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Fry bread or “Navajo Tacos” are crispy pillows of dough with a soft inside. Complete it by adding sweet or savory toppings!
What is Fry Bread?
This tasty main dish is also called Navajo Tacos. It originates from southwestern Native Americans as a result of being relocated from Arizona to New Mexico, and using cooking staples given to them by the government.
Over the years, fry bread has become a unique cultural symbol. They are also commonly referred to as Indian Fry Bread or Pop Overs. Lots of names for lots of goodness!
With their unique history, they are especially popular here in Arizona and in New Mexico. Source
The fry bread I’m sharing today is one we’ve used since I was little, passed on from my Grandma Luna and her mother, my Great Grandma Medina.
Sweet or Savory
Savory. Everyone in my family eats them a bit differently. We usually serve them up with cooked hamburger and beans, and let everyone add their own toppings: tomatoes, lettuce, sour cream, salsa, and guacamole.
You could even top them with a delicious, thick scoop of Chili.
Sweet. Others in my family pour honey over them, or slather on butter and jam. A few also like to add powdered sugar and just eat it as is.
No matter what they are topped with, they are DELICIOUS!
How to Make Fry Bread
This fry bread recipe only requires FOUR ingredients! Chances are you probably already have them on hand, they are:
- baking powder
- water (warm)
DOUGH. Sift the flour, salt, and baking powder together in a medium bowl. Add hot water.
Mix with your hands until dough forms (dough should be a little sticky). Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.
PREP. While the dough is resting, add oil to a large saucepan that is about 1-2 inches deep and heat on MED-HIGH heat (it should be about 350°F when ready to fry).
SHAPE. Break off the pieces of dough into golf-ball-sized balls (about 1½ inches wide). Using a pastry roller or rolling pin, roll the dough onto a lightly floured surface to about 6-7 inches in diameter (the dough should be thin).
FRY. Fry each piece in hot oil until the dough is golden brown and poofs up (about 20 seconds). Continue to fry on the other side, keeping it in the oil. Set on a paper towel-lined plate to drain oil.
NOTE: As always, anything fried is best served fresh, so keep that in mind. 😉
Whether you like them sweet or savory, Indian tacos are delicious!
To eat it like a Navajo Taco, check the recipe card below for instructions on making the taco toppings!
Some of our favorite toppings include:
- meat + beans
- sour cream (or dressing like Cilantro Ranch or Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette)
- salsa (Black Bean and Corn Salsa, Salsa Verde, or any other favorite!)
- guacamole (or sliced avocado)
- lettuce, tomatoes + olives (or Pico de Gallo)
If you want to keep things simple, enjoy it like many of those in my family and just add powdered sugar to it.
Make Indian fry bread perfectly crisp with these tips!
- Flat fry bread. To help your bread remain flat (instead of curling up on the edges and forming a bowl shape), cut a small slit in the center of each piece right before frying.
- Oil temperature. Make sure your oil stays at a consistent temperature. If the temp is too low, the bread will be tough. If it’s too hot, the outside will burn before the inside cooks through.
- Warm. Keep the fried bread warm in the oven (set at 200°F).
Elephant ears v fry bread. Though similar, there is a difference:
- Fry bread is thick, about 6-8 inches in diameter, and topped with anything from powdered sugar to beef taco ingredients.
- Elephant ears are thin, bubbly, about 10-16 inches in diameter, and traditionally only topped with cinnamon and sugar.
I personally like adding hearty ingredients like hamburger meat and beans and piling them high with all of the fixings. Top it off with some salsa, and it’s like heaven on a plate!
Fry bread is best when fresh, so we don’t recommend making it ahead of time. However, you can mix up the dough and store it in the fridge or freezer until it’s time to fry.
Dough in the fridge. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or transfer the dough to a Ziploc bag. Store for 1-2 days. Some bakers even recommend chilling the dough for a few hours before frying.
Dough in the freezer. Fry bread dough freezes well. Once your dough has been mixed, portion it into 3-inch balls and flash freeze.
To flash freeze:
- Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.
- Place dough balls ½ inch apart.
- Freeze for 3-5 hours.
- Once they’ve begun to freeze, place each ball into a separate plastic baggie.
- Place all the balls into an airtight, freezer-safe container.
- Label and store for up to 1 month.
Fry. When you’re ready to fry, remove the desired number of balls. Leave each ball in the baggie and thaw in the fridge overnight.
About 30 minutes before fry time, remove the dough from the baggie and let the dough come to room temperature. Fry according to recipe directions.
Here are our top tips for storing leftover Indian fry bread recipe:
Store cooked bread. Wrap the bread loosely in plastic wrap or an unsealed Ziploc bag. Store at room temperature for 1-2 days.
Freeze cooked bread. Once the bread has cooled, pat each piece with a paper towel to remove any excess oil or water. Wrap each piece with plastic wrap and store it in an airtight freezer container. Freeze for 3-4 months.
To reheat fry bread. Heat the oven to 350°F. Wrap each piece of fry bread in aluminum foil and bake until heated through about 15 minutes. If you’re in a hurry, throw it in the microwave.
Adding too much flour or overmixing the dough can result in a hard dense bread. You will also want to make sure your oil is at the correct temperature to keep it from burning (too hot) or soaking up too much oil (too cool).
Once the pieces have drained excess oil and cooled it can be frozen for up to 3 months.
The two are very similar but different enough. Fry bread is thicker, smaller, and typically topped with beef taco ingredients. Elephant ears are thinner, much larger, and topped with cinnamon and sugar.
For More Southwest Recipes, Check Out:
- How to Make Flour Tortillas
- Taco Pie
- Cream Cheese and Chicken Taquitos
- Chicken Enchiladas
- Mexican Lasagna
- Steak Fajitas
- Carne Asada
Fry Bread Recipe
- 2 cups dried pinto beans rinsed and drained or 1 (16-ounce) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained)
- 2-3 slices bacon chopped and cooked
- 1 pound ground beef cooked and drained
- shredded lettuce, sour cream, chopped tomatoes, sliced avocados, shredded cheese
- Make the bean topping: Place rinsed dried beans in a slow cooker and cover with water. Cook on low for 4–5 hours, or until beans start to become tender.
- Add bacon pieces and ground beef to the slow cooker and continue to cook on low for an additional 1–2 hours, or until beans are fully tender. (To make the bean topping using canned beans, combine canned beans, cooked ground beef, and cooked bacon and cook in a slow cooker on low for 2 hours. Set aside.)
- Make the bread: Sift flour, baking powder, and salt together in a medium bowl. Add hot water and mix with your hands until a dough forms (dough should be a little sticky). Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.
- While the dough is resting, preheat the oven to 200°F. Fill a large saucepan with 1–2 inches of oil and heat over medium-high heat to about 350°F.
- Break off golf ball–sized pieces of dough and roll into balls about 1½ inches wide.
- Using a pastry roller and working on a lightly floured surface, roll each dough ball into a thin circle 6–7 inches in diameter.
- Working in batches, fry each dough piece in hot oil until the dough is golden and puffs up, about 20 seconds, then flip and fry on the other side for 10–20 seconds more. Set on a paper towel–lined plate to drain. Keep the fried bread warm in the oven while frying the remaining pieces.
- Spread beans over fry bread, top with any other desired toppings, and serve warm.
Soak the beans. To lessen the amount of gas in the beans, soak dried beans in a large bowl of water for 8–12 hours (or overnight). Drain and rinse beans before use.
Serving suggestions. We feel this fry bread is best served with beans, but for a sweeter version, you can also skip the savory toppings and serve it with powdered sugar and/or honey.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.