By Jalah Danks & Laura Pestock
What is frybread?
Frybread is a type of simple bread that many North American Indigenous nations make and eat. It is made of a few simple ingredients and fried in very hot oil. It can be eaten in lots of different ways: with sugar or honey on top, as a side for a meal, or even as a taco shell!
Where did it come from?
Frybread is actually not a “traditional” Native food, per se. It came after contact with settlers and the relocation of indigenous nations to reservations or allotments. Indigenous families were given food commodities of common ingredients, such as flour, lard, salt, or cheese. Frybread came out of these ingredients, namely flour, baking powder, and salt. Some people choose to use eggs, milk, or other ingredients in their frybread, and recipes vary from family to family.
Who makes frybread?
Usually, the matriarch of a family (a mother, grandmother, or aunt) would be the one who makes the frybread for the household, but anyone can make it! You can make it for yourself or share it with others.
How do I make it?
Follow along with the video and recipe below!
The ingredients you will need are flour (2 cups), baking powder (1.5 teaspoons), salt (1/4 teaspoon), and warm water (enough to hydrate dough, 1/2 to 1 cup). Put all of your ingredients into a large bowl. Get a cup of warm water, and pour it in little by little. You want all of the dry ingredients to be hydrated, but you don’t want your dough to be sticky. If it gets too wet, just add flour as needed until it doesn’t stick to your hands or the bowl. After it’s all mixed up and kneaded until soft, set it aside in a warm place with a towel over top.
After about 20 minutes of rest, separate the dough into about 8 pieces, and flatten them out. You want the flattened disk to be about the size and thickness of a cookie. Lay these out on a tray with flour, and cover them with a towel for another 20 minutes. After the 20 minutes is up, get your large frying pan, fill it up with about 1/2 inch of oil, and set it to medium-high heat (I use number 8 or 9 on my stove). Stretch each piece of dough into a larger disk so that it’s thinner. These can be any size that will fit in your pan, as long as the thickness is right. It should look like a thin pizza crust, only a few millimeters thick. Finally, poke a hole into the center of the frybread. This will prevent it from bubbling up! Get a plate and some paper towels so you can stack the frybread without it getting soggy.
When your dough is ready, and your oil is hot, gently and carefully lay your dough into the hot oil. Be very careful, and ask an adult for help when you need it! I use a spatula or two forks to lay the dough into the pan. It should rise to the top after a few seconds, and there should be a LOT of tiny bubbles around the edges. Once the bottom and sides are golden brown, use a fork or tongs to flip it over. It should only take about 30 seconds on each side if your dough is thin enough and your oil is hot enough! When both sides are done, place your frybread on a paper towel-lined plate. Do this until all of your dough is fried. You can serve it hot with powdered sugar on top, or let them cool off and make tacos out of them! You can also store them in a large zip lock bag (or wrap them in foil) to save and use for whatever you’d like! The possibilities are endless. Just make sure you eat it before it gets stale!