Friday Recipe Exchange: Fry Breads

jeffreyw fry bread
From our Food Goddess, TaMara:

I was working on the Dinner Menu for the week and lamenting the fact that I have a difficult time finding good pita breads in my area. I decided the next time I make the Chicken Pilaf and Cool Dill Dip menu (recipes and photos here) I would try using Fry Bread as a substitute. Then I thought that would make a good topic for tonight’s recipe exchange. (I cannot lie, what really tips the scales for the recipe exchange is which pretty, yummy photo of JeffreyW’s can I highlight)

First up, JeffreyW makes Fry Bread (pictured at top) for Fry Bread Tacos, click here for recipe and great photos. He took the same recipe and sweetened it up with honey, cinnamon and sugar, as pictured below:

jeffreyw elephant ear
Not satisfied with a flat product, he decided to experiment with making it into a bowl and serving it with an awesome soup in his Bean Soup in a Fry Bread Bowl, recipe and photos here.

What’s in your bowl this weekend? Do you have any special or unique family or cultural recipes to share? Hit the comments with your ideas and recipes. I love to add new flavors to my repertoire.

For tonight’s featured recipe, I turn to friend of blog, Aji for a fry bread recipe she sent me months ago, at my request:

Indigenous Food Traditions: Frybread

from The Motley Moose (click the link to read Aji’s history of fry bread)

3 cups unbleached wheat flour
1 to 1-1/2 tablespoon baking powder
3/4 to 1 teaspoon sea salt
1-1/8 cups warm water
1-2 cups lard for frying

Mix dry ingredients thoroughly. Slowly add warm water until the mix reaches a consistency similar to pie crust. Mix thoroughly, using your hands, if necessary, but do not overwork it. Leave dough in bowl; cover and allow it to “rise” for 30 minutes.

After dough has risen, add the lard to a cast-iron skillet and heat it to just sizzling. While the lard is heating, turn the dough out, separating it into 6-8 balls. Each should be larger than a golf ball, but smaller than a tennis ball. Take the first ball and flatten it slightly on floured surface.

Once your dough is flattened and in the desired shape, gently poke a small hole in the center with your thumb. This will help with allowing the frybread to “puff” properly. Holding the dough by one edge, gently slide it into the heated oil. Once it’s covered by the oil, use a spatula or other utensil to spoon the oil repeatedly over the top of the frybread; this will also help it to “puff.” Once puffed and beginning to turn golden at the edges, gently use your spatula and another utensil to turn it over; then continue spooning the oil over that side. After a minute or two, turn back over; if golden brown, use utensils to lift it out of the skillet and drain the oil, then place, puffed side up, on a paper towel to drain.

Repeat with next ball of dough, until all pieces are fried. Makes 6-8 pieces of frybread.

Serve hot, with butter and honey.

Notes and caveats:

Ingredients: First, of course you can use regular wheat flour, but we try to stay away from refined flour and sugar as much as possible for health reasons. Stone-ground wheat flour, however, doesn’t produce the proper texture. Since we eat it relatively rarely, unbleached wheat flour makes for a good compromise, but doesn’t affect the texture or taste.

Second, you’ll notice a range for how much baking powder and salt to use. Most recipes call for the upper end of each. With ground sea salt, I use about a teaspoon. With baking powder, it depends on the brand: more with Calumet or Clabber Girl; less with Bob’s Red Mill, which has a saltier, more acidic flavor.

Third, around here, a lot of people commonly “cheat” by using yeast. Yes, it’ll rise a bit more, but not appreciably so; the baking powder will suffice, provided that you let it rest for half an hour. More to the point, if you’re a purist like me, it’s not really “traditional.” For our parents’ and grandparents’ generations, yeast was expensive and hard to get – especially so for Indians. To me, adding yeast is cheating, and honestly, much as I dearly love yeast bread, it doesn’t taste right in frybread.

