Naan, an ancient, yeast-leavened flatbread, is as rich in history as it is in flavor. Though naan is typically associated with Indian and Pakistani cuisine, breads incredibly similar to naan are also prevalent in cultures and cuisines across Asia, the Middle East, and the Caribbean. Consider boosting your bread program with naan, a crowd-pleasing flatbread that brings ethnic flair and versatility to the table.
Traditionally, naan dough is made in small batches from four simple ingredients: flour, water, yogurt, and yeast. The dough is hand-stretched into a unique teardrop shape before it’s thrown into a screaming-hot cylindrical clay oven, known as a tandoor, where it cooks in less than a minute. The result of both traditional and modern methods is a flaky, tender flatbread with a fluffy interior and lightly charred exterior. Most know naan from its role as a cooling element and edible utensil served alongside Indian specialties like butter chicken, tikka masala, and other curry dishes. On modern menus, naan is appearing in more mainstream applications and is becoming a blank canvas for chefs specializing in all types of cuisines to showcase creativity and add global, menu-modernizing twists to traditional dishes.
Catering to Consumer Tastes
In an increasingly global marketplace, consumers are becoming as familiar with naan as they are with tortillas and pita bread. Global bread options like naan, in addition to brioche and bao, are among the fastest-growing breads on restaurant menus (Datassential). Millennials, a demographic making up 25% of the U.S. population, are significant drivers of this trend. They are most likely to experiment with and embrace ethnic flavors, and according to Datassential, nearly half of the millennial population will try a new food simply because it sounds interesting. Naan’s popularity can also be attributed to the increasing health and cultural consciousness of today’s consumers. To many, knowing the story behind the food they choose to eat is as important as knowing its ingredient list and authentic origins. As an ancient bread with centuries-old traditions and cross-cultural reach, naan delivers both in history and simplicity.
Elevate Your Menu with an Ever-Rising Bread
Naan’s rich history, pillowy texture, and toasty flavor elevate standard applications. Replacing traditional baguettes or dinner rolls with naan can make a notable impact on the execution of singular dishes and on how entire menus are received by consumers. In fact, naan is the leading option that makes patrons feel like they are eating something unique and different, according to FGF brands proprietary research. Naan is delicious on its own brushed with herbed-garlic butter or served alongside a traditional curry dish as a sauce-scooping utensil, but its simplicity also lends itself to innovative possibilities worth exploring. Use naan to add unexpected interest to cheese and charcuterie boards, serve it alongside soups and salads, fold it with proteins, vegetables, and cheese, or use it as a base for a modern take on already wildly popular wraps and flatbreads. Serve naan topped with Gorgonzola cheese, pears, honey, and toasted walnuts, or create a twist on a classic Italian sandwich using Piadina, another thin Italian flatbread similar to naan, with the Shaved Grilled Pork Loin, Slow-Roasted Veggies, ‘Nduja & Mozzarella Piadina recipe featured on page 36 of Essence.
Naan’s popularity and shareability also align with the brunch category, elevating the appeal and price points of features in this trendy daypart. Add naan French toast or naan breakfast pizza topped with a fried egg and hollandaise to your brunch lineup. In addition to being adaptable in its traditional size and shape, brands like Stonefire® offer a variety of naan sizes and formats, including teardrop naan, mini naan, naan rounds, and naan dippers, that further expand the usability of an already versatile flatbread. Offer these snackable varieties as a complement to dips fit for brunch or any time of day. Feature a Mediterranean-inspired combination of labneh, olive oil, and za’atar or an Instagram-worthy “everything” bagel dip. Using unique naan varieties from Stonefire can both enhance traditional dips and serve as a worthy option for more complex, upscale versions like the Kerala-Curried Prawn Dip appetizer recipe, as seen on page 36 of Essence.
Naan, an approachable, global flatbread, is a simple solution for chefs eager to add a premium element to menu offerings. With an adaptable flavor profile and sturdy form, there are no limits to how the much loved, ancient flatbread can be woven into chef repertoires, especially as consumers continue to pursue globally inspired cuisines anchored in strong origin stories. As the range of menu possibilities for naan continues to expand, operators can easily build their brand, increase profits, and develop menu items that resonate with consumers.