Akkawi Manakeesh – Arabic Cheese Bread with Nigella

Akkawi Manakeesh - Arabic Cheese Bread

Akkawi Manakeesh is an Arabic cheese bread sprinkled with nigella seeds that we grew up with in Saudi Arabia. At the major grocery chain in Riyadh, Tamimi Markets, there was a wood-fired bakery at the back of the shop. When our mom would buy groceries, she would make a beeline to the bakery and order these cheese breads for us, return to her shopping, and when she was ready to check out, the fresh cheese breads would be ready right out of the oven. The breads were flat, covered with white cheese, and sprinkled with black seeds. Being half-Japanese, our first thought of black seeds were always sesame seeds, but the flavour didn’t match. Only about a decade later did we finally discover that these seeds were nigella, or black cumin, seeds.

Akkawi Manakeesh - Arabic Cheese Bread

Our family has been eating this for years, but we only found out the name recently – and what a blessing it has been, because we could then find the right ingredients to use. We have been trying to Google recipes for ‘Arabic cheese bread’ to find the right type of cheese used, and it took ages. Now we know that it is a lightly flavoured white cheese called akkawi (or accawi). And those little black specks weren’t roasted sesame seeds at all. The key flavours are the nigella and the akkawi cheese, which cannot be substituted with mozzarella or fresh queso.Nigella seeds taste pungent and slightly bitter, and has been described as tasting like a combination of onions, black pepper and oregano. The akkawi cheese is quite salty, so it’s best to grate it and let it soak in water while the bread dough is rising.

Akkawi Manakeesh - Arabic Cheese Bread

Akkawi Manakeesh - Arabic Cheese Bread with Nigella
Recipe type: Breads
Cuisine: Arabic
Serves: 4 pizzas
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
For the dough:
  • 3½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp dry yeast
  • 1¼ cups lukewarm water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
For the topping:
  • 500g akkawi cheese, soaked and drained
  • 2 Tbsp nigella seeds
  1. Stir the yeast in the water and set aside for 5 minutes, or until it starts to bubble up.
  2. Mix flour, salt, and sugar in a large bowl.
  3. Gradually pour the yeast water and oil into the dry ingredients. Stir well to bind, then knead for 5 to 10 minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic, and feel a bit like an earlobe.
  4. Place the dough into a large bowl greased with olive oil. Place a damp tea towel over the dough and let rise in a warm place for 1½ to 2 hours, or until doubled in size.
  5. Meanwhile, grate the cheese into a large bowl. Cover with cold water to soak and help draw out some of the salt.
  6. Punch down the dough. Divide the dough into four equal-sized pieces.
  7. Place the dough back into the bowl and let rest for an extra 30 minutes.
  8. Preheat oven to 450F.
  9. On a floured surface, roll each ball of dough into a disc about 10-inches or 25-cm in diameter.
  10. Sprinkle about 1 cup of akkawi cheese over the dough. Sprinkle about ½ Tbsp of nigella seeds evenly over the cheese.
  11. Transfer the dough to a cookie sheet or pizza stone and bake 20 minutes, or until the crust is baked and cheese is melted.

Akkawi Manakeesh - Arabic Cheese BreadMeinhilde's Signature, Kiku Corner


  1. Michelle says:

    Your pictures are gorgeous displaying this delicious looking bread. I have never heard of black cumin seeds. I’ll have to check my local spice shop to see if they carry them. Interesting combo here.

  2. Mrs R @ Simplify Life With Mrs. R says:

    I just love interesting recipes like this. I could eat this and a small salad and call it dinner! I’m definitely making this soon!

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