This recipe for homemade whole wheat pita bread is surprisingly easy, pretty quick to make, and tastes SO much better than the cardboard-like ones from the store. It's definitely worth the time, plus they freeze beautifully.
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Here's what I want you to know about making pita bread: you can do it!
Honest- it's easy, fairly quick (with an hour of hands-off rising), and so fun to watch them puff up in the oven.
The worst that can happen is some might not have the pocket in the middle, but then you will have flatbread like they use in Greece - wonderful with hummus or to use as a wrap for gyros.
So there are only wins with this recipe. Although you may wonder:
Why do pitas have pockets?
Because pita bread is baked at a high temperature - 500 degrees in this recipe - it turns the water in the dough into steam quickly, causing the pita to puff and form a pocket. After cooling the layers remain separated allowing the bread to be opened and filled.
I'm providing pictures of every step - and a video - for you below so it will be super clear because I didn't think homemade pita would be easy to make when I first tried it, but it really is! Check out the timeline at the end to see exactly how much time this actually takes - I want you to picture yourself making whole grain pita bread!
These are SO much better than store bought (and need I say pennies on the dollar, especially compared to the little bags of four for $4 or more?).
- Whole wheat flour, spelt flour, or white whole wheat flour
- Unbleached white flour (if using regular whole wheat, adding a cup of white flour adds lightness - if I'm using white whole wheat which is lighter, I don't use the unbleached white flour - play around with flours to see what you like best)
- Instant yeast - this is the yeast I use, buying in bulk is WAY cheaper (keep the main package in the freezer and a small jar you pull from in the fridge and it will last a year or more)
- Olive oil
Steps to Make Pocket Pita Bread
1. Mix up dough.
Start by adding the flour in the bowl of a stand mixer along with the salt and instant yeast. Then add the water and oil.
Just dump everything together in the bowl. Don't worry about mixing until all the ingredients are added and then stir until you've got a shaggy dough. How easy is that?
Note on Mixing: you can do it by hand, but it's WAY easier in a stand mixer. I suppose the first mixing/kneading cycle of a bread machine would work, too, though you should check the flour amounts with your machine.
Note on Yeast: Using instant yeast instead of active dry is one of the reasons why it can be added with the dry ingredients (without dissolving in water first to proof). If you only have active dry yeast you can still make the pita, just proof it first for 5 minutes in a little of the water and be sure to minus that amount from the water when you add it later.
2. Knead dough.
Switch to a dough hook and knead with the hook for 5 minutes.
TIP: Whole grains act a little different than all-purpose, and may stick to the very bottom of the bowl, even after being kneaded. That's OK. If it's sticking too much, add a little flour, just a small spoonful at a time, being careful not to add too much, because we're aiming for a soft dough here.
Here's what I mean by "soft dough:"
I want to illustrate what a soft dough should look like, because I remember when I was learning to make bread these were mysterious instructions to me (and I would usually add too much flour).
Hallmarks of a Soft Dough
- See how the dough is sticking to the bowl in the photo above? It's has cleared the sides of the bowl but is still sticking to the bottom. This is good, it should need a little help getting out of the bowl (if it just rolls out on it's own, it's not a soft dough and you've added too much flour).
- If you pat the dough and it doesn't stick to your fingers, but is just slightly tacky, like I also show above, that's good. If the dough does stick to your fingers, then it would need a little more flour and a little more kneading.
If a light bread with a good rise is what you're after (and who isn't?) then all your whole grain bread dough, no matter what it is, should look like this.
The moral of the story? Don't add too much flour.
3. Let rise.
After kneading let the dough rise in a warm spot, covered with plastic, until doubled, 1 to 1-1/2 hours, depending on how warm your spot is.
MORE TIPS - The photos above show two of my favorite bread hacks:
- The photo on the left shows how I use the same bowl I mixed the dough in (one less bowl to wash!) by moving the dough to one side, spraying that side with oil, and then rolling it to the other side and spraying that with oil. This coats the bowl with oil so I can shape the dough into a ball in an oiled bowl. I like to use an avocado oil spray or an olive oil spray.
- On the right you can see the shaped dough ready to rise and the plastic "shower cap" cover that I reuse over and over again saving on plastic wrap. Plastic keeps your dough moist when rising much better than a towel - and wet ones often dry out. The reusable covers are the perfect solution (I think I've had the set this one is from for more than three years - and I use them for all kinds of things!). I like this set that contains an XL size for larger bowls.
This is what the dough will look like after doubling.
4. Preheat the oven.
When the dough has risen, start heating the oven to 500 degrees.
Yes, these puppies cook hot and fast - like I mentioned it's one of the secrets to the puffing which creates the pocket.
5. Cut & shape the pitas.
Remove the dough from the bowl, place on a lightly floured surface and cut it in half. (I use a bench scraper - it makes it so easy to cut and then move the dough.)
Place one of the halves under a slightly dampened cloth, and cut the remaining half into four equal (somewhat...) portions. You can get all fancy and weigh the portions, but I'm totally okay with some bigger and some smaller pitas - choices!
