Lahmacun is thin and crispy flatbread bursting with flavor. Topped with meat, parsley, peppers, tomatoes and a mixture of delicious spices, this Turkish pizza is a must-try!
Living in Istanbul for a few years made me fall in love in Turkish cuisine. We’ve shared many Turkish recipes here including simit, yogurt soup, Turkish eggs (cilbir) and vegan lentil meatballs. Today’s recipe is one of our absolute favorites that you can find anywhere in Turkey. It’s called lahmacun and it’s basically a crispy thin flatbread – you could even say it’s something like a pizza – topped with the best meat mixture ever.
When we were living in Istanbul, having lahmacun once a week was a given, preferably at a favorite restaurant like Borsam Taşfirin. The crispy and light bread with a thin layer of the most delicious spiced topping was always a great choice for lunch or dinner. This is one of the foods we missed most when we moved to the US. Now that we have this recipe, we don’t have to fly back to Turkey to experience this culinary delight!
What is Lahmacun?
Lahmacun (pronounced Lah-Ma-Joun) is a crispy and thin flatbread topped with a combination of minced meat and vegetables. It’s also referred to as Turkish pizza, Armenian pizza, Syrian pizza and Lebanese pizza in some recipes and translated restaurant menus. Unlike pizza, traditional lahmacun doesn’t contain cheese and is mostly made ground beef or lamb.
Lahmacun is of Middle Eastern origin, specifically the Levant. Variations of it are popular in Turkey, Armenia, Lebanon and Syria, all of which were once part of the Ottoman empire.
Lahmacun vs. Pide
Pide and lamacun can often be confused. Lahmacun is very thin and is often eaten like a wrap whereas pide is boat-shaped and has a thicker crust. Moreover, pide usually contains cheese and comes with different toppings.
There are two major parts for this recipe:
- The dough which is made of flour, water and salt. This is a truly basic dough – trust me, it’s quick and easy!
- The topping which is made with ground lamb or beef (or a combination of both), tomatoes, onions, garlic, parsley, red bell peppers and green peppers. This mixture is seasoned with Aleppo pepper, tomato paste, black pepper and salt.
Pro tip: Years of living in Iran and Turkey and savoring Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food has taught me that nothing elevates a dish like fresh ingredients, a good selection of spices and a lot of herbs. It’s best to be generous with all the fresh ingredients.
Prepare the topping
In a food processor, puree onions and garlic cloves with some olive oil and transfer it to another large container. Next, blend green peppers and red bell peppers in the food processor and add them to the onion and garlic mixture. Finally, blend parsley and tomatoes in the food processor and mix it with the peppers and onion mixture. Add the rest of the olive oil and mix well.
Add the ground lamb (or beef) to the vegetable mixture and mix until well combined. Season with Aleppo pepper, cumin, salt, black pepper and tomato paste. Smooth the top and refrigerate for at least one hour.
Prepare the dough
Mix water and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add in the flour, 1/2 cup at a time and knead the dough using the dough hook. Add enough flour to have the dough come together and doesn’t stick when you touch it. Once the dough is smooth and ready, divide it into 12 balls and place them on a baking sheet. Cover with a kitchen towel and let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
Assemble and cook
Heat a nonstick pan with a lid over medium heat (have the lid on) until very hot. Take the topping out of the fridge and place it on the counter top near the pan. On a floured surface, roll out one of the dough balls into a very thin circle no bigger than the pan.
Transfer this dough gently into the pan and spread the topping on top using a serving spoon, leaving 1/2 inch from the edges. Make sure you don’t add too much topping. A thin layer of topping works best. Put the lid back on and let it cook for about 7-8 minutes until it’s crispy and has marks at the bottom. Place it on a plate and continue with the remaining rolled dough balls.
Cooking method: Stove top or oven?
Traditionally, lahmacun and other Middle Eastern and Mediterranean flatbreads are made in stone ovens (Masonry ovens) called Tanoor or Tandoor. I love making these flatbreads in a pan with a lid because it provides that hot Tandoor-like environment that we’re looking for. That being said, you can also make this recipe in the oven:
- Preheat the oven to 450F and place a baking sheet upside down in the oven.
- Roll out a dough ball into a thin circle. Once the oven is hot, place a sheet of parchment paper on the baking sheet and transfer the lahmacun onto the baking sheet.
- Spread a thin layer of the meat and vegetable topping on top.
