled peas) on top, or dipped in sate soup (mutton soup).

External image
image icon A slideshow of Hyderabadi Kulcha / Naan / Sheermaal preparation images. Published on Flickr


The Jingzhou style of guokui, a flatbread prepared inside a cylindrical charcoal oven much like a tandoor, has been described as "Chinese naan".[17] It is also an integral part of Uyghur cuisine, and is known in Chinese as 馕 (náng).[18][19]


After being promoted by Kandagawa Sekizai Shoukou in 1968, which is now the sole domestic manufacturer of tandoors, naan is now widely available in Indian-style curry restaurants in Japan, where naan is typically free-flow. Some restaurants bake ingredients such as cheese, garlic, onions, and potatoes into the naan, or cover it with toppings like a pizza.[20][21][22]


Naan pizza is a type of pizza where naan is used as the crust instead of the traditional pizza dough. Chefs such as Nigella Lawson,[23] and supermarkets such as Wegmans[24] offer recipes for people to make their own naan pizza at home, though it is certainly not traditional.


See also


  1. ^ Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads By Bernard Clayton Jr., Donnie A Cameron. Simon and Schuster. 1987. ISBN 9780671602222.
  2. ^ Qmin by Anil Ashokan, Greg Elms
  3. ^ The Science of Cooking, Peter Barham, Springer: 2001. ISBN 978-3-540-67466-5. p. 118.
  4. ^ The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook by Beth Hensperger
  5. ^ Russia, or a Complete Historical Account of all the Nations which compose that Empire, London, p. 168: "The most common dishes are onoschi, or vermicelli; plav, or boiled rice; nan, pancakes, and the meats which the law permits." (referring to the eating habits of the central Turks). Other attestations in English can be found in the Oxford English Dictionary, s.v. naan.
  6. ^ Manfred Mayrhofer, Etymologisches Wörterbuch des Altindoarischen, Heidelberg 1996, vol. 2, p. 6,
  7. ^ a b c Pasqualone, Antonella (2018). "Traditional flat breads spread from the Fertile Crescent: Production process and history of baking systems". Journal of Ethnic Foods. 5 (1): 10–19. doi:10.1016/j.jef.2018.02.002. ISSN 2352-6181.
  8. ^ "Home : Oxford English"$ Dictionary". Retrieved 6 September 2015.
  9. ^ Milton Glaser and Jerome Snyder. "Delhi Delights", New York Magazine, August 11, 1975, p. 73
  10. ^ "Naan - Definition of naan". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 6 September 2015.
  11. ^ "History of Naan". Times of India. 11 June 2020.
  12. ^ Dash, MadhulIka (2015). "Breaking Bread" (PDF). No. May–June. Forbes life india. Forbes.
  13. ^ Harold McGee. On Food and Cooking. Scribner. 2nd Ed, 2004.
  14. ^ "The Independent - 404". The Independent. Archived from the original on 18 June 2022. Retrieved 6 September 2015.
  15. ^ "How To Make Naan Bread". videojug. Archived from the original on 10 September 2015. Retrieved 6 September 2015.
  16. ^ "Baking with Eda: 'Naan' Indonesian Flatbread".
  17. ^ "This 1,000-Year-Old Chinese 'Naan' Was Once Cooked in a Hat, and It's Yummy".
  18. ^ "Uighur Nan with Cumin and Onion Recipe".
  19. ^ "Have You Ever Seen Uyghur Bazaar Naan? It's So Fluffy and Delicious | TRP".
  20. ^ "【近ごろ都に流行るもの】「カレーにナン」本場インド以上に普及・巨大化". 27 July 2018.
  21. ^ "インド人が驚く日本の「ナン」独自すぎる進化 | 食べれば世界がわかる!カレー経済圏". 6 May 2019.
  22. ^ "日本のインド料理店のナンが大きい理由 | 雑学ネタ帳".
  23. ^ Nigella. "NAAN PIZZA - Recipes - Nigella Lawson". Retrieved 6 September 2015.
  24. ^ "Recipes - Wegmans". Archived from the original on 1 May 2014. Retrieved 6 September 2015.