Deliciously crispy on the outside, soft and chewy on the inside, Navajo Tacos made with Indian Fry Bread are topped with a meaty mixture of taco seasoned ground beef and beans, then all the fixings like sour cream, shredded lettuce, cheddar cheese, and tomatoes!
Some of our other favorite weeknight meal ideas are Homemade Hamburger Helper, Meatloaf Hamburger Patties, and homemade pizza made with the BEST Pizza Dough Recipe.
Navajo Tacos (Indian Fry Bread)
If you have never had a Navajo Taco before, now is the time to remedy that situation. The history behind this dish and the importance of the Navajo taco is something I was only vaguely aware of before deciding to make this as a recipe for my American Eats series while I'm looking at the favorite foods of the state of Arizona.
Navajo Tacos were voted the State Dish of Arizona in a 1995 poll by the Arizona Republic newspaper and show up on many lists as one of the foods that Arizona is best known for.
But I could have shared this for South Dakota, which declared Indian fry bread to be the official state bread of South Dakota in 2005, or Oklahoma, which is home to many Native Americans and hosts a large number of pow-wows each year where the Navajo Taco (sometimes just called an Indian taco, since it has been adopted and adapted by many tribes since it's creation) is the most popular fare.
This history behind Navajo fry bread is a painful one, as is much of Native American history. It was created in 1864 using the simplest of ingredients - the flour, salt and lard that was supplied by the United States government to the Navajo people of Arizona when they were forced to leave their historical homeland and march 300-miles by foot on a journey that has come to be known as the "the Long Walk" to New Mexico, where they were to resettle.
The new land did not support their traditional staples of vegetables and beans, so the fry bread came to be a big part of their diet and culture. These large discs of fried dough can be served savory or sweet, take very little time to prepare, and are made with the same, simple ingredients as when they were first created.
How to Make Indian Fry Bread
There are many ways and recipes for how to make indian fry bread.
One way is to just use any regular bread dough made with yeast but instead of shaping it into loaves, pinch off small sections of dough and pat it out flat, then fry it. This is how I grew up enjoying indian fry bread - whenever my mom would make loaves of bread, she would pinch off dough and fry it up for us to enjoy hot with honey dripping all over it.
In Utah, these are called "scones", which are nothing like traditional English scones whatsoever. You could even use thawed Rhodes roll dough or even canned Pillsbury biscuits that you just flatten out and fry.
But really it takes hardly any extra time or effort to make fry bread dough (I have always used this Amish white bread, which is awesome for fry bread made with yeast) from scratch. But traditional, authentic indian fry bread was made without yeast, and they are delicious too, with the added benefit of requiring a shorter resting or rising time. So that's the version I'm sharing with this recipe today.
To make indian fry bread, you just mix together flour (for true, authentic fry bread it should be Bluebird flour), salt, baking powder, and water, then let the dough rest for a bit before kneading it, letting rest for a few minutes, then dividing it into eight equal sections by pinching off golf ball-sized amounts and flattening them out. Then fry the discs of dough in hot oil for a few minutes.
It is seriously so simple and so good! I just use my skillet and about an inch of oil to fry them, so it's pretty easy clean-up.
And while these are also good topped with honey for a sweet treat, they are traditionally served as a dinner item with meat, beans, and all the taco fixin's you can think of.
Really though, Navajo tacos are just as good with shredded beef, carnitas, chili, or pulled pork are the more traditional ground beef and beans.
Basically anything you might otherwise put in a taco shell or on nachos is going to be tasty on this crispy, fried shell! I'm including a meat topping option in the recipe today that is kind of a cross between taco meat and a chili that I think is really good, so you have lots of options to choose!
Serve it up with pico de gallo, lettuce, tomatoes, salsa, sour cream, cheese (anything from cheddar, to colby jack, to pepperjack, to cotija), black olives, green onions, sliced avocado and let family members create their own perfect Navajo taco!
I always do my best to research recipes from other cultures thoroughly to represent them as best I can. If this recipe is from your country or culture and you have suggestions for how I can improve its authenticity, please let me know in the comments below! It's important to us to share beloved foods of other cultures with as much accuracy as possible, while also considering things like accessibility of ingredients and ease of preparation for most home cooks.
