Cast-Iron Garlic Naan

Cast Iron Naan Copyright ©ShulieMadnick

Naan in Persian means bread. The name goes by several variations, including non and nān, throughout central and southeast Asia. It's a leavened flatbread made with yeast and white flour traditionally baked in tandoor, a rounded cylindrical clay oven with a round opening at the top. The rolled-out dough is slapped onto the tandoor walls, puffs, and beautifully blisters from the coal embers at the bottom radiating 900 F/480 C heat throughout.

Naan was first mentioned in English in a 1780 travelogue,  'Russia: Or, A Compleat Historical Account of All the Nations which Compose that Empire,' written by the English clergyman William Tooke. In his travelogue, Tooke covered central Asian eating habits where he wrote, "The most common dishes are onoschi, or vermicelli; plav, or boiled rice; nan, pancakes, and the meats which the law permits."

Earlier, in 1300 AD, "naan-e-tanuk (light bread) and naa-e-tanuri (cooked in a tandoor oven) at the imperial court in Delhi" were noted in Amir Kushrau's, an Indo-Persian poet's writings. 
Copyright ©ShulieMadnick

The naan arrived in India with the Muslim conquerors. First in the 13th century with the Sultanate and in the 16th century with Mughals. It was un-refutably the beginning of naan's massive popularity today. However, the naan was first the food of sultans, royals, and imperial Mughals. It was consumed in the mornings with kheema (minced, no sauce, meat) and kebobs.When the royals were done with their feast the leftovers were distributed to the poor.
 Copyright ©ShulieMadnick


The naan dough is more supple and sumptuous, enriched with milk, ghee (clarified butter), and yogurt. It comes in many regional variations, oven-baked, traditional teardrop-shaped, and modern twists, which I will share in upcoming posts in this naan series.

The round-shaped naan fits the cast iron better. You can use a non-cast-iron pan. Ghee (clarified butter) is a traditional Indian ingredient, but often I like to use olive oil. If you keep kosher, serve naan with parve, non-meat vegetarian or fish, dishes, like daal.

Cast-Iron Garlic Naan
makes 8

This is recipe can be easily doubled 


2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 - 3/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil or ghee (clarified butter)
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1/4 oz (1 packet) dry yeast
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon sugar

Extra olive oil or ghee (clarified butter) for brushing the bowl and the dough

Garlic-oil for brushing the naan:

4 tablespoons olive oil or ghee
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 pinches of salt
Cilantro, finely chopped (optional)


In a measuring cup mix 1 teaspoon sugar in 1/4 cup lukewarm water, and mix. Mix in the yeast in the lukewarm water, cover, and let proof (bubble, foam, and rise) for about 10 - 20 minutes.  

In a small food storage container (with a lid), mix the garlic, oil, and salt; cover and refrigerate until ready to serve the naan.

Combine the flour, salt, and oil in a large, wide mixing bowl. Use your fingertips to form a crumbly mixture. Make a well in the middle of the flour and add the proofed yeast, yogurt, and milk and start combining with the flour. Knead the dough (in the bowl) for up to10 minutes or until smooth and pliable. The dough will be soft and tacky (slightly sticky). Shape the dough into a round loaf.

You can also knead this dough in a mixer with a hook attachment.

Brush a clean bowl with olive oil or ghee and place the dough inside. Flip the dough in the bowl so that the entire surface of the dough is coated with a thin film of oil. Cover with a kitchen towel or (recycled) plastic wrap and proof the dough (let the dough rise) for an hour in a warm spot or until it doubles in size.

Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces, forming them into balls (approximately 85 grams/3 oz each ball). Re-cover with a kitchen towel.

Working with one dough ball at a time, lightly dust the rolling surface with flour, then roll it out to a 2 - 4 inch round, flip and continue rolling out to 8 inches in diameter. 

Carefully transfer the rolled out dough to an ungreased cast-iron or tawa (Indian skillet), over medium heat. Several bubbles will appear on the surface, and the naan will potentially puff completely; cook until several few golden to dark spots form. Turn it over with a heat resistant spatula and cook the naan as it puffs up to 1 minute longer or as needed. The large blisters will be apparent on the flipped side. . 

Adjust the heat as necessary so that the naan won't burn but keep it hot enough so it puffs.

Transfer the cooked naan to a plate; brush with garlic-infused oil or ghee, including the bits of garlic in it,  and sprinkle with cilantro if desired, and serve. 

Or transfer the naan to a plate and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Brush with garlic-infused oil, including the bits of minced garlic in it, before serving. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro if desired. 

Repeat with the remaining balls of dough.

Refrigerating and Freezing:

Ideally naan is best served immediately off the pan but can be refrigerated overnight in an airtight container and reheated in a 350F/177C oven, wrapped in foil. 

It can also be frozen in an airtight container with parchment paper dividing each naan for up to a month. Reheat frozen at 350F/177C oven wrapped in foil. Brush with garlic-infused oil, including the garlic bits in it, and finely chopped cilantro before serving. 

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