Choctaw Fry Bread

Copyright 2006
Junior Doughty

I did a Google search on "Choctaw Fry Bread" and received 13,500 hits. In other words, there's about as many recipes for Choctaw Fry Bread as there are Choctaws. And the recipes aren't tribe-specific—fill in the blank "______ Fry Bread" with what ever tribe you want, and there's recipes out there.

Years ago I came across a mention of Indian fry bread while reading an old ethnography for an anthropology class. It mentioned Indians carrying chunks of fried bread strung on a cord over their shoulders. The chunks had holes in them to accommodate the cord. The garments of early Indians contained no pockets, so they carried stuff in pouches or on strings around their necks or shoulders.

A couple of years ago I mentioned fry bread to a couple of my card-carrying Choctaw friends. Both remembered the "old people" making it and making it with holes in the centers. Neither, however, knew the reason for the holes.

The reason is obvious to me. In anthropology, that's known as the "etic" or outsider view point of a cultural trait. The insider view point is called "emic," in case you're interested in trivia. Anyway, the holes make it easy to carry the fried bread chunks on a journey—early trail food, in other words.

Click for full size popup photo
I hung this fry bread on my back porch
on 1-13-06. It will hang there until I eat it all or it becomes inedible.

4-17-06 = 94 days and end of test. I took a chunk of fry bread on a walk in the river bottom. Although it still smelled and tasted fine, even delicious, it was too hard to easily eat. I broke off little pieces with my knife and ate them. In a survival situation I could have wet the chunk and made it much easier to eat. After over three months of hanging on my back porch, the fry bread was still edible.

Last year, 2005, I decided to make some Choctaw Fry Bread and to test a theory: early Indians would have (a) had easy access to honey; and (b) would have known about the anti-fungal properties of honey. Logic told me they would have included honey in the bread to protect it from mold. So I made my bread with honey and put it in a gallon zip bag in my refrigerator. I wrote the date on the bag.

Normally, food left in my refrigerator here in high humidity Louisiana starts getting moldy in about two weeks. In six weeks it's covered with mold. (I'm single, ok?) Every couple of weeks I'd take the bag out and check the bread. It was always ok.

Then hurricane Rita knocked out my electricity for a week. Everything in my refrigerator ruined. However, the fry bread looked as good as new. I could have eaten it but didn't due to the big zip bag sitting beside a little zip bag of very moldy
and very odorous cheese. The fry bread was almost 5 1/2 months old.

I recently made another batch and documented the process. My version is a variation of recipes you'll find on the Internet but with honey added. The Indians would have added berries and nuts. Next batch, I'm adding dried cranberries, which I like.

In this recipe we basically make biscuits with water instead of milk. Then we add a donut hole and deep-fat fry them instead of baking them. I carefully measured all the ingredients used and the amount of oil absorbed. Below you'll find a table comparing them to other trail/survival foods.

You'll need:

  • 2 cups self-rising flour
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 2 Tbsps honey
  • Skillet and oil. I used lard like the Indians did.

Dissolve the honey in the warm water. Using two tablespoons of honey, the resulting chunks of fried bread will have a very slight taste of honey. Add more honey if you want.

Combine the ingredients in a bowl and mix. Add flour or water if you need to. Add sugar if you want. Add berries and nuts if you want. I'm betting fresh blackberries would make a great addition.

Dump the mix on a floured cloth, etc., and tear off biscuit-size chunks. Then use a finger and poke holes in their middles. You should end up with 8 to 10 donut-like chunks of fry bread.

Click for full size popup photo


Drop the chunks in hot oil and start frying.

Turn them occasionally so they fry evenly.

Click for full size popup photo


I ended up with the 8 chunks of fry bread you see here.

They are tied to a leather lace and hanging from my shoulder.

(I wore my Sunday best for this photo session.)

Click for full size popup photo

Here's a close-up.

The texture is not like a biscuit at all. The crust is pliable and semi-tough with a cake-like interior. I could tote the remaining chunks of fry bread in the woods for several days without one breaking and falling off the cord. Yet they're not too tough to eat.

All in all, they make a dandy trail or survival food.


Click for full size popup photo Update 6-04-08: I made a batch using fresh blackberries straight from the river bottom. I followed the recipe as listed above, but I added one cup of crushed blackberries, juice included. I also added a little more honey as I like the taste.

For some fool reason, I made these much bigger than previous batches. I wanted eight and got only six. Previous batches averaged 2.3 oz each and this batch averaged 3.7 oz each. One chunk of this bread would make a meal for a small person.

Y'all, this batch of blackberry flavored Choctaw fry bread was unbelievably delicious!

Click for full size popup photo Let's compare their energy-providing ability with other common trail foods.

From left to right, we see some of my favorite trail foods. (Only thing missing is a boiled yard egg.)

  • Choctaw Fry Bread
  • Wal-Mart Vienna Sausage
  • Butterfinger® Candy Bar
  • Wal-Mart Trail Mix
  • Slim Jim® Sausage, .3 oz size


In computing the table below I used a price of $0.00 for lard, because that's what mine cost me. Vegetable oil was based on a cost of $2.00 for a 48 oz jug. On average, each piece of fry bread absorbed exactly 1 fluid oz of cooking fluid.

  Fry Bread w/lardFry Bread w/oilVienna SausageCandy BarTrail MixSlim Jim®
Fat26.3 g28.3 g27.5 g11.0 g15.0 g4.3 g
Carbs24.0 g24.0 g5.0 g44.0 g30.0 g1.0 g
Cholesterol 44 mg0 mg112 mg0 mg0 mg12 mg
Weight 2.3 oz2.3 oz5.8 oz2.1 oz2.0 oz0.3 oz
Calories per ounce14915352129140167
Cost per ounce16¢25¢50¢

Food for thought as well as the trail, huh? You be the judge as to which is best. Me, I think Choctaw Fry Bread is ahead—in cost for sure! Taste, too.

Home     Back to the cooking section