Native American Fry Bread Recipe
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Half my family on my mother’s side are Menominee Native Americans. I have the best memories of going to the reservation, seeing my uncles putting on their fancy ceremonial dress, for the Pow-Wows, and more. One treat we would have was “Indian Tacos” that were made on Native American Fry Bread. It’s basically a soft shell taco but on the yummiest flatbread!
The Menominee Tribe’s history is unique because their origin or creation begins at the mouth of the Menominee River, a mere 60 miles east of their present Menominee Indian Reservation. This is where their five clans: ancestral Bear, Eagle, Wolf, Moose, and Crane were created. Not many tribes in this region can attest to the fact their origin place exists close or near to their present reservation.
The origins of Native American Fry Bread are interesting and differ by the tribe. According to Navajo tradition, frybread was created in 1864 using the flour, sugar, salt, and lard that was given to them by the United States government when the Navajo, who were living in Arizona, was forced to make the 300-mile journey known as the “Long Walk” and relocate to Bosque Redondo, New Mexico. Many tribes have a similar history – having to create, or recreate their cultural foods, depending on what they were alloted for rations by our government.
Don’t be confused with “Squaw Bread”. Squaw bread is a real thing on its own. It is supposedly a rye and molasses bread first developed in the 1800s by German pioneers who looked to Native Americans for the bread’s inspiration. Many bakeries have renamed it as it had a derogatory meaning, even back then. It didn’t have all the ingredients of “normal” bread, so it was deemed “less-than” and given the name to associate it with the “heathens” of the area.
Now if you look for Indian bread – you will get different kinds of bread made in India. Different varieties of Indian bread include Chapati, Phulka, Puri, Roti, Bajra Rotla, Thepla, Paratha, Naan, Kulcha, Bhatoora, Appam, Dosa, Luchi, Puran Poli, Pathiri, Parotta and many more. Some of these, like Paratha and Roti have many varieties.
Can you make it ahead of time? Yes. If you can mix 2-4 hours ahead of your frying time, or better yet the night before, your bread will be lighter and more pleasing to the eye on the table. The trick is to not over mix//knead the dough. This develops the gluten protein too much, which makes for chewy, tough bread. Remember to only mix the dough until the ingredients are just incorporated, and to let the dough rest for the needed amount of time.
So here is the family recipe for Native American Fry Bread:
Native American Fry Bread
You will need:
- 4 1/2 cups Flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1/2 cup milk – goat or cow
Mix together the flour, baking soda and salt.
Gradually add and mix in the water and milk. You are going to want to remove the dough from the bowl and hand knead it for a few minutes, then divide it into 6 even parts.
Roll or hand flatten them out (to about 5-6 inches) and then pop them into your skillet with hot oil. Flip when golden brown and then remove to a plate with paper towels to remove excess grease.
Note: these get bubbly and puff up when being fried, that is normal and just adds to the yumminess.
This bread is best warm but can be saved for later to eat with hearty soups or stews. As I have said, we love to use it for making tacos. One taco is hearty enough to fill a person up! You can slice it like an English muffin and use it for a hamburger bun too! It is pretty versatile, and easy to make.