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Naan With an Easy Sourdough Starter (Without Yeast)

Naan is the most popular Indian bread, and is loved by everybody across the globe. In fact when I tell people I write a food blog, the first question they ask me is if I have a naan recipe. Sadly, until today the answer was no. Its not that I did not try making naan at home. I have tried innumerable number of recipes and got disappointed every time. I absolutely hate naan that is bready and unfortunately most of the recipes on the web yield a heavy, bready naan that is not at all comparable to the wonderfully soft and chewey bread that we get in the Indian restaurants. I know most of us cannot afford a hearth kit or a tandoor at home, but how hard could it be to make some decent naan at home. The naan made with yeast was too bready, its like eating pizza crust. The naan made with baking powder and baking soda tasted like baking powder biscuits. Venkat was so troubled by my naan experiments that whenever I said we are having naan, he would ask me if I have already cooked some rice also. Meaning he knew it was going to be a disaster and I would be too upset to cook after the fiasco naan session. I had given up my hopes and Venkat warned me not to try any more recipes.

Then a friend came into our lives, who introduced me to the book, The Dance of Spices by Laxmi Hiremath. My friend generously lent me the book saying read through it, you would love it. And indeed I did. She is a wonderful author and her recipes are so innovative and inspiring, The best thing about this book was the writeup. I loved the way Laxmi explains each and every step with great details. You just cannot go wrong, the book is especially useful for non Indians and amateur Indian cooks. I was most excited upon seeing this naan recipe. Somehow something in me told that this would be a perfect naan and my search would finally come to an end. Oh! How right I was. I guess do have some sixth sense or some supernatural powers 😛  But still trying not to be over confident, this time I made a pot of rice even before Venkat asked. And then started making some naan. I absolutely loved these naans. This is THE BEST naan recipe EVER.

The best part is the wonderful flavor from the sourdough starter. Don’t panic. Its nothing like making the regular sourdough starter. Its a very simple starter made with some yogurt, flour, salt and sugar and fermented overnight. Then mixed with some more flour next day and left to rise for 3-4 hours. Then get ready to roll and made naan! These naans have the perfect texture, they could have been more chewy, but I guess using bread flour or high protein flour will solve that. Actually I had some leftover dough in the fridge and made some naan after 2 days and the texture was so much better!! The dough that rested for 2 days made restaurant quality naans and they were perfectly chewy.

Makes 8 naans

Bread flour or All purpose flour (Unbleached) – 2 1/2 cups
Plain Yogurt – 1/2 cup plus 3  Tbsp
Sugar – 1 tsp
Salt – 1 tsp
Baking powder – 1 tsp
Unsalted butter or Ghee – 2 Tbsp plus extra for brushing on the naan
Egg – 1 large (substitute with 1/4 cup of yogurt if you don’t eat eggs)
Garlic (chopped) – 10 cloves (optional)
Cilantro/Coriander leaves (chopped) – 1/4 cup (optional)


  • The day before you want to make naan, combine 1/2 cup of the flour, the yogurt, sugar and 1/2 tsp of the salt in a small mixing bowl (glass or stainless steel). Mix well and cover loosely with a cheesecloth or lid. Don’t use airtight plastic lids, the starter needs to breathe. Set aside to ferment in a warm place, up to 18 hours, preferably overnight. When the starter is ready, you’ll see a couple of bubbles at the top and it will smell pleasantly sour. If it does not have any of these, leave it out for some more time.

Tip: If you are planning on making naan for a special event/meal, I would suggest you start two days before you want to make naan. I know this is a time taking process, but its a rather easy one.

  • In a food processor or stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the remaining 2 cups of flour, remaining 1/2 tsp salt, baking powder and 2 Tbsp ghee/butter and pulse until crumbly. Add the starter and lightly beaten egg and process until the dough comes together into a ball and begins to clean the sides of the bowl. Add a tsp or more of yogurt if the dough is dry.
  • If you are using a stand mixer, continue kneading at medium speed until the dough is smooth and elastic. The dough should be slightly on the wet side (a wet dough develops gluten easily, even without much kneading), not sticky but really soft.
  • If you used a food processor or mixed the dough with your hands, transfer the dough ball onto a work surface. Lightly coat your hands with oil and knead well, for 6-8 minutes. The dough should be very soft, but not sticky.
  • Form into a smooth ball, coat it with some oil and place it in an oiled bowl. Cover loosely with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap, and let rest for 3 to 4 hours (or more time in cold weather). The dough will not rise like a yeast dough, but it would have definitely increased in volume. The consistency of the dough after rising is soft, smooth and slightly elastic.

