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Native American Indian Foods - From Beans To Fry Bread To Inuit Treats

Updated on June 16, 2016
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

A descendant of Mohawk Nation and trained in anthropology, Patty has researched and reported on indigenous peoples for over four decades.

Harvesting wild rice in the eastern United States in the 19th century.
Harvesting wild rice in the eastern United States in the 19th century. | Source

All My Relations And Cuisines

When we speak of Native American Foods and which ones are most popular, we are considering the foods and traditions of probably 3,000+ different nations, bands, pueblos, communities, and unofficially designated groups of Indigenous People in the Western Hemisphere. This makes a lot of traditions and cuisines to consider.

The isolated communities have their own traditions and foods that may or may not be related to a larger group, while some groups of nations actually enjoy similar foods and traditions.

Take for instance, the Iroquois Confederacy of nations that rooted itself in the eastern portion of what is now the USA and Canada, or the Southwest Native Americans with their cuisine, which is different. The Plains Indians eat differently still.

Each of these groups is pretty large, compared to a tiny village on the northern cost of Alaska, which makes its living from fishing.

The Inuit form a large group of native peoples who live in the Arctic, including the Northwest Territories, Nunatsiavut, Nunavik, Nunavut, and Nunatukavut in Canada; Denmark/Greenland, Siberia/Altai and Alaska. In 2014, DNA evidence showed historical Inuit habitation in Iceland as well. taken together, Inuit and other groups are members of the Circumpolar Peoples of the North.

Inuit 1900. Modern celebrations still include these instruments.
Inuit 1900. Modern celebrations still include these instruments. | Source

Consider the Inuit and related nations round the North Polar Region -- These also have different foods that we may not recognize.

Then we have Mexican Native Americans, Central American Native Americans, South American Native Americans, and Caribbean Native Americans. We Have Pacific Islander native Americans and others. All the related food is delicious.

Many different native groups came together with the Europeans, the Caribbeans, the Africans, and others, to become our interesting American Creole people, whom you will meet in New Orleans.

Many other mixtures are called metis or metizo or a similar term. More food choices and traditions emerge from these groups and expand the native menus of North America greatly.

Native Americans still cook with aged goose fat and bear grease, which other Americans may not enjoy - substitute the fat that you do like.

Ring Dance performance at the Iroquois Indian Village in the New York State Fair.
Ring Dance performance at the Iroquois Indian Village in the New York State Fair. | Source

All My Relations is a motto often attributed to indigenous North Americans, meaning that all life is sacred and related. In considering this, we can appreciate from where our food comes and not waste it. That is a good thing. .

Below are a few popular recipes with Native Americans and other Americans as well. In fact, some people early everywhere like them. They include

  • Smoked Salmon,
  • Succotash,
  • Squash casseroles,
  • Fry Bread made without milk, and
  • A Traditional Inuit Dessert

The Three Sisters

The Northeastern Native Americans taught the first English white settlers how to grow corn so that they would not starve to death their first winter, since they had brought no seed with them from England to plant.

In addition to corn, the natives grew a variety of beans and squash. Together, the three vegetables became known as The Three Sisters.

In many waterways, the Native Americans were able to find wild rice as well.

When you mix half lima beans and half corn and cook together, you have succotash, another Native American food popular at the time. Some people add tomatoes today.

There was no pumpkin pie at the first Plymouth Colony "thanksgiving" dinner, but there were several dishes of squash and pumpkin casserole puddings served as both side dishes and desserts. No flour was available for pie crusts at the time.

In addition, Native Americans brought deer, game fowl, and plenty of vegetables to the party and the English women helped cook, while the English men drank the beer that they brought with them on shipboard. This is all recorded in the diary of one of the English-Americans, displayed safely in a Plymouth area museum.

I love the squash casseroles and even found a crustless pumpkin pie recipe. You can mix up your regular pumpkin pie recipe but reduce the evaporated milk by half. Pour the mix into a glass pie dish and bake for about 30 minutes, and you're done.


Traditional American Succotash Recipe

Vegetarian Succotash Recipe

Lake Erie Smoked Salmon

Cooking fish in what is now Virginia in 1590.
Cooking fish in what is now Virginia in 1590.

Smoked Salmon From Great Lake States Communities

In Ohio a couple of hundred years ago, the Salmon were always as long as a tall man's arm. They and other fish were huge until they were over-fished out of the rivers, lakes, and ponds.

A favorite dish of Ohio Native Americans as well as others, has been smoked salmon. Here's the recipe:


  • 1 Very Large Salmon, or 2 as large as you can find
  • Garlic, Dill, and pepper to taste, Oregano to taste (optional) 1.5 Cups sugar, 1 Cup salt


  • Place all ingredients into a very large kettle and add enough water just to cover.
  • Let stand for 12 hours overnight in this brine and drain. Also soak 3 to 4 pounds Hickory wood pieces in a bucket of water overnight at the same time.
  • Fill large grill with enough charcoal (one handful) to make the Hickory ignite.
  • Cook salmon whole or filleted, covered, until done and meat is still firm but done.

banquet at Walla Walla Treaty Council. native Americans sit in two rows under an arbor. Isaac Stevens and General Joel Palmer are serving food (1855).
banquet at Walla Walla Treaty Council. native Americans sit in two rows under an arbor. Isaac Stevens and General Joel Palmer are serving food (1855).

