Manakeesh (also referred to as Manakish) are these delicious Zaatar breads that are one of the most popular breakfast foods in Lebanon and the Levant region of the Middle East – and for a good reason!
They’re perfectly crisp on the outside but soft on the inside. Topped with some delicious zaatar-olive oil mix or topped with some cheese (or even both!), these flatbreads make for the most delicious snack or meal!
Even though they’re traditionally eaten the most during breakfast, you can have them at any time of the day because they’re that perfect!
And there is nothing better than freshly baked Manakeesh (Zaatar Bread). This is an absolutely authentic recipe that’ll leave you surprised as to how easy it is to make it! Want to learn more? Keep on reading!
What is Zaatar Bread (Manakeesh)?
Manakeesh is an Arabic flatbread that’s typically topped with a mixture of za’atar and olive oil. That’s why it’s usually referred to as Zaatar bread in English! Manakeesh can also be topped with cheese, which makes for a perfect breakfast or snack for kids and adults alike.
It’s usually slightly crisp on the outside, with a soft interior. But interestingly, you can make to your exact preference.
On the streets of Lebanon, this is widely sold in local bakeries, and you’ll see people make special requests to the bakers to make it a bit thicker for them or thinner.
In the same way, you can customize your Manakeesh to be as thick or thin as you like. The thinner It is, the crispier it’ll be and vice versa. My recipe will get you the perfect combination that’s right in the middle of the two – not too thick and not too thin, exactly the way I like it!
The bread is a soft yeast-risen flatbread which is a lot easier to make than you might think at first! This recipe is the easiest and most authentic one you’re going to come across!
What is Zaatar?
Many people who’ve never heard of za’atar before, ask me what it is.
Well, Zaatar is a traditional spice blend that’s native to the Levantine region of the Middle East and is also commonly used throughout the Mediterranean region as well.
In the Levantine region (mainly Lebanon), it is primarily made from dried thyme, sumac, toasted sesame seeds. While this is the base of all zaatar you’ll ever try, you’ll find some variations as well.
Some regions of the Middle East also add other spices to it, including oregano, marjoram, cumin, and sometimes even a little salt.
In the US, you can buy zaatar at your local health store such a Whole Foods or online on Amazon.
Is it Manakeesh or Manakish?
Many people get confused as to what this Zaatar bread is actually called. Is it Manakeesh or Manakish? Well, I’m here to tell you it’s both of these and more!!
If it’s a single zaatar bread, then it’s referred to as Manousheh or Man’oushe. If there is more than one (that is, plural), then it’s called Manakeesh or Manakish.
Since this is a flatbread that’s eaten in a wide region, all the way from the Mediterranean to the Levantine region to other parts of the Middle East, there are slight differences in pronunciations and hence the spellings.
Other spellings (and hence pronunciations) you’ll come across for Manakeesh are Manakeesh, Manaqish, Manaeesh, and Mana’ish.
Regardless of what it’s spelled and pronounced as it’s all the same deliciously perfect Zaatar bread I have a recipe for you today!
The difference is spellings and pronunciations is quite similar to other delicious Middle Eastern dishes, such as the Kunafa/Knafeh.
What Makes This Recipe So Special?
This recipe will give you the absolute authentic flavor of Zaatar bread (Manakeesh) but without any extra added labor!
You also don’t need any special ingredients to make this delicious Arabic flatbread, I’m sure all the ingredients are in your pantry already.
While having it, you’ll feel like you’re on the streets of Lebanon trying it after a baker has made it especially for you! But the best part is, that you get to make it wherever you are in the world and have it whenever you’d like!
Plus, you can vary the thickness and toppings of the Manakeesh to your liking. Below, I’ve mentioned other topping variations this delicious flatbread is known for.
Other Variations of Manakeesh
Typically Manakeesh is made from three different types of toppings: zaatar, cheese and meat.
As I explained above, it’s a delicious spice blend that’s native to the Levantine region of the Middle East as well as the Mediterranean. It’s almost synonymous with this delicious Arabic flatbread (also why it’s referred to as Zaatar bread!) so you have got to try it once, at the very least.
You can use a bunch of different cheeses to make Manakeesh. Traditionally, Akkawi cheese or Nabulsi are used (much like while making Kunafa) but you can use a variety of white cheeses, including mozzarella, cream cheese, halloumi, queso, ricotta, or even feta cheese with mozzarella.
As you’ll see in my video (and pictures), my sister had requested some Manakeesh with cheddar cheese so that’s what I’ve added to some along with sesame seeds. This is just how versatile Manakeesh is - top it with any kind of cheese you like and experiment with it a bit.
