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Pita bread is by far the most common type of bread in the Middle East. It’s an integral part of any meal, from breakfast, lunch to dinner. Arabic pita bread is very easy to make and requires only a handful of ingredients.
Let me show you how to make traditional Arabic style pita bread with this step-by-step recipe. I’ve also compiled tips on how to make them puff in the oven as well as many other insights based on common pitfalls when making pita bread at home.
Pita Bread Ingredients
The type of pita bread you find across the Middle East (which is called khubz arabi in Arabic) only needs a handful of ingredients. Pita bread is very easy to make, as long as you pay attention to a few important details.
If you regularly make bread at home, you’re for sure already familiar with them. However, if you’re new to breadmaking, let me explain to you what’s the role of each ingredient in pita bread. Trust me, once you understand the science behind, things will work like a charm.
- Flour: All-purpose flour is the most common type of flour in the Middle East. It’s made of wheat and is really easy to work with. All-purpose flour can be found in most grocery stores across the world. Bread flour (which is common in the US) will work just as well. However, don’t use self-rising flour.
- Yeast: Yeast is what makes dough rise. It’s a key ingredient to fluffy Middle Eastern pita bread puffing up perfectly while baking. There are several types of yeast and sadly, not all of them are the same. My recommendation is to use active dry yeast. It can be found in small packages and stored in the kitchen cabinet over several weeks to months without any issue. Fresh yeast (refrigerated) works just as well. However, fresh yeast has a shorter shelf life than active dry yeast. Don’t use instant yeast (it doesn’t produce the same result and flavor).
- Water: Plain tap water is enough. No need for bottled water or whatsoever. The important thing to keep in mind is the temperature of the water. To make pita bread the traditional way, the yeast is activated in water. The right temperature is crucial to make that happen. Yeast won’t activate in cold water and hot water will kill it. Use lukewarm water (25-30°C).
- Sugar: Don’t panic. The amount of sugar in Arabic pita bread is quite low. In fact, sugar is required to activate yeast (together with the water). You’ll find a small amount of sugar in all yeast-based breads. The amount of sugar is really small (about a teaspoon for 10 pieces of bread).
- Salt: Salt is another key ingredient when making bread. The right amount and timing are crucial here! Too little salt means your dough will rise too much. Too much salt means it won’t rise (at all). Combining salt with yeast before the yeast is activated will kill the yeast. A simple trick is to combine salt and flour, and add the activated yeast mixture. As a rule of thumb, use 10 g (about 2 teaspoons) of salt for 500 g of flour.
Some people like to add olive oil to soften the dough. The olive oil is optional, but not strictly required.
Pita Bread Recipe Step-by-Step
Now that we’ve had a look at the ingredients, let’s get to the actual pita bread recipe.
By the way, I’ll show you how to make the dough by hand. This is the traditional way of bread making in the Middle East. If you have a kitchen machine, this will speed up the process.
Follow my easy pita bread recipe to make authentic Arabic bread at your home. The perfect pita bread will puff up while baking in the oven and be irresistibly soft and fluffy.
Note: The exact amounts (according to the servings) can be found in the recipe card after the steps.
1. Activate the yeast
Pita bread dough contains yeast. The first step is to activate the yeast. The easiest way is to activate the yeast in a separate container and not in the bowl with the flour (and salt). Yeast only needs sugar and lukewarm water to activate. Be aware that yeast is killed when in touch with salt or oil before it’s activated.
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.
2. Mix flour and yeast
Put flour and salt in a large mixing bowl. Once the yeast is activated, it can be safely combined with flour and salt. Pour the yeast mixture over the flour. Add olive oil (optional) to make the dough softer. Mix well using your hands (or a kitchen machine). The liquids should form a dough with a slightly sticky consistency. Make sure the dough isn’t neither too wet, nor too dry.
3. Knead the bread dough
Kneading is one of the key elements in bread making. Especially when making bread by hand, through kneading is required in order to activate the gluten which will make the dough rise.
Transfer the dough mixture from the bowl onto a floured work surface. Knead by hand for about 3-4 minutes.The dough should be quite easy to knead. If it’s too hard, it’s likely too dry (adding a little water will help). If it sticks too much on your hands, it’s likely too wet (add a little more flour).
