My recipe for Indian Fry Bread is not associated with any specific tribe or culture. It’s a generic version I learned in Home Ec. in Minnesota. It’s probably Ojibwe in origin, although I’ve had both Navajo and Cherokee visitors tell me it’s just like the kind their mothers and grandmothers made. In Appalachia (where I live) a similar bread is made, but it has an egg added to it. I have one friend who calls this Reservation Bread because Indians didn’t start making it until they were forced onto reservations and had to give up their traditional, and extremely healthy, diets. On the reservation they received commodity foods, including plenty of white flour, dry milk and hydrogenated shortening.
Some people sprinkle their fry bread with sugar or drizzle it with honey or slather it in jelly for a sweet treat. It makes great Navajo Tacos too. That’s when you top the bread with seasoned beans, cheese, lettuce and tomato. Finely minced onion is traditional too.
American Indian Fry Bread
- 1 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1-1/2 teaspoons vegetable oil (1/2 tablespoon)
- 6 tablespoons tap water
- 1 or 2 tablespoons dry milk powder (optional)
- Shortening or Vegetable oil for frying
Measure the flour, baking powder and salt into a medium-sized bowl. Stir it about with a fork or your hand so that the salt and leavening (baking powder) are evenly distributed.
If you’re adding dry milk powder then take the time to dissolve it in the water at this point. If you’re not using dry milk powder, then simply use plain water. Add the water and vegetable oil to the flour. Mix it with a fork or your hands. Stir until you have a firm dough.
If you think the dough seems sticky then dust it with a bit of extra flour. If the dough seems dry or crumbly then add a few dribbles of water until it’s moist enough to stick together nicely. Knead a few times so it all sticks together in a cohesive ball of dough.
Divide the dough into 2 to 4 pieces. Rip off a piece of waxed paper, roughly square in shape and dust it lightly with flour. Flop a ball of dough onto the waxed paper. Roll it out to the thickness of pie crust or a little thicker. They are pretty manageable and cooperative in case you’re a novice with a rolling-pin.
While you’re rolling out the dough heat about 1/2-inch of shortening or vegetable oil in a deep skillet. You want the oil to be almost smoking hot, or about 375°. When the oil is hot enough slip in one of the flat pieces of dough. Use a chop stick or tongs or even a fork to press the dough down into the oil so it’s submerged. The dough will bubble up impressively while it fries. When the underside is brown, flip the dough and brown the second side. Carefully remove the cooked frybread from the hot oil and lay it out on paper towels or newspaper or pages ripped from an old phone book to drain.
Continue until all of your frybreads are fried. Serve hot. Makes 2 or 3 servings.
The oil can be cooled, and strained to remove any dough bits. It can be used to fry other foods later. Store it in the fridge if possible. Solid shortening should be cooled until it’s warm but not yet solid. Then strain it through a small wire strainer into a clean empty can. Cover the top with tin foil or a lid. Store it in the cupboard. It can be used again.