I made Navajo Tacos for dinner to reminisce about my time in New Mexico last April, when I lived on a Navajo reservation for a month during graduate school.
I experienced some of the most amazing food while I was there. I could write paragraphs and paragraphs on the Southwestern food that I tried for the first time. But this post is dedicated to one thing and one thing only: Navajo Tacos. Even though I had been living on a Navajo reservation for a couple of weeks prior to trying this dish, my first introduction to Navajo Tacos was at Monument Valley in Utah. Check out that bad boy above…
Navajo Tacos are aptly named. They’re essentially all the awesomeness of a taco, slopped on a piping hot piece of Navajo Fry Bread. They’re cool. And I think more people should make them more often. I hail from the beautiful Midwest, so I had never heard of such a thing before, but it quickly became one of my favorite meals. They’re delicious, and full of history. That’s something I can never get enough of — finding the meaning behind my food.
In the mid 1800s, the United States government forced the Navajo people to leave their homeland in Arizona and move to a designated piece of land in New Mexico. The Navajo had traditionally relied on vegetables and beans in Arizona, but these foods would never survive in New Mexico. The Navajo people were forced to rely on simpler ingredients — flour, salt, and lard supplied to them by the US government. These ingredients were then used to make Fry Bread, a staple now in the Navajo community. When I traveled to the reservation, everywhere I turned someone was selling Fry Bread or asking me if I had tried it yet. It is delicious, and it’s something that the Navajo community is proud of.
And so, with a little culture conglomeration and ingenuity, Navajo Tacos were born in the beautiful, wild West. A bit of Hispanic culture meets Navajo culture when taco toppings adorn Fry Bread.
Navajo Fry Bread
1 can Pillsbury Grand Original Biscuits (8 Biscuits)
Vegetable or canola oil for frying
1 Tbsp oil
1 packet taco seasoning
½ yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb ground beef
1 (15 oz). can dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (14.5 oz.) can petite diced tomatoes, drained
1 (4 oz.) can diced green chilies
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional Additional Toppings
- To make the Navajo fry bread: Take two biscuits and form a dough ball. Roll out dough ball into 6-inch discs. Heat 3 cups of oil in a large skillet over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until the temperature reaches 350°F. Fry each disc one at a time in the hot oil until golden brown. Flip and fry other side until golden brown. Set the fry bread on a plate covered with paper towels to drain the oil. Keep warm while cooking the taco topping.
- To make the taco topping: In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and cook until translucent. Add ground beef and brown. Add taco seasoning, beans, tomatoes, green chilies, and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes to cook off some of the liquid.
- Place Navajo Fry Bread on a plate. Top with a generous helping of the taco topping. Add any additional toppings as desired. Enjoy!