Must we describe every topped flatbread in the world as some form of a pizza? It’s a helpful cultural touchstone that’s easily understood, but does a grave injustice to every minimally related dish. Lahmacun shares this overly simplified description, but make no mistake about it: We’re not in Italy anymore, Toto.
What Is Lahmacun?
Whether it’s technically Turkish or Armenian is still hotly debated. Regardless, Lahmacun comes from the Arabic words “lahm,” meaning meat, and “macun,” meaning paste. Alternative spellings are “lamejun,” “lahmajin” and “lahmajun,” just to be clear. Typically beef or lamb is ground or finely chopped with vegetables and herbs to create this iconic “meat paste” that gets spread onto very thinly rolled circles of dough. In this case, tempeh is our protein of choice, enhanced by the naturally umami flavors of Sugimoto shiitake powder.
Not All Shiitake Powder Is Created Equal
That’s why Sugimoto is the only brand I’d trust for the job. Theirs is made of pure, dried shiitake mushrooms and absolutely nothing else. Their unique drying process concentrates all the natural umami compounds to make the overall taste sensation even more concentrated, making it a potent flavor booster for all kinds of dishes. Adding shiitake powder ultimately creates a more satisfying and complex dish, plant-based or otherwise.
Furthermore, the presence of amino acids like glutamic acid in shiitake mushrooms can also contribute to their meaty flavor. These same amino acids are found in meat, which is why shiitake powder can be a great option for adding depth and richness to vegan recipes. Tempeh, which is made of fermented soy beans, may not sound like a natural substitute for ground meat, but some sort of kitchen alchemy occurs when this secret ingredient hits the pan.
Tips For Success
Don’t be daunted if this is your first try making lahmacun. It’s an incredibly simple recipe that can be mastered with little effort.
- The meat paste topping and dough can both be made in advance. The topping can keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week, or frozen for up to 6 months. The dough can be kept in a lightly greased ziptop bag or covered bowl in the fridge for up to 5 days. That way, you can simply assemble and eat when hunger strikes.
- To make this recipe easier, you can start with 1 pound of prepared pizza dough rather than making your own from scratch.
- In a pinch, you can even use flour tortillas to skip the rolling step entirely, but reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees so they don’t burn.
- When rolling out the dough, think “crackers” rather than “pizza.” The crusts need to be super thin, as thin as you can possibly make them, to get a perfectly crisp, crunchy bite all the way through. The exact size and shape isn’t as important as the thickness, which should be around 1/8th of an inch. You can use your fingers to pull and stretch it too.
- I like to roll my dough out directly on an ungreased piece of parchment paper, flouring only the top of the dough. That way, it sticks to the sheet and not the rolling pin, helping it to keep its shape instead of immediately springing back.
- Leftover, fully baked lahmacun can be frozen once cooled. To reheat, toss them back into a 400-degree oven for 5 – 8 minutes, until hot and crisp.
Leftover Topping Ideas
A little bit goes a long way for these super thin and crispy flatbreads! You may end up with more topping than you can spread over your dough, which is a great “problem” to have. There’s no end to the possible uses for such a versatile component.
- Dumplings: Wrap up a spoonful in wonton wrappers and steam, saute, or fry your way to dumpling delight.
- Pasta Sauce: Consider this the meat component of your favorite ragu. Add diced tomatoes and simmer until thick.
- Tacos: Grab your tortillas and load them up with this meatless filling, pico de gallo, guacamole, shredded cabbage, and anything else you’d like at this instant fiesta.
- Meatballs: Mix in seasoned breadcrumbs until the mixture holds together, then shape it into walnut-sized balls. Sear before adding to your favorite al dente pasta and sauce.
- Stuffed Peppers: Slice off the tops of your bell peppers, fill with the seasoned meatless mixture, cover with foil, and bake at 400 degrees for 25 – 30 minutes. Uncover, sprinkle with shredded vegan cheese, and bake for another 5 – 10 minutes, until melted and browned.
What makes lahmacun so special is its balance of flavors and textures. The thin, crispy bread provides a perfect contrast to the rich, savory meat topping, while the fresh parsley and tangy tomatoes add brightness and acidity to the dish. Fragrant spices give lahmacun a warm, aromatic quality that makes it both comforting and complex.
Lahmacun is often served as street food in Turkey, where it’s eaten folded up like a taco. Popular as an appetizer, snack, or entree, you can easy enjoy it straight out of the oven or with a variety of condiments, such as lemon wedges, pickled vegetables, or garlic sauce. Whatever you do, just don’t call it pizza. Lahmacun is a true culinary treasure as a wholly unique, distinctive dish that’s well worth the effort of making it right.
- 1 Cup Warm Water
- 1 (1/4-Ounce) Packet or 2 1/4 Teaspoons Active Dry Yeast
- 3 Cups All-Purpose Flour
- 1 Teaspoon Salt
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- 1 Large Red Onion, Diced
- 1/2 Green Bell Pepper, Diced
- 1 Roma Tomato, Finely Diced
- 2 Cloves Garlic, Minced
- 1 (12-Ounce) Package Tempeh, Diced
- 2 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
- 2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons Shiitake Powder
- 1 Teaspoon Smoked Paprika
- 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
- 1/2 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
- 1/2 Teaspoon Salt
- 1/4 Cup Fresh Parsley, Roughly Chopped
- Fresh Lemon Wedges
- Fresh Parsley, Roughly Chopped
- To make the dough, place the warm water and yeast in a large bowl. Mix lightly to combine and allow about 10 minutes for the yeast to reawaken and become frothy.
- Incorporate the the flour and salt, mixing thoroughly to combine. Use a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook to knead for about 10 minutes, or by hand for closer to 15, until the dough is smooth and elastic, but still slightly sticky.
- Transfer to a clean bowl and lightly grease. Cover, place in a warm, draft-free place, and let rise until doubled in volume; 1 - 1 1/2 hours.
- Meanwhile, prepare the topping. Place a medium sized saucepan over medium heat and add the oil. Swirl the pan to coat the bottom before adding the onion, pepper, tomato, and garlic. Saute for 6 - 8 minutes, until the vegetables have softened and are aromatic.
- Add the tempeh and continue to cook for 5 - 7 minutes until lightly browned around the edges. Stir in the tomato paste, soy sauce, shiitake powder, paprika, cumin, pepper, and salt. Simmer for 3 - 4 minutes longer. There should be no excess liquid remaining.
- Transfer the meatless mixture to your food processor. Add the parsley and pulse to create a coarse paste. You don't want it to be fully pureed, but more like a thick, chunky salsa.
- Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a clean surface and cut it into 8 equal pieces. Roll each one into a ball, then out flat into a very thin circle, roughly 8 - 9 inches in diameter. Place two at a time on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper, spreading an 1/8th of the topping in an even layer on each one, going right to the very edges.
- Bake in the center of the oven for 10 - 12 minutes, until the edges are golden brown and the center is firm. Repeat with the remaining components.
- Serve hot, topped with additional parsley and lemon wedges on the side, if desired.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 234Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 624mgCarbohydrates: 42gFiber: 3gSugar: 2gProtein: 7g
All nutritional information presented within this site are intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information on BitterSweetBlog.com should only be used as a general guideline. This information is provided as a courtesy and there is no guarantee that the information will be completely accurate. Even though I try to provide accurate nutritional information to the best of my ability, these figures should still be considered estimations.