Traditional Fry Bread

Fry Bread Is A Staple You Can Easily Enjoy

This recipe does not include any milk, buy many recipes for fry bread do include it. Some use buttermilk. I prefer it without milk, but with milk it is more like a donut.


  • 2 Cups flour
  • 1 TBSP baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 Cup butter or solid vegetable shortening or lard
  • 1/2 Cup warm water
  • Vegetable oil for frying


  • In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt and mix together so ingredients or evenly dispersed. If you use a sifter and sift them together, the fry bread will be lighter.
  • Alternately add and mix shortening and warm water ins mall amounts until you have a firm dough ball (not very sticky).
  • Knead this dough several times and make in balls the size of a baseball or larger.
  • Cover dough balls in a bowl with a clean and let rise 10 minutes. Roll or pat risen dough into circles about ½ inch thick.
  • Fry bread circles in hot vegetable oil in a heavy skillet until golden brown on both sides.
  • Drain on paper towels.
  • Sprinkle with sugar, powdered sugar, and/or cinnamon.
  • You can also use the fry bread as a tostada base or fold it over for a taco.

An Inuit Frozen Dessert

A Real Igloo

An igloo.
An igloo.

Akutaq - The Dessert Of The North

If you watch very many episodes of Food Network's Iron Chef America, you know that the Iron Chefs and Challengers make Ice Cream and Sorbets out of any ingredient. Salmon ice cream always sounded nice to me...

This recipe is for Akutaq and is a frozen dessert prepared and eaten by Inuits and related groups in the North. The ingredients may put you off, however:


  • Fat - Reindeer fat, seal oil, walrus blubber, moose or caribou fat, anything from a large animal. You could also actually use lard or Crisco.
  • Berries - blackberries are great, but so are blueberries or red raspberries.
  • Meat - usually cooked salmon that has been cooled, boned, and crumbled.
  • Snow
  • Native roots - sassafras would be good, but any edible root
  • Water if needed


Take an anount of fat and beat it together with meat with a whisk to add air. When mixed, whip in snow and berries alternately, and tasty roots cut small if you want, until desired consistency is reached. If not sweet enough, add sugar. Keep refrigerated.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Blackberry BushesSassafras in Michigan.SalmonBlueberries
Blackberry Bushes
Blackberry Bushes | Source
Sassafras in Michigan.
Sassafras in Michigan. | Source
Salmon | Source
Blueberries | Source

© 2009 Patty Inglish MS


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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Thanks very much! I also like sopapilla.

    • botipton profile image

      Bo Tipton 

      8 years ago from Cecilia, KY

      Pretty basic good fry bread recipe. Fry bread and sopapilla are basically the same thing. I do love my fry bread. Good recipes here on this hub. Thanks

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Someone wrote an irate status that HubPages contains no traditional Fry Bread recipes. This one has been posted for two years. I learned it at a Pow Wow of Iroquois and Plains Peoples.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      11 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      I use the fry bread in place of many thigns, including (east) Indian nan. :)

    • SoftCornHippo profile image


      11 years ago

      I'm wondering if this frybread recipe will work for "sopapillas" I might haveta try it right away, cuz I am missin' those sopys with my chiliconcarne! mmmm. You ever make the chalupa with the frybread? I might try that too. right now. mmmmmm. oh, better wait til my tummy's a little emptier. thanks for the reminder!

    • sukhera143 profile image


      11 years ago from Home


    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      11 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      The lemon sounds especially good, alekhouse. I think I'll pick up some salmon tonight. :)

    • alekhouse profile image

      Nancy Hinchliff 

      11 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

      Enjoyed your hub, Patti. I liked your smoked salmon recipe, noticed they used Dill for flavor. I love Salmon; probably have it two or three times a week. I buy it at a small meat market that has the best Salmon I've ever eaten. I broil it with dill, butter, lemon, salt and cracked pepper. Love it.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      11 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Thanks for the comments. BrianS - there are several dozen that people might like to try and I'll post some more.

    • BrianS profile image

      Brian Stephens 

      11 years ago from Laroque des Alberes, France

      Lots of different recipes here I have never heard of and I wonder how well known they would be in the States, I am from the UK by the way. Very informative and I have to admit there were a few in there I quite liked the look of.

    • creativeone59 profile image

      benny Faye Douglass 

      11 years ago from Gold Canyon, Arizona

      Thank you for a very nice native american food hub, great reci[es. thanks. creativeone59


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