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Manakeesh is the pizza of the Levant. In the Middle East, manakeesh is hugely popular for breakfast. You can find it in almost any bakery, alongside other hearty baked goods.
Let me show you how to make traditional Middle Eastern manakeesh with this step-by-step recipe. I’ll also share with you some useful tips on how to make dough from scratch – the key to success for this recipe.
What is Manakeesh?
Manakeesh (also spelled manakish) is a popular Middle Eastern flatbread made from leavened dough and topped either with zaatar and olive oil (Manakeesh Zaatar) or cheese (Manakeesh bil Jibneh). It’s often referred to as Arabic pizza. It’s typically cut into slices and served for breakfast.
Cheese manakish (in Arabic: manakeesh bil jibneh) is the most popular type of manakeesh. For cheese manakeesh, we typically use a white soft cheese, known as akawi cheese. Akawi is a type of cheese home to the Middle East. If you live in Europe or the US, it might be hard to find this type of cheese. That’s why my cheese manakeesh recipe uses a mix of feta and mozzarella cheese which are perfectly suitable for delicious Manakeesh.
Manakeesh is a staple in the Middle East. It’s made of just a few simple ingredients.
The key to perfect Manakeesh is, of course, the dough.
As per the authentic Manakeesh recipe, the dough is made of the following ingredients:
- Flour: All-purpose flour (wheat flour) is the preferred type of flour.
- Water: Use lukewarm water from the tab.
- Yeast: Used to make the dough rise. I use active dry yeast, but fresh yeast will work just as well.
- Sugar: Required to activate the yeast.
- Salt: Controls the fermentation process.
- Olive oil (optionally): To soften the dough.
While most bakeries make a simple dough as mentioned above, you can make it even softer and tastier. To do so, you can substitute half of the water with milk. Instead of the olive oil, add an egg yolk and a little butter. This dough is often used for pies and pastries, but it also works wonderfully for manakeesh.
For the manakish cheese topping you’ll need:
- Feta cheese: Supposing that you don’t have akkawi cheese, feta is a great substitute.
- Mozzarella cheese: Grated mozzarella.
- Nigella seeds: Also known as black sesame seeds. These are optional. They will be sprinkled on top of the cheese (not added to the cheese mixture). Nigella seeds add a bit of taste, but if you don’t have them, you can leave them out.
Note: Quantities can be found in the recipe card at the end of this recipe and can be adjusted according to the amount of servings you’d like to make.
How to Make Manakeesh?
Step 1: Prepare the yeast
Similar to pizza, the dough contains yeast. If you’d like to make dough the traditional way, you’ll first need to activate the yeast. Combine sugar and yeast into a tall pitcher. Add lukewarm water and stir with a fork until the yeast is dissolved. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for about 20 minutes.
Step 2: Combine flour and yeast
Put flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the yeast mixture and olive oil (optional). Mix well using your hands until the flour and the liquids have formed a dough. At this point, your dough should have a slightly sticky consistency. If the dough is too wet, add a little more flour. If it’s too dry, add more water.
By the way, you can mix and knead the dough by hand, or use a kitchen machine to do so.
Step 3: Knead the dough
Kneading is one of the key elements in dough making. It’s crucial that you knead the dough thoroughly as this will stimulate the further process. If you make dough by hand, transfer the dough mixture from the bowl onto your kitchen counter. Knead properly for about 3-4 minutes. If you’ve done things right, the dough will be easy to knead. If you find it difficult, your dough is most likely to dry. If you have difficulties rolling the dough and find it sticking too much on your hands, it’s likely too wet. Adding more water/flour will help.
Step 4: Let the dough rest
Once you have kneaded the dough properly, shape it into a ball. Grease the bowl (in which you mixed the ingredients earlier) and place the dough back. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rest. In warmer countries, the dough will rise in as little as 30-60 minutes. If you live in a cold climate, your dough will need around 2 hours to rise.
Step 5: Make dough balls
Once the dough has risen, remove it from the bowl. Briefly knead again (with your hands). Sprinkle a thin layer of flour on your work surface (to prevent sticking) and place the dough on top. Divide into equal pieces (depending on the quantity of Manakeesh you’re making). Roll each piece into a ball.
Step 6: Roll the dough
Roll each dough ball (one at a time) into a flat circle. The diameter is up to you. I usually go for small or medium-sized Manakeesh of 20-22 cm in diameter. Manakeesh are usually smaller than Italian or American pizza. Make sure not to roll out the dough too thickly (about 4 mm is good). Place the dough rounds onto parchment paper.
Step 7: Prepare the cheese topping
Grate the mozzarella cheese and finely crumble the mozzarella cheese. Add to a small bowl and stir to combine. Use your hands to spread the cheese mixture onto the manakeesh. Sprinkle some nigella seeds on top.
