Lahmajun (Armenian Flatbread With Spiced Lamb)

Thin, chewy-crisp flatbreads with an aromatic topping, best when eaten hot from the oven.

Plated lahmajun and lemon wedges

Serious Eats / Andrew Janjigian

Why This Recipe Works

  • Mixing the dough gently helps keep the gluten relaxed, making it easy to roll and producing a crisp-tender texture. 
  • Shaping the dough balls before cold-proofing lets the dough relax further.
  • Processing the bell pepper and onion with a little salt pulls out moisture, which prevents the meat topping from being excessively wet. 
  • Letting the meat topping warm up slightly before dolloping it on the dough makes it easy to spread evenly without deforming the shape of the dough.
  • While lahmajun is excellent with little more than a squirt of lemon juice, the optional onion-parsley salad—used as a garnish or a side dish—takes it to the next level.

As a thin, chewy-crisp flatbread with an aromatic, bright-red topping on it, lahmajun gets called “Armenian pizza” by non-Armenians all the time. This is fine, since it does give non-Armenians a solid point of reference for an otherwise unfamiliar dish, though the analogy really only goes so far. Where pizza is topped with cheese and a tomato-based sauce, lahmajun is cheeseless and topped with a thin layer of a lamb- or beef-based paste that is intensely flavored with chiles, tomato, aromatic onion, garlic, red bell pepper, parsley, and warm spices. The onion and bell pepper are finely ground and drained of excess water, so the topping emerges from the oven steaming and moist, but not wet. In this way, lahmajun is less like pizza and more like a ground meat kofta—an Armenian “hamburger," if you will—smooshed into a thin layer onto the bread. Nevertheless, lahmajun and pizza are both absolutely delicious, especially when eaten hot from the oven, and both are easy to make at home, provided you have the right recipe (namely, mine).

The Key Techniques for Properly Shaped, Tender Flatbreads

As with many flatbreads (including pizza), the dough for lahmajun is rolled out thinly before being topped. But this poses a technical challenge. On the one hand, we want to roll out and shape the flatbread properly, but on the other, we want to prevent excessive gluten formation from overworking the dough, which can result in a tough or chewy texture. So, how does one get the dough rolled out and shaped properly without causing it to deform or get tough in the process? Over the years, I’ve come up with a bunch of strategies for flatbread success, several of which I employ here. 

First, I mix the dough gently, without kneading of any kind, other than a short hand mixing in the bowl to get the ingredients fully combined. This might seem counterintuitive, since breads often require structure-building via kneading, but as long as you choose the right flour—bread flour, in this case, with its high percentage of gluten-forming proteins—you end up with more than enough structure to yield a chewy-crisp flatbread without calling for kneading. 

Secondly, I shape the dough into balls after a brief room-temperature fermentation—about 90 minutes, just long enough to let the yeast in it wake up and the dough expand a bit—and then move them into the refrigerator. After that, they continue to ferment slowly, for at least eight hours (and up to 24 hours). Shaping the dough balls early on in a long fermentation gives the dough ample time to relax, which makes rolling it out easy, while also building flavor.

Cold-proofing shaped dough balls also builds a measure of convenience into the recipe, because you make the dough one day and bake them the next. Best of all, unlike many flatbreads, you roll out the lahmajun dough cold, straight from the fridge, so you can start baking as soon as the oven and baking surface is hot, without having to spend time letting the dough warm up before use.

Aside from flour, water, salt, and yeast, my dough formula contains a touch of vegetable oil for added tenderness and to promote crisping, along with a little sugar, to promote rapid browning. 

How to Make a Flavorful—Not Wet—Topping

To control the water content in the topping, I grind the onion and red bell pepper in a food processor along with a generous amount of salt; I then move the mixture to a strainer to drain for 10 minutes. The salt draws excess water from the vegetables, which drips through the strainer into a bowl below. This helps reduce a watery topping later.

After that, I return the drained mixture to the food processor, along with the remaining seasonings: parsley, red pepper paste (a.k.a. biber salçasi in Turkish—most brands are made there), tomato paste, a few garlic cloves, allspice, paprika, cumin, and black pepper. I process everything to a fine, even paste, then add the meat in small nuggets and pulse everything together until it just comes together, to retain some texture to the meat. 

As for what type of meat to use, beef or lamb, that’s up to you. I like lamb best myself, but I’m Armenian, so that’s a given. No matter which you choose, try to find meat that is freshly ground with a coarse-but-even texture; usually this means going to a butcher. Classically, the topping for lahmajun was hand-minced with a knife (or a pair of them), which divides it finely without mashing it to an amorphous paste; using freshly ground meat is the next best thing to hand-mincing it. That said, if all you can find is prepackaged meat, use it! I do sometimes, and it works fine. 

As with the dough, the topping can be made up to 24 hours ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator. You do want to let it warm at room temperature for about 30 minutes before baking, since that will make it easier to spread without mashing or deforming the rolled-out dough.