Finally, you’ll note that I use lard, NOT shortening or vegetable oil. Some people do use the latter two now, but ask any Indian: What it produces is NOT Indian frybread, but merely fried dough. It’s the animal fats in the lard that gives frybread its traditional flavor. That said, if you’re vegetarian/vegan, or do not eat pork, you can make a facsimile of it with shortening or vegetable oil.

Forming the dough: Traditionally, fryread pieces are formed by taken the flattened disc of dough and slapping it together rapidly between one’s hands – back and forth, flattening it with each pass. If you’re like me now, my hands can no longer take it. It’s perfectly acceptable to flatten and shape it on the countertop with your hands, or to roll it out with a rolling pin. Traditionally, they are round-ish in shape, but they can be formed into other shapes, if you prefer (Wings’s mother used to make them square, so I sometimes do that for him, too). Additionally, don’t worry of they are not perfectly round – frybread, when done, is puffy and bumpy and full of texture, so it doesn’t need to be a perfect circle. Done properly, it all tastes the same.

Cast-iron v. other materials: Traditionally, you would use a cast-iron cauldron or pot, but I don’t have one, and it wouldn’t fit on this tiny stove-top anyway. But cast-iron is key; it works far, far better than any other material I’ve ever used. You can, of course, use more modern cookware, but the texture never comes out right, in my experience.

Variations: You can make yellow corn or blue corn frybread by substituting yellow or blue corn flour for a portion of the wheat flour. If you simply want a hint of color and flavor, use a half-cup of corn flour to 2.5 cups of wheat flour. If you want more corn flavor and texture, you can 50% corn flour and 50% wheat flour. And if you want what’s known here as pah’wen, which is much like a thick, chewy corn tortilla, you can use two cups of corn flour to one of wheat flour (which is what I made yesterday).

You can also use the frybread as a base for an entrée instead of a snack or dessert. The Indian Taco is actually no taco at all, but a combination of meat, vegetables, chile, and cheese atop a piece of frybread. Variations of the Indian Taco are another diary altogether.

Finally, leftovers: You can reheat frybread in the microwave on high for 10-20 seconds to make it soft and warm again.

That’s it this week, with a big thank you to Aji for the great recipe and tips. –TaMara

35 replies
  1. 1
    Violet says:

    I’m going out for dinner tonight. I’m exhausted and even though I bought food to cook I can’t face the kitchen. We’re eating out. I do it so infrequently it feels like a real luxury.

  2. 2
    PurpleGirl says:

    Back in 1990 I was outside Phoenix for an arbitration proceeding. I had some fry bread at the fancy resort where the trial was being held and our staff was staying (The Wigwam). I fell in love with it and I bought a cookbook that had several fry bread recipes but I’ve never tried making it.

    ETA: I love Indian breads, warmed and buttered. I like the chewiness. I often have them with spiced tea.

  3. 3

    @PurpleGirl: Indian from India or Native American?

  4. 4
    PurpleGirl says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: India.

    ETA: For a person raised on plain German meat and potatoes, I like a diversity of foreign flavors.

  5. 5
    opiejeanne says:

    Sunset magazine had an article years ago called something like “what’s so Navajo about this taco?” It included a fry bread recipe and a great chili recipe. I’ll dig around for it when I can get to my computer.

  6. 6
    Elmo says:

    I love naan bread the way some people love their children, but I’ve never been able to make it.

    Once upon a time, I represented an Indian couple who had a small tandoori restaurant, and he showed me how he made naan bread- he took the raw dough in his hand, reached down into the 700 degree tandoori oven, and slapped it onto the side of the oven where it stuck. He had absolutely no hair on his forearms after years of doing this. But his naan was to die for.

  7. 7

    @Elmo: I have a recipe from Madhuri Jaffrey which uses the oven at home, while nothing beats a tandoor, this comes a close second.

