This bread is an easy and delicious one that pioneers learned from contact with Native Americans. It did not require yeast – simply the flour, salt and baking powder from their staple supplies and some oil in which to fry it.
The Long Walk: The History of Indian/Native American Fry Bread
The history of Indian fry bread stretches back to the 1860s. Between 1863 and 1866, thousands of Navajo were removed from their homes in the Bosque Redondo reservation and relocated. They were marched 300 miles from Arizona to present-day New Mexico. This journey became known as the Long Walk.
The land that they were moved to, wasn’t too arable so the US government gave them what became the staples of fry bread: lard, sugar, and flour as well as canned goods.
The secret is in not over-kneading the fry bread dough, otherwise it becomes tough – just work it enough to combine it then leave it to rest for a while. What you are looking for is that crispness from the frying on the outside and a soft texture inside with a nice golden brown color.
Native American Fry bread can be slit open and have stew placed inside, torn into pieces, and used to mop up the gravy from a venison stew, served like a taco with pulled pork, shredded beef and various vegetables on top or served as a sweet ending to meal with a dollop of cream, or double cream plain yogurt, and a drizzle of maple syrup or honey.
Fry Bread Recipe
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 ½ cups tepid water It needs to be at around 105F (41C). Make it by mixing 2 parts cold water to 1 part boiling water.
- 1 cup oil sunflower, canola or coconut are good options
- In a medium size bowl combine the flour, salt and baking powder.
- Make a well in the center, and add one cup of the water, drawing in the flour from the sides.
- Only add the remaining ½ cup of water if you see it is still too dry – the dough should be a bit sticky but not sloppy.
- Knead with floured hands to combine and smooth out the mix.
- Set aside to stand for a few minutes while you prepare the pan in which you will heat the oil to fry the bread.
- The oil should be about an inch deep across the bottom of the pan and should be hot –350 degrees Fahrenheit on a thermometer or simply take a tiny piece of dough and put it in the pan – it should start puffing up and sizzling immediately – if it sinks to the bottom the oil isn’t hot enough. You don’t want the bread to absorb the oil – remember crisp outside, soft inside.
- Cook one fry bread at a time for around 2 minutes, then turn to do the other side.
- Remove with tongs and place on a paper towel to drain the excess oil.
- Serve hot with the various toppings chosen.
Some people prefer larger fry breads – the ones here are only 5 inches across.
If you don’t want them puffing up too much in the middle then make a small hole in the middle with your finger – they will still puff up but look more like donuts.
If you want flatter fry bread, then use a rolling pin to press the dough out thinner – almost like pizza dough – but then they will be crispier and there won’t be the softness inside. Frankly, I prefer the round puffy ones.
Nutritional Value: Is Fry Bread Healthy?
As far as nutrition goes, it really depends on the portion size, and depending on where you look, you’ll get different numbers for calories, fats, and so on.
Something else to keep in mind is that it’s called ‘fry bread’ for a reason. It’s deep-fried in hot vegetable oil… very, very hot vegetable oil. Overdoing it on fried foods is not a good idea. The numbers in the table below are based on portions of fry bread that have been made with lard.
|152g (1 piece)||502||19g||11mg||500mg||73g||10g|
|1 Ibs. (454g)||1497||55g||32mg||1492mg||219g||30g|
Favorite Toppings and Fillings
One of the nice things about fry bread is the wide variety of toppings and fillings you can use. We mentioned maple syrup and honey earlier, here are a few more to try for a delicious fry bread meal:
- Sour cream
- Apricot/strawberry jam
- Powdered sugar – if you combine powdered sugar and apricot jam, you can make a jam donut – yummy!
- Cheese (add lettuce, tomatoes, and beans for extra flavor).
- Ground Beef
- Taco Seasoning
- Black olives
Tips and Tricks
- If you don’t have a whisk/mixer, a wooden spoon will do just as well for mixing the dough.
- Dry the fry bread portions with a paper towel and leave them to cool at room temperature.
- Store any extra fry bread in an airtight container.
Traveler, photographer, writer. I’m eternally curious, in love with the natural world. How people can survive in harmony with nature has fueled my food safety and survival gardening practices.
At the age of 12, I found a newspaper advertisement for a 155-acre farm at a really good price and showed my parents one Sunday morning. They bought it and I happily started planting vegetables, peanuts, maize and keeping bees with the help of the local labor.
Once I married wherever we moved it was all about planting food, keeping chickens and ducks, permaculture and creating micro-climates. I learned how to build wooden cabins and outdoor furniture from pallets, and baked and cooked home-grown produce, developing recipes as I went along.
10 thoughts on “Native American Fry Bread Recipe”
Hi Jeanie, love the simple and good recipe. I backpacked from LA to Houston for 9 months back in 1976. On the way I stopped at farms/ranches, made a few bucks for working, went shopping and took off again.
My staples were: Flour, rice, salt & pepper, boullion cubes, tea, and powdered milk. The rest I caught/trapped/fished. I used the same recipe to make my ashcakes. After they are finished, roll them in flour again so they are quite dry. Move the coals to make a small round baking space on the hot ashes. Lay the cakes on the hot ashes and bring the coals back to about 3-4 inches from the cakes. Allow them to bake on one side, turn over and finish. The ashes are only lightly brushed off. I learned from the Indians that they increased their minerals intake from them. The ashes are sterile also… Enjoy, GP
Hi again. After all this is a Survivalist/Prepper/beginner curious persons website.
Had to come back and revamp my last comment with an upgrade. Pollen from Goldenrod, Cornstalks, Cattails,
etc. can and should be added to your flour for baking. I stretched my flour rations with pollen, made the breads taste different and better. Supposedly more vitamins (too much heat destroys them) but definitely gives the bread a lovely yellow taint also.
Seeds from Plaintain. Juice from Prickly Pears. Carbs from Cattail roots. Flowers from Dandelions, only the yellow! Dried leaves from Nettels. (I also quick fry the leaves from nettels as an alternative to potato chips).
Let your fantasy run on the addies which you can put in your bread to stretch your limited supplies, add flavor, change your diet and expand your knowledge…..Grasshoppers (without legs & wings) dried in an oven or otherwise, fully dried, crushed to powder and added really does add protein!! Indian recipe…GP
Wow, what an adventure. The ash cakes sound good, and all the additions to the flour certainly would add nutrition and flavor. You’re a mine of information – thank you for sharing.
I struggled to find the right ratio of flour and water. Originally, the dough was too dry so I added a little more water, but then it was too wet. I flip-flopped between the two for awhile, but I eventually found something I was happy with, and it was smooth sailing after that!
So . . . where did the Native Americans get baking powder, before contact with the settlers to whom they shared this recipe?
Same here. Where in the world would they get baking soda? Also, if I had to survive in the wilderness and there was no wheat to make flour, what other substitute could I find to grind for making flour?
I mean Baking Powder.
Acorns were used by the Native Americans for flour.
Indigenous people used acids like buttermilk and lemon juice and vinegar and yogurt before there was a baking powder in the form we know today:)
The natives used Pearlash. You do you on authenticity. Think I’ll stick with the baking powder and be glad we have it.