This soft and fluffy Cherokee fry bread is a delicious treat that means a lot to me. They're versatile, filling, and so easy to make!
Every year I look forward to September's labor day weekend. Not for the usual reasons like appliance sales and summer clearance or the last long weekend for camping- but because that's when the big pow-wow happens!
I'm Native American (registered with the Cherokee tribe, as are my two kids) but we live within a few minutes of the Puyallup tribal reservation (completely different states, customs, etc.) One is plains and the other is coastal. I was raised in a coastal setting. I even went to a coastal tribal school from K-12th grade.
While I often look back and curse my childhood for not having given me the normal public school system education, I'm also blessed by it. I know much more about my ancestry and the history of this area than others. I also know good native food when I try it!
Indian frybread, smoked salmon, deer jerky, and so many other great foods that my husband still has yet to try or enjoy (I'm working on it.) 😉
Anyways, back to the pow wow. While there are smaller ones every month, labor day weekend is the biggest. That's when the dance competitions, teepees, food truck vendors, and families with sales stands or food tents are set up for 3 long days and nights. I make it a point to go for at least a few hours so I can grab frybread from my favorite family vendor.
What's great about an Indian fry bread recipe is that different families and tribes all make it in their own unique way.
Some use water, others use sugar, and some use shortening or lard in the frybread. Most families will tell you that they don't use actual measuring cups though.
One of the most traditional measurements for natives when making frybread is the palm of the hand. A heaping palm of this, a pinch of that, half a palm of something else. This is part of why it's so difficult to replicate the amazing frybread you get somewhere else. It's all measured and eyeballed differently every time!
This recipe here has been adjusted from palm of the hands to a measured amount that you can replicate at home and I hope you enjoy!
- Water (or milk)
- Baking powder
- Oil for frying
For the exact amounts needed, please see the recipe card below.
🍽 Equipment Needed
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- Large mixing bowl
- Large skillet
- Measuring spoons
- Measuring cups
- Metal tongs
Check out how to make Cherokee fry bread with these simple step-by-step instructions:
In a mixing bowl combine your flour, baking powder, and salt.
Slowly add in your milk or water, just until the dough comes together (you may not need all of the milk).
Take a ball of dough and knead it a little between your hands to make it smooth and elastic. It helps to have your hands covered in flour, or to use a lightly floured surface depending on how sticky the dough is.
Make the dough into a round ball and then press it flat. Make it as big as you can without getting the dough to tear or "become so thin that you can read through it."
Slowly lay your dough into a prepared pan of oil starting with the end closest to you and working away from yourself to avoid any oil splashing in your direction.
When you see the bottom edges of the fried dough turn a golden brown, flip it over and repeat until that side is cooked too.
Remove the frybread and place it onto some paper towels to rest while you finish the rest of the batch.
Serve as desired and enjoy.
🍴 Recipe Tips
Making this simple fry bread is great because it's a very forgiving recipe. If you accidentally add in a little too much liquid you can simply add in some more flour or vice versa.
When you place the fry bread in the oil, go slowly. Adding it too quickly will cause an air bubble to get trapped under the frybread and cause it to take the shape of a bowl instead of a flat piece. This is okay, but that means part of the frybread will appear white and not golden colored as it can't reach the oil. It still cooks just fine and there's nothing to worry about.
After you've finished frying the Cherokee Indian fry bread, lay them on paper towels that can help to absorb some of the oil that they were fried in. Do this until you've finished with the entire batch.
Unlike biscuits, you don't need to worry about getting your hands in there or "roughing it up." You won't need to knead it like yeast doughs, but you also don't need to treat it like a delicate flower. Frybread can handle a little roughhousing.
Popping the air bubbles that come up is an optional choice. You do not have to, but you can if you want. Fun fact: Some tribes will purposefully pierce a hole in the center of their fried dough after putting it in the oil because they believe that it will help to let the evil spirits out.
Again, this is a personal choice. That said, soft and fluffy has always been a winner in my books. It makes it easier to convert into a sweet treat, Indian tacos, and more.
You will flatten the dough before cooking, and it will puff up while being cooked, so as long as you don't make it paper thin while you're flattening it you will get some natural puff to your fry bread.
After making your delicious Cherokee fry bread you can use it however you want. Serve it with honey, butter, jam, cinnamon sugar or even powdered sugar if you're looking for a sweet treat.
You can also top it with seasoned taco meat, lettuce, cheese, and your other favorite taco toppings for an Indian taco (basically an open faced taco).
Other delicious recipes to check out
- Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole
- Easy Crescent Roll Danishes
- Chicken Divan Casserole
- 3 Ingredient Biscuits
- Cheesy Tuna Noodle Casserole
- Honey Mustard Pork Roast
Simple Cherokee Fry Bread
- 3 cups flour ($0.24)
- 1 ½ teaspoon salt ($0.01)
- 2 tablespoon baking powder ($0.12)
- 2 cups water or milk (you may not need all of it!) ($0.00)
- Oil *for frying in
- In a large skillet (one with taller sides) heat 2 inches of oil on the stove over medium/high heat.
- In a mixing bowl combine your flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly add in the milk or water, you won't need all of it, just enough to get the dough to combine.
- Take a ball of dough about half of the size of your palm and roll it between your hands like you're kneading the dough. Get it smooth and elastic feeling. It helps to have your hands or your work surface lightly floured to avoid sticking.
- Roll the dough into a ball the final time and then flatten it out between your hands trying to make it as big as you can without making it so thin that it tears.
- Slowly add your dough to a prepared pan, only do one at a time unless there is room for both to be in there without touching. Add the dough in by slowly laying it in the oil closest to you and working your way backwards, like you're tucking in a bed of oil under a banket.
- When you can see the bottom edge of the dough turn a golden brown, flip the dough using tongs and wait for the other side to do the same. Remove and place on paper towels to rest.
- Finish repeating the steps with the rest of the dough and then serve your fry bread as desired.