What is a Tandoori? Plus 9 breads to make in it

While looking into old breads, I found out about an old method of baking, using a clay oven called a Tandoori. I wanted to know more about this ancient technology and what types of breads were cooked in it, so I began researching.

Naan, pita, roti, and many other breads are made in a Tandoori. A Tandoori is a clay oven where the fire is lit in the bottom in order to heat the oven to 900° F (480° C). As well as cooking bread, meat and vegetables can be skewered and hung or placed in the center to cook.

Baking çörek and somsa in the Turkmen tamdyr (Tandoor) by Kalpak Travel, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

There are many types of bread that are traditionally cooked in a tandoor across the Middle East and Southern Asia. Below is a short list of 9 breads from around the region and a little about their history. While the recipes I found are made for people that do not have a tandoor, if you are lucky enough to have one, follow the recipe, but place it on the side of the tandoor to cook rather than in the oven or on the griddle.

What is a Tandoori?

A tandoori is a clay oven that dates back 5000 years to the Indus Valley in India. Called by different names depending on the country the oven is used in, this oven is a staple of many parts of South Asia, including India, Pakistan, Yemen, Turkmenistan, Armenia, and many other places. Tandoori comes from the Urdu word Tandoor, meaning oven.

The clay is tapered at the top keeping the heat inside, and allowing it to heat as high as 900° F (480° C). Most breads cook at a lower temperature with recipes calling for the oven being between 300° and 500° F (150° – 260° C). For a home tandoori many will heat the oven, cook some meat, and then after it cools to the proper temperature, cook the breads.

If you want a tandoori oven at home, you have a few choices. You can

* I get a small commission if you buy from these Amazon links, which helps me continue to make this content. I have not tested these units, so can not recommend them.


Naan is a popular bread cooked in a tandoor oven. It has become a staple food in many households not just in Central Asia where it originated, but in many grocery stores across the US and around the world.

Naan is a simple leavened flatbread with yogurt in it. While this wonderful bread was traditionally made in a tandoor many modern recipes call for using a griddle, skillet, or standard oven. Here is a modern recipe for Naan that can be made on your stove top.


Pita is another popular bread cooked in a tandoori. Also called pocket bread, balady, shamy, and other names. Pita is a found throughout the Middle East. You can often find the pocket stuffed with falafel or gyro and served as a street food.

The high temperature that pita is baked at causes the water to evaporate and form the tell tale pocket. It is now often made on a flat griddle, but was traditionally made in a clay tandoor. Here is a pita recipe with instructions for both the oven and stove top.


Roti is a flatbread from India that has made its way to many parts of the world. While this bread is less familiar to Americans, it is popular in much of South Asia and has a strong footing in the Caribbean. They might be served on the side of a meal, stuffed with bananas, or fried to make a puri.

Unlike Naan, which is also from India, roti is unleavened, meaning it does not have yeast in it. Roti really only needs two ingredients to make it work. Flour and water. Many also use oil or ghee (clarified butter). Here is a recipe so you can make your own roti in a skillet.


Called somsa or samsa in different countries of Central Asia, this is a stuffed flatbread. These are a common street food in Central Asia and are often stuffed with meat and onion and sold next to other easy to carry foods like hamburgers. Here is a Turkmen recipe for somsa.


Khubz mulawah, also called rashush is a Yemini flatbread. This simple unleavened bread is made by combining flour with salt and water. Once it is kneaded it is coated in ghee (clarified butter) it is folded and formed into a rectangle and then cooked. Some recipes I found called for sugar, eggs, and milk to be added to them as well. Those recipes called it a “breakfast mulawah.” Here is a simple recipe, with lots of details.


This bread from Azerbaijan is leavened bread with seeds (usually nigella sativa, poppy, or sesame). Tandir is the Azeri word for tandoori. So this is often called tandoori bread if it is found in America. Since it is often baked in the oven here, that has led many to believe tandoori is a style of cooking rather than the oven it is cooked in. Like the tandoori chicken found in many Indian restaurants in America, tandoori refers to the oven it was traditionally cooked in rather than a style. Here is a recipe I found.


Lavash is one of the most important breads in Armenian cuisine. This bread is made by mixing flour, water, and salt, like many other simple breads. It can unleavened and made with just these three ingredients, but usually you take a piece of “starter dough” and add it to the dough, like you would for a sourdough. If you don’t have a starter, that’s OK. Modern instant yeasts will work too. Here is a recipe using instant yeast.


This legendary Uzbek flatbread is said to last up to three years. It is tradition that when a man leaves on a journey he takes a bite of bread, and then hangs the load on the wall until he returns and can finish the bread. They make thousands of these loafs a day in some large tandoori bakeries in Uzbekistan. Here is a recipe using your favorite sourdough starter.


An ancient Persian milk bread, sheermal has made a home not just in its native Iran, but India and Pakistan as well. This bread made with milk and flavored with saffron is also coated in ghee. This rich bread is an important addition to this list. You can find a recipe for it here.


Jae is a high school history teacher for an online school. After using bread as an example for a few lessons he realized that bread increased engagement in his class. After a lot of research he was able to add even more bread related lessons. Now most of his research is around bread and the history and culture related to bread.

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