- Bake for about 7-9 minutes until the topping is cooked and the dough is crispy on the edges.
How to serve
Even though some like to compare lahmacun to pizza, it definitely isn’t served like pizza. To serve lahmacun, top it with fresh parsley and tomatoes and squeeze some lemon juice. Season with some sumac and Aleppo pepper (if you like it spicy) and make it into a wrap. Bite into this delicious wrap and enjoy it with a cold glass of homemade ayran.
Can I use pizza dough for this recipe?
If you’d like to take a shortcut, store-bought pizza dough works fine for this recipe.
It’s best to freeze cooked lahmacun because you can easily heat them in the oven. Once they are cool, place them on top of each other, with wax paper or parchment paper between every other lahmacun so they don’t stick to each other. Wrap the whole stack in aluminum foil and freeze for up to 2 months.
To reheat, preheat the oven to 350 and place them on a baking sheet. Heat it in the oven for about 20 minutes until completely heated through and warm. Serve with tomatoes, parsley and lemon juice.
Notes and tips
- It’s best to refrigerate the topping for at least one hour. The longer it sits, the better it’s going to taste. You can refrigerate the topping anywhere from one hour to twenty four hours.
- While rolling out each dough ball, make sure the other dough balls are covered with a kitchen towel so they don’t get dry on the surface.
- I used half ground lamb and half ground beef for this recipe, but you can use only lamb or only beef.
- It’s important to roll out the dough very thinly. The dough is even thinner than pizza and each dough ball can roll out to be a 10 or 12 inch wide circle.
- Originally this recipe is made with Turkish green pepper (called yeşil biber). However, this kind of pepper is not common in the US, therefore I used Italian green peppers which are very close to Turkish peppers. You can also simply use green bell peppers for this recipe.
Lahmacun Turkish Pizza Recipe
- 2 yellow onions peeled and cut into chunks
- 5 cloves garlic
- 1/4 cup olive oil extra virgin
- 1 red bell pepper cored and cut into pieces
- 2 Italian green peppers cored and cut into pieces
- 2 Roma tomatoes cut into chunks
- 2 cups fresh parsley washed and thick stems removed
- 1/2 lb ground lamb
- 1/2 lb ground beef
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tsp Aleppo pepper
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 cups water room temperature
- 1 tsp salt
- 5 cups flour
- In a food processor, puree onions and garlic with 2 tablespoons olive oil. Transfer to a container.
- Blend the Italian green peppers and red bell pepper in the food processor and add it to the onion and garlic.
- Blend parsley and tomatoes in the food processor and mix it with the onion and pepper mixture.
- Add the ground lamb and ground beef to the mixture and mix until well combined.
- Add in tomato paste, the remaining olive oil, Aleppo pepper, black pepper, cumin and salt. Mix well.
- Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour up to 24 hours.
- Meanwhile, make the dough by mixing water and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer.
- Attach the dough hook and start mixing, add in the flour, 1/2 cup at a time until the dough forms and it doesn't stick.
- Divide the dough into 12 pieces and place them on a baking sheet. Cover with a kitchen towel and let it rest for 30 minutes.
- Heat a non stick skillet with the lid on over medium heat and place the topping container on the counter top next to the pan and give it a stir.
- Take one of the dough balls and keep the rest covered with a kitchen towel. On a floured surface, roll out the dough into a very thin circle no bigger than the pan.
- Transfer the dough into the hot pan and adjust it. Spread a thin layer of topping on the crust using a serving spoon and leave 1/2 inch from the edges.
- Put the lid on and cook for 7-8 minutes until the dough and the topping are cooked. The dough will be crispy.
- Repeat with the remaining dough and topping.
- Top cooked lahmacun with tomatoes, parsley and squeeze some lemon juice and season with sumac. Wrap it and serve.
- You can use one green bell pepper instead of two Italian green peppers.
- Instead of 1/2 lb ground lamb and 1/2 lb ground beef, you can use 1 lb ground lamb or 1 lb ground beef. I prefer the combination because of the flavor and texture.
- It's best to refrigerate the topping for at least one hour. The longer it sits, the better it's going to taste. You can refrigerate the topping anywhere from one hour to twenty four hours.
- While rolling out each dough ball, make sure the other dough balls are covered with a kitchen towel so they don't get dry on the surface.
- It's important to roll out the dough very thinly to make lahmacun. The dough is even thinner than pizza and each dough ball can roll out to be a 10 or 12 inch wide circle.