Native American Fry Bread

Native American fry bread recipe

The Spruce / Ahlam Raffii

  • Total: 16 mins
  • Prep: 10 mins
  • Cook: 6 mins
  • Custom: 16 mins
  • Yield: 4 servings

Fry bread is a Native American bread that stretches back generations, particularly in the Navajo Nation with whom it originated. It's enjoyed all over the U.S. and is easily found throughout the Southwest. There's no need to go looking for it because it's surprisingly quick and easy to make at home.

There are many recipes for fry bread, varying with the region and tribe. It may be made with yeast and cornmeal, while some recipes add shortening, lard, or another fat, or include an egg. This recipe is made with all-purpose flour and baking powder, creating a very simple fry bread with no extra fat or eggs.

Once you learn how easy it is to make from scratch and how delicious fry bread is, you'll find lots of ways to enjoy it. Fry bread is an excellent choice to serve with a hearty stew or chili, and you can make fry bread tacos with seasoned ground beef and your favorite toppings. It's also a tasty snack when served with honey, maple syrup, or fruit jam or preserves.

This recipe makes four small fry bread loaves. It can easily be scaled up for a larger family.

1:31

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 to 1 cup vegetable oil (or enough for 1-inch depth, for frying; or shortening)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for Native American fry bread
    The Spruce / Ahlam Raffii
  2. In a deep cast-iron skillet or heavy saucepan, heat about 1 inch of oil to 350 F.

    If you don't have a deep-fry thermometer to attach to the pan, dip the handle end of a wooden spoon in the oil. The oil should bubble around it fairly steadily when it's ready. The popcorn method is another option: Place a kernel of popcorn in the oil, and it will pop when the oil reaches 350 to 360 F.

    Stir
    The Spruce / Ahlam Raffii
  3. Meanwhile, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Mix well to blend.

    Combine flour
    The Spruce / Ahlam Raffii
  4. Add the milk and stir until the dough holds together.

    Add milk
    The Spruce / Ahlam Raffii
  5. Knead 3 or 4 times on a floured surface.

    Knead dough
    The Spruce / Ahlam Raffii
  6. Divide the dough into 4 uniform pieces and shape each into a ball. 

    Divide dough
    The Spruce / Ahlam Raffii
  7. Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll each ball of dough into a circle that's about 1/4- to 1/2-inch thick. Make a depression in the center of each round of dough (it will puff up while frying).

    Roll each dough out
    The Spruce / Ahlam Raffii
  8. Carefully slide 1 or 2 pieces of dough into the hot oil. Fry for about 1 to 2 minutes on each side, or until lightly browned.

    Carefully slide out dough
    The Spruce / Ahlam Raffii
  9. Remove the fried dough to paper towels to drain.

    Remove dough
    The Spruce / Ahlam Raffii

More Serving Ideas

  • Sprinkle the fry bread with a little cinnamon and sugar.
  • Dust fry bread with powdered sugar and add a drizzle of honey or syrup.
  • Serve the bread as a base for taco salad or with taco toppings (popularly called Navajo tacos).
  • Cut hot fry bread into wedges and serve with salsa or a dipping sauce.

Tips

  • Be careful not to knead the dough too much or the bread will be hard and tough.
  • Use your favorite type of oil for frying. Vegetable oil and shortening are popular options, canola oil is considered a little healthier, and lard is traditionally used by many Native Americans.
  • The key to using different oils is to ensure whichever you choose has a high smoke point. Some, such as extra-virgin olive oil, will smoke before it reaches the desired temperature, and the bread will taste burnt and your kitchen will fill with smoke.
  • When cooking a larger batch, keep finished fry bread warm in the oven.

What's the Best Way to Store and Reheat Fry Bread?

Fry bread is best when it's freshly fried. If you need to store leftovers, keep it at room temperature loosely wrapped in plastic or in an unsealed plastic bag for up to 2 days. To reheat it, wrap the bread individually in foil and bake in a 375 F oven for about 10 to 12 minutes.

Can Fry Bread Be Frozen?

Fry bread can be frozen for up to 3 months. Wipe the oil off with a paper towel once the bread cools and wrap it tightly in plastic, then place it in a freezer bag. For better results, freeze the uncooked dough when it's still in the ball shape using the same type of packaging. Thaw the dough overnight in the refrigerator, unwrap it and let it reach room temperature before shaping and frying as normal.

What's the Difference Between Fry Bread and Sopapillas?

Many cultures throughout the world have a version of fried bread. Native American fry bread and sopapillas are two types that are nearly identical and have similar origins. Their history stems from the 1860s after the Navajo's "Long Walk" (300 miles) for resettlement in eastern New Mexico. They relied on government rations that included flour, sugar, salt, and lard. Around the same time, residents of older New Mexico towns received the same ingredients and they too created a fluffy, crispy fry bread that became known as sopaipilla in Spanish. The Navajo version is round, while sopapillas are typically square. The recipes for each vary greatly, though sopapillas most often use shortening and water rather than fry bread's milk.

Article Sources
The Spruce Eats uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Miller, Jen. Frybread. Smithsonian Magazine. July 2008.