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Navajo Tacos (Indian Fry Bread)
Indian Fry Bread
- 2 cups all-purpose flour (preferably Bluebird flour to be authentic)
- 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup warm water
- 3 cups oil for frying
- 1 Tablespoon oil
- ½ yellow onion, diced
- 1 lb. ground beef
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ⅛ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- ⅛ teaspoon chipotle chili powder
- 1 (15-ounce) can dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 (14.5-ounce) can petite diced tomatoes, drained
- 1 (4-ounce) can mild diced green chilies
- Sour cream
- Shredded cheese
- Diced tomatoes
- Shredded lettuce
- Sliced black olives
- Sliced avocado
- Pico de gallo
Indian Fry Bread
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the warm water and mix using a fork until a dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes, then transfer to a clean bowl and cover tightly in plastic wrap. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes.
- Divide the dough into 8 equal sections by pinching off golf-ball sized balls of dough, then pat and roll out the dough balls into roughly 6-inch discs on a lightly floured surface. Keep them covered with plastic wrap while you prepare to fry them.
- Heat 3 cups of oil in a large skillet or frying pan over medium heat for about 5 minutes until the oil temperature reaches between 350 and 360 degrees F. Working in batches, fry each disc in the hot oil until the dough is golden brown on one side, then carefully flip with tongs and fry on the other side. Set on a paper towel to drain oil and stick in a warm oven to stay hot while the other fry bread is cooked.
- In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat, then add the onions and cook for 2-3 minutes, just until they begin to soften. Add the meat and brown with the onions.
- When the meat is no longer pink, add all of the spices, kidney beans, tomatoes, and chilies, and decrease the heat to medium-low. Stir everything together, then cover and simmer for 10 minutes, then use to top Indian fry bread for Navajo tacos.
- Add any toppings you like to the base of fry bread and taco mixture, piling it high.
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Reader questions and reviews
Tried these for my first attempt. Turned out golden brown on the outside and soft
on inside. Having no point of reference for Navajo fry bread, I thought these were great. They were gone by the time I finished cooking.
I'm glad you enjoyed these! Thanks for the review!
I was wondering are the nutrition facts for the fry bread only or fry bread and topping?
They should be for everything, but keep in mind that I'm not a food scientist or nutritionist or anything. I did the best I could using online tools for calculating nutrition.
How would you know?
These aren't Indian unless made by Indians 😂🤣 you can make rice but it ain't authentic Chinese food.
Yikes. This is dumb.
Ok. Don't make Spaghetti or anything that isn't Native American anymore. Idiot. You should be glad people want to enjoy food from your culture. Take your hate somewhere else.
its called culture... and u do not know if any ones native american
I was visiting my sister and her family in Texas for Christmas vacation. I was there for about a week and a half. I decided that I would make some fry bread lost my recipe that I had came across this one super super easy everyone absolutely loved especially my niece.
So easy. You could do so many things with this dough.
This recipe was given to me by an old Navajo woman in Reno about 45 years ago.
Indian Fry Bread
1 pkg yeast....1 cup Luke warm water...1 egg...1 cup Luke warm milk...
1 tsp. baking powder...1/4 cup sugar....1 1/4 tsp salt...5 1/2 cups flour.
Dissolve yeast in the 1 cup of warm water, add egg, milk and sugar. Whip until foamy. Add flour, salt and baking powder and mix to a thick dough.
Cover and let stand for 15 mins. Roll out 1/4 in thick on a floured board then cut 4x4 inch squares. Fry in hot oil 400* to 500* degrees. Just till their a light golden and puffed up. Dough may be saved in a air tight container for up to 3 weeks and used as needed.
Original recipe sounds great, but is great in a pinch making above recipe.
These look yummy, but wasn’t corn ever used?
I don't recall ever seeing corn included in Navajo tacos although I'm sure you could add it to all the other toppings.
No, corn wasn’t used. These were created as a way to survive in internment camps. The rations included flour. These aren’t a native food but were a means of survival that became ingrained in culture.
Want to thank you Madonna I find that very interesting an will have to try it. Also would like to thank Amy cause I used her recipe an turned out great.
I live in a city with a large Native population and this is a staple at their church fundraisers. This recipe is very authentic tasting. Thank you!
Hi there... I'm very interested in making this recipe for a crowd. Is it possible to make them an hour or so in advance and keep warm or will the dough become tough? Any tips or advice? Thanks in advance. Looks like a fantastic recipe!
I haven't ever made them in advance, but I think that as long as they remain covered and don't dry out, they should be fine to make an hour in advance.
It can't be Navajo tacos unless you are using Bluebird Flour....
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I made this last night and it was fantastic. We have a NA restaurant in our neighborhood and the bread tasted absolutely as good and the meat sauce was delicious. Nicely done. I did make one variation for texture by substituting 1/2 cup of wheat flour and it was amazing.
I'm so glad you enjoyed them! Good to know that the wheat flour substitute worked well!