Many people like having their Manakeesh with some meat toppings. In Lebanon, typically lamb meat is used. You definitely don’t need to add it (I haven’t here) but this is definitely an option to make your Manakeesh more filling.
Half and a half it with cheese and meat, or zaatar and meat, and pick whichever kind of meat you have at hand. This is for when you’ve tried this recipe many times and now want to add some variations to it, or if you have a meat-lover at home!
Many times, you’ll find Manakeesh that is a combination of all the above. In my video (and pictures), you’ll see some Manakeesh that are covered half in Zaatar and half with cheese. This is a classic combination that you have got to try. Both zaatar and the cheese balance out each other and are a delightful mix!
What You Need to Make Zaatar Bread (Manakeesh) at Home
Making Zaatar bread at home requires the simplest of ingredients! Let’s look at what these are:
To Make the Dough:
All-purpose flour: That’s right, you need all-purpose flour for this recipe – no need for any bread flour. This recipe turns out perfect with just regular ol’ all-purpose flour.
Warm milk: We’ll be using warm milk instead of warm water as the base liquid in our dough, as this will add a delicious richness and softness to the overall texture of our flatbread.
White vinegar: This is a secret ingredient and makes this Zaatar bread absolutely perfect! We’ll add this to the warm milk so that the mixture curdles.
Dry active yeast: This will be our leavening agent while making the dough.
Sugar: Sugar is added to the mixture to allow the yeast to rise properly. Don’t worry, it won’t make your dough sweet in any way, but it’ll just allow the yeast to be activated properly.
Salt: This balances out all the flavors in the bread and will bring out the flavors even more.
Olive oil: This will add an authentic flavor to the bread and will make it truly feel like you’re eating it in the Middle East.
To Make the Cheese Topping:
Mozzarella: A classic cheese that goes well with Manakeesh. I’ve also listed other substitutes for it above but trust me you’re going to love it with some mozzarella!
Spread cheese: We’ll mix this with our mozzarella cheese to make the perfect cheese topping that your entire family will love!
To Make the Zaatar Topping Mix:
Zaatar: Zaatar truly is our star ingredient in Manakeesh (also why it’s referred to as Zaatar bread).
Olive oil: To make our zaatar topping, we’ll be mixing it with olive oil to make the perfect spreadable mixture to go on top of our bread!
How to Make Zaatar Bread (Manakeesh) - Step by Step
This recipe is going to truly be the easiest and most authentic one you ever try for Manakeesh. Here’s how to make it step by step:
Make the Dough:
In a large mixing bowl, add the warm milk and white vinegar. Mix them together. You’ll notice that the mixture will curdle, but don’t worry that’s what we are looking for here.
Next, add the sugar and dry yeast to the previous mixture and mix it all well. Pour the olive oil and stir it in, then add the flour and salt. Mix it all well until it is hard to mix with a spatula.
Now, place the dough on a working surface lightly dusted with flour. Knead the dough until it’s smooth and is no longer sticking to your hand or the working surface. Alternatively, you can also use a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment.
Spray a large bowl with oil. Next, place the dough in the bowl and lightly oil the dough. Then cover it and let it double in size by letting it proof for one and a half hours, or if your kitchen is cold, the process of proofing the dough might take up to 2 and a half hours.
Once the dough has doubled in size, punch it, and knead for a few seconds. Keep it aside for now.
Prep Zaatar Topping:
To make the Zaatar topping, take a small bowl and add the zaatar mix in it along with olive oil. Mix them well together and set this mixture aside.
Prep Cheese Topping:
To make the cheese topping, add the mozzarella cheese and spread cheese in a medium-sized bowl. Mix it all well and set this cheesy spread aside.
Assemble and Bake Manakeesh:
To start assembling the Manakeesh, form 7 equal-sized balls from the dough; each of mine was 85 grams each.
Now you can either use a rolling pin to roll out the balls to 6 inches in diameter on a floured surface. Or you can use your fingertips, as shown in the video, to spread the balls by pressing them down and to the sides on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Make indentation half an inch away from the edges; this will prevent the cheese and the zaatar mix from spreading out – similar to how a pizza is spread out towards its crust side.
Cover these for 45 minutes with a kitchen towel for a second proof.
Preheat your oven to 375F/190C.
Now for the final steps, spread the zaatar mix on some and the mozzarella mix on others. In the video and on my sister’s request, I have topped two manakeesh with cheddar cheese and sesame seeds, but that is not typical. But it goes to show just how versatile Manakeesh can be, so feel free to experiment a bit and even involve your kids in the process!
Brush the edges of the dough with milk or with an egg wash to get a beautiful color and crispy edge.
