Cheese Manakish is a Levantine flatbread topped with a mixture of melty and flavorful cheese and then baked in the oven. A Middle Eastern cuisine staple, it is comforting and incredibly delicious.
Depending on the dialect spoken, some folks will also call them Man’ousheh, Middle Eastern Pizza, Lebanese Pizza or even Arabic Pizza. There are other variations which include meat (also known as Lahmacun or Lahm b'ajin) and classic zaatar manakish.
It’s a staple breakfast item in Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and of course in the diaspora. It can be eaten on its own or with other breakfast classics like foul mudammas (fava beans), labneh, hummus, olives, and pickled turnips on the side. You can even make a wrap with it by adding fresh vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers and mint.
This recipe comes together with just a few standard simple ingredients.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Flour: Depending on your taste and preference, you can play with the all-purpose white flour to whole wheat flour ratio. As long as you maintain the total quantity listed in the recipe you should be just fine. You should also use bread flour if you have it, but AP works just fine.
- Yeast: I use and recommend instant yeast, but you can use active dry yeast (keep the quantity the same) or fresh yeast.
- Milk: The milk helps keep the final product soft and pliable but you can also use water instead of milk.
- Oil: Olive oil is my go-to choice here but you can use avocado or vegetable oil instead for the dough.
- Cheese blend: For authenticity, Akawi cheese, a brined cheese from Akka. You can substitute it with feta, but the flavor won’t be quite the same. Akkawi cheese can be found at any Middle Eastern grocery store. These days, you can even find it in international grocery stores as well. Mozzarella cheese is also a must for it’s melty and stretchy properties.
- Nigella seeds: These seeds, also known as Kalonji, aren’t exactly easy to find, but you can totally substitute with black sesame seeds. In fact, I personally prefer this recipe with black sesame seeds!
The manakish dough used here is based on my master Middle Eastern flatbread (Taboon) recipe. This master dough recipe has many uses and can be used to make Za’atar Manakish or Lahm b'ajin (Meat Manakish). The master recipe can also be used to make hand pies (cheese fatayer, spinach fatayer and meat-filled fatayer).
How to Make this Cheese Manakish recipe
1. Mix. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the dough dry ingredients and mix well to combine. Add the warm water, milk and oil. Run the stand mixer until a ball of dough forms, about 5-7 minutes.
2. Rise. Rub the dough ball lightly with oil on all sides and let it rise, covered, in the bowl of the stand mixer for 1 hour in a warm place.
3. Cheese Mix. While the dough rises, prepare your cheese mixture in a bowl.
4. Divide and shape. After the bread dough has risen to about double its original size, divide it into 6 equal pieces. Shape each piece of dough into a tight ball and rest them on your kitchen counter for 10 minutes, covered, so that the gluten can relax.
5. Flatten. Using a rolling pin, flatten the dough balls into discs.
6. Dress. Preheat your oven to 375F (190C). Transfer the flat flatbread discs to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Divide the cheese mixture equally over the flattened dough. You may need to do this in stages depending on how big your oven is.
7. Bake. Bake in the preheated oven until the edges are lightly golden brown and the cheese mixture is bubbling and browning lightly. Don’t over-bake. We want these flatbreads to be soft and pliable.
Storage, Freezing and Make Ahead
These flatbreads can be stored in a ziplock bag and refrigerated for up to 5 days. Though I am not a fan of freezing cheese manakeesh, they can also be frozen for up to 6 months.
If you’re looking to save some time, you can make the dough 1 day ahead of time and let it rise in the fridge overnight. This longer, slower rise is actually beneficial in many ways and the result will be a much easier to digest bread for those with gluten sensitives. Just use half the amount of yeast if you plan to let the dough rise in the fridge overnight.
- Skip the mixer. You can mix this dough by hand in a large mixing bowl if you don’t have a stand mixer. Make sure to knead it for a full 5 minutes after it comes together on your countertop.
- Pizza Stone. You can bake the flatbreads on a pizza stone or in a pizza oven. You can also gill them, but keep in mind they won’t be as soft and pliable if you grill them directly on the BBQ grates.
- Half and Half. I love a half za’atar, half cheese flatbread. Feel free to adjust the topping to your liking.
- Appetizer size: you can make smaller flatbreads if you wish by dividing the dough into 10 pieces instead of 5 and proceeding with the recipe.
It’s both! The original word is Arabic and when anglicized, regional differences in dialect are reflected in the English spelling. This is quite common with the anglicization of works from languages that don’t use the Latin alphabet.
Baked manakish flatbreads should be stored in a ziplock bag or resealable airtight container so that they can remain soft. Place them in a fridge for up to 5 days.
Other Levantine Baked Goods You’ll Enjoy
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Cheese Manakish (Middle Eastern Flatbread)
For the Dough
- 2 ¼ cups All purpose flour - 270 grams
- ¾ cups Whole wheat flour - 90 grams
- 1 tablespoon Instant yeast - 9 grams
- 1 tablespoon White sugar - 12.5 grams
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt - 5 grams
- ½ cup Water, warmed - 120 grams
- ½ cup Milk, warmed - 120 grams
- ¼ cup Olive oil - 53 grams
- 1 ½ cups Mozzarella, Shredded - 340 grams
- 1 ½ cups Akawi Cheese, Shredded - 340 grams, Substitute with feta
- 1 teaspoon Nigella Seeds - 3 grams
- Mix. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the dough dry ingredients and mix well to combine. Add the warm water, warm milk and oil. Run the stand mixer until a ball of dough forms, about 5-7 minutes. If the dough is too dry and feels crumbly, add water 1 tablespoon at a time until you have a soft and supple dough ball. You can also mix the dough in a large bowl and knead manually on the countertop.
- Rise. Rub the dough ball lightly with oil on all sides and let it rise, covered with a towel or plastic wrap, in the bowl of the stand mixer for up to 1 hour in a warm place.
- Cheese Mix. While the dough rises, prepare your cheese mixture in a bowl.
- Divide and shape. After the bread dough has risen to about double its original size, divide it into 6 equal pieces. Shape each piece of dough into a tight ball and rest them on your kitchen counter for 10 minutes, covered, so that the gluten can relax.
- Flatten. Using a rolling pin, flatten the dough balls into a ⅛-¼ inch (0.3-0.6cm) thick, about 6-8 inches (15-20cm) in diameter.
- Dress. Preheat your oven to 375F (190C). Transfer the flat flatbread discs to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Divide the cheese mixture equally over the flattened dough, leaving a ½ inch border. You may need to do this in stages depending on how big your oven is.
- Bake. Bake in the preheated oven until the edges are lightly golden brown and the cheese mixture is bubbling and browning lightly. Don’t over-bake. We want these flatbreads to be soft and pliable.