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Navajo Fry Bread

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Navajo fry bread is a Native American flatbread that you have most likely seen in county fairs. It is also called Indian fry bread, beaver tails, or elephant ears, depending on where you live. 

It is a soft, tender flatbread with crispy edges and a light, airy interior. Every bite melts in your mouth. You can serve it with a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar or jam for a dessert that tastes like a donut, or eat it with savory toppings like chili beans and taco fixings

This recipe offers you two versions of fry bread. 

  1. Quick, no yeast fry bread, or…..
  2. Frybread with yeast.
A fry bread topped with jam, raspberries, and powdered sugar.

We love flatbread and make it frequently. Recently, we posted our einkorn naan with garlic which we adapted from our original naan bread recipe. We also have kamut flour tortillas, sweet potato flatbread and our fig and gorgonzola flatbread which is similar to a pizza.

And, we have pizza dough recipes like our quick pizza dough, sourdough pizza dough, and einkorn pizza dough. This flatbread recipe is different from all the others I mentioned because it gets fried in oil instead of baked or grilled.

Authentic Navajo Fry Bread

Some people say that Indian fry bread does not have yeast. I might have believed that until I saw a Native American chef make her fry bread with yeast. The truth is, there are just as many versions of Indian fry bread as there are kitchens. 

Both versions of this recipe are equally delicious. So, you choose: with or without yeast. If you love working with yeast or if you want to freeze part or all of the dough, I recommend using the recipe that includes yeast. 

On the other hand, if you want a fast and easy fry bread recipe, use the quick version that uses baking powder. It only takes 10 minutes to gather the ingredients and mix the dough. By the time you heat the oil and cook the dough, you will have fry bread in under 25 minutes.

Why This Recipe Works

  • Dry powdered milk tenderizes the dough and adds a rich flavor.
  • Butter gives the dough additional tenderness and flavor. It also helps the fry bread get extra puffy as it cooks. 
  • Poking a hole in the center of the fry bread before cooking them prevents them from puffing up into a round balloon. 

A Navajo fry bread topped with cinnamon sugar.

Is Indian Fry Bread The Same As Elephant Ears?

The only difference between Indian fry bread (or Navajo fry bread) and elephant ears is the size of the fry bread. When cooks call this recipe elephant ears, they make them twice as large to look like floppy elephant ears.

And, if you’re wondering why some people call this fry bread beaver tails, it’s because some cooks shape them like a long tail.  

Ingredients used to make fry bread with yeast.
Ingredients needed to make the fry bread with yeast.

The Ingredients

Here is a list of the ingredients you will need for this recipe. Scroll down to the printable recipe card for all the details. 

  • Flour. Regular all-purpose flour works well. You can also replace 1/3 cup of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour and still have the amazing fry bread.
  • Dry milk powder. We like using Bakers Special Dry Milk because it gives bread a lighter texture than regular dry milk. If you don’t have powdered milk, you can substitute the water for fresh milk.
  • Leavening. You will need either baking powder or yeast, depending on which version of the recipe you make.
  • Salt. A little salt goes a long way to flavor the bread.
  • Water. Use warm water if want to make fry bread with yeast.
  • Butter. You can use salted or unsalted butter in this recipe.
  • Oil for frying. Use an oil that has a high smoke point. Some good choices are peanut oil, corn oil, or canola oil.

Adding butter and milk to bread dough will give the dough extra flavor and a softer texture. It also helps the bread stay soft for longer. For more enriched bread recipes, try out Greek Easter bread and sprouted wheat bread.

Ingredients used to make fry bread without yeast.
Ingredients needed to make fry bread without yeast (quicker version).

How To Make Indian Fry Bread

Here is a brief overview to get an idea of what to expect with this recipe for Navajo fry bread. Scroll down to the printable recipe card for all the details.

