A flatbread by many names! Manakish (also spelled Manakeesh) is a Levantine flatbread topped with a mixture of za’atar and good quality olive oil and then baked in the oven. A Middle Eastern cuisine staple, it is fragrant and incredibly delicious.
Depending on the dialect spoken, some folks will also call them Man’ousheh, zaatar bread, 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 cheese (typically referred to as cheese manakeesh).
It’s a staple breakfast item in Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. It can be eaten on its own, drizzled with optional lemon juice or with other breakfast classics like labneh, hummus, foul mudammas, haloumi or feta cheese, olives, fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and pickled turnips on the side.
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 white flour to whole wheat flour ratio. As long as you maintain the total weight listed in the recipe.
- Yeast: I recommend using instant yeast, but you can use dry active yeast. If you use dry active yeast, keep the quantity the same. Make sure to pre-bloom it in the warm liquid before adding it to the dry ingredients. You can also use fresh yeast, but do adjust the quantity accordingly. When using fresh yeast instead of fry, use double the amount by weight.
- Milk: The milk helps keep the final product soft and pliable. If you want to keep this recipe vegan, you can replace the milk with an equal amount of water.
- Oil: Olive oil is my go-to choice here but you can use avocado or vegetable oil instead for the dough. But make sure to use good quality extra virgin olive oil for the spice blend mixture.
- Za’atar Blend: A wonderful and important Middle Eastern spice blend that includes Syrian oregano and sesame seeds. Make your own or purchase a pre-made blend from your local Middle Eastern store or online.
The manakish dough used here is based on my master Middle Eastern flatbread (Taboon) recipe. This master recipe has many uses and can be used to make Cheese 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 Manakish Zaatar
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. 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.
4. Flatten. Using a rolling pin, flatten the dough balls into a ¼ inch (0.6cm) thick.
5. Dress. Preheat your oven to 375F (190C). Transfer the flat flatbread discs to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Mix the zaatar spice blend with olive oil in a small bowl and apply a thin layer to each flatbread.
6. Bake. Bake in the preheated oven until the edges are lightly browned and the za’atar mixture is bubbling. 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 at room temperature on the counter for 2 days or refrigerated for up to 5 days. Though I am not a fan of freezing 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. If you’re feeling up to it, you can bake the flatbreads on a pizza stone or in a pizza oven. You can also gill them on a BBQ, 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.
Yes they can be frozen for up to 6 months in ziplock bags and reheated in a toaster oven or air fryer when you're ready to enjoy them. To make sure they don't stick together in the freezer, place a square of parchment paper between each layer. This will make separating them much easier.
Other Levantine Recipes You Might Enjoy
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Manakish (Za’atar 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
- ½-¾ cup Za'atar spice blend
- ½ cup Olive oil - 106 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.
- Divide and shape. After the bread dough has risen to about double its original size, divide it into 6 equal pieces (use a kitchen scale to get perfect portions). 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. Mix the zaatar spice blend with olive oil in a small bowl and apply a thin layer to each flatbread. 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 zaatar topping is bubbling lightly. Don’t over-bake. We want these flatbreads to be soft and pliable.