Can you use Almond Flour instead of regular flour? If so how much
No, I don't think that almond flour would work with this recipe. I think that the fry bread really needs the gluten of regular flour to combine and make the right texture.
Use the Bob Mills gluten free baking flour. It won't be exactly the same texture, but very close. With celiac, we have to use the best available. 😁
I tried to make these last night and the dough was so sticky to the point where it stuck entirely to all my fingers while kneading! I realized I was not going to be able to roll the dough out at that point so I added more flour and that was a bad idea..They fried up into thin flat hard discs! I live in Florida so I'm wondering if being at sea level with high humidity was the culprit? Any suggestions on how to alter the dough without completely changing the soft texture once cooked? I have plenty of the navajo taco meat left over (which was AMAZING btw!!!) and would like to try to make more of the fry bread tonight. HELP!!
Oh no! I don't know if it's a sea level thing because I'm in CA at a fairly low sea level myself, but I guess it could be the humidity. Rather than adding additional flour to the dough, maybe try dusting your hands and kneading surface with a little additional flour as needed so the dough doesn't stick so much? Because thin hard discs are no good but the dough shouldn't be so sticky that you cannot work with it. I'm glad you enjoyed the navajo taco meat!
Be sure that your baking powder is fresh. It should be replaced about every 6 months. Also, make sure the added liquid is not hotter than 110 degrees. I would just a tad more flour because of this . Good luck!
Mine did the same thing, I think what I should have done was to add the water little at a time until it formed a ball of dough instead of adding the water all at once. It way to wet and sticky, I added flour bit at a time until it was just soft dough but when I fried the bread it became too tough to chew. The filling was really good figure it be good as burritos if nothing else.
The stickiness problem occurs because the ratio between flour and water in the recipe is off. Standard bread recipes usually combine flour to water at 3:1, or 3 cups flour to 1 cup water. The recipe's ratio is 2:1, which is the combination used for a runny batter like pancakes. The commenter who said to use 3/4 cup of liquid for this recipe is right on. For each cup of flour, use 1/3 cup of water (5 T + 1 t.) for a 3:1 ratio. Two-thirds of a cup of water will give you 10 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons. Three-fourths of a cup gives you 12 tablespoons, where the extra 1 T + 1 tsp. makes the dough slightly softer. If your flour is ground from older wheat, you will need more water. If it's ground from newer wheat, you will need less. Add extra water, if needed, by the tablespoon until your dough is soft, but not sticky. DO NOT knead this bread! Pat it around gently. You are essentially making a biscuit recipe without the extra fat that produces the flaky layers. When you knead biscuit dough too much, it gets tough. Southerners call them beaten biscuits, and they bake up more like hardtack than a traditional biscuit. If the dough is too wet, not only does it stick to everything, it also makes your bread very crisp. (Think of French ovens that use steam during baking to make baguettes crusty.) TRY THIS METHOD: Combine dry ingredients in a bowl. Add 3/4 of water and stir until the dough becomes a cohesive ball in the bowl. Flour the counter and tip the ball of dough out onto it. Roll it around in the flour so that the outside is not sticky. Use your hands to tear the dough into 8 roughly equal pieces. Roll them around in the flour so that they are not sticky. Start your oil heating on the stove. Put more flour on the counter. GENTLY PAT or ROLL a ball into a round of dough. Fry the round and put it on several layers of paper towels to blot excess oil. Put the round into a napkin-lined basket and cover it so it stays warm. Repeat. You can also use a warm oven at 200-250 degrees to hold cooked rounds. DO NOT STACK UNCOOKED ROUNDS. IF YOU DO, THEY WILL STICK TOGETHER AND MAKE A BEASTLY MESS. I hope this helps with the sticky mess.
I made two batches, one is really wet and sticky and the other seems to be much better. lol. Both are resting. Ihope they turn out! Is the dough generally wet or on the dry side? Thank you
The dough is typically not so sticky that it will be all over your fingers as you are working with it. If it is, try adding a little extra flour to your hands and the kneading surface to keep it from sticking.
Thanks for including the governments abuse of Indians in your story about Indian fry bread... really tragic that we slaughtered an entire race of people and makes me think differently about the taco itself; but anyway...
I had these in 1974 at a Navajo Indian festival and the taste was memorable I am now vegetarian and look forward to Beyond meat or veggie dog and all the festive toppings.