Shape each of these four pieces into a ball (I like to grab all the ends together on one side, cupping the other in my hand. It's easy and makes a nice round shape).
Place the balls as you make them under the cloth. Repeat with the other half until you have 8 balls of dough.
6. Roll out pitas.
Let the dough balls rest 5 minutes to make them easier to roll out (though to be honest, I just start rolling the first set of balls when I'm done with all the shaping, as it seems like it's been 5 minutes and it's been fine).
Roll out the balls, one at a time, using as little flour as you can but not so much that the dough goes sliding all over as you're trying to roll it. (I love my French rolling pin!)
Set this one on another cutting board (or peel, or whatever) and roll out another. Do two or three at a time.
7. Bake the pitas.
Don't be too concerned with the shapes, or if an edge falls through a crack, they cook fast and the imperfect shapes are testament to homemade goodness!
Set the timer for 4-5 minutes. I used 4 minutes with my oven. There is no need to turn the pitas.
While one set is cooking, roll out the next set.
When you open the oven, voila! Puffy little pita pockets. (On a side note, kids love this, it's like a miracle!)
8. Cover & continue to bake pitas.
Remove the baked pitas from the oven and place them directly on a towel and wrap the towel around them completely so they stay nice and soft (otherwise they'll crisp up as they cool).
Immediately add next set of pitas you've prepared to the oven, repeating until all the dough is cooked and keeping the cooked pitas covered until serving or storing.
Once the pitas are cooled a bit, you can cut them in half to serve and fill or leave them whole.
Serve slightly warm or let cool completely and freeze for up 3-6 months.
Pita Bread Timeline
Using my example, I cooked 2-3 pitas at a time, making 3 rounds of cooking for the eight pitas, which equals 12 minutes (15 if adding the time to roll out the first ones).
Can you believe how little time it actually takes?
- Throw in some ingredients = 5 minutes
- Knead = 5 minutes
- Rise = 1 hour
- Roll and cook = 15 minutes
So it's only about 25 minutes of hands-on time.
See? It really is easy to have your own homemade pita bread!
Pita Bread FAQs
Pita bread is a type of bread that originated in the Middle East, specifically west of the Mediterranean Sea. It is made from flour, water, yeast, salt, and oil and is usually cooked in a hot oven or on a griddle. Pita bread is known for its unique shape, which includes a pocket in the middle that can be filled with various ingredients.
We were surprised when we visited Greece that their pita didn't have a pocket and was a bit softer and thicker than regular pita that has a hollow pocket you can stuff. Greek pita is sometimes called Mediterranean pita or Greek flatbread and is used most famously as a wrap for gyros.
Yes, pita bread freezes wonderfully. To freeze pita bread, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or aluminum foil and place it in a freezer-safe bag. When you're ready to use it, thaw the bread at room temperature or in the microwave.
Pita bread is often used as a wrap for sandwiches, as a base for pizza, or as a side to dips such as hummus or baba ganoush. It can also be stuffed with various fillings, such as falafel, chicken, or vegetables.
Recipes to Serve With Pita Bread
- Homemade Hummus without Tahini
- Authentic Greek Salad Tips & Recipe
- Greek Tuna Salad with Artichokes, Olives & Feta
- Mediterranean Fish Bake
A Few Reader Easy Pita Bread Successes
Homemade Whole Wheat Pita Bread
- 2 ¼ cups whole wheat flour, spelt, or white whole wheat
- 1 cup unbleached flour*
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons instant yeast**
- 1 ⅓ cups warm water
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Combine all the ingredients and mix them together - by mixer or by hand.
- Knead by mixer 5 minutes or by hand 8 minutes until you have a soft dough that is tacky to the touch.
- Cover the bowl tightly with plastic and let rise until doubled, 1 to 1½ hours.
- Heat oven to 500 degrees.
- Turn dough out to lightly floured board, cut in half and place one half under a dampened towel. Divide the other half into four equal portions, shaping each into a ball and placing under the towel. Repeat with the remaining half of dough.
- Let rest 5 minutes.
- Place a baking/cooling rack directly on the oven rack (or use a baking stone).
- Use a rolling pin to roll each ball one at a time into a circle about 6 inches in diameter and 1/4 thick on a lightly floured surface. Repeat with one or two more rolls.
- Place the rolled pitas directly on the baking rack in the oven. Set timer for 4 minutes, check for browning and puffing, and remove or continue cooking for up to 1 more minute, if needed. There is no need to turn them.
- While the first pitas are cooking, prepare the next batch.
- When removing the pitas from the oven, stack them together in a kitchen towel to keep them from crisping as they cool.
- Immediately add the next batch of dough to the rack in the oven, repeating process until all the dough has been cooked.
- Serve warm or let cool completely to store at room temperature in an airtight bag.
More Easy Breads to Try
This recipe has been updated - it was originally published in July of 2009.Disclosure: affiliate links in this article will earn commission based on sales, but it doesn't change your price. Click here to read our full disclaimer and advertising disclosure.