Types of Flatbread: Unleavened but Not Unloved
Visit any country in the world, and you'll likely find there are many different types of flatbread on the baking menu. Flatbread is everywhere. It's simple, it's delicious, and it goes so well with so many dishes and ingredients!
From Greek pitas to Mexican corn tortillas, with a cast iron tortilla press you can even start baking your own flatbreads at home. In today's article, we decided to inspire your next culinary adventure by looking at the best types of flatbread from all over the world.
Keep reading for our flatbread guide!
What is flatbread?
Flatbread is flat; that much is obvious. But with so many different styles and types of flatbread to be found all over the world, it's not always so easy defining what actually counts as 'flatbread.'
Flatbread is ancient and has been found in cultures dating back thousands of years. What that means today is that there are hundreds (probably thousands) of unique varieties of flatbread all over the world, and they all require different ingredients and different cooking methods.
The most common definition is bread that's unleavened or only slightly leavened. All flatbreads are made using dough made from flour and water. The flour can vary drastically, though. For example, Mexicans use corn, and Italians use durum wheat.
What unites flatbreads is the fact that no leavening ingredients (or very few) are added to make the bread rise (that's what we mean by unleavened). In contrast, a loaf of bread uses yeast as a leavening agent to make the dough rise when it's baked. Flatbreads don't use this same technique, so they won't rise in the same way when they are baked.
Different types of flatbread
There are so many varieties of flatbread, from pitas and chappatis to naan and lavash!
Here are just a few of our favorite types of flatbread. Why not try to make these yourself at home?
#1 Pita bread
Pita bread is one of the most famous types of flatbreads from around the world. In fact, we'd go as far as to say that it's probably the first type of bread you think of when you think about flatbread!
Pita bread is a type of Mediterranean flatbread, and you can find it all over the region, as far-ranging as Syria, Israel, Greece, and Cyprus. The most well-known version is the Greek flatbread or Greek pita, which is used to wrap up Gyros, a type of kebab!
Pita bread is slightly leavened, giving it a puffy and soft texture. They are baked at a high temperature for a short period of time, which stops them from rising. The oldest evidence for pita bread is thought to be 14,500 years old, making this one of the oldest types of known food in the world.
#2 Zaatar Manakeesh
Staying in the Mediterranean region, one of the tastiest flatbread types is found in Lebanon and the wider Levant region. Zaatar Manakeesh is better known as Lebanese Pizza because this wide, circular style of flatbread is covered in delicious pizza-like toppings (though it is likely to have been around for many more centuries than pizza!)
First, the dough is baked in an oven. Then the resulting flatbread is topped with herbs, cheese, meat, and spices. Popular herbs include the likes of thyme or oregano, while the most popular meat is minced lamb. You can add chilis, oil, spinach, or even yogurt on the top too. Zaatar Manakeesh will be sliced up (yes, just like a pizza) before being served.
Another ancient flatbread that's widespread across the Middle East and the Caucasus region is lavash. This thin flatbread is traditionally cooked in huge portions in large ovens before being sliced up into more manageable rectangles or triangles.
Lavash is the perfect way to eat Middle Eastern favorites like hummus or baba ganoush, and other creamy dishes that are just begging to be dipped into with bread. There are many more uses for lavash, though. Armenians use it to wrap up cheese, and Turks and Iranians use it to wrap up their kebab meats.
#4 Naan bread
You're probably used to ordering a naan bread when you order a butter chicken or tikka masala from your local Indian restaurant because this flatbread is an iconic product of South Asia that's made its way around the world!
Naan bread is large and thick, and although it's mostly flat, it's slightly leavened to make it so fluffy and big. Naan flatbread comes in hundreds of varieties, shapes, and flavors. Simple naans are unseasoned and circular in shape, but there are chili naans, stuffed cheese naans, coconut flavored naans, and so many more in a variety of shapes and sizes!
Chappati is another South Asian favorite, and it's often used to dip into thick curries and to mop up spicy sauces. Chappati is similar in shape to naan, but it's totally unleavened. That ensures that chappati is much thinner and much flatter than naan bread.
You need just flour, salt, and water to prepare chappati. While naan is served in a variety of flavors, traditional chappatis are designed to be much blander and so will be left unseasoned. This means that you can use chappatis to eat your curry, without overpowering the flavors and spices in the curry itself.
Tortillas are commonly considered to be their own distinctive type of bread, but the reality is that tortillas are a type of flatbread.
Tortillas are one of the oldest staple foods in American cuisine, dating back thousands of years to a time before the Aztecs, and possibly even before the Mayans. The exact origins are obscured, but traditional tortillas are made the same way they always have been, using ground corn flour.
In the USA and northern Mexico, however, you're more likely to find wheat flour tortillas rather than corn tortillas, but the process is the same. Tortillas are used to wrap up tacos or burritos; they are used for enchiladas, fajitas, quesadillas, and so many more Mexican-style dishes.
Foccacia is an Italian favorite, and in many respects, it obscures the lines between what we would call flatbread and what we can consider as 'normal bread'!
Foccacia is prepared using yeast, meaning that it's leavened. However, while it has the texture of risen bread, it still emerges from the oven flat because it's not leavened for long. Foccacia is commonly seasoned with Italian-style herbs such as rosemary or oregano and can be served with a drizzle of olive oil as a starter.
Foccacia will be sliced up into triangles or small rectangles, making it perfect for cleaning up the rest of your spaghetti bolognese at the end of the meal too!
That's a lot of types of flatbread!
Yup, that sure is a lot of different types of flatbread!
We've barely scratched the surface too, and there are hundreds more delicious flatbreads with tasty toppings and unique fillings that we've had to leave off the list.
Why not save our flatbread guide for later, or let us know if we missed your favorite flatbread?
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