Wasted ingredients trying to make this dough turned into sticky mess
I also wind up with a very sticky mess using this recipe. Might be the humidity, I live on the Southern Oregon Coast, within 20 miles of the Pacific. So, I haven't succeeded in rolling it out, but just throwing globs in the oil does work, and its a wonderful taste and texture. I'd sure like to figure out a way to wind up with something not sticky, though. Maybe I should add the water in parts until it becomes a dough? Also, tried some techniques recommended for working with very wet dough without success. Also, perhaps a short rest after mixing to let the water absorb into the flour/dough better?
That's too bad! Yes, letting it rest can help. You might also try adding another tablespoon of flour at a time until you get a workable dough.
This was so simple but tasty to make...covered mine in green pork chili, beans 5 blend of cheese tomatoes guacamole..yum
This recipe isn’t fully detailed. The dough was very sticky I had to add so much flour .
For those who are having the “sticky” problem, please try to remember (I know this will sound weird) that even though flour is dry, there are variations of dry caused by each cooks climate. You may be in an area with more humidity or it might be more dry. I have often heard that baking is a science and that exact measurements are required. That is true to a point, but there are times that a little adjusting could be necessary. If you dough is sticky before you ever pull it out of the bowl, add 1 or 2 Tbls at a time and continue to mix. If your dough is too dry 1 Tbls of water at a time and continue to mix. I have baked for over 40 years and have learned that some flexibility may be needed. Good luck!
I’m looking to make a large batch of these, can I use a deep fryer to speed up the process?
I'm sure you could, but I haven't tried it myself. I've seen it done at the fair though!
In the late 70's I had the opportunity to live in Kayenta Arizona and became friends with Fannie Todechene. She introduced me to the Navajo way of life and fried bread. It was the best time of my life!
A restaurant by my house was called Diné Cafe. I grew up eating there then as an adult single man that didn't know how to cook, I ate there 3 times a week until they closed. They made Navajo burritos that had the meat inside the fry bread then green chili and cheese on top. Do you know how to make them? I ask because the taco topping seems the same.
No, I don't know how they would do that! But my guess would be to make the meat filling and wrap the dough around it before frying.
The dough was an awful goopy mess, I don't know what kind of flour they used but this did not work at all.
Just tried the fry bread! Had it September in South Dakota and at the Grand Canyon! The recipe works really well.the cooked ones tasted good but you couldn’t cut them! Did we overcook them maybe?
Sounds like they were possibly cooked a little too long!
It turn out very well for me . I followed the recipe to the tee.
Just tried this version of Indian tacos. I really liked the fry bread bc it’s flatter than I’m used to. I’m not a fan of the big puffy bread even tho it’s how I grew up eating them in Oklahoma. I would suggest instead of adding a bunch of flour if it’s sticky to spray your hands with non stick spray. If you live in an area with lots of humidity and it’s a particular humid day, add the liquid in slowly until it comes together to a ball. Like biscuit dough. You want to treat the dough similar. You might need to refrigerate it for 15 minutes and let it dry out a bit too. I really enjoyed the new take on the bread. Thanks for sharing the recipe! If you want to do big batches at once my mom always put them in big paper bags. She was usually in charge of bringing the fry bread for potlucks. Fry bread goes great with a big pot of beans instead of cornbread for something different if you have left overs. Also as a dessert with honey. As far as special flour I’ve seen plenty of full bloods use self rising flour just bought at Walmart. I never seen one of the grandmas on a reservation use amazon. If anyone is going to know the recipe it’d be those hands.
can you use self rising flour?
I have never tried it, but I know some folks use self-rising flour to make Navajo tacos. I'm just not sure what adjustments would need to be made.
Yes, you can use self-rising flour. It's standard in Southern baking. Self-rising flour is easy to make at home. Mix 1 cup all-purpose flour with 1-1/2 tsps. of baking powder and 1/4 tsp. salt. Be sure to mix it well with a whisk to get the baking powder and salt distributed evenly.
My husband is a native Arizonan and I lived there for 11 years. We now live in Hershey, PA. No fry bread at fairs or carnivals around here! I made this recipe tonight and served with beans, which was the way to eat it in AZ in the 90's. Delicious!! Next time I'm going to cover with honey. Thank you for the walk down memory lane.
The amount of liquid should be 3/4 cups. Indian fry bread can be made several ways, however, the amount of liquid is always 3/4 cups and then you add by tablespoons if you should need to.
Had my bonus daughter help me make these. She over kneeded the dough so they where a little tough but when I made them the next time they came out perfect. Was told if I add a teaspoon of sugar while making the dough it will make them extra light and fluffy. Will be using that tip tonight. Will update to let y'all know!
