Sourdough Flatbread

sourdough flatbread
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These may be called in different names regionally so I use the term flatbread instead of Naan to remove any ambiguity. Flatbread is an ‘umbrella’ category, so any bread that is flat qualifies.

So what differentiate this recipe with other naan recipes you find out there? You may ask. Well as the name suggests I am using sourdough starter (a levain) to help the batter ferment (rise) instead of commercial yeast. Even though this sounds like something new, this was the way most bread are made before the commercial yeast was ever invented.

You can sometimes call a recipe “sourdough” by just adding sourdough starter in the recipe and still using commercial yeast or baking powder to leaven the product. This is very popular these days and I think the idea behind this is to introduce flavor, good bacteria and some nutrients to the product.

sourdough naan
Served with Sri Lankan dhal & coconut curry

If I call something sourdough, I usually mean that the product is leavened using a sourdough starter (levain) and there is no commercial yeast or other leavening agents used in the recipe.

If I use sourdough discard for flavor or mealy for the purpose of reducing wastage, I would mention it in the recipe and the title, so that you are clear about the function of the sourdough in that particular recipe.

Apart from using a fed ripe starter (levain) and fermenting for a longer period, the rest of the process is very similar to usual process of making naan bread/flatbread.


As usual, we start by getting our starter ready (you may call this the levain)

Read more about starter here About feeding instructions here

mix everything

Place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix using a spatula. When everything start to stick together (hydrated) gently knead just to bring everything together into a ball. Do not knead like bread or your flatbread will be tough.

This should be a soft, a little wet dough. So use extra flour to help get it to a manageable stage.

Place this in the bowl, cover and let ferment for 4-5 hours at room temperature (25°C)

fermented dough

What we are looking for is a slight expansion of the dough. It doesn’t have to be doubled in size but considerably larger. Now Close the lid tight and refrigerate for the long slow fermentation. This help develop flavor.

Tip: You can start this process in the evening (around 4 pm-ish) let it ferment and place in the fridge when you go to bed (around 8-9 pm). It will be ready for dinner next day!

fermented dough

When you are ready to make the flatbreads ( about an hour or two before you plan to make) pull the dough out and let it thaw for half an hour.

Place it on a generously floured surface and dust with some more flour.

divide the dough

Divide the dough into 8 or 10 roughly equal pieces.

Here I have divided it in to 8 but I thought they were way too big and went with 10

round up

Shape each dough piece into tight dough balls. Use flour to stop them from sticking.

Once done, cover and let these rest for minimum 30 minutes. 1 or 1.5 hours is the best as it will slightly puff up again. This will give you fluffier bread.

garlic butter

Before cooking the flatbread, prepare the butter. Melt the butter in microwave and add the chopped garlic to hot butter. Do not heat butter with garlic in it as it may cook the garlic and it will taste a bit off.

If you don’t like garlic, leave it out and use just butter. Or infuse butter with herbs like thyme, sage.

Butter is not mandatory, but it helps keep flatbreads moist for longer also adds buttery flavor.

shape naan

Generously flour the bench and place a dough piece. Dust with more flour and flatten using your fingers.

Then use a rolling pin to gently roll out to about 2-3 mm thickness.

shaped flatbread

This is what it should look like. It doesn’t have to be oval. Use a little flour while you roll out, you can brush off the excess before placing it on the pan.

In the mean time heat a skillet/griddle over medium heat. Cast iron works best! But you can use a non stick pan instead. Control the heat, depending on how your flatbread cooks.

Place the flatbread on the preheated pan and cook both sides until done. Check the video below!

Cook turning occasionally
sourdough flatbread
apply butter

Once cooked, remove from heat and apply melted garlic butter on both sides, while the bread is still piping hot.

Continue with the rest and serve warm with your favorite dipping sauce or curry

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  1. Good reminder. I need to get my starter out to have naan with the curry I am making tomorrow
    I love how easy it is to control/retard timing of sourdough. I’ve found it much harder to go wrong than with yeast dough.

  2. Can the dough be divided and frozen at the end of the fermentation so it’s quicker to cook some when required?

    1. I haven’t tried that Alison, so I am not sure. Let me give that a try and update the post in the future!
      I have frozen cooked flatbread though. They can be thawed and refreshed in an oven.

    1. We usually have this with Daal curry or Sri Lankan Chicken curry.
      I have both the recipes on the blog under bonus recipes

  3. The recipe looks great, but I am worrying if baking it on my artisan stone oven bread.

    PS. I live in Brazil, once traveling in Sri Lankan I discovered loved new flavors and places (Arugam Bay, the best S2 )

    1. I think a stone oven will be great as traditionally naan bread is cooked in very hot Tandoor ovens. Give it a try!

      Yes! Sri Lanka is full of beautiful natural places and amazing food 🙂

  4. Dear Vindi, can I call this bread as Arabic Bread?

    I baked it today, everybody loved, although mine looks like a balloon , it came out of the stone oven not flat as should be

    1. They balloon sometimes and that’s okay. I am not sure about origin but it is of Indian decent as far as I know but may be I am wrong

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