Navajo Tacos Recipe

Navajo Tacos, a harmonious blend of Native American and Mexican culinary traditions, stand as a testament to cultural resilience and creativity. At the heart of this dish is the Indian Fry Bread, a simple yet profound base topped with seasoned meats, beans, and an array of vibrant toppings. Originating from the Navajo people, these tacos have transcended their humble beginnings to become a beloved comfort food across the United States. Their versatility and rich flavors speak to the dish’s ability to adapt and thrive, making Navajo Tacos a cherished part of the culinary landscape. This introduction aims to explore the historical roots and cultural significance of Navajo Tacos, offering insight into their enduring popularity and the role they play in celebrating Native American heritage.

The Rich History of Navajo Tacos

The story of Navajo Tacos is deeply interwoven with the history of the Navajo people. The dish’s cornerstone, Indian Fry Bread, was born out of necessity during the Long Walk in the 1860s, a forced relocation of the Navajo by the U.S. government. The ingredients provided by the government—flour, salt, and lard—were transformed into fry bread, a symbol of survival and resilience. Over time, this bread became a culinary canvas, leading to the creation of the Navajo Taco.

Navajo Tacos gained prominence as a cultural staple, reflecting the adaptability and endurance of Native American traditions. In 1995, Arizona recognized the significance of this dish by naming it the state’s official dish, a nod to its widespread appeal and historical importance. Other states with strong Native American communities, such as South Dakota and Oklahoma, have also embraced Navajo Tacos, showcasing the dish’s ability to unite people through shared culinary experiences.

Ingredients and Variations: The Heart of Navajo Tacos

At its core, a Navajo Taco consists of Indian Fry Bread topped with a savory mixture of meat, beans, and various toppings. The traditional version uses ground beef seasoned with spices like chili powder and cumin, but there are countless variations, including vegetarian and vegan options.

  • Fry Bread: The soul of the taco, made from flour, salt, baking powder, and water.
  • Toppings: Typically includes seasoned ground beef or beans, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, and sour cream.

This dish’s versatility allows for a wide range of adaptations, making it a canvas for culinary creativity. For those interested in the broader context of Arizona’s culinary landscape, Discover Arizona’s State Foods provides further insights.

How to Make Indian Fry Bread

Creating the perfect Indian Fry Bread is an essential step in preparing Navajo Tacos. This bread serves as the foundation for the toppings that characterize the dish. Here’s a step-by-step guide to making Indian Fry Bread, along with tips for achieving the best results:

  1. Ingredients: Start with basic ingredients – all-purpose flour, baking powder, salt, and warm water. Some recipes may include powdered milk for richness.
  2. Mixing: In a large bowl, combine 2 cups of flour, 2 ½ teaspoons of baking powder, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Gradually add about 1 cup of warm water, mixing until a sticky dough forms.
  3. Kneading: Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead gently. Add flour as needed to prevent sticking, but avoid over-kneading to keep the bread tender.
  4. Resting: Let the dough rest covered for at least 30 minutes. This step is crucial for developing the texture.
  5. Shaping: Pinch off golf ball-sized pieces of dough, flatten and stretch into thin rounds. Aim for a thickness of about ¼ inch for a balance of crispiness and chewiness.
  6. Frying: Heat a deep skillet with about an inch of vegetable oil to 350°F. Fry the bread one piece at a time, flipping once, until golden brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels.

Tips for Perfect Fry Bread:

  • The oil’s temperature is key; too hot, and the bread will burn before cooking through. Too cool, and it will absorb too much oil, becoming greasy.
  • Experiment with the dough’s thickness to find your preferred texture.
  • For variations, some add sugar or honey to the dough for a sweeter version, which can be served as a dessert.

Assembling Navajo Tacos

Once you have your Indian Fry Bread ready, assembling your Navajo Taco is an opportunity to get creative and cater to your taste preferences.

Meat and Vegetarian Topping Options:

  • Traditional Navajo Tacos are topped with seasoned ground beef, but shredded chicken, pork, or beef work great.
  • For a vegetarian version, use beans, lentils, or a meat substitute seasoned with taco spices.

Recommended Toppings and Condiments:

  • Lettuce, tomatoes, and onions add freshness and crunch.
  • Cheese (cheddar, Monterey Jack, or queso fresco) brings richness.
  • Sour cream, salsa, and guacamole offer creaminess and spice.
  • For extra flavor, consider adding cilantro, lime wedges, or pickled jalapeños.

