Easy Middle Eastern Bread Dough (Manakish Dough)

5 from 20 votes
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This Middle Eastern bread dough (Arabic bread dough) is a quick, easy, and versatile all-purpose dough – perfect for pizza, calzone, fatayer, manakish, lahmebajen, etc. All you need is just 4 ingredients for the base to tons of Middle Eastern bread and pastry recipes!

Ready dough for manakish

When I first came across this dough, I was just looking for a simple recipe to make homemade manakish – a middle-eastern flatbread ‘pizza’ – I had no idea that this Middle Easter bread dough would become one of my most all-purpose use doughs in the kitchen. In fact, keep an eye out because I have tons of upcoming recipes to share with my favorite uses for this dough.

Whether you want an easy pizza dough, calzone, pinwheel, fatayer, or Lebanese manakish dough – then this Middle Eastern bread dough will work for you. In fact, this dough joins the ranks of several other flatbread recipes I’ve shared including markouk saj bread, garlic naan, Turkish Ramadan pide, and traditional Middle Eastern Pita.

Middle eastern flatbread / manakish

Every time the smell of the freshly baking dough wafts through my kitchen, I’m transported back to my childhood, waiting impatiently to dig into fresh bakery-made za’atar manakish. Who knew it would be so simple to re-create this recipe at home?!

All you need for this Arabic bread dough is just 4 ingredients and a simple process. While the dough does contain yeast, don’t let that scare you – it’s super simple.

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The Ingredients

Ingredients for Middle Eastern Bread/ manakish dough
  • Flour: I used plain all-purpose flour. However, you could also use bread flour – which will add more ‘chew’ and fluffiness to the Middle Eastern bread. You could also experiment with wholewheat flour, but as it will produce denser results, I suggest using half whole-wheat, half all-purpose.
  • Yeast: to leaven the bread and help it to rise. I use active dry yeast- check the notes for how to use ‘instant yeast’.
  • Sugar: this will help activate the yeast while very subtly enhancing the flavor of the manakish dough.
  • Yogurt: I use plain yogurt. You could use a plant-based yogurt instead or a neutral oil like olive oil.
  • Water: you’ll need warm water (lukewarm) to activate the yeast.

How To Make Manakish Dough/ Middle Eastern Bread Dough

Step 1: Activate the yeast

First, add the water, sugar, and yeast to a small bowl, mix well and then allow it to stand for between 5-10 minutes for the yeast to activate. It should froth up and become quite bubbly during this time.

Steps for activating dry yeast

Meanwhile, combine the sifted flour and salt in a large bowl.

Mixing flour with salt

Step 2: Mix and knead the dough

Add the yeast mixture and yogurt to the bowl, mix into a rough dough, and then knead for around 10 minutes until you have a smooth, elastic dough. When poked with a finger, the dough should bounce back again – if it doesn’t, knead it a little longer.

The dough should be smooth and not sticky. If it’s a little sticky, then add an extra tablespoon of flour at a time. Likewise, if it’s too dry (crumbly), then add a tablespoon of water extra and then knead until you have a smooth texture.

Steps for making manakish dough

Knead the dough by hand, or use a stand mixer (which usually takes a couple of minutes less). You could also use a food processor with a dough blade, but this usually takes quite a lot less time due to the faster speed. Check after two minutes, then every 20-30 seconds after.

Step 3: Proof the dough

Form the dough into a rough ball and cover lightly with oil, then place back in the bowl.

Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel or cling film and place it in a warm place to prove for between 45 minutes to an hour. During this time, it should double in size.

Proofing manakish dough

If it’s particularly cold on that day/ where you are, then it may be best to turn the oven on its lowest temperature for 5-10 minutes, switch it off then allow the dough to rest in the switched-off oven.

Step 4: Use the Middle Eastern bread dough

At this point, you’re ready to use it for whatever recipe you’d please, which will affect your next step (i.e., how big, what shape, etc., the dough you use will be).

To use as Manakish (Manakeesh) 

I was making manakish, so I used an inverted oven tray (a pizza stone will also work) in the oven at its highest temperature (for me, that’s 500ºF/260ºC).

For manakish (manakeesh), I divided the dough into 5 balls for larger flatbread (you can weigh it for exact pieces, but I did it by eye). You can also roll out 8 medium-sized ones. Roll the dough out to around 1/4-inch thickness and shape into either circles or oblong shapes.