For Fry Bread With No Yeast

  1. Mix the dough.
  2. Heat the oil.
  3. Divide the dough, roll it out, then fry the bread.

Four photos showing how to make fry bread without yeast.
Process steps for fry bread without yeast.

For Fry Bread With Yeast

  1. Mix the dough.
  2. Allow the dough to rise until doubled in size.
  3. Divide the dough, roll it out, then let it rise again.
  4. Heat the oil and fry the bread. 

Six photos showing how to make fry bread with yeast.
Process steps for fry bread with yeast.
Four photos showing how to fry Navajo fry bread in oil.
Cook both versions the same way.

More Artisan Bread Recipes

Tips For Success

  • If you make the quick fry bread without yeast, let the dough rest for 10 to 15 minutes. Since there is no yeast, you will not see the dough rise. However, resting the dough gives it time to hydrate and makes it easier to roll out.  
  • If you make fry bread with yeast, the dough needs to rise (or proof) twice. Let it double in size the first time and get slightly puffy the second time. The timing will vary depending on the temperature of your kitchen. 
  • Check the temperature of the oil frequently. It can cool down after you finish frying each bread or it can get too hot if the stove is turned up too high. We use an instant read thermometer that only takes 1-second to read a temperature.
  • If you don’t have a thermometer, place the handle of a wooden spoon in the oil. You should see tiny bubbles form around the handle when the oil is hot enough.

More Easy Quick Bread Recipes

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is my fry bread hard?

Frybread can turn out hard for a few reasons. Sometimes it is because the leavening did not work in the dough. If you make fry bread without yeast, do not let the dough sit for too long before frying it.

The baking powder will not stay active for an extended time. On the other hand, if you make fry bread with yeast, the dough will need extra time for the yeast to work.

Why is my fry bread hollow?

You need to poke a hole in the center of your dough rounds, or they will puff up and turn into a hollow balloon.

What’s the difference between Indian fry bread and Sopapillas?

Sopapillas are usually smaller and puffier than Indian fry bread. Since Sopapillas puff up more, they tend to be hollow in the center and crispier on the outside.

Why is my frybread gooey and wet on the inside?

If your oil is too hot, the bread will cook too fast on the outside and will not have time to finish cooking on the inside.

Several freshly cooked fry breads on a plate.

Helpful Tools

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Ways to Serve Fry Bread:

Try serving this Indian fry bread with our chipotle pork chili beans. You can ladle some chili right on top of the flatbread or use the bread to sop up the thick stew.

For a sweet treat, our lemon dessert sauce or thick lemon curd taste absolutely divine on this fry bread. Or go all-out with dessert and top it with stout chocolate ice cream, butterscotch sauce (or chocolate sauce), and some homemade whipped cream.

You can also use this fry bread as a soft, thick taco shell. Try it with blackened shrimp tacos or fish tacos with slaw. Top it with Sriracha fry sauce, mango salsa, or corn salsa.

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Navajo Fry Bread

Navajo Fry Bread

Yield: 8 fry bread rounds
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 3 minutes
Total Time: 3 minutes

Indian fry bread is a soft and fluffy flatbread that you can serve as a savory or sweet treat. Top it with jam, cinnamon sugar, honey, or savory taco toppings.

This recipe has instructions to make the fry bread with or without yeast. Both versions come out equally delicious but if you want to freeze the dough, choose to make the version with yeast.

Ingredients

Fry Bread Without Yeast

  • 2-1/3 cups all-purpose flour (280 grams)
  • 3 tablespoons powdered milk
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 cup water (177 grams)
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • oil for frying

For Indian Fry Bread with Yeast

  • 2-1/3 cups all-purpose flour (280 grams)
  • 3 tablespoons powdered milk
  • 1-1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 cup warm water (177 grams)
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter
  • oil for frying

Instructions

    For Quick Fry Bread (No Yeast)

    1. Add the flour, powdered milk, baking powder, and salt to a large mixing bowl. Whisk the dry ingredients to combine them. 
    2. Add the water and melted butter, then stir until the dough comes together in a ball. Let the dough rest for 10 to 15 minutes while you get the hot oil ready.
    3. Divide the dough into 8 balls. Roll each ball of dough into round disks about 1/4 inch thick or a little thinner. Proceed to the steps below to fry the bread. 