Customizing Your Navajo Taco:

  • The beauty of Navajo Tacos lies in their versatility. Arrange a toppings bar for everyone to customize their taco.
  • Don’t shy away from non-traditional toppings like corn, black olives, or even fruit salsa for a sweet and savory twist.
  • Consider dietary preferences and restrictions by offering a range of toppings, including dairy-free and gluten-free options.

Creating Navajo Tacos is not just about following a recipe; it’s an invitation to explore and celebrate the rich tapestry of flavors and textures that this dish offers. Whether you stick to traditional toppings or venture into new combinations, the process of making and assembling Navajo Tacos is a culinary adventure that brings people together.

Serving and Enjoyment

Serving Navajo Tacos is about creating an experience that’s as delightful to the eyes as it is to the palate. Present the fry bread warm and crispy, with toppings arrayed invitingly so guests can build their tacos to taste. This interactive dining encourages conversation and sharing, making the meal memorable.

Best Practices for Serving:

  • Keep the Indian Fry Bread warm in a low oven until ready to serve to maintain its texture.
  • Offer a variety of toppings in separate bowls for easy customization.

Pairings and Side Dishes:

  • Complement Navajo Tacos with simple sides like a refreshing cilantro-lime rice, black bean salad, or grilled vegetables.
  • For beverages, consider iced tea, lemonade, or agua fresca to balance the richness of the tacos.

Enjoying in a Communal Setting:

  • Navajo Tacos are perfect for gatherings. The act of assembling tacos together fosters a sense of community and sharing.
  • Encourage guests to experiment with toppings and share their creations, turning the meal into a culinary adventure.


What makes Navajo Tacos different from regular tacos?

  • The key difference lies in the base; Navajo Tacos use Indian Fry Bread instead of traditional corn or flour tortillas. This bread adds a unique texture and flavor that sets them apart.

Can Navajo Tacos be made vegetarian or vegan?

  • Absolutely. The versatility of Navajo Tacos allows for a wide range of vegetarian and vegan toppings, including beans, lentils, and vegetable-based proteins, along with dairy-free cheese and sour cream alternatives.

How do you store and reheat leftovers?

  • To maintain the best quality, store the Indian Fry Bread and toppings separately. Reheat the bread in an oven at 350°F until warm and slightly crispy. Toppings can be reheated in a microwave or on the stove. Assemble the tacos just before serving to enjoy them fresh.

Navajo Tacos offer a delightful culinary experience, blending rich flavors and textures with cultural significance. Whether enjoyed in a festive gathering or a cozy family dinner, they invite exploration, customization, and shared joy.

Navajo Tacos Recipe

Discover the joy of making and enjoying Navajo Tacos, a delightful dish that combines the crispy, fluffy texture of Indian Fry Bread with the rich flavors of traditional taco toppings. Perfect for gatherings, these tacos offer a customizable eating experience that celebrates the fusion of Native American and Mexican cuisines.
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Mexican
Servings 4 Serves
Calories 700 kcal


  • Large mixing bowl
  • Skillet or deep fryer
  • Tongs
  • Paper towels (for draining)


For Indian Fry Bread:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 ½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 3 cups oil for frying

For Toppings:

  • ½ pound ground beef or vegetarian alternative
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 can 15 ounces beans (kidney, black, or pinto), rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup shredded lettuce
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes
  • ½ cup shredded cheese cheddar, Monterey Jack, or vegan alternative
  • ¼ cup diced onions
  • Sour cream or vegan sour cream optional
  • Salsa or hot sauce optional


  • Indian Fry Bread: In a large bowl, mix flour, baking powder, and salt. Gradually add warm water and stir to form a dough. Knead on a floured surface until smooth. Let rest for 10 minutes. Divide into 4 balls, flatten into discs, and fry in hot oil until golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels.
  • Toppings: Cook ground beef or vegetarian alternative with chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper until fully cooked. Warm beans in a separate pot.
  • Assemble: Place a piece of fry bread on a plate. Top with meat or vegetarian alternative, beans, lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, onions, and any additional desired toppings.
  • Serve: Enjoy immediately with optional sour cream and salsa.


  • For a healthier version, use whole wheat flour for the fry bread and lean ground meat or a plant-based alternative.
  • The fry bread can also be topped with sweet ingredients like honey, powdered sugar, or cinnamon for a dessert version.
  • Experiment with different toppings to cater to all dietary preferences and tastes.
Keyword Fry Bread Tacos, Indian Fry Bread, Navajo Tacos, Taco Recipe, Vegetarian Options