Made these for the 3rd time tonight. I added a tablespoon of sugar after salt is added in dough. BEST batch yet! My kids ( 13, 9, & 2) and husband devoured them! The fry bread was crispy on the outside and so fluffy on the inside. For the meat mixture I used ranch style beans. It was the perfect consistency!
Could Navajo fry bread be used for piggy in a blanket? I think that's what they're called. I just wanted to do something different. We love the Navajo fry bread just by itself.
That's a great idea! I haven't tried it, but maybe?
Wonderful! Easy directions and a great meal!
Love these! My parents didn't know what to make last night and I told them we were having Navajo tacos. We sent over this recipe and they loved it too! I swap out the kidney beans for chili beans and use 2 cans of rotel instead of the diced tomatoes and green chilies. I like the flavors better that way. Thanks for sharing.
The reason so many people are having a problem with the dough is most likely because you don‘t have any lard in the dough recipe. My sister-in-law is Navajo and I have had these several times and also have helped making the bread. It is also very important to let it rest long enough.
I’m an America, but had the pleasure and unique experience of actually living on a reservation back in the early 90s. I learned so much about Indian culture and how kind and caring the tribe I lived around were. They taught me how to take care of my child and how to cook the best Indian tacos ever. It was truly an experience I’ve never forgotten. These tacos are amazing!!
They're Americans you know. You don't need to qualify you're an American and had the pleasure of living on a Rez. So did btw but I realized they were not a tourist attraction but Americans
Excellent! I made this for dinner tonight, and everyone really enjoyed it. It was perfect comfort food for me. I grew up in Nevada and would get these at street fairs whenever they were available. I moved to Utah, where everyone calls them scones... which is still weird to me. This recipe is easy, delicious, and just what I needed tonight! Thank you!
The secret is the flour. Bluebird flour, to be exact. An aficionado can spot the difference a mile away. If you're looking to just do your take on traditional Native American food, okay. But if you're trying to keep it real, Bluebird flour.
Thank you for sharing your great information. I read your blog daily . It give me so much knowledge and ideas.
Here in the Southeastern we have Marth White flour that makes the best of Everything!
I mean Martha White. Forgive my Arthritis fingers! Lol.
I don’t know if the cafe is still open but I used to eat these tacos in Lawton, OK at Lee’s (sorry, don’t remember the rest of the name). I love tacos of all kinds but Indian Tacos are a favorite even though I haven’t been able to find them anywhere else & I no longer live in Lawton. Your recipe looks like the ones at Lee’s, only smaller, theirs were piled high with toppings and the fry bread was big enough to overhang an eight or ten inch plate. Breaks my heart to say it may be 6 months before I can try them again, I have chronic back problems & need another surgery, right now I can’t stand more than a very few minutes at a time so cooking is limited to microwave frozen meals or carry out my son picks up. I really messed up not teaching him to cook when he was younger.
I did not remember the exact name but I was tried similar to this last month with my friends at the party. It was cheese and some chicken has been added too. By the way, this recipe is also looking good to have a try on.
They were perfect, easy, and delicious. I am going to invite friends for Navajo tacos. Thank you!
Ummm. . . those are NOT authentic. . . they are too small, thick and doughy looking. Your recipe needs more baking powder and hot water for that amount of flour and at least a tablespoon of Snow Cap Lard in the dough to make it much more pliable. And, NOBODY puts cumin in their chili beans that goes on top! Bleh! We use Kroger's Kuner's canned chili beans with all the seasonings already mixed in and after the hamburger is cooked and the grease drained, just add it to that and mix. And we use pinto beans, not kidney beans! Sooo tired of bilaganna's "interpreting" things the way they want to and not correctly! 🙁 Another FYI: Nobody uses yeast, sugar, powdered milk or milk of any kind in the dough!
Thank you for this.
To people complaining about it being too sticky…have you never been told to add more flour if it’s too sticky? Mine was a little sticky so I added a tbl more at a time during the kneading process, simple.
Mine turned out wonderful and I just kept an eye on them as they fried.
I served them with regular taco meat, but hey were a hit
These are an absolute at my house I make them vegan just add rice instead of meat and everybody loves them super cheap too
I found the fry bread rather tough and chewy, but MAN, is that a great taco seasoning blend! Definitely going to keep that.
Omg I tried these last week and they were DELICIOUS! I grew up eating fry bread but never tried making it myself, so glad I finally did. Was definitely a hit with everyone!
These were terrific! I thought they would be denser, but they were light and crispy! The edges were definitely thicker, but the middle was thin and crispy! Like and indian tostada!! Would 100 make a again!