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    Indigenous strength in a delicious treat

    Learn to cook frybread
    Heather Sherrill
    Navajo taco using frybread.

    Frybread is a huge symbol for the Indigenous people for multiple reasons. It is a small crispy circle of pillowy deep-fried dough that represents the good, the bad and the ugly. It is love, celebration, community, survival, colonialism, oppression and tragedy all wrapped into a delicious treat. 

    It is said that frybread originated 160 years ago during the Long Walk to Bosque redondo, a 300-mile journey that forced over 8,570 Navajo (Diné) into internment camps. They traveled from northeastern Arizona and northwestern New Mexico to Bosque Redondo in eastern New Mexico. About 200 Diné died from cold and starvation on this journey and more died after they arrived at the camp.

    This was an Indian removal effort of The United States government in 1863 and 1864. They wanted the Diné to embrace American Cultural values like farming, christianity, individualism, and the English language. 

    To prevent the displaced Native Americans from starving, the United States government provided a small set of staple food items, which included the ingredients with which to create a simple quick bread which was cooked in a pan of hot lard over coals and became known as frybread.

    According to Smithsonian Magazine, for many Native Americans, “frybread links generation with generation and also connects the present to the painful narrative of Native American history.”

    The original recipe only has four ingredients; flour, sugar, salt and lard that was given to the Najo by the United States government because the land they were forced on could not easily support their traditional staples of vegetables and beans.

    However, there are many different ways to make it now. Frybread was originally made for Navajo Tacos or as a breakfast item with cinnamon or honey covered on top. The following is the way I was taught to make them. 

    Ingredients for just the dough: 

    2 eggs

    4 cups of all purpose flour

    2 ½ tablespoons of baking powder

    2 teaspoons of salt

    1 ½ cups of hot water

    2 tablespoons of crisco or vegetable oil 


    You will need more shortening or vegetable oil in order to fry the dough.


    1. Put 4 cups of all purpose flour inside a bowl
    2. Add 2 tablespoons of crisco or vegetable oil to the flour and mix together 
    3. Add two eggs
    4. Add 2 ½ tablespoons of baking powder 
    5. Add 2 teaspoons of salt
    6. Add 1 ½ cups of hot water
    7. Mix it all together until it is no longer sticky


    Next, put some flour on the counter and put the dough on top. Sprinkle some more flour on top of the dough and then roll it into a ball. Adding more flour when needed.

    1. Take vegetable oil and oil a clean bowl
    2. Place dough ball inside the bowl and cover with plastic wrap
    3. Let the dough rest for 20 to 30 minutes


    Time to fry the bread

    1. Heat up an 8-inch cast iron skillet on medium high heat
    2. Add shortening or vegetable oil into the skillet until it is about halfway up the side of your pan. (using vegetable oil will make the frybread a little more greasy)
    3. Tear pieces from the dough and roll into a ball that fits the palm of your hand
    4. Take the small dough ball and dip it in some flour. This helps it from getting a hard crust and keeping it nice and soft
    5. Use a rolling pin or your hands to shape your bread on a floured surface (I use my hands)
    6. Stretch and rotate the dough until it is as big as your hand then close a fist and set it on top of it. Using your other hand stretch it all around your fist and rotate it until it is as big as your pan
    7. Place your dough nice and slow into the pan
    8. Take a fork and pop any bubbles that are getting too big
    9. Once one side is golden brown flip it over
    10. Set the the dough upright in a bowl and let it drain onto some paper towels before storing it

    Once finished, top it off with beans, cheese, lettuce and tomatoes and enjoy your Navajo Taco or if you want to use the frybread for dessert add your favorite toppings with some honey. 


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