Step 8: Bake
Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes until golden brown. Note that the oven needs to be really hot, so preheating your oven for about 15 minutes is required. You can preheat the oven when rolling the dough. Remove from the oven and serve warm.
How to Serve Manakeesh
Manakeesh is traditionally served for breakfast. It also makes a great brunch or lunch.
If you’re familiar with Middle Eastern food culture, you’ll surely know that food is commonly shared. Don’t serve one manakeesh per person, but just place them on the middle of the table for everyone to share.
What to Eat with Manakeesh
If you make manakeesh for breakfast, you can eat it with countless other small dishes. In the Middle East, most people will serve dips, olives and salad (depending on the time of the day) with manakeesh. Besides, tea and coffee are an integral part of any good breakfast.
Here are a few dishes that pair well with manakeesh:
- Labneh (Middle Eastern dip made of strained yogurt)
- Hummus (Famous chickpea spread)
- Muhammara (roasted red paprika dip with walnuts)
- Scrambled eggs or omelet
- Zeit wa zaatar (olive oil and zaatar, for dipping your manakeesh cheese)
- Sliced vegetables (cucumbers, tomatoes…)
- Fresh herbs (parsley, mint…)
- Cheese (e.g. grilled halloumi)
If you’re preparing it for a larger group, you can even serve it as part of a large mezze platter.
Tips for the Best Manakeesh
- You can buy ready-made dough at the grocery store if you’re short in time. However, if you want to make authentic manakeesh, you should make the dough from scratch. Give it a try, it’s much easier than you think!
- Many people have a kitchen machine to mix and knead the dough. If you have one, brilliant! But if you don’t, you can make dough by hand by following the instructions in this recipe.
- The amount of water you need to add to the dough depends on the flour you use. It depends on the type of flour, but also on the quality and brand. 300 ml of water for 500 g of flour works perfectly for me. You might need a little more or less than this. If the dough is too wet, add a little more flour. If it’s too dry, add a little more water.
- Nigella seeds are only used for manakeesh cheese (not the zaatar variant). The nigella seeds are traditionally sprinkled onto the cheese. They are not added to the cheese mixture itself.
- The oven should be really hot. Preheat at 250°C (480°F). If you have a pizza stone, that’s great. If you don’t have one, you can preheat the oven with the tray inside. That way, the manakeesh will brown nicely from the bottom.
Make Ahead & Storage
Same as with Italian or American pizza, manakeesh should be served right after baking. However, you can perfectly prepare the dough ahead of time. Manakeesh can be frozen (let cool after baking), and baked off when needed (ideally, thaw briefly and bake in the oven).
Risen dough can be kept in the fridge for up to 24 hours.
Baked manakeesh leftovers can be kept in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 1-2 days. Briefly reheat in the microwave or in the pan, or enjoy at room temperature.
Any Questions or Feedback?
If you liked this recipe, I’d appreciate it if you could leave a star rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ below. In case you’ve any questions or feedback, please leave me a comment (down the page). I’m happy to help you make delicious Middle Eastern food at home.
- 500 g flour extra for dusting
- 300 ml water lukewarm
- 7 g dry yeast
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 100 g mozzarella cheese
- 100 g feta cheese
- 3 tsp nigella seeds optional
- Combine sugar and yeast into a tall pitcher. Add lukewarm water and stir with a fork to dissolve. Cover and let rest for 20 minutes.
- Combine flour and salt. Once the yeast is activated, add the mixture to the flour. Mix well to form a dough.
- Transfer the dough onto your kitchen counter. Knead well for 3-4 minutes. Use your hands or a kitchen machine.
- Transfer the dough to a greased bowl, cover and let rise. Depending on the climate, the dough needs anything between 30 minutes to 2 hours to rise.
- Remove the risen dough from the bowl. Briefly knead (by hand). Divide into equal pieces and shape each piece into a ball.
- Roll each dough ball into a flat circle. Small manakeesh can be 10-12 cm in diameter, large ones 20-22 cm. Place onto parchment paper (optional).
- For the topping, grate the mozzarella cheese, crumble the feta cheese. Combine in a bowl. Spread evenly over the dough rounds. Sprinkle some nigella seeds.
- Place in the pre-heated oven and bake for 10 minutes until golden brown. Serve warm.
- Use a kitchen machine to mix and knead the dough, or do so by hand.
- The amount of water needed in the dough depends on the type, quality and brand of your flour. 300 ml per 500 g flour is an indication (it works for me). You might need a little more or less. Add more water if the dough turns out too dry, add more flour if it’s too water. Only add a bit more at a time.
- Preheat your oven for at least 15 minutes. If you don’t have a pizza stone, keep the tray inside when preheating.
- The nutritional values are rough indications. They can vary according to the exact weight, type and brand of your ingredients.