By Michelle M. Sharp, Founder and Content Creator of Meet the Minnesota Makers

Photo by SavvyPhotage

Tahir Sandhu and Gwen Williams of St. Cloud, Minnesota’s Artisan Naan Bakery found that the easiest way to eat the naan and other flatbreads they enjoyed was to make it themselves. 

“We started the bakery for purely selfish reasons,” laughed Gwen. “My husband was quite dissatisfied, and had been for years, with the frozen naan, roti and pita that we found in stores.” 

Channeling that disappointment into perfecting their own techniques and recipes led them to found a bread bakery in St Joseph in 2014. As demand for their naan, pita and chapati grew, they moved to a much larger facility in St. Cloud where you will find their retail store and wholesale bakery today.

What does ‘artisan’ mean for their bakery? Every single piece of bread is handmade, even as their production has increased. Nothing they sell has been pre-frozen.

“A potter friend of ours told us to emphasize our process more, the way that we hand toss all of our bread,” shared Gwen. “He encouraged us to raise our prices to better reflect the effort that goes into each bag. We decided not to raise our prices, but we do want people to understand that our process is very different than bread they’ll purchase in a grocery store bread aisle stocked with items made on a factory production line.”

Producing a handmade bread that’s baked to order sets the foundation for a mission of reducing food waste. “With the work required to make each bread by hand, we want to make something that will be eaten rather than pack a shelf with a quality product that will be thrown away.” 

Choosing sustainable choices for the health of their business and the resources required to run it is part of Artisan Naan’s daily operation. 

How do Gwen and Tahir incorporate sustainable practices into their retail and wholesale operation? 

*Only selling fresh bread eliminates the energy and storage requirements of pre-frozen bread products. 

*Carefully managing their ingredient inventory reduces waste. 

*Prioritizing ingredients that are certified organic and non-GMO. 

*Using King Arthur flour because it’s one of the only large-scale U.S. milling companies that does not bleach their flour or use potassium bromate. This eliminates the need for chemical disposal and creates a more wholesome base for their breads. 

Most recently, Artisan Naan Bakery began a new journey in sustainability by incorporating locally-cultivated Kernza® perennial grain into select bakery menu items. Kernza is a perennial grain harvested from a plant called intermediate wheatgrass that’s a cousin of wheat. Kernza has been improved over time as a grain crop by researchers at the University of Minnesota Forever Green Initiative and other leaders including The Land Institute in Kansas. 

Kernza in the field, Kernza grain, Kernza flour and Artisan Naan’s Kernza naan

When harvested, the grain of the Kernza plant has a rich nutty flavor with a cinnamon undertone. The grain itself can be used in a grain bowl or a pilaf. The flour pairs well with warm flavors like ginger, chocolate, cardamom, and cinnamon. 

The longer the plant stays in the ground, the deeper and richer its root system becomes, especially compared to conventional annual grains. This deep root system reduces soil erosion and improves water quality by filtering nitrates before groundwater reaches lake and river systems.

Gwen and Tahir learned about Kernza through AURI (Agricultural Utilization Research Institute). AURI is a Minnesota nonprofit that works with growers and food innovators to advance the Minnesota ag sector. AURI introduced the bakery to this new grain by embarking on a Kernza pilot project with them, as part of a Stearns County Soil and Water Conservation District research project.

Photo by SavvyPhotage

Stearns County, where St. Cloud is located, is a transition point for the Mississippi River. North of St. Cloud, the river has consistently good ratings from the Pollution Control Agency. South of St. Cloud there are zones where it is unsafe to swim or fish. “We felt like we were geographically and operationally ideally located,” explained Gwen. “We’re a small bakery. We bake from scratch. Finding a use for this grain supports exactly the corner of Minnesota where we’ve built this life around our business.” 

Gwen explained that there were some adjustments necessary for their recipes because the gluten found in Kernza is weaker than gluten found in traditional wheat. You won’t have the rise you expect for a slicing bread. But for a flatbread baker, that doesn’t turn out to be a limitation.

The Marvel naan, which includes Kernza, has a ratio of 75% wheat flour to 25% Kernza flour. “I really like the flavor. I think that the Kernza brings a bold taste, something new for your tastebuds,” shared Gwen. “It’s bold in the same way that rye flour has a bold taste.” 

Initially the Kernza naan and pita were only available at the St. Cloud farmers’ market and at their retail location. Educating their customers was a high priority. “People were intrigued. I think initially people purchased this new bread because of the positive environmental impact of this grain on water and it being something new,” stated Gwen. 

Many of their customers were excited to learn that the University of Minnesota has one of the largest Kernza research programs in the country. Their customers were proud that the grain was being grown in Stearns County, which allowed them to support local growers as well as their local bakery. 

Gwen knew that they had a winning recipe once there were return buyers. “You can sell a product once based on novelty and its environmental draw,” said Gwen. “When they’re a return customer, you know that it’s for the flavor.”

Artisan Naan debuted their perennial grain breads in the summer of 2021. These Kernza flatbread recipes have enjoyed a steadily growing audience, but there are still a lot of people who don’t know what makes these breads special. “It’s hard to educate people in the grocery store when you’re not there to do demos and talk with them. The nuttiness of the flour is really something unique,” said Gwen.  

Artisan Naan’s retail location in St. Cloud is open Monday through Saturday. View their online menu to preorder specialty items including naan pizza crusts and a Basque cheesecake. 

Shop Lunds and Byerlys and several food coops for their wholesale products. 

Select naan, including The Marvel made with Kernza, can be shipped throughout the continental US. Orders go out every Monday.

Visit to learn more about Gwen and Tahir’s naan enthusiasm. 

Follow @artisannaan on Facebook and Instagram to see what’s hot out of the oven today. 

This feature is sponsored by the Forever Green Initiative at the University of Minnesota. Artisan Naan Bakery is one of several innovators in sustainability that Meet the Minnesota Makers and Forever Green celebrate in this maker series. 

Forever Green develops and improves winter-hardy annual and perennial crops that protect soil and water health. These initiatives provide new economic opportunities for growers, industry and communities across Minnesota. Learn more about Forever Green and their community partners on their website

Visit or follow @meettheminnesotamakers on Facebook and Instagram to discover the farmers and innovators working to strengthen Minnesota’s local food networks. Meet the Minnesota Makers is a news site that connects you to the local food, farms, artists and artisans that make Minnesota thrive.




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