I can still remember the first time I sunk my teeth into a delicious slice of my favorite traditional Native American recipe: frybread.
Of course, there aren’t many bells and whistles to the simple recipe, unless you take things up a notch by using it for a tasty twist on tacos. However, there’s something about the consistency and slight sweetness you can find in some versions that makes my mouth water every time my mom or aunts decide to whip it up for dinner.
In fact, I grew up eating most of the delicious dishes below at some point or another, being that my family really embraces our Cherokee roots in Oklahoma. I especially loved when it came time for someone to light up the fire for a good old-fashioned “hog fry.”
But there are also more than a few recipes from other Native American cultures that I haven’t had the chance to try yet. You bet I’m going to fix that as soon as I can, though!
Take a look below, and let us know if we missed any of your favorite traditional Native American recipes.
And be sure to SHARE the scrumptious dishes with your friends!
1. Acorn Bread
Native Americans in California, such as the Pomo and Miwok tribes, relied on their ample bounty of acorns when coming up with their meals.
- 6 Tbsps. cornmeal
- 1/2 cup cold water
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 Tbsp. butter
- 1 packet active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup lukewarm water
- 1 cup mashed potatoes
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 cups finely ground leached acorn meal
Grab a big bowl and mix your cornmeal with the cold water first, then add the boiling water and allow to cook for about two minute while you blend it together. Stir in your salt and butter, then let the mixture cool until it’s lukewarm. With a separate bowl of lukewarm water, soften your yeast and then add with the rest of the ingredients.
Knead until a sticky dough forms, then cover and let rise until it has doubled in size. Shape it into loaves and let it rise again, then bake at 375 °F for about 45 minutes.
2. Three Sisters Soup
Several tribes relied on the “three sisters” of corn, squash, and beans to survive harsh winters back in the day.
- 4 lbs. winter squash
- 4 quarts vegetable stock (or water)
- 2 small diced yellow onions
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup chopped garlic
- 2 tsps. dried thyme
- 1 tsp. ground black pepper
- 1 lb. fresh or frozen corn kernels
- 4 cans cannellini beans
- 1 bunch sliced green onions
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 1 large bay leaf
Preheat your oven to 350 °F. Slice your squash in half and scoop out the seeds, then roast for about 40 minutes. Allow to cool once soft, then scrape out the flesh and save the liquid for later. Blend until totally smooth (you can use a food processor or blender).
Sauté onions in a large pot over medium heat until brown, then add garlic, thyme, and black pepper, stirring until the garlic turns brown as well.
Pour in the stock and follow with the bay leaf, wine, and squash. Allow it to simmer for a few minutes before adding the rest of your ingredients. Simmer for about 20 minutes total.
Pretty much every tribe has their own variation on this mealtime staple, but they all rely on a foundation like the one laid out in this traditional recipe.
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 2 tsps. baking powder
- 3/4 cup milk
- Oil or lard for frying
Mix all of the ingredients together well until a dough forms, then knead on a floured surface until it smooths out. Roll them out into a thin layer and cut small portions, then drop into hot oil to fry until golden brown.
Though the name comes from the Cree Nation, many Native Americans have used this classic recipe to keep their energy up on long journeys.
- 4 cups lean meat
- 3 cups dried fruit
- 2 cups rendered fat
- Unsalted nuts
- Dash of honey
Lean meat can be deer, beef, caribou or moose. Spread whichever you have available out on a cookie sheet and dry in the oven at 180 °F for at least eight hours, or until crispy. Once it’s cooled, pound it into a powder-like consistency and grind the dry fruit.
Heat the rendered fat until it becomes a liquid, then pour over the dried meat and fruit and mix in the nuts and honey as well. Mix and slice into portions, then store in a cool, dry place.
5. Buffalo (Or Beef) Stew
Known as tanka-me-a-lo in the Cherokee Nation, you can substitute regular beef if you’re unable to find any buffalo meat in your area for this filling stew.
