I love bread. Every culture has its own unique version, which means there’s no shortage of variety. You know Greek pita bread, chewy chapati breads in India, the soft focaccia in Italy… I could go on forever.
I recently learned how to make fry bread, a staple among the Navajo and other tribes in the southwest. Back in my 20s, I had the honor of spending time in Tuba City, Arizona—the Navajo nation’s largest community. That’s where I fell in love with Navajo fry bread. It’s crispy yet doughy, unspiced and yet unforgettable. I ate it alongside chicken fried steak, and when I went back to New York, I thought I’d never enjoy “the real thing” again.
Fast forward to present day, when my editor slipped me a recipe for Fry Bread, and I promised I’d share my insights!
How to Make Fry Bread
It can be served up with ground beef to make Navajo tacos or dusted with powdered sugar to make dessert. Navajo fry bread is simple, flexible and delicious.
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup hot water
- Oil for deep-fat frying
The only challenging part of the prep was pulling out my giant cast-iron pan, which weighs approximately a billion pounds. It’s a kitchen workhorse, though, so it’s always worth the struggle. I figured that would be especially true in this case, since Navajo fry bread really wants to be cooked in a well cared for cast-iron pan.
Next, I combined the flour, baking powder and salt and stirred in the hot water to form a soft dough, which I covered and let stand for 30 minutes. When I came back, it was still warm to the touch. Dividing the dough in three, I rolled each piece to form a large, flat, pancake—quickly so as not to overwork the dough.
Then I heated about an inch of vegetable oil to 375° (my deep-fry thermometer of choice is this one).
Frying the fry bread
I laid the pieces of dough in the skillet, and they immediately puffed up a bit. I turned them over as they turned golden brown—about 30 seconds—using a strainer meant for frying like this one. I removed them to drain on paper towels as soon as the other side became golden.
I served the bread, still hot, with apricot jam on the side, and it was gone in under two minutes. (I wasn’t alone!) Next time I make it—which obviously is going to be soon—instead of serving it as a sweet, I’ll pile it high with taco fixings to make Navajo tacos. I might even serve it alongside one of these winning stew recipes.