Again, if you have a kitchen machine, steps 2 and 3 will be handled in one go.
4. Let the bread dough rise
Shape the kneaded dough into a ball. Slightly grease the mixing bowl you used in step 2 and add the dough ball back to it. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel. If you live in a warm country, the dough will need as little as 30-60 minutes to rise. Do you live in a colder climate? Allow 2 hours for the dough to rise.
5. Shape dough into balls
Once the dough has risen, remove it from the bowl. Briefly knead again (with your hands). Place the dough onto a floured surface. Divide into equal portions. Shape each piece of dough into a ball.
6. Roll the dough
Roll each dough ball (one at a time) into a flat circle. In the Middle East, pita bread is rather small. The ideal size for your dough rounds are about 10-12 cm in diameter. The thickness should be no more than 5 mm.
It’s important that you roll out the dough evenly in order for the pita bread to puff up while baking!
7. Bake the breads
Add the parchment paper with the dough rounds onto a baking tray. Bake in the preheated oven for 5-6 minutes. Note that the oven needs to be really hot, so preheating of 10-15 minutes is required. During the baking process, the pita bread will nicely puff which creates the signature “pockets” of this bread. Keep an eye on the baking process. Pita bread is relatively colorless and shouldn’t turn too dark.
Remove from the oven and serve warm. Pita bread is also freezer friendly so you can perfectly make a large amount ahead of time. Let cool completely, transfer into a freezer bag and freeze for up to 6 months.
What to Serve with Pita Bread
Pita bread is a staple in the Middle East! It’s served alongside mezze and main dishes alike. You can pair pita bread with the famous falafel, hummus, tabbouleh salad and any other dish of your choice.
Arabic Pita Bread (Khubz Arabi)
- 500 g all-purpose flour
- 300 ml lukewarm water
- 7 g dry yeast
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- Activate the yeast by combining sugar and yeast into a tall pitcher. Add lukewarm water. Stir with a fork to dissolve. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for 20 minutes.
- Combine flour and salt in a large bowl. Once the yeast mixture is ready, pour it into the bowl with flour. Use your hands (or a kitchen machine) to mix the ingredients to a dough.
- Place the dough onto a floured work surface. If making dough by hand, knead thoroughly for 3-4 minutes to activate the gluten. Shape into a ball.
- Grease the mixing bowl and place the dough back. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise (30 mins in warmer countries or up to 2 hours in colder countries).
- Once the dough has risen, remove it from the bowl onto a floured work surface. Briefly knead (by hand). Divide into equal pieces and shape each piece into a ball.
- Roll each dough ball into a flat circle with a diameter of 10-12 cm and a thickness of about 5 mm. Place onto parchment paper.
- Add the baking tray into the oven and bake the bread for 5-6 minutes until they have fully puffed in the oven.
- The nutritional values are rough indications. They can vary according to the exact weight, type and brand of your ingredients.
FAQ & Common Pitfalls
Below you’ll find the answers to the most commonly asked questions on pita bread, from fun facts to preparation tips and tricks.
What is pita bread?
Pita bread is the most common type of bread in the Middle East and some Mediterranean countries. Its unique feature is the pocket which comes when puffing up in the oven while baking.
What is pita bread made of?
Authentic pita bread is made of just a few simple ingredients: all-purpose flour, yeast, lukewarm water, sugar and salt.
What to eat with pita bread?
Pita bread is a staple in the Middle East. It can be eaten with spreads (hummus, moutabal), salads, sandwiches (falafel sandwich) and much more.
How to eat pita bread?
Pita bread is eaten by hand. In Arab culture, bread serves as cutlery to grab food.
How to warm pita bread?
Pita bread is best enjoyed warm, right after baking. To reheat, simply warm in the oven or in a skillet.
How to make pita bread puff up?
Pita bread not puffing up in the oven is definitely frustrating! There can be multiple reasons why this happens. If you’ve done things right with the dough (used fresh yeast, the dough has risen etc.), you’ve likely made a mistake when rolling out the dough. You’ve either rolled it out too thick or too thin (the perfect thickness is 4-5 mm) or unevenly. Another common reason is the wrong oven temperature. Make sure to preheat your oven at 230°C for at least 15 minutes before adding the pita bread.