Make your mornings extra special with this incredibly delicious traditional Middle Eastern flatbread breakfast cuisine. It's topped with cheese and our favorite za'atar seasoning to really help brighten up your morning.
Everyone knows that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. And in Lebanon, they take their breakfasts seriously.
A traditional Lebanese breakfast usually consists of an assortment of foods. You'll see their tables full of cheeses, olives, fresh tomatoes, and all kinds of dips—but no Middle Eastern breakfast table is complete without some carbs. That's where Manakish comes in.
This delicious savory pizza-like flatbread is a great way to start your day, and although you have to make the dough from scratch the recipe is surprisingly easy to make. Once you try it out you'll have found your new favorite breakfast treat.
What is Manakish?
Manakish—also known as manaqish, manaeesh, manakeesh, manooshe, man'ousheh, mankousheh—(this dish has so many names) is a delicious Lebanese flatbread. Some consider it a cross-over between a pizza and pita bread.
Its name is actually the plural form of "manqūshah" taken from the Arabic word "naqasha", which means 'to sculpt or carve out'. This is because after the manakish dough is rolled flat, you use your fingertips to press down the middle of the bread which creates little dips for your toppings to lie in. You can serve a manakish open, folded, or sliced—just like a pizza!
A Traditional Middle Eastern Breakfast
The manakish is a breakfast staple in many Middle Eastern regions. You can eat it plain, or top it with some meats, olive oil blends, za'atar spices, cheese of your liking—or better yet—combine them all together.
For this specific manakish recipe we went with a classic cheese and za'atar topping.
If you ever plan on going to the middle east, you can find manakish at any local Lebanese bakery. A lot of families, however, prefer to make their manakish at home from scratch.
Though it might seem like a hassle, this flatbread is actually so easy to make that anyone can do it. The process only takes a long time because you're waiting for the dough to rise. But, the rest of the cooking process can be done in only 45 minutes or less!
If you're always in a rush and really haven't got the time to make it in the morning, don't worry. We'll share some tips on how you can prepare your manakish in advance and store it properly.
What is Za'atar?
If you aren't familiar with za'atar just yet, you'll be glad you stumbled upon this recipe, because za'atar is about to change your life.
Za'atar is a Middle Eastern seasoning used in all kinds of Mediterranean dishes. Different brands may sell various kinds of za'atar seasoning, but its five key ingredients are thyme, sesame seeds, oregano, sumac, and salt.
It's a blend of savory, earthy, and tangy flavors that can brighten up any plain old dish. The great thing about za'atar is that it's very versatile. Some may add a few different herbs and chili flakes into their za'atar mix depending on the kind of dish that they're making. But in general, za'atar goes great with anything—especially manakish.
Za'atar manakish is also known as zaatar bread and is the most classic and common type of manakish. Although great as it is, if you add some extra za'atar and cheese on top you get richer and brighter flavors from the zaatar bread.
How to Make Za'atar and Cheese Manakish
Now that you're familiar with za'atar and manakish, here's everything you need to know about how to make the perfect za'atar and cheese manakish. From the ingredients necessary to tips on storage and keeping it soft—you'll learn everything you need to know here.
Ingredients You'll Need for Zaatar Bread
There are a couple of things you'll need for this zaatar bread recipe. We've split up the ingredients into two categories—the main and the optional ingredients. The main ingredients are absolute must-haves and the optional ones are either for added flavor or texture. They are listed below:
- Zaatar: You can't have zaatar bread without Zesty Z za'atar seasoning. It's an all-natural and low-sodium za'atar mix that contains no fillers just pure and authentic herbs.
- Manakish dough: For the dough, all you really need is all-purpose flour, salt, sugar, and water. It can either be leavened or unleavened.
- Oil: Make sure to choose good quality oil—olive oil is ideal. In fact, you can even find a Za'atar olive oil here at Zesty Z to really do this recipe justice.
- Cheese: You can choose any white cheese topping you like (e.g. queso, ricotta, halloumi), but for this recipe, we'll be using feta cheese and mozzarella. If you really want to pay homage to the traditional middle eastern cuisine, you can use Akawi cheese. It's a soft unripened brine cheese that has a very mild and slightly salty flavor.
- Yeast: As mentioned earlier, the manakish dough can be leavened or unleavened. So if you don't have yeast lying around your kitchen you can skip it altogether. Or, you can use a substitute of equal parts lemon juice and baking soda. This will make the dough rise immediately so you also cut down on cooking time. If you use instant yeast, you don’t need to proof it first. Just drop it all into the bowl with the rest of the ingredients.
