Zaatar Manakeesh is a popular traditional Middle Eastern breakfast choice is infamous and will quickly be your favorite pizza! Delicious soft homemade or store bought dough topped with the paste of zesty, nutty seasoning known as Zaa’tar mixed with olive oil. Manakeesh are made using the same dough base, but can be topped in many different ways as I will show you before. You will find this Zaa’tar Manakeesh Recipe out of this world!
Zaa’tar Manakeesh are a popular breakfast or a snack choice for many reasons. First of all, they are easily folded over so are easy to carry and chomp on while on your way to work or for those long fun road trips. Second, there’s a topping for everyone. From a variety of cheeses, to veggie toppings like tomatoes, onions and parsley, to zaa’tar, keshek, and meat pies known as lahme bi ajeen mix, you have such a wide selection to choose from. Furthermore, they are filling for those longer days and an inexpensive, yet fulfilling breakfast choice that is delicious!
What is Zaatar (Zaa’tar)?
Zaatar is a popular Middle Eastern spice mixture turned into a paste mainly for manakeesh (mana’ish, manouche, manakish, manaqish) or sprinkled/spread on pita bread and rolled into a sandwich. So, how do you make this spice mixture?
First, it starts off as green oregano and thyme leaves that are hand-picked and dried out in the sun. In addition, the sumac is also picked off the trees and left to dry out a bit in the sun. Then, all three are hand-crushed and smashed with a wooden mallet until they are very fine and powder-like. After that, they are combined using a ratio depending on sour or sweet you prefer you zaatar. So, the more tangy you like it, the more sumac is added. Finally, salt is added to the mixture along with toasted sesame seeds.
Where can I find Zaatar?
Most middle-eastern stores carry zaatar and bulks of it. The dry zaatar mixture is often sprinkled on a plate of labneh or over cheese in a pita sandwich. Also, you can use the dry zaatar spice in Mediterranean salad dressings or sprinkle directly over you plate of salad. You can find a ready Zaatar paste here by Zesty Z.
When I get fresh zaatar, I love smelling it and taking a pinch of it and sprinkling it directly into my mouth. Let me tell you, that zesty flavor mixed in the savory sesame seeds and other herbs is a taste like no other! Whether it’s in this Zaatar Manakeesh recipe, or any other recipe, you’ll find yourself loving zaatar more and more!
Make it into a Pizza!
Oftentimes, bakers sprinkle nigella seeds on the cheese manouche for taste, texture, and appearance. You can turn your cheese manakish into a pizza by simply adding a pizza sauce, then your cheese of choice and whatever toppings your heart desires.
Zaatar – You take the zaatar dry spice mixture and add olive oil to it and you’ve got a paste. Then, take that paste and spread it on the dough as heavy or light as you like it. As it’s removed from the oven, you can see the zaatar sizzling atop the flatbread in all its glory!
Cheese – usually made with either akawi cheese, tchiki cheese, kashkaval, mejduli, or a mix of all or any of these cheeses. Usually, Lebanese cheese pies are made with akkawi cheese because it melts so well.
Cocktail – It may sound weird lol but there’s a man’ushi called a cocktail. In Arabic it’s also called nos bi nos (translated: half and half). They call it these various names because it’s a combo of zaatar of cheese together. You can fold it so that you have a combo of zaatar and cheese in every bite! YUM!
Keshek – an aged cheese powder mixture that is mixed with either milk or water to make a paste. Plenty of people enjoy manakeesh keshek and are also quite popular.
Meat Pie (Lahme bi Ajeen)- Another delicious versions is made with ground meat. Mixed with onions, tomatoes, and spices and topped on a manouche called lahme bi ajeen, or minced meat pie.
Veggie pies – have gained more fame lately, whether it’s a simple tomato-onion manouche or mixed veggie one with greens. This is a Lebanese Veggie Pizza you will thoroughly enjoy!
Best ways to eat Manakeesh
If you ask any Lebanese what’s the best way to have Zaa’tar manakeesh you’ll be in for so many varying answers. But rarely will you find someone who will say they don’t have them! When I was in Lebanon, I’ve seen manakeesh eaten in so many different ways it’s actually endearing.
The age-old manouche favorite is the zaatar pie, heavy on the zaatar, with a bag of salt-and-vinegar chips emptied into it. They then press down on the manouche to crush the chips and starting munching and crunching. Of course, it won’t go down without a drink, either the pyramid juice known as Bon Jus or a good old cup of Pepsi or Crush!
Then you have the really traditional way of eating manakeesh. Serve it with all the right veggies including: green onions, mint, cucumbers, and tomatoes. Also, you mustn’t forget to dish up makdus (pickled eggplant), pickles, and olives! To wash them down: a very heavy black tea.
Making Zaa’tar Manakeesh
How to make the dough:
- In a large bowl stir yeast, sugar, and 1 cup warm water. Allow it to rest to 10 minutes for the yeast to activate. You will see foam form to the surface of the water
- Add in the flour and begin to knead or use a stand mixer to knead the dough. The dough will be sticky at this point.
- Slowly add in the oil as you knead until it is well combined and is not as sticky any more. You can use dough right away or you can let it rest for 30 minutes or more if you wish.
- Cover the dough with plastic wrap. Then cover bowl with a towel, set aside for about ½ hour. Bake at 450F for 10-12 minutes based on the strength of your oven so keep checking.
How to make Zaa’tar Paste
- Mix the zaa’tar and olive oil together. If you’re running low on olive oil or don’t like it, you can mix olive oil with canola or sunflower oil. You can always add extra sumac or salt to the mix as well. Spread out the round dough into round or long shaped flat bread, the spread the zaa’tar mix on top to bake.
Frequently asked questions
Depending on how the manakeesh are prepared, one manouche can range from 183 calories up through 550 calories. It is a dough-based pie, so it should be eaten in moderation.
Zaa’tar can be used dry in marinades and dressings as well as turned into a paste and spread and rolled into pita sandwiches.
A family of herbs made from the dried and ground berries of the wild sumac with flavors that are tangy, toasty with a nutty flavor.
Manakeesh is a plural term for rounded cooked flatbread with a topping. Basically, it’s the Arabic synonym for pie. Two most common manakeesh are cheese and zaatar manaeesh. The same dough is used for all types of easy manakeesh bread, so no matter what you’re topping them with, the base is the same.
Other Recipes You Will Enjoy
- Lahme bi ajeen (Meat Pies)
- Ten Minute All-Purpose Dough
- Easy Lebanese Spinach Pies
- Lebanese Veggie Pies
- Easy Olive Muffalata Bread
- 2 cups all purpose- flour
- 4 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
- 1 cup warm water 95°F
- 1 tablespoon sugar or honey, or maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon yeast
- ¼ cup zaa'tar spice
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- In a large bowl stir yeast, sugar and 1 cup warm water. Allow it to rest to 10 minutes for the yeast to activate where you will see foam form to the surface of the water
- Add the flour and begin to mix then knead. You can choose use stand mixer.
- The dough will be sticky at this point. Slowly add in the oil as you knead until it is well combined and is not as sticky any more.
- Dough can be used right away or you can let it rest for 30 minutes – up to all day if you have the time
- Cover the dough with oiled plastic wrap. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel, set aside for about ½ hour.
- Form a 2 inch round ball of dough then spread it using the tips of your fingers to form a circular shape. You an add oil or flour to your hands as you shape. Place the circular shaped dough on a prepared baking sheet and repeat.
- Bake at 450F for 10-12 minutes.
- Mix the zaa'tar and olive oil together. Spread on the raw dough spread out dough before placing in the oven.