A delicious soft dough topped with cheesy goodness and Za'atar with a hot cup of tea for breakfast. Does that sound dreamy? This Lebanese manakish recipe is so easy to make and I guarantee you'll be so impressed by your own dough and manakish making skills once you try it. If you've been intimidated by dough before, it ends now.
What is Manakish / Manaeesh?
Manakish (also pronouned as Manaeesh) is a Lebanese pizza or flatbread made with a soft dough and topped with various toppings, the most common of which is Za'atar and cheese. It can be made into small circular rounds or larger ones depending on preference.
It's typically made fresh for breakfast and served with fresh vegetables and tea. You can have either cheese only manakish, Za'atar only manakish, or you can even mix the two. Other toppings include labneh (a soft yogurt cheese) and sausage with cheese, as well as a ground beef mixture similar to Lahm Bi Ajeen. Manakish are a flat style of savoury middle eastern pie, similar to Fatayer but those are more like hand pies.
Now if you're wondering what Za'atar is, it's a blend of wild oregano, toasted sesame seeds and sumac, and some varieties may have a few other spices as well. It has a nutty, earthy and tangy flavour. I love using it in so many ways, including this Honey Za'atar Chicken recipe which is a favourite.
Let's walk through this recipe!
The best part about this recipe is how easy the dough comes together. It starts off as my 10 minute dough which I use for Honeycomb Bread, but I let it rise for 30 minutes for this recipe. You end up with a smooth dough that bakes to soft perfection. You don't even need to knead the dough for very long.
If you're feeling particularly lazy though (let's face it, we all do sometimes), you can easily just make the toppings and spread them on store bought naan or pita bread, and you'll still have mouth-watering manakish. Just the easy way.
Ingredients you'll need
You'll need your typical dough ingredients. I use instant yeast (see the FAQ section for using active dry yeast) in this recipe. For the Za'atar topping, you just need the Za'atar blend and olive oil.
For the cheese topping, Akawi cheese is traditionally used. However, if you can't find it, you can use a mixture of Feta and Mozzarella, which turns out so good! I also love topping the cheese manakish with nigella seeds - if you have them, please don't skip them.
Step by step instructions on how to make Manakish
Making the dough
- You start by making the dough, which requires mixing the yeast with warm water (not hot) and setting aside for 3-4 minutes.
- Then in a bowl, mix together 1 cup of the flour, the yeast and water mixture, and the sugar. Mix well with a spoon, cover with plastic and set aside for 10 minutes
- After 10 minutes, add the remaining flour, the olive oil, and salt and mix well with a spoon until a shaggy dough forms. Then knead with your hand for 3-4 minutes until the dough comes together
- Cover and let it rise for 30 minutes. Once its risen, divide into medium sized balls. This recipe makes approximately 10
- At this point, preheat your oven to 375F
Making the toppings
The toppings are really simple to make. For the Za'atar topping, mix it well with olive oil and set it aside. I love using this brand of Za'atar.
As for the cheese, grate the mozzarella and crumble the feta, then mix them together. I like to use fresh mozzarella but either one works. Don't mix the cheese with the nigella seeds - we sprinkle them on top after we spread it over the dough.
Shaping and baking the Manakish
Next, using a floured rolling pin and a floured surface, roll out the dough into medium sized flatbreads. Roll to a thin consistency because they will rise slightly in the oven. Then transfer the dough to a floured baking sheet and add the toppings.
For the Za'atar topping, make sure you are generous and cover the whole surface well. For the cheese, don't forget to sprinkle with some nigella seeds. Bake them in the oven for 12-15 minutes or until the bottom is lightly golden. The cheese can be broiled for a few minutes to brown, but keep an eye on them so they don't burn! Once baked, keep them covered so they don't dry up and serve warm.
FAQs and Expert Tips
Q: Can I use Active Dry Yeast for the dough instead of Instant Yeast? I recommend instant yeast as it is more stable and likely still active. However, if you have active dry yeast, yes you can use it, just ensure you check that it is still active by mixing it with the warm water and seeing it rise and bubble.