How to Assemble and Bake Lahmajun

Traditionally, lahmajun is baked in blazing hot wood-fired ovens. The good news is that you can still make a great one in a home oven at a temperature of 500˚F (or 550˚F, if you are lucky enough to have an oven that goes that high), as long as you use a solid home pizza baking approach:

Cook them on a preheated baking stone or, preferably for more conductivity, a baking steel (heated at your maximum oven temperature at least 30 minutes for a steel or an hour for a stone), and placed high in the oven, which ensures rapid heating from both above and below, for even, quick cooking. Just make sure not to set the oven rack so high that it’s a challenge to get the lahmajun in and out; you want to give yourself four to five inches of headroom, which means either the top or second from the top rack position.

Once the surface is good and hot, you can get down to baking. Because the dough should be nice and relaxed by now, it won’t take much effort to pat and roll out. Be sure to use plenty of flour on the dough and the counter to prevent sticking, to avoid tearing or overworking it. It's best to roll from the center out, rotating the dough regularly, to keep the circle as round as possible. Once it is between 11 and 12 inches, move it to a floured peel. 

Pro lahmajun bakers just smoosh the topping with their fingertips around the dough in a matter of seconds, but this takes lots and lots of practice to pull off without manhandling the dough and/or making an unsanitary mess. I use a different approach to minimize hand contact with the paste: You scoop the topping mixture in a 1/2 cup dry measuring cup and use a small spoon to distribute dollops of it evenly around the disc. You then use the back of the spoon and a fingertip to flatten the dollops and cover the dough completely, aside from a 1/8-inch-wide border.

Then it goes into the oven to bake until the crust is browned around the edges and on the underside, which takes about five minutes. (The topping will be steaming hot at this point, but it should not dry out or brown.) While one bakes you can roll out the next one, and all four flatbreads should take less than half an hour to complete. 

Serving Lahmajun

Lahmajun is great with little more than a squirt of fresh lemon juice as a foil for its richness. But it’s also often served with a crisp, cool, and tart vegetable salad, either as a side dish, or—better yet—as a filling to fold or wrap the flatbread around, burrito-style. One classic Armenian salad I like to use here is thinly-sliced red onion and parsley, dressed with ground sumac, lemon juice, and olive oil. To temper the pungency of the onion, I first soak it in boiling water for 5 minutes to pull off most of the intense sulfur compounds that form when it is cut.

Once you try it—it makes a great light lunch and is a welcome addition to a mezze spread—I think you’ll agree that while lahmajun and pizza are not the same, both are worth adding to your flatbread repertoire.

Recipe Details

Lahmajun (Armenian Flatbread With Spiced Lamb)

Prep 90 mins
Cook 30 mins
Proofing Time 10 hrs
Total 12 hrs
Serves 4 to 6

Thin, chewy-crisp flatbreads with an aromatic topping, best when eaten hot from the oven.


  • For the Dough (see note):
  • 400g (2 3/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons) bread flour
  • 2g (1/2 teaspoon) instant yeast
  • 15g (1 ​​tablespoon) sugar
  • 9g (1 tablespoon) Diamond Crystal kosher salt; for table salt, use half as much by volume or the same weight
  • 265g (1 cup plus 1 tablespoon) room-temperature water (about 75˚F/24˚C)
  • 23g (2 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon) vegetable oil, divided
  • For the Topping:
  • 1 large red bell pepper (8 ounces; 225g), stemmed, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 small yellow onion (4 ounces; 115g), quartered lengthwise
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt, divided; for table salt, use half as much by volume
  • 1/4 cup (4g) fresh parsley leaves and tender stems
  • 3 tablespoons (45g) mild biber salçasi pepper paste (see note)
  • 2 tablespoons (30g) tomato paste
  • 2 medium garlic cloves (10g), peeled
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 ounces (225g) ground beef, at least 15% fat, or ground lamb
  • For the Salad (optional):
  • 1 medium red onion (8 ounces; 225g), thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup (8g) fresh parsley leaves and tender stems, coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons ground sumac (see note)
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt, plus more to taste; for table salt, use half as much by volume
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • For Serving:
  • Lemon wedges


  1. For the Dough: In a medium bowl, whisk together bread flour, yeast, sugar, and salt until thoroughly combined. In a separate medium bowl, combine water and 10g (2 teaspoons) oil. Add half of flour mixture to oil-water mixture and stir with a dough whisk or a whisk until a smooth batter forms. Add remaining flour mixture and stir with a whisk or knead by hand until a shaggy dough forms and no dry flour remains. Cover bowl with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

    Lahmajun dough prep

    Serious Eats / Andrew Janjigian

  2. Using lightly-moistened hands, knead dough in bowl gently until it tightens up, 10 to 20 seconds, then gather dough into a smooth ball. Cover bowl with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and let stand at warm room temperature (75˚F/24˚C) until dough is puffy and about 1 1/2 times in volume, 1 to 2 hours.

    Lahmajun dough before it rests

    Serious Eats / Andrew Janjigian

  3. On a lightly-floured work surface, divide dough into 4 equal portions (7 ounces; about 175g each). Add remaining 13g (1 tablespoon) oil to now-empty dough bowl and set aside. Shape each portion into a tight, smooth ball, making sure to seal seams on the underside tightly. Working one at a time, set each dough ball in the oil-containing bowl and, using your hands, turn to evenly coat the exterior. Transfer dough balls to a lightly-oiled rimmed baking sheet or individual containers (such as pint-sized deli containers), seam side down. Cover loosely but completely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours.