Steps for rolling manakish dough

Press your fingers into the dough all over the surface. This will create more space for toppings and will prevent the dough from puffing up too much in the oven.

Then top with your toppings of choice – like this za’atar manakish or cheese manakish.

Carefully transfer the Arabic bread dough to the inverted tray/pizza stone and bake for between 5-6 minutes until it’s lightly browned on the edges and underneath. 

Remove it from the oven and cool slightly before wrapping/covering it with a kitchen towel to keep the bread soft.

Baked manakish zaatar placed on a wooden board

To Make Ahead & Store

Mahe ahead: if you don’t plan on using all the Middle Eastern bread dough at one time, you can store the prepared dough, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, for up to 2 days.

Store: the freshly baked bread can also be store in an airtight container or the fridge for up to five days. Enjoy at room temperature or warmed.

Freezer: the baked bread (like manakish) is freezer-friendly for up to three months. Depending on how you use the dough and what fillings/toppings you use with it, this time may vary.

Reheat: you can reheat the baked Middle Eastern flatbread from frozen in the oven at 250ºF/120ºC until warmed through (20-25 minutes usually). If heating from chilled or room temperature, then reduce the time in the oven. 

Top Tips & FAQs

  • For even softer, richer dough, you can add 1-2 tsp dry milk powder.
  • Feel free to season the dough as preferred depending on the recipe; Italian seasoning, za’atar, garlic, and onion powder, etc.
  • To use instant yeast instead of active dry yeast, reduce the amount by 25%.
  • Why is yogurt added to the dough? When adding yogurt to the dough, it will yield softer, fluffier results. This is because the yogurt’s acidity relaxes the gluten for more tender results – without the use of fat like butter/oil.
  • Why is my dough not rising? The most likely culprit is expired yeast. Alternatively, you may have killed the yeast if you use water that is too hot. 

If you try this Middle Eastern/Manakish dough recipe, then let me know your thoughts and questions in the comments. I’d also really appreciate a recipe rating and would love to see your recreations – just tag @AlphaFoodie.

Easy Arabic Bread Dough (Manakish Dough)

5 from 20 votes
By: Samira
This Middle Eastern bread dough (Arabic bread dough) is a quick, easy, and versatile all-purpose dough – Perfect for pizza, calzone, fatayer, manakish, lahmebajen, etc. All you need is just 4 ingredients for the base to tons of Middle-Eastern bread and pastry recipes!
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Servings: 8 medium-sized breads (more/less depending on size)

Ingredients 
 

  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp active dry yeast 7 grams (or 25% less instant yeast powder)
  • 3 cups plain all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt or plant-based yogurt – optional (can replace this with neutral oil)

Instructions 

Step 1: Activate the yeast

  • Add the water, sugar, and yeast to a small bowl, mix well and then allow it to stand for between 5-10 minutes for the yeast to activate. It should froth up and become quite bubbly during this time.
    Meanwhile, combine the sifted flour and salt in a large bowl.

Step 2: Mix and knead the dough

  • Add the yeast mixture and yogurt to the bowl, mix into a rough dough, and then knead for around 10 minutes until you have a smooth, elastic dough. When poked with a finger, the dough should bounce back again – if it doesn't, knead it a little longer.
    The dough should be smooth and not sticky. If it’s a little sticky, then add an extra tablespoon of flour at a time. Likewise, if it’s too dry (crumbly), then add a tablespoon of water and then knead until you have a smooth texture.
  • Knead the dough by hand, or use a stand mixer (which usually takes a couple of minutes less). You could also use a food processor with a dough blade, but this usually takes quite a lot less time due to the faster speed. Check after two minutes, then every 20-30 seconds after.

Step 3: Proof the dough

  • Form the dough into a rough ball and cover lightly with oil, then place back in the bowl.
    Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel or cling film and place it in a warm place to prove for between 45 minutes to an hour. During this time, it should double in size.
  • If it's particularly cold on that day/where you are, then it may be best to turn the oven on its lowest temperature for 5-10 minutes, switch it off then allow the dough to rest in the switched-off oven.

Step 4: Use the Middle Eastern bread dough

  • At this point, you're ready to use it for whatever recipe you'd please, which will affect your next step (i.e., how big, what shape, etc., the dough you use will be).