- Milk: This recipe includes powdered milk in the manakish dough, but it is really just for additional flavor. So if you don't have powdered milk feel free to skip it altogether. But if you'd like, you can replace powdered milk with equal parts liquid milk and then reduce the amount of water you'll use by the same amount.
- Olives: Kalamata olives are usually served as a side to zaatar bread but you can also use it as a topping.
- Red pepper flakes: If you like your food spicy feel free to add in some chili or red pepper flakes on top.
Manakish With Za'atar and Cheese Recipe
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Dough Rise: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
Making the Dough
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp granulated sugar
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 2 tsp active dry yeast (optional) or 1 tsp baking soda and 1 tsp lemon juice (substitute)
- 2 tbsp dry powdered milk or buttermilk (optional) or 2tbsp liquid milk (substitute; reduce 2tbsp of water)
- Start by combining your yeast, sugar, and ½ cup of warm water in a small bowl and stir. Set aside to proof for 10 minutes. (If you're using instant yeast or the substitute for yeast no need to proof)
- Grab your mixer bowl and sift in the all-purpose flour, powdered milk, and salt.
- Prepare your dough hook, then add your yeast mixture (or substitute) and olive oil to the flour mixture in the mixer bowl. Using the dough hook, knead for 10 minutes while adding the remaining ½ cup water little by little until you get a nice consistent dough form. If you don't have a mixer bowl feel free to mix it by hand.
- Once you're done mixing cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let it rise until doubled in size or for 1 hour. (Skip this step if you're using the yeast substitute)
- Preheat oven to 375°F, then line two large baking sheets enough to hold two 8" circles with a silicone mat or parchment paper.
Making the Toppings
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup za'atar spice
- 1 tbsp water
- 1 cup mozzarella cheese shredded
- 1 cup feta cheese crumbled
You can always add if you want more toppings.
- Grab two small bowls.
- In one small bowl, blend the olive oil, za'atar spice, and water together to create your zaatar mixture, then set aside.
- In another small bowl, combine the cheeses and set them aside.
Bringing It All Together
- On a clean work surface, lightly flour the surface and divide your dough into 8 equal pieces. Form each piece into a ball by rolling it on the lightly floured surface in a circular motion.
- Get some plastic wrap and cover the rest of your balls. We'll only be working with one ball at a time for this step. Starting with one dough ball, roll the ball into a flat 8" circle, lightly dusting with flour as you roll. Once you've rolled it into the right size, lightly dimple the dough this is where your toppings will sit.
- Arrange 2 dough rounds per baking sheet. You have two choices, either make 4 za'atar manakish and 4 cheese manakish or mix the za'atar mixture and the cheese together and spread it evenly among all 8 dough rounds. It's up to you.
- Once you're done adding your toppings pop your dough into the preheated oven and bake for 12-15 minutes or until the bottom of the manakeesh turns a golden brown. You can add some sliced Kalamata olives for extra flavor and red chili pepper flakes on top for some spice.
- Serve immediately, or while waiting for it to cool down, cover with a towel or a plastic wrap to keep it soft. If you're planning to store it and save it for later, keep it in an airtight container.
Tips For A Soft Manakish
To keep your manakish soft, make sure to add water into the za'atar mixture. This keeps your manakish softer and also prevents them from getting burnt easily (which happens pretty often apparently).
Covering your manakish with a towel or a plastic wrap after they have cooled down a bit will also help keep it soft.
How to Store Manakish After Baking
When stored properly, the manakish can last in an airtight container for 4 to 5 days. You can also choose to freeze them in an airtight freezer-safe container or bag which will let you store the bread for as long as 3 months.
Other Breakfast Recipes To Try
This za'atar and cheese manakish is to die for - but we've got a bunch of other amazing recipes, too! You might want to check out some of these options as well:
- Make Za’atar Breadcrumbs: Crispy, Zesty & Crunchy.
- Za'atar Lamb Meatballs Recipe.
- Za'atar Avocado Toast: For a super healthy and delicious breakfast, upgrade your avocado toast with some low-sodium antioxidant-rich za'atar seasoning.
Of course, creating the best za'atar dishes starts with buying za'atar online at the best place possible - and that is right here at Zesty Z. So, get to shopping, prepare your ingredients, and bring this amazing dish to life! You won't be sorry.