    For Fry Bread With Yeast

    1. Add the flour, powdered milk, instant yeast, and salt to a large mixing bowl. Whisk the dry ingredients to combine the ingredients. 
    2. Add the warm water and melted butter and stir until the dough comes together in a ball. Place the dough on the counter and knead it for a few minutes then place it in an oiled bowl. Cover the bowl with a dishtowel and let it sit at room temperature for 1 hour or until it doubles in size.
    3. Divide the dough into 8 balls. Roll each ball of dough into round disks about 1/4 inch thick or a little thinner. Transfer them to a board or baking sheet and cover them with plastic wrap. Let them sit at room temperature for 20 to 40 minutes until slightly puffy. Proceed to the steps below to fry the bread. 

    Fry the Bread in Hot Oil

    1. Add enough oil to a heavy skillet so the oil is about 1-1/2 inches deep. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until it reaches 350°F to 375°F with an instant-read thermometer. If you don’t have a thermometer, stick the end of a wooden spoon into the oil. If you see small bubbles form around the handle of the spoon, the oil is hot enough. 
    2. Working with one dough round at a time, poke a hole in the center of the disk and place the dough in the hot oil. Fry on each side until golden brown, about 1 minute per side. 
    3. Place on paper towels to drain and repeat with the rest of the dough. 
    4. Serve with butter and cinnamon sugar or jam. 

    Notes

    • Use an oil with a high smoke point like canola oil or peanut oil. 
    • Keep the oil between 350°F and 375°F for best results. If you don’t have an instant-read thermometer, use the technique described in the instructions. If the oil starts to smoke, it is too hot. If the dough gets brown in less than 1 minute per side, the oil is too hot. And, if it takes longer than 2 minutes per side to brown the dough, the oil is too cool. 
    • Poking a hole in the center of the dough rounds will help the dough fry evenly. If you skip this step, the dough will puff into a round balloon. 
    • For the fry bread with NO yeast: fry the bread fairly quickly after you mix the dough. If you let the dough sit for too long the baking powder will not leaven the bread as well. You can let the dough sit for 30 or 40 minutes but not much longer without compromising the fluffiness of the bread. 

    For fry bread with yeast:

    • You can refrigerate or freeze the yeast dough after the first rise. Keep in the refrigerator for up to 12 hours or the freezer for up to 3 months.
    • To freeze the dough: divide the dough into 8 balls and coat the dough balls in oil. Wrap them in plastic wrap and place them in a freezer-proof bag. Freeze the dough for up to three months. 
    • To use frozen fry bread dough: Let the dough thaw in the fridge overnight then let it come to room temperature. Proceed with the steps to roll, rise and fry the dough. 
    • Nutrition information does not include the oil used for frying.
    Nutrition Information:
    Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1
    Amount Per Serving: Calories: 228Total Fat: 6gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 16mgSodium: 443mgCarbohydrates: 37gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 5g

    Nutrition information is a guideline only, is calculated automatically by third-party software, and absolute accuracy is not guaranteed.

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    Dahn Boquist

    Dahn is a retired nurse, recipe creator, home cook, baker, and self-proclaimed foodie. She loves creating in the kitchen and cooking for family and friends. She lives in Washington State with her husband and dog. When she isn't cooking or baking, you can usually find her spending time with her grandson or exploring the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

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    Gloria Tuesday

    Thursday 28th of July 2022

    I would love to try this recipe, always looking for new ways to make the fried bannock, i use a bread recipe, for the fry bread. It’s so delicious. Using yeast ?❤️??

    Dahn Boquist

    Thursday 28th of July 2022

    Thanks for the comment, enjoy :)

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