- 2 stalks celery
- 2 carrots
- 1 can stewed tomatoes
- 2 lbs. buffalo/beef stew meat
- 4 quarts water
- 2 lbs. red or white potatoes (not russets)
- 1 cup barley
Slice the carrots, celery, and meat into cubes about one inch long, then brown the buffalo over high heat for about three minutes. Add the water, potatoes, and carrots into a large pot and boil until tender.
Add in the tomatoes, barley, and celery, and let cook for another five minutes or so. Pour the veggies and meat into a baking dish and place in the oven at 425 °F for 30 minutes.
6. Pine Nut Catfish
Tribes in the New Mexico region developed this nutty spin on fresh-caught catfish.
- 1/4 cup pine nuts
- 2 additional Tbsps. pine nuts
- 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1/4 tsp. ground cumin
- 4 catfish fillets
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
Preheat your oven to 350 °F. Spread pine nuts in an even layer on a baking sheet and toast for about five minutes or until brown. Set aside to cool, then grind 1/4 cup of them and leave the rest for garnish later.
Mix the ground pine nuts, cornmeal, flour, salt, cayenne pepper, and cumin, and coat your fillets. Heat the oil in a large skillet and fry the fish for about four minutes on each side. Sprinkle with the leftover toasted pine nuts before serving.
7. Baked Pumpkin
Members of the Chippewa tribe near Lake Superior have been enjoying this savory side dish for generations.
- 1 small pumpkin
- 1/4 cup apple cider
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1/4 cup melted butter
Put the entire pumpkin in your oven and bake at 350 °F for about two hours. Cut the baked pumpkin in half and scoop out the pulp and seeds from inside, spreading the pulp into a casserole dish.
Mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl and pour over the pumpkin. Bake for another 35 minutes.
8. Pork Roast
Pork has always been a favorite main dish for several tribes, but the Pueblo Indians in New Mexico gave it their own flavor with this recipe.
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 1 1/2 cups onions, chopped
- 3 minced garlic cloves
- 4 crushed and dried juniper berries
- 1/2 tsp. crushed coriander seed
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 large ripe tomatoes
- 1 1/4 cups water
- 2/3 cup cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1 Tbsp. ground red chili
- 1 medium-hot crushed dried chili
- 2 tsps. salt
- 1 oz. unsweetened chocolate square
- 5 lbs. pork rib roast
- 2 lbs. fresh or dry lima beans
- 3 cups fresh corn cut from cob
- 4 to 6 wild or pearl onions
- 2 Tbsps. melted bacon fat
- 2 pieces smoked ham hock
- 3 quarts water
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 4 large green tomatoes
- 1 tsp. salt
- Pinch black pepper
- 2 cups coarse ground yellow cornmeal
- Lard or vegetable shortening
Sauté onions in oil until they’re soft, then add garlic, juniper berries, coriander seed, and bay leaf. Continue to sauté for a few more minutes. Quarter and seed your tomatoes, then add water, vinegar, honey, the ground and crushed chilies, and salt. Cover and allow to simmer for about 30 minutes.
Grate the chocolate and add, then allow to simmer uncovered for another 20 to 30 minutes until it becomes thick. Put the pork in a pan and baste with the sauce, then roast in the oven at 350 °F for about three hours, basting every now and then as it cooks.
Tribes across the country enjoyed this super nutritious dish long before more folks relied on it as a cheap meal in the Great Depression.
Soak dry beans for three to four hours to soften. Drain and add to a pot of boiling water. Let them cook for about 10 minutes, then add corn, ham hocks, salt and pepper, and onions.
Reduce the heat and cook on low for one hour.
10. Fried Green Tomatoes
It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that this yummy Southern staple started with Native Americans from the region frying up some fresh tomatoes.
Slice the tomatoes to about half an inch and sprinkle with the salt. Let them sit for 10 or 15 minutes. Blot dry with paper towels, then sprinkle with pepper.
Dip the slices into cornmeal and heat your lard or oil in a large skillet, then fry the slices until both sides are brown.
Did we miss any of your favorite traditional Native American dishes? Let us know below, and be sure to SHARE with your friends!