Q: What is a Monoushe? A Manoushe is the singular word for Manakish and it is exactly what is described in the recipe. It's a Lebanese pizza topped with various toppings, the most common of which is Za'atar and cheese.
Q: What other toppings can I use for Manakish? You can mix the Za'atar with cheese, use labneh (a soft yogurt cheese) with za'atar, or cheese with sausage. You can also make the meat mixture and make Lahm Bi Ajeen.
Storage and freezer instructions
You can store manakish in an airtight container in the fridge, and just warm them up in the oven (or microwave) before serving again. Or you can place them in between parchment paper and place in an airtight container or a freezer bag and freeze them for up to 3 months. Thaw them in the oven and enjoy!
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Manakish (Cheese and Za'atar)
For the dough:
- 2 ½ cups flour plus 2 more tablespoons
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon instant yeast
- 1 cup warm water
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
For the Cheese Topping:
- 340 grams fresh mozzarella or replace with Akawi cheese
- 200 grams feta cheese or replace with Akawi cheese
- 1.5 tablespoons nigella seeds (also known as Kolonji)
For the Za'atar Topping:
- ¼ cup olive oil extra virgin
- 7 tablespoons Za'atar (found at middle eastern stores)
To make the dough:
- Start by mixing the yeast in the 1 cup of warm water. Make sure it's not hot water or the yeast will not activate. Set aside for 3 minutes.
- In a bowl, add 1 cup of the flour along with the sugar and the yeast and water mixture. Mix well with a spoon, cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes, add the rest of the flour (1 ½ cups plus 2 tablespoons), ¼ cup olive oil and the salt and mix well until a shaggy dough forms.
- Using your hands, knead the dough for 3-4 minutes, then smooth it out and set aside to rise for about 30 minutes, covered.
- Preheat your oven to 375F while the dough rises
For the toppings:
- Mix together the Za'atar and the olive oil in a bowl and set aside.
- Mix together the mozzarella cheese and feta cheese and set aside.
- Once the dough is ready, separate into 10 equal-sized balls. Using a floured rolling pin and a floured surface, flatten each dough ball to a very thin medium sized flatbread. The dough will rise slightly in the oven so it's important to make them thin
- Transfer the dough rounds to a floured baking sheet. You may need to use 2-3 baking sheets to fit them all, or wait for some to bake then add the rest
- Spread the Za'atar mixture on 5 of the manakish and make sure to cover the entire surface, leaving a ¼ inch border
- Spread the cheese mixture on the remaining 5 of manakish, leaving a ¼ inch border. Sprinkle with the nigella seeds
- Place the baking sheets in the oven on the bottom rack and bake for 12-15 minutes until the bottom is lightly golden. You can bake more than one sheet at one time, by placing one on the bottom rack and one on the middle rack. Once the bottom rack manakish are cooked, then switch the middle rack sheet pan to the bottom for a few more minutes until cooked through
- For the cheese manakish, you can broil the top for just a few minutes to lightly brown the cheese. Keep an eye when you're doing this as it happens quickly
- Remove baked manakish and place in a platter and cover with a towl or plastic bag to keep them soft until serving
- Serve them with fresh vegetables like tomato, cucumber, mint, and olives
- This recipe makes roughly 10 medium sized manakish, and the topping amounts yield 5 of each type. If you want to make only cheese or only za'atar, then double the topping quantities
- You can also make the manakish a lot smaller to yield a larger number of pieces
- Traditionally, Akawi cheese is used in place of the mozzarella and feta mixture but I found this mix to be a great substitute and it tastes so good
- You can also make Manakish which are a mix of cheese and Za'atar. To do that, add Za'atar to the cheese mixture without any olive oil and spread on the dough
- You can freeze the manakish once they are cooled, by placing them in between parchment paper and in an air tight container or bag