Next, bake them in your preheated oven for 12 to 15 minutes, depending on how hot your oven gets and how accurate the temperature is. The bottom of the Manakeesh should be golden in color, indicating that the dough is ready.
When done, place the Manakeesh on a cooling rack and serve warm.
How to Serve Zaatar Bread (Manakeesh)
Now that you’ve made these delicious Lebanese flatbreads, you’re probably wondering how to serve them? Don’t worry, I have you covered!
Although they’re typically served for breakfast or brunch, feel free to serve them at any time. They’re perfect along with some cheese, like halloumi and especially labneh.
You can also make it a more savory option, by serving it with lots of fresh veggies such as cucumbers, tomatoes, and olives or with some foul or boiled eggs.
It’s also great with some tea, such as mint tea or red tea.
How to Store Zaatar Bread (Manakeesh)
Manakeesh can be stored at room temperature for up to two days. You can also store it in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.
Similarly, you can freeze it in the freezer for up to a month. To reheat frozen Manakeesh, do not thaw them! Instead, while they’re still frozen, place them in a preheated oven for a few minutes until they’re warm. Or alternatively, microwave them for a few seconds to a minute.
Other Recipes You'll Love
Arayes: Want to try another delicious Middle Eastern bread recipe? It’s time to try some Arayes! Pita bread stuffed with seasoned ground lamb meat, baked, and then grilled for an extra crispy texture. It’s a favorite for my family and my readers!
Easy Focaccia Bread Recipe: Looking for another delicious bread recipe? This Focaccia recipe is the easiest and most delicious one that comes out great every single time. You have got to try it out to know what I mean.
Homemade Plain Bread Recipe: Maybe you’re looking for the classic homemade plain bread that’s perfect for anything from sandwiches to French toast! If that’s the case, this recipe is absolutely perfect for you.
The Easiest Zaatar Bread Manakeesh/Manakish
TO MAKE THE DOUGH
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoon dry active yeast
- ¾ cup warm milk
- 2 tablespoon white vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 250 gm mozzarella cheese shredded
- 2 tablespoon spread cheese
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup zaatar mix
MAKING THE DOUGH
- In a large mixing bowl, add warm milk and the white vinegar, the mixture will curdle, but that’s what we are looking for.
- Add the sugar and dry yeast to the previous mixture and mix well. Pour the olive oil and stir, then add the flour and salt. Mix well until it is hard to mix with a spatula.
- Place the dough on a working surface lightly dusted with flour. Knead the dough until smooth and no longer sticks to your hand or the working surface. You can also use a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment.
- Spray a large bowl with oil. Place the dough in the bowl, lightly oil the dough and then cover it and let it double in size for one hour and a half hour, or if your kitchen is cold, the process of proofing the dough might take up to 2 and a half hours.
- Punch the dough and knead for a few seconds; keep aside.
PREPARING ZAATAR TOPPING
- In a small bowl, add the zaatar mix and the olive oil. Mix well and keep aside.
- Add the mozzarella cheese and spread cheese in a medium-sized bowl, mix well and keep aside.
MAKING THE MANAKEESH
- Form 7 equal-sized balls from the dough; mine was 85 grams each.
- You can either use a rolling pin to roll out the balls to 6 inches in diameter on a dusted working surface. Or you can use your fingertips, as shown in the video, to spread the balls by pressing them down and to the sides. Make indentation half an inch away from the edges; this will prevent the cheese and the zaatar mix from spreading out. Cover for 45 minutes.
- Spread the zaatar mix on some and the mozzarella mix on some. In the video and on my sister’s request, I have topped two manakeesh with cheddar cheese and sesame seeds, but that is not typical.
- Brush the edges of the dough with milk or with an egg wash.
- Bake in a preheated oven 190C – 374F for 12 to 15 minutes, depending on your oven. The bottom of the manakeesh should be golden in color, indicating that the dough is ready.
- Place the manakeesh on a cooling rack and serve warm.
- Manakeesh can be stored at room temperature for two days, in the fridge in an airtight container for one week, and you can freeze it for up to a month.
- To reheat frozen Manakeesh, do not thaw. While frozen, place in a preheated oven for a few minutes until warm, or microwave for a few seconds to a minute.
- Roll out the dough to 8 inches if you enjoy crispy Manakeesh, but the baking time will be shorter.
- Instead of white vinegar, use two tablespoons of plain yogurt.
- You can buy zaatar mix on Amazon.
- Use cream cheese instead of spread cheese if you wish.
- Make sure to buy a good quality olive oil; some olive oils have a bitter aftertaste that can ruin the Manakeesh.
- Serve Manakeesh with labneh, fresh veggies, red tea, mint tea, Foul, or boiled eggs.