Pita bread should be pillowy, soft, and ready to ably mop up hummus and other goodies. The surest road to pita perfection? Making some yourself, of course. Here's how to make homemade pita bread right in your regular home oven (you'll need a pizza stone or steel).
A proper pita must be: soft and cloud-like, thick, chewy, and pliable. In neighborhoods with a substantial demographic of Sefardim, Mizrachim, and/or expat Israelis, you may be able to find decent pita. (If you do, my hot tip? Pop any leftovers in the freezer right away just like you would with fresh bagels. I am not a fan of freezer stashing almost anything, but pita defrosts incredibly well.) Admittedly, my current nabe falls into good-pita territory, but for many years, in the Ashkenazi stronghold of the Jersey suburbs, I had nothing but flat-as-a-pancake pitas to buy at the store. Of course I had to learn how to make my own.
Here's the thing about homemade pita: you just don't think it will work. You'll watch your pita apprehensively (but lovingly, of course) through the oven door and think thoughts of doom. And then. Maybe you turn away for a second to help with a math problem. Maybe you never learned mindfulness as well as you thought you did and your mind wanders irredeemably far from the hopelessly flat discs in front of you. You glance back and there they are, all puffed up. It will happen. I promise. Mindfulness, I need to work on it (#understatement). Puffing pita? That I can promise.
Making dough for pita bread
Pita bread dough is similar to pizza dough: a fairly lean dough with a bit of olive oil added in. It's a quick one-bowl recipe that's easy to knead using a stand mixer, though, as always, you can use human power just as well, if a little longer.
The dough gets a relatively long bulk rise, 1 ½ to 2 hours, before it's divided. This recipe will make 8 medium-sized pitas or 6 large (sandwich-sized) pitas. After dividing the dough, shape each piece into a ball and leave to rise, covered, for another half an hour.
To shape the individual pitas, roll them out using a rolling pin until they're flattened but fairly thick, about ⅜" / 1 cm. Medium pitas will be about 6" / 15 cm in diameter. I recommend doing these two at a time, immediately before placing them in the oven.
Baking pita in a home oven
To bake pita bread, you'll need a pizza (baking) stone or steel—or, if you don't have one, you can use a sturdy sheet pan, overturned (so that it's upside down—I did this for many years!) The baking stone I have is fairly large, but can only fit two pitas on it at a time. So, this means making your pita in batches.
As you can see in the photos above, I like to set up the oven before preheating with the racks in the lower 3 positions and the stone on the top rack. This way there is plenty of room for flipping the pitas, which you can do with a pizza peel or just regular tongs.
Definitely set a timer as you're baking through your batches, as the bake times for pita are short and hard to gauge by "feel." After 3 to 4 minutes of nothing happening, your pitas will start to form bubbles (see the photo at top left). Then, about 30 seconds to a minute later, they'll puff up big, making your pita pockets. I have done a fair share of bakery pita dissections and can report that all pitas have one side of the pocket that is thicker than the other, so don't worry that this is the case for your homemade pita. (The side that is facing towards the baking stone will be the thicker side.)
As they come out of the oven, wrap up your pitas in a kitchen towel to keep them warm and supple. Store in a sealed bag or container for just a day or so, or freeze the baked pitas.
Need something to stuff inside your pita?
- Creamy, Smooth Israeli Hummus - Obviously.
- Israeli Falafel - Just as obviously.
- Sabich - Israeli Fried Eggplant and Hard Boiled Egg Pita Sandwich
- Grilled Israeli Beef Kebabs - I mean, you don't have to put them in a fresh pita, but you probably should.
Pita Bread (parve)
- Baking stone or steel (see note)
- 1 cup plus 2-4 Tbsp warm water
- ½ tsp sugar
- 2 tsp active dry yeast
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp salt
Mix the dough:
- Combine the water, sugar, and yeast in a stand mixer bowl. Leave until foamy, about 5 minutes.
- Add to the bowl the flour, olive oil, and salt. Knead for 5 minutes using dough hook in stand mixer, at lowest speed, until a glossy, workable dough forms.
- Leave the dough to rise in a greased, covered bowl for 1 ½ to 2 hours
- When risen, divide the dough into 6 to 8 equal pieces. Shape into balls, place on a lined tray, and leave to rise for 30 minutes more after shaping.
Preheat the oven:
- While the dough balls are rising, preheat the oven to 500°F / 260°C (on convection/fan, if you have it) with a baking stone/steel inside. I like to place all the oven racks in the lower slots and put the stone on the top rack, so that there is plenty of room to flip the pitas.
Shape and bake:
- Roll out the balls of dough to to ⅜" / 1 cm thick rounds just before baking, two at a time. (Medium pitas will be about 6" / 15 cm in diameter.)
- Bake at 500 on convect, for 4-5 minutes on one side, until puffed and barely browned. Flip and bake for 1-2 minutes more on the second side.
- Remove the two pitas from the stone and replace with another two, repeating until all the pitas are baked. Store the just-baked pitas wrapped in a kitchen towel until serving.