Naan and pita are Two of the most commonly confused flatbreads because they look so similar. (You know, er…flat.) Both of these leavened breads have deep traditions and are beloved around the world. But there are some key differences between the two.
In this article, we’ll dig into the origins of naan vs pita, key ingredients, and how they’re prepared. As always, don’t forget to check out our favorite naan and pita recipes, linked below!
What is naan?
Naan is an Indian flatbread commonly used for dipping into saucy Indian dishes and for picking up chunks of food. Naan is a leavened flatbread with a soft and chewy texture. Unlike its Greek counterpart—the pita—it is quite large and flavorful.
Origins of naan
Naan originated in Inda about 2,500 years ago, under the influence of Persia. The name naan comes from the Farsi or Persian word “non”, which simply means bread. Naan was initially considered a delicacy reserved for nobility.
What is traditional naan made of?
Naan is made using flour, water, yeast, milk, yogurt, oil, or butter. Eggs are commonly included, as well as the addition of spices and flavor ingredients, such as cumin, garlic, and fresh herbs.
Some common flavor combinations for naan are garlic and cumin, keema (ground lamb and goat meat), peshwari (sweetened coconut), and paneer (Indian cheese).
Shape, size, and texture of naan bread
Naan is typically made in an oval or teardrop shape. Larger than pita, naan can measure 10” or larger and has uneven air pockets on the surface.
Due to the addition of dairy and eggs, the texture of naan is much softer and chewier than pita bread.
What do you eat naan with?
Naan is used in Indian cuisine to soak up the sauce and pick up chunks of food found in Indian dishes. Naan is commonly eaten with curries, lentils, paneer, chutney, and meat-based dished.
Is naan bread healthy?
While higher in fat and calories than pita, naan is a nutritionally-dense and flavorful bread. Naan is high in fiber and is a good source of iron, B vitamins, and niacin. Naan can be incorporated into a healthy diet in moderation.
It can also be made healthier by using light yogurt and oil in place of butter. Here is a nutritional breakdown of a typical plain naan serving:
- Calories in naan: 262
- Carbs in naan: 45 grams
- Fat in naan: 5 grams
- Protein in naan: 9 grams
- Fiber in naan: 2 grams
How to make naan bread
To make naan, you will first mix and kneed the dough ingredients before leaving it to rest and rise for about an hour. The naan dough is then divided into dough balls and left to rest for another 30 minutes in the fridge. Finally, the naan is flattened and cooked.
Naan is traditionally cooked in a clay oven called a tandoor oven. If making it at home, you can cook naan on a cast-iron skillet or a baking stone in the oven.
Best naan recipe
For a wonderful, traditional naan recipe, head over to Rasa Malaysia. The recipe is cooked stovetop on an iron skillet and results in a soft, pillowy, and flavorful bread with a golden-brown crust. Happy eating!
What is pita bread?
Pita bread is a mild-flavored and leavened Mediterranean flatbread made with basic ingredients. It usually contains a pocket that acts as a delivery system for meats, salads, and sauces, though it can also be dipped into hummus and other dips.
Origins of pita bread
An older bread than naan, pita originated in the Middle East some 4,000 years ago. Pita is a Greek word that can be translated to mean bread or pie. Over time, pita spread to the wheat-eating regions of Europe, Asia, and Africa. Today it is enjoyed worldwide.
What is traditional pita bread made of?
Pita bread is made with fewer ingredients than naan, containing only whole wheat flour, water, yeast, and salt. Unlike naan, it does not contain yogurt, milk, butter, or olive oil. This is perhaps the main difference between the two.
How is pita bread traditionally served?
Pita bread puffs up considerably during cooking, creating an air pocket inside. Pita bread is often served with food, such as meat, falafel, vegetables, and sauce, as stuffing inside this pocket. It can also be torn up and dipped into hummus, yogurt, and other saucy foods.
Shape, size, and texture of pita bread
Due to the omission of yogurt, eggs, and butter, pita bread is drier and less chewy than naan. It also packs less flavor than naan, making it ideal to serve with flavorful sauces, meats, and vegetables.
Pita flatbread is round in shape and is usually cut through the middle, making a pouch or pocket inside. Pita bread can range in size but is usually about 5″, making it about half the size of naan bread.
Is pita bread healthy?
Pita bread is made without the use of dairy and oil and thus is lower in fat content and calories than naan bread. Pita has slightly less fiber and protein than naan but contains healthy amounts of B vitamins, selenium, magnesium, and iron. Both types of bread are relatively high in carbohydrates, though pita has fewer carbs generally.
Here is a nutritional breakdown of a typical pita bread serving:
- Calories in pita: 165
- Carbs in pita: 33 grams
- Fat in pita: .7 grams
- Protein in pita: 5 grams
- Fiber in pita: 1.3 grams
How to make pita bread
Just like naan, pita is begun by mixing and kneading the dough before letting it rest so that it can rise. The dough is then separated into balls and flattened before resting for a second time.
After about 30 minutes, the flattened dough is cooked in a high-temperature oven for just a few minutes, until the bread puffs up. This creates the signature pocket inside. Out of the oven, they collapse into flatbread and are cut and stuffed with ingredients for serving.
Best pita bread recipe
For a simple yet delicious pita recipe, head over to Delish. These pitas, which will have the iconic pocket inside, can be cooked on the stovetop or baked in the oven, using a baking stone.
Summary: What is the difference between naan and pita bread?
Both types of flatbread are steeped in tradition and are delightful methods for delivering saucy and flavorful foods. When looking at pita vs naan bread, there are some key characteristics that help differentiate between the two:
- Origins: Naan originated in India some 2,500 years ago. Piita originated in the Eastern Mediterranean roughly 4,000 years ago.
- Ingredients: Pita bread contains just flour, water, salt, and yeast. Naan uses flour, water, salt, yeast, yogurt, oil, and sometimes egg. Naan often has other flavor ingredients added, while pita on its own is quite plain.
- Texture: Naan is a larger and softer bread, typically oval in shape. Pita is a bit smaller and firmer. It is rounded and usually has a pocket cut into it.
- Flavor: Pita bread uses simple ingredients and tastes quite plain. Naan includes richer ingredients, such as yogurt and butter, and is commonly flavored with other ingredients (such as garlic and spices).
- Nutrition: Pita bread is lower in calories and fat. Naan is higher in fat and calories due to the addition of yogurt, milk, and ghee but also provides more protein and fiber.
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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q1: Which is healthier naan or pita?
A: Pita is healthier in terms of calories and fat, but naan is more nutrient-dense than pita or white bread, with generous amounts of protein and fiber. (source)
Q2: Is pita bread better than naan?
A: This depends on your preference! Naan is moister, softer, and more flavorful than pita bread. But pita bread is healthier in terms of calories and fat.
Q3: Do you use naan or pita for gyros?
A: Gyro sandwiches are made with pita bread. Naan, on the other hand, is an Indian bread served used to scoop up saucy dishes.
Q4: Are pita and naan the same?
A: No, they are not. White both leavened flatbreads, pita bread and naan are different in origin, ingredients, flavor, texture, and size.