Tip: Naan dough can be stored, covered in a refrigerator for up to 3days after the resting time. Bring to room temperature before continuing.

  • After the dough has risen, punch down the dough. Knead briefly until smooth. Divide the dough into 8 portions (each the side of a small orange), and roll each portion between your hands to form a smooth ball. Place the dough balls on a plate and cover with a moist kitchen towel.
  • Dust the work surface with flour and roll out each ball into a 5-6 inch oval/circle about 1/8 inch thick , dusting with flour as necessary. carefully pick up the naan and pull gently on side to shape it like a teardrop. Don’t stretch it too thin or the naan will be very crispy.
  • Meanwhile, mix the chopped garlic and cilantro in a bowl and keep aside, if using. (see variations at the end of the post)

To make the naan in the oven:

  • Heat the oven in the BROIL mode and place the rack on the top shelf (about 6 inches away) from the heat.
  • Place the naans (I usually make two at a time) on a baking sheet and brush the tops with some water and sprinkle about 2 tsp of the garlic-cilantro mixture on top of each naan and lightly press the topping onto the naan.
  • Broiling time is usually 1 1/2 – 2 minutes on the bottom and 1 minute on the top. Keep an eye on the naans after the first minute, once there are some speckled brown spots, remove the tray from the oven and flip the naans and cook on the other side also.

Tip: Light brown spots ensure that the naan is soft. Slightly dark brown spots make the naan crispy. Cook one naan each way and see how you like them.

  • Apply some butter on top of each naan as soon as they come out of the oven. Keep the naans covered in a cotton cloth to keep them soft or serve them immediately. Be generous with the butter!

Repeat with the remaining dough.

To make the naan on the stovetop:

  • Heat a griddle, preferably cast iron on medium heat for 4-5 minutes. Place one naan at a time, with the topping side on the top first.
  • Cover the skillet with a lid (use any some shaped lid from any of your pans). This step is optional, but it helps in creating nice bubbles on top of the naan. After 1 minutes, remove the lid, and check the bottom. If it is crisp and brown, flip and cook for another minute. The cooking time is usually 1 1/2 – 2 minutes on the bottom and 1 minute on the top.
  • Apply some butter on top of each naan as soon as they come out of the oven. Keep the naans covered in a cotton cloth to keep them soft or serve them immediately. Be generous with the butter!

Enjoy hot naans with some Indian curries.

Some variations:

Nicely developed sourdough starter gives this naan a lovely rising power and delicious taste. If you have some in the fridge, go ahead and use it. Substitute 1/2 cup sourdough starter for the mixture while making the dough and reduce the baking powder to 1/2 tsp.

The toppings can be anything you like. Some combinations are chopped onion and red pepper flakes, chopped onion-min leaves, nigella seeds, cumin seeds, sesame seeds or dried fruits.

See the texture?? Perfect naans, neither bready nor crispy.


You might also like:

Schlotzsky’s bread – No Knead Soft & Chewy Sourdough bread

Whole Wheat Oats Potato Bread

Garlic Pull Apart Bread

Focaccia Bread with Sundried Tomatoes

30 Responses to Naan With an Easy Sourdough Starter (Without Yeast)

  • Poornima says:

    I have to try this soon. Looks fabulous. You think I could use wheat flour??

    • Ambika says:

      Thanks Poornima. I guess you could use up to a cup of wheat flour, not more than that. Wheat flour has no gluten, so you won’t get nice and chewy naan.

  • shabs says:

    Hey, I too have a very similar recipe which i got from indian food & cooking by shehzad hussain. Probably same. I love the look of baked naan and the taste of stove top naans. Stove top naans are so soft and yummy!! These come out very well, just like the restaurant ones, dont they? And as u said, they are better made with 1-2 day older dough:) I love your elaborate writing.

  • Namitha says:

    Yes, i get that question too and that reminds me that i should add a recipe on my site too :-) Never get around to take a pic, since I always make naan for dinner and it’ll be too dark by then

  • Latha says:

    Amazing looking naan……beautiful clicks!