    Dividing lahmajun dough into four equal-size balls

    Serious Eats / Andrew Janjigian

  4. For the Topping: In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine bell pepper, onion, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Process, scraping down sides of bowl as needed, until finely chopped, 10 to 20 seconds. Transfer mixture to a fine-mesh strainer set over a medium bowl and let drain for at least 10 minutes.

    Blended bell pepper topping resting

    Serious Eats / Andrew Janjigian

  5. Using a flexible spatula, press on onion-pepper mixture to extract any remaining liquid, then return to food processor bowl; discard drained liquid. Add parsley, pepper paste, tomato paste, garlic, allspice, paprika, cumin, pepper, and remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt. Process, scraping down sides of bowl as needed, until mixture is finely chopped, 10 to 20 seconds.

    Onion-bell pepper topping in food processor.

    Serious Eats / Andrew Janjigian

  6. Using your hands, break ground meat into walnut-sized chunks and distribute around bowl. Process, scraping down sides of bowl as needed, until mixture is just combined, 5 to 10 pulses. Transfer to an airtight container and use right away or refrigerate for up to 24 hours.

    Meat topping in food processor

    Serious Eats / Andrew Janjigian

  7. For the Salad (optional): Meanwhile, place red onion in a medium heatproof bowl, cover by at least 1 inch boiling water, and let stand for 5 minutes. Drain onion through a fine-mesh strainer then rinse for 10 seconds under cold running water and shake dry. Transfer to a clean kitchen towel or paper towel and pat dry. Return onion to now-empty bowl, along with parsley, sumac, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine, season with salt and pepper to taste, and set aside.

    Optional salad topping assembled in silver bowl

    Serious Eats / Andrew Janjigian

  8. To Assemble and Bake the Lahmajun: One hour before baking, adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position (rack should be 4 to 5 inches from broiler element), set a baking stone or steel on rack, and heat oven to 500˚F (or 550˚F, if your even allows it).

    Broiler set-up for baking lahmajun

    Serious Eats / Andrew Janjigian

  9. Thirty minutes before baking, remove topping from refrigerator and allow to warm slightly at room temperature, about 30 minutes.

    Meat topping resting after refrigeration and before baking

    Serious Eats / Andrew Janjigian

  10. Dust tops of dough balls liberally with flour, then transfer to a well-floured work surface, seam side down. Working one at a time, use the heel of your hand to press a dough ball into a 5-inch disk. Using a rolling pin, gently roll the disk into an 11- to 12-inch round, adding flour to top and underside of dough and countertop as needed to prevent sticking.

    Rolling flour-dusted lahmajun ball into small disks

    Serious Eats / Andrew Janjigian

  11. Transfer to a well-floured baking peel (or a rimless cookie sheet if you don't have a baking peel). Scatter one-quarter of topping (1/2 cup; 125g) evenly over top of dough in 1-teaspoon amounts. Using the back of a spoon and your fingertips, gently flatten and spread topping into an even layer, leaving 1/8-inch border untopped.

    Scattered meat topping spread across flattened lahmajun dough

    Serious Eats / Andrew Janjigian

  12. Shake peel to loosen dough, then carefully slide lahmajun onto baking stone. Bake until bottom crust is browned and upper edges are lightly browned, 4 to 6 minutes. While lahmajun bakes, begin rolling next dough ball. Transfer baked lahmajun to a wire rack, stacking or overlapping them on the wire rack as they're finished. Repeat assembling and baking steps with the remaining dough balls and topping.

    Lahmajun entering oven

    Serious Eats / Andrew Janjigian

  13. Once all 4 lahmajun are baked, return them to the oven, overlapping them to fit on the stone, until reheated, about 2 minutes (alternatively, you can eat them warm, room temperature, or cold—lahmajun are great at all temperatures). Serve lahmajun with onion-parsley salad, if desired, and lemon wedges.

    Lahmajun in oven, nearly ready to eat

    Serious Eats / Andrew Janjigian

Special Equipment

Kitchen scale, food processor, rolling pin (preferably straight), baking steel or stone, wide pizza peel or rimless baking sheet, wire rack


For best results, use a digital scale set in grams to measure ingredients for the dough. For the yeast, using a jeweler’s scale will give you the most precise measurement possible. 

Biber salçasi can be found in Middle Eastern grocery stores or online. If unavailable, increase volume of tomato paste to 3 tablespoons, paprika to 4 teaspoons, and add 1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper.

Ground sumac can be found at Middle Eastern markets or online.

Make-Ahead and Storage

The topping and salad can be made up to 24 hours in advance and refrigerated separately in airtight containers. Bring the salad to room temperature before serving. 

To reheat lahmajun, place pairs of them on a baking sheet face to face (topping sides in contact with one another) and transfer to a 300˚F oven until hot and crisp, 10 to 12 minutes.