Frozen Flatbreads Are Forever

The question isn’t what can you make with frozen flatbreads—it’s what can’t you make?
Store Bought Paratha topped with ricotta bananas and honey and Naan topped with Chana Masala and eggs.
Joseph De Leo

Ever have those days when you simply cannot fathom creating a whole meal from scratch? Of course you do. But when the cooking blahs hit me, I don’t order takeout—I reach into my freezer for one of my go-to flatbreads. Parathas and naan, in particular, are powerful blank canvases for any number of low-effort meals. Like your favorite lipstick or a Swiss Army knife, they go with anything and can do everything. But since you can’t eat lipstick or a Swiss Army knife, we’re stuck with flatbreads.

Quick and unleavened, parathas are a staple of Indian cuisine. They can play either sweet or savory roles, depending upon which chutneys and condiments you choose. But they work just as well with ingredients outside of the South Asian pantry too. When my toddler comes home from school, I often heat up a paratha—straight out of the freezer, cooked on both sides in a pan over medium heat for just a few minutes—and spread Nutella on top. I sprinkle it with toasted nuts, a dash of sea salt, and any ripe fruit that I have on hand. Then, of course, I roll it up for the true toddler experience.

If I don’t eat hers first (it’s happened and I don’t regret it), I’ll make a snack for myself. For a sweet treat, I like to spread ricotta, honey, cinnamon, and sliced banana on a toasted paratha. If I’m hankering for something savory, I just melt some cheese on a paratha, add sautéed veggies if I have any left over from a previous meal, and top it off with hot sauce and/or mustard. Then we’re both happy.

For a sweet treat, spread ricotta, honey, cinnamon, and sliced banana on a toasted paratha

Joseph De Leo

When I was growing up in Bombay, my family almost always made parathas from scratch. They’re not especially complicated: Mix water with atta (a finely ground whole wheat flour), add a tiny bit of salt and oil, knead for a few minutes, and your paratha dough is ready. You can make a veggie filling or add spices and flavoring directly in the dough. For example, I make a masala spinach paratha, which has turmeric, chili, coriander, salt, and spinach purée or chopped spinach. Once the dough is made, I divide it into balls and then roll out each one to about an eighth of an inch thickness and cook with oil on medium heat, until both sides are golden brown.

If you’re starting with prepared frozen paratha, you can’t trick out the dough as you would when making it from scratch, but you can add some ghee or butter to the pan with the spices, toast the paratha in the spiced fat, and then roll it up with a spinach-and-cheese mixture.

Naan is another Indian flatbread that I often reach for when I need an easy bite. There’s an old saying: Naan is the most important meal of the day. (Fine, I made that up, but it’s still true.) Naan is more bready than paratha, which is because the dough is leavened and usually enriched with milk or yogurt. But it’s technically a flatbread, and it’s still thin enough to be rolled up.

The question is not “what can I make with naan?” but “what can’t I make?” A slice of sourdough for avocado toast is all well and good, but I use plain naan or garlic naan as my base instead. First, I brush the flatbread lightly with olive oil and then toast it over a medium flame for a minute or two on each side. After it cools, I spread some mashed avocado across the top and then shower it with crumbled paneer. You can add your favorite spices—a heavy sprinkle of garam masala is always a solid move—or just use salt and pepper. Capping it off with a luscious, jammy egg is the cherry on top, except it’s an egg.

Another go-to naan trick: Ladle some leftover dal or chana masala on toasted naan, sprinkle on some sliced red onion, dust with some chili powder, and top it with—you guessed it—a jammy egg (or however you like your eggs).

Don’t sleep on personal naan pizzas, either. Everyone in the family gets to pick what they want for themselves, which means no arguing about what makes the best topping. (For the record, it’s not pineapple—it’s corn.)

You can also cut the naan into little squares, drizzle with oil and spices, and bake until golden brown around the edges. You’ll have naan croutons to go with your salad or to make panzanella or fattoush.

Keeping frozen naan and premade parathas on hand will ensure that you’re already off to a good start when the cooking blahs hit. When you’ve got flatbreads nearby, you’ve got options—lots and lots of options.

Looking for more flatbreads? Check out Low Rise, our guide to making iconic flatbreads from around the world.