  • Deepa says:

    This looks amazing!! I would love to experience fresh naan homemade!! I don’t own a food processor or stand mixer so I’m going to have to try this out by hand! Beauitful pictures too.

  • pavithra says:

    Beautiful looking Naan’s . Any kinda breads made with sourdough starter is yumm and it gives wonderful taste :)

  • Nadine says:

    I would love to try your Recipe for Naan, also I love the looks of the salad in the picture you have with the Naan bread. Any chance I can get the recipe for the Salad? MMm thx

  • Vijitha says:

    Hey Ambica
    I happened to meet Laxmi Hiremath in a food show. she was promoting her food products with flax seeds. I see her naan recipe here. Gorgeous clicks!

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  • Oh my gosh ! Looks like my search has also ended! Thank you so much! this looks incredible!

  • Wow, your naan looks incredible!!! I love fresh naan but have never tried making my own. I’m bookmarking this as I love your detailed instructions! Thanks for sharing.

  • Soni says:

    Oh my!I just love this Naan recipe.Never made naans at home, but now I’m so tempted to try your recipe.It looks perfect!Thanks for sharing :)

  • This looks awesome Ambika…you are creating such wonderful dishes!

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  • eva says:

    how about next time you make it you make a video too? just by mobile phone?it looks difficult to make:-(

  • Kiley says:

    My starter never bubbled or smelled that sour smell?
    I did not use whole yogurt…


    • Ambika says:

      Hi Kiley, I don’t think low fat yogurt would have made
      a difference. Maybe the weather is cold around your place, so you may
      have to let the starter sit for a while longer, until you see bubbles
      or smell the sourness. Hope this helps :)

  • Ruchika says:

    No one in my family has ever been able to make a non-yeast, non-bready naan; so I was a little apprehensive about trying your recipe. But this worked out absolutely perfectly. Everyone devoured it instantly!

    Thankyou :)

  • meenakshi says:

    hello mam, i am living in India, ,want to make this but we do not get bread flour or APF(unbleached) here, so can i use regular APF for this as well as for semolina pizza recpie? what should be the temperature of the oven on broiling mode to bake the naans?

  • Revecca says:

    Hello, making your naan bread and just put together the starter. I’m using Greek plain yogurt and my starter is similar to dough, is that okay or do I need to add/alter it?

    • Abby says:

      I’m trying this, too, and mine is doughy as well…Revecca, how did your turn out??
      I’m trying to look up how the starter should look/what consistency it should be… :/

    • Ambika says:

      Hey Revecca and Abby, you need to add some more water. Greek yougurt is very thick, unlike regular yogurt. So add in a couple more tbsp of water, the starter should be loose, almost flowy.

  • Bill F says:

    I tried this with Greek yogurt and it didn’t rise at all. The finished naan was a heavy pancake with a raw looking middle and a cooked brown outside. Very flat and heavy. Is Greek yogurt the problem? (I used the normal fat Fage brand, and did the no-egg version.)

    • Ambika says:

      Sorry to know that the naans didn’t turn out well. My guess is that since you used greek yogurt (which has very little moisture) and also skipped the egg, did you substitute for this loss of moisture in the dough? The dough should have been really soft and pliable. The dough will definitely not rise like a regular yeast dough, it will just increase a little bit in volume and become even more soft. I guess the water was not sufficient in your dough. Also, note that the egg conditions the dough and makes the naan softer, if you skip it, the naan might turn out slightly crispy. Please try again with these tips, I am sure it will turn out fine. Do let me know if you have any other questions.

  • Chiquita Banana says:

    I’m guessing that it is probably important to use a brand of yogurt with live cultures-many yogurts on the market don’t have living organisms in them. Otherwise, you would need more time to let the batter sit and produce enough yeasts.

  • Vivian says:

    Hi there! So excited to try this recipe out!

    I was wondering if it was possible to substitute the bread/all-purpose flour with a non-wheat flour such as sorghum or something similar? See, my husband has a wheat allergy and though he loves eating curries with naan, it really takes a toll on him!

  • Meg says:

    Tried the recipe yesterday and it’s perfect, simply the best. My naans were rolled thin and turned out sooo puffy, pumped with air. Delicious, simple, I’ll definitely keep the recipe. Many thanks.

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