Frybread, also regularly called bannock or Indian bread and sometimes spelled fry bread, is a bread made with flattened dough. It is typically fried in oil in a stove top pan or deep-fried in a large kettle of oil or melted lard or shortening. It is commonly leavened with baking powder or active yeast in either dried or sponge form. Depending on the region in which it is made, either white or whole-wheat flour is typically used to make the frybread dough.
The history of frybread is often traced back to the early 1600s where it was reportedly first prepared by the Native Americans of North America. The recipe quickly became popular with other Native American groups. These groups included the Inuit-Eskimos of Canada and Alaska, who often added spices, dried fruits and other flavorful ingredients to create variations of frybread. Various other sources accredit the development of frybread to Scotland.
Other historical accounts claim frybread was not created until the 19th century by the Navajo who were incarcerated at Fort Sumner, a former United States (U.S.) military fort in the state of New Mexico. During their imprisonment after the infamous invasion and destruction of American scout Kit Carson, the government supplied the approximate 8,000 Navajo prisoners with many food commodities. It is rumored that all the food except the flour and lard was rancid and inedible. The incarcerated Navajo women purportedly created frybread from these rations. Their version of the bread was commonly made from flour ground from dried roots mixed with tree sap and natural leavens.
Besides being a staple bread at breakfast, lunch and dinner, frybread is frequently transformed into a meal. When cheese, beans or ground beef are used to top the bread, it is commonly called Navajo tacos or Indian tacos. It is also frequently converted into a tasty dessert by smearing honey on it or sprinkling powdered sugar on top. In this form, it resembles an elephant ear or fried bread, a popular American snack.
Aside from being served in home environments, fried bread is often sold at fairs, carnivals, pow-wows and other community events and celebrations. Based on its popularity in the U.S. state of South Dakota, that state named it the official state bread in 2005. It is also hailed as a favorite food in the U.S. states of Arizona and New Mexico. On a less positive note, the high consumption rate of fried bread in Native American communities was cited in 2005 as one of the major causes of diabetes and obesity in this demographic group.