  8. 8

    @PurpleGirl: I too lubs Indian flat breads. The restaurants in the US represent about one tenth of what is available in India.
    Have you ever had bhakri? They are mostly non-wheat flat breads rolled by flattening the dough with your palms directly on the griddle. Very rustic and delicious.

  9. 9

    I know this sounds like an OT but Yorkshire Puddings are pretty much the same thing, except they are baked in an oven. Take one cup of eggs, one cup of milk, one cup of flour, beat until mixed and then leave for a couple of hours. Place a knob of fat into pudding tins (you can use large muffin tins if you don’t have Yorkshire Pudding Tins) and place in the oven to melt. Once melted pour batter into melted fat and return to the oven. Bake until risen and tops are golden brown. Serve with gravy and roast beef, or for a sweet treat, butter and jam.

  10. 10


    An Afghan restaurant recently opened here in Jacksonville, NC and it was fascinating to watch the guy make the Naan. He did it over a spherical griddle, as opposed to a tandoor, but as you say it was to die for. At a pinch Wal Mart (believe it or not) does a really nice Naan (once it is heated up) that makes for a really nice dipping bread for curry.

  11. 11

    @Litlebritdiftrnt: Sounds delicious.

    ETA: Trader Joe Naan is not half bad, but it is a calorie bomb.

  12. 12
    PurpleGirl says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: I’ve never had bhakri but I will look for it the next time I have Indian food. I do like the Trader Joe’s naan. Besides being a caloric bomb, I shouldn’t have bread at all but I sometimes cheat.

  13. 13
    Howard Beale IV says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: Hey, the Chicago Tribune sez it’s Kitteh Season!

  14. 14
    Cacti says:

    The best Fry Bread restaurant on earth is Fry Bread House in Phoenix and Mesa. It’s a couple of modest restaurants, owned by a Tohono O’odham family…

    That happens to have a James Beard Foundation award.

    The green chili beef with hatch chilis is the shiznit. The red chili beef and posole is off the chain too.

  15. 15
    PurpleGirl says:

    @Howard Beale IV: Yup, we are going into Kitten Season. It’s important to spay/neuter your animal companions and to support no-kill shelters.

    ETA: Those kittens are cute… but then is there a kitten who isn’t cute?

  16. 16
    HRA says:

    I believe almost every country has a version of fried bread or dough. The one my Mom made and I make is called peetolee (English way of pronunciation.
    2 pkgs. dry yeast
    4 c. flour
    1 tsp. salt
    2 eggs
    lukewarm water
    oil for frying
    Prepare yeast in lukewarm water. Put flour in a large bowl, make a well and add salt, yeast and eggs. Mix and begin adding water till batter is thick and gently slides from a spoon. Beat well. Cover and allow to rise for 1/2 hour. Beat down for 1 minute and cover to rise for 1/2 an hour.
    Place oil in large fry pan. Heat and drop large tbsps. of batter in pan. Fry as many as pan will hold. Turn over and fry until golden brown. Remove with slotted spoon and put on a paper towel cover platter or flat pan. Sprinkle with sugar or cinnamon sugar.

  17. 17
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    One of the best sandwiches I ever had was venison on fry bread at the Bear River Pow-wow in Lac du Flambeau, WI.

  18. 18
    Helen says:

    @Elmo: My friend Mubasher from Indian tells me that naan is one of the most smuggled thing into America. Apparently it goes bad in a day, maybe 3. I tried his mom’s “illegal” naan. Yeah I get why it is smuggled. I see naan bread in my local organic market. In a plastic bag, Like Wonder Bread. Been there certainly more than 3 days, I will NOT try it. Not after Mubasher’s mom’s naan.

  19. 19
    Mnemosyne says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    I don’t remember if they still have it, but they used to have a frozen naan at TJ’s. That was good because it was hot out of the oven.

  20. 20
    opiejeanne says:

    I hope this works. I’ve never tried to copy/paste with my phone before.

