Indian fry bread is easy to make with staple ingredients and can be served sweet or savory. Made without yeast, they get their puff from baking powder which makes them a great option for beginner bread makers. Learn to fry them to golden brown perfection.
Where does Indian fry bread (Navajo fry bread) get its name?
Called frybread, Indian fry bread or Navajo fry bread this simple fried dough originated from tragedy. When the Native Americans were moved from their land in Arizona on the “long walk” to land in New Mexico. They were given staple ingredients from the U.S. government instead of being allowed to raise their own crops.
Among the ingredients they were given were flour, baking powder, and salt. They used those ingredients and blended them with hot water and fried them–the result was fry bread.
What’s the difference between fry bread and sopapillas?
Mostly just the name. Fry bread doesn’t have sugar in the dough and the name is used more in Arizona. In New Mexico they are called sopapillas and in the Pacific Northwest some people call them elephant ears.
Virtually every culture has some form of puffy fried basic dough that can be dredged in cinnamon sugar or drizzled in honey.
Mix all purpose flour, salt, and baking powder together in a medium bowl.
Add water and stir to combine and make a soft dough. It will be shaggy; that’s okay. Cover with a towel and let rest for 1 to 2 hours.
After resting, pull off balls of dough about the size of a walnut; 2 1/2 inches across or so.
Roll the balls on a floured surface to about 1/4″ thick or about 5 inches across at the widest point. Try not to overwork the dough and make it tough. You can also use your hands to gently stretch the dough but I found the dough too wet for that.
Preheat refined coconut oil or your favorite flavorless oil to 365 degrees. Test the oil’s readiness with a piece of dough or use a thermometer to track the temperature. If the test dough fries immediately, the oil is ready. If you don’t see bubbles and the dough sinks, the oil is too cold and you’ll need to wait a minute and try again.
When the oil is ready, add one dough piece at a time and fry on one side until golden. Just a couple of minutes, then flip and cook on the second side. Drain on paper towels.
Why is my fry bread tough?
It could have been over kneaded or over mixed.
Like any dough that uses flour with gluten, too much fiddling and rolling can build the gluten strands and make the frybread dough tough. In testing this recipe, I found that the wetter the dough, the harder it was to work with and it could easily be over handled.
Remember to only mix the dough until no pockets of dry flour are seen and then stop. Allow the dough to rest for 1-2 hours (2 is better) before shaping.
Why is my fry bread dense?
Your baking powder was probably old. Most people don’t realize that baking powder looses strength after about 6 months. If yours was in your pantry (or on the grocery store shelf) for too long, it simply won’t puff like it should.
Frying the bread in oil that’s too cool may also decrease the puffiness and also makes the dough heavy and oily.
Topping Ideas and Recipe Variations to Try
Try these ideas for topping your fry bread:
- Tacos with beef and all the fixings
- Check out this Pinterest board with over 100 fry bread ideas
- Pumpkin frybread
- Gluten free fry bread
How to store your bread
Fry bread is best eaten hot from the skillet, but if you want to save some, wrap it loosely in plastic wrap and leave it out at room temperature for 1 to 2 days. Reheat it in a 300 degree oven for 5 to 7 minutes or until hot.
Looking for more breads without yeast? Try this fabulous gluten free cornbread.
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 cup hot water
- 2 to 3 cups refined coconut oil for frying; vegetable oil also works
- In a medium bowl mix the flour, baking powder and salt.
- Add the water and stir to combine then use your hands to gently turn the dough over on itself a couple of times to pick up any loose flour in the bottom. The dough will be quite sticky.
- Cover with a towel or plastic wrap and let the dough rest 1 to 2 hours.
- When you're ready to fry, heat 1 to 2 inches of the oil of your choice–I use refined coconut oil but vegetable oil would also be fine–in a skillet or deep pot to 350 degrees. Use a thermometer if you are unsure when your oil is that hot.
- While the oil heats up, break off golf ball size balls of dough and either roll or stretch the dough to about 1/4" thick if you can do it.
- Fry on one side until puffed and golden brown; about 3 minutes then turn and fry the other side until cooked through and golden. Drain on paper towels and serve warm with honey butter and powdered sugar, or top with savory toppings like taco meat and all the fixings.