To use as Manakish (Manakeesh)

  • I was making manakish, so I used an inverted oven tray (a pizza stone will also work) in the oven at its' highest temperature (for me, that's 500ºF/260ºC).
  • For manakish (manakeesh), I divided the dough into 5 balls (you can weigh it for exact pieces, but I did it by eye) to achieve bigger flatbreads (you can also make 8 medium-sized ones). Roll the dough out to around 1/4-inch thickness and shape into either circles or oblong shapes.
  • Press your fingers into the dough all over the surface. This will create more space for toppings and will prevent the dough from puffing up too much in the oven.
    Then top with your toppings of choice – like this za'atar manakish or cheese manakish.
  • Carefully transfer the Arabic bread dough to the inverted tray/pizza stone and bake for between 5-6 minutes until it's lightly browned on the edges and underneath.
  • Remove it from the oven and cool slightly before wrapping/covering it with a kitchen towel to keep the bread soft.

To Make Ahead & Store

  • Mahe ahead: If you don't plan on using all the Middle Eastern bread dough at once time, you can store the prepared dough, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, for up to 2 days.
    Store: The freshly baked bread can also be store in an airtight container or the fridge for up to five days. Enjoy at room temperature or warmed.
    Freezer: The baked bread (like manakish) is freezer-friendly for up to three months. Depending on how you use the dough and what fillings/toppings you use with it, this time may vary.
    Reheat: You can reheat the baked Middle Eastern flatbread from frozen in the oven at 250ºF/120ºC until warmed through (20-25 minutes usually). If heating from chilled or room temperature, then reduce the time in the oven.

Notes

  • For even softer, richer dough, you can add 1-2tsp dry milk powder.
  • Feel free to season the dough as preferred depending on the recipe; Italian seasoning, za’atar, garlic, and onion powder, etc.
  • To use instant yeast instead of active dry yeast, reduce the amount by 25%
  • Why is yogurt added to the dough? When adding yogurt to the dough, it will yield softer, fluffier results. This is because the yogurt’s acidity relaxes the gluten for more tender results- without the use of fat like butter/ oil.
  • Why is my dough not rising? The most likely culprit is expired yeast. Alternatively, you may have killed the yeast if you use water that is too hot. 
Course: Appetizer, Breakfast, Brunch, Side, Snack
Cuisine: Lebanese, Levantine, Middle Eastern
Freezer friendly: 3 Months
Shelf life: 1 Week

Nutrition

Serving: 1Bread, Calories: 192kcal, Carbohydrates: 39g, Protein: 6g, Fat: 1g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 1mg, Sodium: 299mg, Potassium: 95mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 2g, Vitamin A: 10IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 21mg, Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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Recipe Rating




14 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This is truely an amazing recipe!! Easy, healthy, and authentic. I made small pieces to share. Next time I will limit to 4 and cook for less time as they browned quicker than I expected (even crunchy, they were delicious). The za’atars developed little puffy pockets as they cooked. I am really impressed no oil is used. My only tweak was to use 1 cup whole wheat flour and they turned out great. With left over dough, I used some cheese and that was delicious as well. This will be my main dough for all future za’atar and can’t wait to try other toppings. Thank you so much for sharing this great recipe!!

      1. 5 stars
        Iv lived for two decades in the gulf and missed the bakery where I bought Zatar and cheese manakish. Iv tried multiple recipes over the years, this is by far the best and the closest I’ll ever get to that flavour memory. I’m so thrilled I stumbled into your website. Thank you for sharing this recipe- it’s perfection.

  2. 5 stars
    This is a wonderful recipe. I made 8 pieces where 4 I added a za’atar mix. I may have over proofed as they were puffy. The plains ones were addicting and the ones with the mix were tasty as well. This is definitly a recipe to keep on hand. Now to make a shwarama to eat with it. Thank you for the recipe.

  3. Hi,
    Thanks for sharing this recipe, I tried it today and the results were pretty good.
    I don’t know if salt is needed to be added to the zatar (store brand).

    1. Thank you for your comment, Mohammed! I hope you give some of the other recipes on my blog a try.

  4. 5 stars
    This is truly one of the best recipes out there! So easy to follow and gives the best results! It reminded me of the way my grandma used to make her manakeesh and it makes me so happy and nostalgic. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe!

  5. Hi!
    What is the proportions of cups in grammes?
    I love your boog and all of your recipes, but i always struggle to mesure the ingredients since i do everything in grammes and ml.
    Thank you so much

    1. Hello Thais,
      The ingredients for the recipes here on the blog are provided both in cups and in grams/milliliters. At the end of the Ingredients section, there’s “US Customary – Metric” in blue – you can click on metric and it will display the metric measurements. I hope this helps.