    The recipe is from Sunset magazine, probably in the 80s. I use pink beans instead of pinto.
    And no, it didn’t work.
    Navajo Tacos

  21. 21

    @Mnemosyne: That’s the one I am talking about.

  22. 22
    SiubhanDuinne says:


    I know this sounds like an OT but Yorkshire Puddings

    Yorkshire Puddings are never OT.

  23. 23
    PurpleGirl says:

    @Mnemosyne: They still have it, I buy it there. What one TJs had that I can’t find any more is crisp flat bread in snack size (I can’t remember the name now). I liked to have them with sour cream like chips.

  24. 24
    Mnemosyne says:

    @schrodinger’s cat:

    Our TJ’s also has one in the bread aisle with the tortillas and pita breads, so I wasn’t sure. It’s definitely a calorie bomb, unfortunately.

  25. 25
  26. 26
    the Conster says:

    Sopaipillas with honey and a bowl of green chile with pinto beans. Santa Fe style.

  27. 27
    Howard Beale IV says:

    @schrodinger’s cat: Yep-and there be a dilute calico in the mix-too bad I’m not in Chicago anymore. My Ozzie (red Persian) has now got his summer coat, and now that the snow’s almost gone in the Twin Cities it’s time to open the windows and air out the ol’ homestead, vacuum up the fur from the carpet and fire up the Lampe Berger fragrances.

  28. 28
    Steeplejack says:

    I’ve got nothing on fry bread, but I did finally get two cookbooks today that I’ve been eyeballing for a long time: Grace Young’s Stir-Frying to the Sky’s Edge and Robb Walsh’s The Tex-Mex Cookbook. I’m psyched about both, but I think I’m going to start with the latter, as I’ve been really lusting for Mexican lately and feel like I have less of a clue about how to do it at home.

  29. 29
    opiejeanne says:

    I finally got to the computer, and this is the Navajo taco recipe from Sunset magazine, probably around 1986. The chili recipe is very good, but I use pink beans instead of pinto, personal preference. The fry bread in the recipe is very good.

  30. 30
    Steeplejack says:


    Thanks for coming back with that. I was interested.

  31. 31

    Making fry bread is an art up here on the rez and there are endless arguments and teasing over who makes the best. For something with so few ingredients you would be surprised how much it can vary, mostly in texture. Go to a pow-wow and look for the longest line.

  32. 32
    becca says:

    Stuffed sopapillas that we used to get at a Mexican butcher shop in Albuquerque were amazing. I have only recently mastered the puffery. Bump the dough on the sides of the pan and you have lovely puffing for the stuffing.

  33. 33
    Abo gato says:

    Here’s what I do for just about all the bread I make. I use a variation of the artisan bread in 5 minutes guys. In a large plastic bin with a lid, mix 3 cups warm water, 1 tablespoon each of instant yeast, coarse salt, and sugar. Add 5 cups unbleached flour and then 1 and 1/2 cup of semolina flour. Mix well and let sit so it rises, usually a couple of hours. To make a round loaf of bread, pull out a grapefruit size ball and round it up. Let rise on parchment paper for an hour, slash the top and bake in a pre-heated over at 475 for 20 minutes, remove the parchment and bake another 15 minutes. For pizza, pull out an orange size ball and roll/stretch it out on parchment to a nice thin crust and top with what you want. To make an awesome naan, pull out a golf ball size and roll it out then put it in a hot cast iron skillet with hot ghee and fry it on both sides till done. Store the dough in the refrigerator to use when you want . I have a bin in the fridge at all times and bake bread several times a week after I get home from work, plus Friday is almost always pizza night.

  34. 34
    TaMara (BHF) says:

    @S. cerevisiae: By far my favorite comment of the thread.

  35. 35
    opiejeanne says:

    @Steeplejack: There was a baseball game that had to be watched on the computer when we got back to our cabin, and it ran to 11 innings.

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