Frybread 101: Yummy Recipes from Five Tribes

Photo by RoseMary Diaz Traditional Bannock frybread was adopted from the Scottish fur traders’ griddle cakes recipe and often incorporates dried fruits, nuts, and jerked meats, including venison, elk, and buffalo.

Now that we’ve discussed frybread basics, it’s time to bring your skills to the (lightly floured) board.

Here, we offer a selection of recipes to help you do just that.

Each of these variations is based on the basic fry bread formula (see “Frybread 101”), and represents a recipe specific to a tribe or tribal region of the country.

Of course, it goes without saying that everybody’s frybread recipe is the best. So why not try them all? It’s certain you’ll soon have a favorite or two. Just remember, no one ever gets away with sneaking the last piece, for there’s always an incriminating crumb waiting to betray your fry bread infraction!

Apache Frybread

Makes 8-12 breads

4 cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup baking powder

1 tablespoon salt

3 cups water

5 pounds lard

Mix flour, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl. Slowly add in the water, a little at a time, using a fork to blend until the mixture forms into dough. Knead the dough until all the lumps are gone, about 5 minutes. Cover with plastic wrap or a clean kitchen towel and let the dough rest for about an hour.

Meanwhile, melt the lard in a Dutch oven or large cast iron pot over medium-high heat. When it just begins to smoke, the oil is hot enough to begin frying. (Drop a small piece of dough into the oil to test; if it quickly rises to the top, it’s ready.) Reduce heat a bit to prevent oil from over-smoking.

Take a piece of the dough and shape it into a golf ball-size ball. Stretch the dough into a disk-like shape. Continue to stretch to 8-10 inches in diameter. Carefully place the dough-disk into the oil and let it brown on one side for about 1 ½ minutes. Turn over bread and brown the other side for another 1 ½ minutes. Remove the frybread from the oil and let it drain on paper towels. Repeat process with remaining dough. Serve hot ungarnished, or with the garnish of your choice.

Bannock Frybread

Makes 15 breads

7 cups all-purpose flour

1 ½ cups lukewarm water

1 ½ teaspoons salt

2 ¼ teaspoons white sugar

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

¾ teaspoon instant yeast

Oil for frying

Historic note/optional ingredients: Traditional Bannock frybread was adopted from the Scottish fur traders’ griddle cakes recipe and often incorporates dried fruits, nuts, and jerked meats, including venison, elk, and buffalo.

In a large bowl, add flour and make a crater in the center. In a separate bowl, combine water, salt, oil, and yeast. Pour mixture into the flour-crater and mix together by hand to form dough. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently knead for 10 minutes. Place dough in a sealed container or covered bowl and let rise at room temperature for 2 hours.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to a ½-inch thickness then cut into 2 ½-inch squares. In a large frying pan, heat 2 inches of oil over medium heat. When oil begins to bubble, drop in a square of dough and turn three times so it puffs up evenly. Fry until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes on each side. Repeat process, frying several pieces at a time, until all the dough has been fried.

Cooking tip: Use lukewarm water; too-hot or too-cold water will not allow the yeast to properly activate.

Photo by RoseMary Diaz Pictured are some of the ingredients that can be added to the Bannock frybread, things like raisins, dried elk meat, berries, pine nuts, as well as yeast, salt, pepper, and dried herbs.

Blackfeet Frybread

Makes 6-8 breads

4 cups flour

1 tablespoon powdered milk

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 ½ cups warm water

Oil for frying

Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add water. Knead until soft and set aside for one hour. Shape into small, evenly-sized balls. Flatten each ball into a circle by hand or roll out with a rolling pin. Fry in a skillet half-full of hot oil until golden brown on both sides.

Cherokee Frybread

Makes 2-4 breads

1 cup flour

½ teaspoon salt

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 egg

½ cup warm milk

Oil for frying

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl, adding more flour if necessary to make a stiff dough. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface until very thin. Cut into 2×3-inch strips and drop into hot oil. Brown on both sides. Serve hot.

Chickasaw Fry Bread

Makes 12-15 breads

2 cups sifted flour

½ teaspoon salt

4 teaspoons baking powder

1 egg

½ cup warm milk

Combine flour, salt, and baking powder in a large bowl. Beat egg and stir into the dry mixture.

Add milk to make the dough soft. Knead dough lightly on floured surface. Roll dough out to ½-inch thickness. Cut into 2×3-inch strips and cut a small slit in the center of each strip. Drop into hot oil and brown on both sides.

Dough preparation tips: Adjust liquid and flour measurements to achieve a smooth dough texture. Do not over-knead the dough, which will result in a tough, chewy bread. “Flour,” “unbleached flour,” and “all-purpose flour” are used interchangeably. For a smoother, more pastry-like dough, sift flour once through a fine sieve. Adjust the size of the breads to your preference and serving plans. For instance, if you’re planning to serve them as appetizers, make smaller breads. Final yield will depend on the size of each bread.

Garnish suggestions: The possibilities are virtually endless when it comes to frybread garnishes. For a main course, top with ground beef, steak, or chicken, cheese, diced onion and tomato, green or red chile or salsa, avocado, sour cream, and finely-chopped cilantro. To tame a sweet tooth, try apple butter/sauce, butter, honey, honey-butter, cinnamon, jam, jelly, fruit preserves, maple or agave syrup, or powdered sugar. How about an Indian sundae? Garnish with vanilla ice cream, chocolate and/or caramel sauce, whipped cream, chopped nuts, and a Maraschino cherry.

Reminders: Use tongs or two forks (or a cooking-glove-covered hand) to very gently place the rolled/ready-to-be-fried dough into the hot oil to prevent splashing. That said, the hotter the oil, the less cooking time required. That equals less fat (and fewer calories and carcinogens) absorbed into the bread, and ensures a light, fluffy interior texture with the requisite crisp, golden-flaky finish. Finally, watch the “smoke factor: “Shimmering” not “smoking” is what you’re after.

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