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What is 'Indian bread' when referring to Native American food?

What is 'Indian bread' when referring to Native American food?

Introduction to Indian Bread

As a food enthusiast, I have always been fascinated by the diverse cuisines that different cultures offer. One such cuisine that has always intrigued me is Native American food. When I first came across the term 'Indian bread', I was curious to learn more about it and its significance in Native American cuisine. In this article, we will explore the various types of Indian bread, their history and cultural significance, as well as some popular recipes that you can try at home. So let's get started on this delicious journey!

The Origins of Indian Bread

Indian bread is a term that refers to various types of bread and bread-like dishes that are native to the indigenous peoples of North America, commonly known as Native Americans. These breads have been a staple in their diet for centuries, with each tribe having their own unique recipes and techniques for preparing them. The history of Indian bread can be traced back to the pre-colonial era, when Native Americans relied on locally available ingredients such as corn, beans, and squash to create delicious and nutritious meals. Indian breads were often made from cornmeal or other ground grains and were cooked on hot stones or griddles to create a variety of textures and flavors.

Types of Indian Bread

There is a diverse range of Indian breads that vary across different tribes and regions. Each type of bread has its own distinct taste, texture, and preparation method. Some of the most popular Indian breads include:


Frybread is perhaps the most well-known Native American bread. It is a flat, deep-fried dough that is often served as a side dish or used as a base for other dishes like Indian tacos. Frybread is made from a simple dough consisting of flour, water, salt, and a leavening agent such as baking powder. The dough is then shaped into flat discs and fried in hot oil until golden brown and crispy on the outside.


Cornbread is a popular Native American bread made predominantly from cornmeal. It is often baked in a skillet or oven and is characterized by its dense, crumbly texture. Cornbread can be sweet or savory, with the addition of ingredients like honey, jalapenos, or cheese. It is often served as a side dish to accompany soups, stews, and chili.


Ashcakes are an ancient form of Indian bread made by the Eastern Woodland tribes. The dough is made from cornmeal, water, and salt, and is then shaped into small patties. The patties are cooked directly on hot ashes or coals, giving the bread a unique smoky flavor. Ashcakes were a convenient and portable food source for Native Americans while traveling or hunting.

Cultural Significance of Indian Bread

Indian breads hold a significant cultural importance for Native Americans. They have been an integral part of their daily lives, rituals, and celebrations for centuries. For example, frybread was originally created during the time of the Long Walk, when the Navajo and other tribes were forcibly removed from their lands and had to rely on government-provided rations to survive. Today, frybread has become a symbol of Native American resilience and pride, and is often served at powwows, family gatherings, and other cultural events.

Modern Adaptations and Fusion Cuisine

Today, Indian breads have become a popular part of the wider culinary landscape, with many chefs and home cooks incorporating them into their menus and experimenting with new flavors and techniques. One example of this is the Indian taco, which uses frybread as a base instead of a traditional tortilla. Topped with seasoned ground meat, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and other taco fixings, Indian tacos have become a beloved dish in Native American communities and beyond.

Health Benefits of Indian Bread

Indian breads can be a nutritious addition to a balanced diet, particularly when made with whole grains and other healthy ingredients. Corn, a primary ingredient in many Indian breads, is a rich source of dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Additionally, beans, squash, and other traditional Native American ingredients provide essential nutrients such as protein, vitamins, and antioxidants. However, it is important to note that some Indian breads, like frybread, can be high in calories and fat due to their method of preparation. As with any food, moderation and balance are key to enjoying the health benefits of Indian breads.

Recipes to Try at Home

If you're interested in incorporating Indian breads into your own cooking, there are plenty of delicious recipes that you can try at home. Here are a few of my favorites:

Classic Frybread

For a simple and tasty frybread recipe, combine 2 cups of all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon of baking powder, and 1 teaspoon of salt in a mixing bowl. Gradually add 1 cup of warm water, mixing until a soft dough forms. Divide the dough into 8 equal portions and flatten each one into a disc. Heat oil in a deep pan and fry the dough discs until golden brown, flipping once. Drain on paper towels and serve warm.

Blue Cornbread

To make a flavorful blue cornbread, combine 1 cup of blue cornmeal, 1 cup of all-purpose flour, 1 tablespoon of sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 tablespoon of baking powder in a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together 1 cup of milk, 1/3 cup of vegetable oil, and 1 egg. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Pour the batter into a greased 8-inch square baking pan and bake at 425°F (220°C) for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow the cornbread to cool slightly before cutting into squares and serving.

Final Thoughts

Indian breads are a delicious and fascinating aspect of Native American cuisine, with a rich history and cultural significance. By learning about and enjoying these breads, we can appreciate the culinary traditions of the indigenous peoples of North America and expand our own palates. Whether you're trying frybread at a powwow or baking your own cornbread at home, I hope this article has inspired you to explore the world of Indian bread!