The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Navajo Fry Bread

davidg618's picture

Navajo Fry Bread

A week ago I was touring the Southwest's canyons--Grand, Bryce, and Zion--National Parks. The tour included a half-day visit to Monument Valley, an awesome natural phenomena of towering monolithic rocks, owned, and managed by the Navajo Nation on the largest American Indian reservation: 17,000,000 acres covering parts of four states. Monument Valley was made known to the rest of America, and the planet, when, through the efforts of a trading post owner and manager, the well-known movie director, John Ford, learned of it. He made nine movies there, all during the Great Depression years--most featured John Wayne--subsequently, the site has hosted the production of scores of movies, TV productions, and advertisements benefiting the the Navajos, especially in the lean Depression years.

En-route to Monument Vally we stopped at yet another Trading Post--we'd already visited a sufficiency for me--but I was surprised by its adjacent gallery offerinng some of the finest native crafts I've seen since the 70's, and a rug weaver at work--I photographed just her hands--on two small pieces. She'd just completed a thirteen-month stint doing a larger rug (9 x 12 ?) whose price tag read $60,000.00. It hung is the restaurant where I had a delicious lunch of Chili Verde soup, and a side of Navajo Fry Bread. I was pleasantly surprised by its chewiness (the bread, not the soup) and no hint it had been deep-fat fried.

The trip through the valley, conducted by Navajo guides, was worth braving the dust and heat. We were treated to a running history of Kit Carson's cruelty to the Navajo's, the largess of the Movie Industry, and a reverence for the man, Harry Goulding and his wife "Mike" (Leone), owners of the trading post, who almost single-handedly lured John Ford to "discover" the valley, and provide work for the Navajo during lean years.

Home again, I recalled the Fry Bread, and, curious as ever, googled recipes and history. I won't go into details, but it appears that in the 19th century Fry Bread became, of necessity, a staple in the Navajo diet, when damn little else, other than flour, lard and a little sugar, was available from the government. Blue Bird Flour seems to be the universal Navajos' choice for making Fry Bread, although I couldn't find out why. Cortez Milling, CO is its sole producer, and has only been in business since 1964. (Perhaps, they bought the brand). Here's a newpaper clip from the Navajo Times re Blue Bird flour.

Haven't made it; don't think I will; but enjoyed it, and will order it again given the opportunity. Loved the chili, and the history. It fascinates me that bread, simply bread, has played major roles throughout history; this is yet another example.

David G



Floydm's picture

Beautiful photo.  

Canyon de Chelly is another one worth visiting for both the beauty and the culture.  You can only tour the canyon floor with a Navajo guide.  

Have you read Blood & Thunder? It's a great read. 

I love good fry bread.



davidg618's picture

I'll look for it.Thanks for the recommendation.

David G

varda's picture

I haven't had Navajo fry bread since I was a teenager (long time ago) when I was a guest for dinner with a Navajo family on a reservation in New Mexico.  I had forgotten all about it until I read this post.   Thanks for the reminder and beautiful picture.  -Varda

Janetcook's picture

Thanks for your latest post.  Love the photo!

I used to make fry bread for my kids - I had a friend who was married to a Sioux and that was a staple of their diet too......

Kids liked it but I didn't make it often due to all of the oil.

Your post just brought back fond memories of when the kids were really young and how much they liked shaping the dough and putting it into the hot oil on cold winter nights :-)

Thanks :-)


davidg618's picture

It's nice to hear this somewhat "off topic" post stimulated recalling good memories.

David G

whosinthekitchen's picture

Hey davidg618!

Your travel log is near similar to mine from that area..... only mine was 25 years ago!  Great time, and the Chile Verde with Fry Bread............   I returned hoome with a pledge to learn how to make the chile verde......  noo matter how authenic the recipe, you just don't get THAT flavor without the the chiles from that area.  I have enven grown  my own and studied how to prep the soil..... it is a high plains thing.  Enjoyed your post and photo and recalling our travels out west.  Must be time to go again!  Thanks,


breadsong's picture

Hello David,
We just returned from Grand, Bryce and Zion Canyons, and seeing your gorgeous photo I regret not making it to Monument Valley. Something to look forward to next time, should we ever be in the area again.
Thanks for your interesting writeup about the area and its history.
We didn't get to try any Navajo Fry Bread, but did enjoy an incredible Chile Verde in Kanab, UT.
:^) from breadsong