We LOVE the 50 nifty United States of this awesome country and believe each state is special. Every Monday we feature a sandwich unique to its state as part of our “50 Sandwiches, 50 States, 50 Weeks” series beginning with Alabama and ending with Wyoming. For Arizona, we chose the Navajo Taco, which isn’t quite a sandwich, but not quite a taco either.
Picture a taco, but replace the taco shell with fried flat bread, or frybread, and you’ve got a Navajo Taco. According to whatscookingamerica.net, the fry bread was invented by the Navajo Indians while being held captive in government camps. The government supplied (poor quality) lard, flour, salt, sugar, baking powder or yeast, and powdered milk to the Navajos. With those ingredients, bread was made, then fried. It’s my understanding many Native Americans make frybread, not just the Navajos.
I cheated big time. I gotta confess, I’m not much for making bread. Gary is, but not me. And since frying was involved in making this recipe, which fry = more time + more clean up = I decided to cheat. I used canned pizza dough, as in Pilsbury, for the frybread. Initially, I did have a plan to NOT completely cheat. My original plan went like this: Fry pizza dough, then make homemade dough and fry, then recommend to you which one I liked best (pros and cons) and let you choose which one you wanted to work with. Sometimes plans don’t get enacted and sometimes the reason is because you don’t need another choice. In my opinion, the pizza dough tasted amazing, worked perfectly and had a great texture! So I didn’t even try the homemade dough. I might have lost a few of you over this, but for those who want to stick around, I think you’ll be happy with the results.
Here’s another confession: Indian tacos are really popular in Oklahoma. I’m from OK and have never had one. I remember seeing them when I was a kid and I was like “ahh…. what is that?!” It just wasn’t my thing back then. I was such a picky eater. Now, I could eat this every day. Wowsers! I like this A LOT!
Ok. So let’s talk about frying the dough. It’s not hard to do, but frying isn’t something I do often. I don’t have any thermometers or fancy equipment. I used a pot with high walls (as in stock pot) to fry these and did them one at a time. Since I was only frying 4 pieces, I was ok with doing it that way. I like to use a pot because frying usually involves a touch of splattering and the high walls keep the splatters from splatting all over my stove top! The trick with frying dough is not heating your oil too hot. You’ll cook the outside but the inside will be doughy.
Another tip I learned in researching this recipe is to poke a hole in the middle of the dough before you fry it. It helps it fry more evenly. After I fried the first piece, I got my groove down and knew I needed to fry about 2 minutes each side. So I set my timer for 2 minutes and used the time to chop onions, tomatoes, etc. But had I not set my timer, I would have surely charred and ruined AT LEAST one of the frybreads because I’m really cool like that.
Everything came together easily and we loved the Navajo Taco (it was friend approved too) :).
- 1 (13.8 oz.) can classic pizza dough
- Oil for frying, enough to be about an inch deep
- 1 Tbsp. oil
- 1 lb. ground beef, turkey or chicken (I used 85% lean beef)
- 1 (15.5 oz) can kidney beans, drained, rinsed
- 1 (10 oz.) can Ro*Tel diced tomatoes and green chilies
- 1 (4.5 oz.) can chopped green chilies
- 1 tsp. each chili powder, cumin, garlic powder, salt
- Shredded cheese
- Chopped tomatoes
- Diced red onion
- Diced green onion
- Chopped cilantro
- Sour Cream
- On a floured surface, roll out the pizza dough and cut into 4 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a ball then, using the palm of your hand, flatten out into a ¼ inch thick pancake, about a 5-6 inch wide circle. Repeat for each piece of dough. Set aside.
- Begin making the taco filling by heating the oil in a saute pan on medium heat. Add the meat and break it apart. When it's almost cooked all the way, use a potato masher to crumble it.
- Stir in the remaining taco ingredients and cover. Reduce heat to medium low.
- Now it's time to fry the dough. Heat oil in a pot with high walls or a cast iron skillet on medium heat for about 5 minutes. Pinch off a piece of the dough and place it in the oil. If it starts to bubble, the oil is ready.
- When the oil is ready, poke a hole in each piece of dough so it fries evenly. Place the dough in the oil and use a spatula to move it around so it doesn't stick to the bottom. You should fry about 2-3 minutes each side. Anything faster, and it may not cook all the way through, so adjust your heat accordingly.
- Placed the fried dough on a plate lined with a paper towel to dry and cool.
- Place the frybread on a plate and top with taco filling (drain the liquid) and garnish with your favorite toppings. Yum!