Manakish za'atar are delicious flatbread from the Levantine region topped with olive oil and za'atar. The oil and herbs add lots of aromatic flavor, making this bread perfect to snack on either as-is or with simple toppings.
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I've long enjoyed za'atar, both the herb and the more common blend which includes sumac and sesame. Both are wonderfully aromatic, and the blend, for example, is a great simple way to add flavor to dishes like my za'atar chicken.
One of the most popular traditional uses for za'atar spice blend is on top of a simple flatbread. It's a simple combination, but with delicious results.
The origins of manakish (also called manakeesh, manaeesh or manaquish, singular man'ousheh or manoushe, depending where you are) are a little vague. Some say it's a modern invention, but more likely, they have been around for many centuries. The ingredients are certainly not new in the region.
They are most popular these days in Lebanon, and firmly considered a core part of Lebanese cooking. It's a popular choice for breakfast, for example. You will also find the bread in other countries in the Levant region, such as Syria and Palestine, where some say it originates.
Za'atar is the most popular topping for this bread, but it's not the only one. Some use the oil and za'atar as a base or simply add other toppings instead. Common additions/ alternatives are cheese, minced lamb, spinach or chili. The lamb version is very similar to lahmacun (and in fact that name is often used).
Here I've kept with the classic za'atar - a favorite for good reason.
Stages to make this flatbread
This is a yeasted bread, and follows the relatively typical process of mixing and kneading the dough, giving it a first rise, dividing into smaller pieces then allowing to rise again. Then to make as flatbread, you roll out, top with the oil-za-atar mix and leave a little more before baking.
See how it all comes together in the short video!
You have a little bit of flexibility on whether you let it rise more in the smaller balls or more after you roll it out flat. With the former, you typically get a more even shape and a bit more chew, while with the latter the breads are typically a little more irregular but with more air in the end texture.
It's going to taste good either way, but all the more excuse to experiment and see what you prefer.
When and how to serve these flatbread
These are common as a breakfast or lunch item in Lebanon and often eaten just as they are. You may also, particularly with the za'atar version, add some simple toppings like cucumber, tomato and parsley. It makes a really tasty sandwich-like snack or light meal.
As well as the different toppings, you'll find these breads made in different sizes as well. Sometimes they are pretty small, just a bit bigger than a large pitta bread as I have made here, while other times it will be nearer a small pizza size. This is really more personal choice, so feel free to divide the dough differently as suits.
Manakish might start with a simple bread base but the tasty oil on and za'atar topping adds so much tasty flavor. They're perfect for a snack or with simple salad-y additions for a light lunch. They are popular with everyone on our household, so give them a try and hopefully you'll enjoy them just as much.
Try these other tasty breads:
- Sage and caramelized onion sourdough bread
- Piadina (Italian flatbread, made without yeast)
- Pan de Mallorca (Puerto Rican sweet rolls)
- Japanese milk bread
- Plus get more bread recipes in the archives.
Manakish (Lebanese za'atar flatbread)
For the bread
- 1 teaspoon active dried yeast or instant - see notes
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 185 ml water ¾ cup plus 1 tsp, or a little more/less as needed
- 315 g all purpose flour 2 ¼ cups
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon olive oil or 2tbsp, if you prefer
- 3 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 tablespoon za'atar (the blend rather than herb, see notes)
- Mix together the yeast, sugar and water in a small bowl and set aside for a few minutes to foam up while you measure and mix other ingredients.
- In a larger bowl, mix together the flour and salt. Add the yeast mixture and oil then mix everything together and bring the dough together in a ball. If it's not all coming together, add a little more water.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for around 3-5 minutes just to get the gluten going. Bring the dough into a ball. (Alternatively, you can mix and knead the dough with a stand mixer). Lightly oil a bowl and place the dough in the bowl, rolling in the oil, then cover with cling wrap/film and leave to double in size, around 90 minutes.
- Once the dough has risen, knock it back gently and divide into 6 pieces (or 4 if you want larger-sized bread). Roll each into a ball and then cover with a damp cloth and leave to rise again, around 20-30 minutes. If you prefer, you can just leave them 10min or so to relax, then roll and leave to rise more later (see post above). As the dough is rising, mix together the oil and za-atar for the topping in a small bowl.
- Roll each of the balls of dough into a flat, relatively thin circle (if you make six, they should be around 6in/15cm in diameter). Transfer them to parchment-lined baking sheets.
- Spread the oil-za'atar mixture over the middle of each round of dough, leaving a rim around the edge of each without any of the mixture (around ⅔in/2cm). Leave the breads to rise slightly more, around 10 minutes or so as you pre-heat the oven to 425F/220C.
- Once the oven has come to temperature, bake the breads for around 10 minutes until they are starting to turn golden brown around the edges and have a hollow sound when tapped. Allow to cool a few minutes before serving.
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