From a glance, naan and pita bread can appear like the same bread. Visually, they can look similar, but once you take a closer look, you’ll quickly notice how difference they are.
Both of these flatbreads are paired with entirely different foods and serve different purposes, so they need to be made differently. Naan was primarily made as a side for Indian curries whilst Pita was used as pockets for stuffing food or for dipping into other foods such as hummus.
Naan and Pita bread are not the same bread. Naan is a larger and softer Indian bread with a light texture and uneven gas pockets. Pita bread is a drier and thinner Middle Eastern bread with a large pocket inside it that is ideal for adding fillings.
The unique characteristics of these two breads are appropriate for the types of food they’re eaten with.
Pita bread was invented a long time before the naan was, which means that it was made with the most basic ingredients (flour, water, salt, and yeast). These ingredients don’t always produce a soft texture, especially when making this kind of flatbread. Naan on the other hand is more modern and therefore utilizes more modern ingredients such as yogurt to create a much softer and more flexible bread.
These two breads are very different and aren’t generally interchanged since they don’t always work with different cuisines.
Differences Between Naan and Pita Bread
If you’re still not sure how different these two bread types are, don’t worry., here’s a more in-depth look at what makes them different.
Pita bread contains just flour, water, salt, and yeast (sometimes oil), which makes it a very simple dough and therefore a very simple bread. These ingredients allow the bread to maintain a somewhat stiff shape that’s ideal for holding fillings.
Naan, on the other hand, is an enriched dough that can contain flour, water, salt, yeast, yogurt, oil, and more. There are a lot of variations of the naan recipe so the ingredients aren’t consistent. The ingredients may include milk, baking powder, and even eggs (eggs are not traditional or necessary).
These ingredients enrich the naan, which changes the flavor and softens it to make the bread more pliable.
The Cooking Method
Traditional naan and pita bread are both cooked in very different ways, but they both involve high heat.
Naan is generally cooked inside of a tandoor, which is an Indian metal or clay oven that opens from the top so the naan dough can be slapped to the walls.
Pita bread is cooked in a hot oven too, but it is generally just made in a generic oven rather than any special one like with a tandoor.
Both of these breads can however be made in a hot cast-iron skillet or tawa pan with great results.
As the pita bread cooks, it should fill with gas, which causes the center to puff up into a single air pocket for fillings. Naan doesn’t generally puff up with one large air pocket, but it can have smaller air pockets scattered throughout the bread.
Both of these breads are made to serve different purposes, so they’re not going to be the same.
Pita bread is primarily made to be stuffed with food and eaten like that, but it can also be used as something to dip into hummus, yogurt, etc. Naan is used for dipping into the sauce of curry or to pick up pieces of food instead of using cutlery or your fingers.
They’re both made for different cuisines, so they have their uses for the specific foods they’re paired with.
With pita bread, you get a drier and chewier piece of bread that often splits easily if it contains a lot of wholewheat flour. It’s often quite a stiff bread and you’ll be able to see this if you try and tear it. If it’s made with high protein flour such as bread flour, it will be softer and more pliable rather than stiff from the wholewheat flour,
Naan is very moist and only slightly chewy (although the chewiness varies depending on how it’s made). It has a soft pillow-like bite to it and you have to put in a little effort to tear it apart.
The size difference between these is pretty obvious.
Normal pita bread is fairly small and most people could fit a piece in their hand easily. It’s size appropriate since you stuff small amounts of food in the pocket. A rough estimate for the size of pita bread can be anywhere from 4-10″ wide, but they are generally around the 5″ range.
Naan is considerably bigger at 10″+ and is great for sharing or eating on your own if you’re like me.
Although pita bread can be made to taste great by giving it a longer fermentation (rising) time, naan bread is generally superior in terms of flavor.
Since pita bread is so basic, its flavor is enhanced by the dish it’s paired with. On its own, pita bread isn’t as flavorsome as naan.
Naan is enriched, so it naturally has more flavor to it. To make it even better, many people often add toppings such as garlic, coriander, ghee, and/or oil, which adds so much and makes the bread somewhat addictive.
Pita bread can have toppings, but it’s primarily used as a pita pocket, so it might only get oil or butter brushed onto it to improve its flavor and keep it soft.
The Ability for Variation
If you’ve ever bought naan before, you should know that there’s plenty of options to choose from.
You can get naan with garlic, cheese, keema, peshwari, and more. There are so many options to choose from and they’re virtually all good.
Pita bread, on the other hand, doesn’t have much to it in terms of variety. Since it’s so thin, you can’t get much on it or in the dough, so you’re relying on filling it with other food.
This doesn’t mean that pita bread is bad, it’s just a different bread.
Is Naan or Pita Bread Healthier?
There’s no doubt that both naan and pita bread taste great and can make a meal much better, but one of these breads is healthier than the other, meaning you can eat more of it!
Pita bread is healthier than naan in general since it’s lower in calories and fat. Pita only contains flour, water, salt, and yeast (many recipes also contain oil). Naan often contains these ingredients as well as yogurt, milk, and ghee, which makes it higher in fat and more calorific.
So, pita bread is much more forgiving on your waist, so you can get away with eating more.
With that said, naan doesn’t have to be as unhealthy if you make it right. Yes, it’s still going to have more calories than pita bread, but you can cut these back with the right techniques.
Making Naan Healthier:
Many recipes call for naan to be coated in butter or ghee after being cooked, but this can be substituted with a thin layer of olive oil or no oil at all if you’re going to keep them well-covered.
If a recipe calls for milk to be added to the dough, you can replace either half of it or all of it with water to drop the calories further.
Is Naan or Pita Bread Easier To Make?
Both naan and pita bread are great, but like any bread, it can be a bit tricky to make if you’re not experienced with it.
Fortunately, there is one bread that’s easier to make.
Due to pita bread containing basic ingredients and being relatively simpler to cook, you will have a much easier time making these.
Naan contains more ingredients and needs more precision to cook it right without it being dry, burnt, or undercooked.
Pita can be easily made in a hot oven on a baking stone or in a skillet over medium heat.
The aim to get good pita bread is to roll it out to an even thickness and cook it on one side in the skillet/oven. Once one side is done, you’re able to flip the dough and if everything goes to plan it should inflate in the center, giving you a large pocket full of gas.
If you do manage to mess up when making pita bread, there’s not much to worry about since it’s a very cheap and easy dough to make when compared to naan.
If you’re interested in making both, I’d recommend starting with pita bread first so you can get an idea of how to cook flatbread properly.