Cookbook Profile

Plains Indian Fry Bread

Makes about 2 dozen fry breads


During the summer, powwows are held throughout the Heartland, celebrating the dances and foodways of Native American tribes ranging from the Osage, Omaha, and Kiowa to the Sioux and Comanche. Fry bread is usually on the menu, whether cooked and sold by vendors or cooked by locals in the communal kitchen and dining hall. Fry bread is a relatively recent addition to the Native American diet. When the Dakota tribes encountered explorers Pierre Radisson and Medard Chouart in the late 1600s, they gave the men gifts of the grains they grew and gathered—corn and wild rice—meant to be boiled and eaten as gruel, not for bread. But eventually a new word for bread crept into the Dakota language—aguyap, or "they burn it"—after the flatbreads that were baked by soldiers or voyageurs at camp sites. During the late nineteenth century when native Americans were confined to reservations, they were given staple foods like flour, baking powder, powdered milk, and lard. At first they made a bannock-like bread that was quickly mixed, then baked in the oven. Later, they rolled the dough out, cut it into squares or shaped it into circles, and fried it.

This recipe is adapted from one by Marion Ironstar in Our Daily Bread, a community cookbook from Enemy Swim Lake, Waubay, South Dakota. Serve the fry breads as the basis for savory "Indian tacos," topped with seasoned taco meat, shredded lettuce, and chopped tomato, or drizzle with a wild berry syrup for dessert.


2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup instant nonfat dry milk
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup water
Vegetable oil, for deep-frying


1. In a large bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, sugar, dry milk, and salt together. Stir in the water until you have a sticky dough.

2. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and sprinkle with flour. Roll out to a 16-by-12-inch rectangle, about 1/2 inch thick. Cut the dough into twenty-four 2-inch squares. Cut a 1/2-inch slit in the middle of each square.

3. Add enough oil to a deep cast-iron skillet or a deep-fat fryer to reach a depth of 1 to 2 inches and heat it to 350 to 365 degrees. (The oil is ready when a piece of dough sizzles as soon as it is placed in the pan.) In batches, fry the squares of dough, turning once, until browned on both sides, about 3 minutes total. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Serve warm, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar or drizzled with wild berry syrup, or topped with taco fixings.

Buy the Book!


Prairie Home Breads
150 Splendid Recipes from America's Breadbasket

By Judith M. Fertig
Harvard Common Press, 2001
Hardcover, $ 18.95
ISBN: 1-55832-172-1
Recipe reprinted by permission.


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This page created November 2001