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Navajo Culture > Food

A woman wearing a floral-print dress and a blue apron peeling vegetables into a bowl

The Navajo traditionally farmed squash, corn and beans and hunted animals such as deer and prairie dogs. Corn is a staple Navajo food and is eaten fresh, ground or dried. Other popular corn- and wheat-based foods include frybread, hominy, blue bread, roast corn and wheat sprouts. Ground cake and kneel-down bread are prepared from honey, syrup and maize.

Fruits and vegetables include wild celery, corn silk, wild onion, wolfberry, wax currant, juniper berry, squash and yucca bananas. Goats are used for milk and cheese, and wild edible clay is sometimes added to foods to increase the calcium content.

Sheep are an important part of Navajo culture, and are raised for both meat and wool. Almost all of the parts of the sheep are eaten. Mutton stew is a traditional Navajo favorite.

Traditionally, many Navajos considered eating fish or fowl a taboo because of religious beliefs regarding fish and birds. Today, some Navajos still follow this taboo.

Recipes:

Frybread

Frybread

Ingredients
4 cups of flour
1 tbs. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 tbs. powdered milk
1 1⁄2 cups warm water
1 cup shortening
Toppings like cheddar cheese, tomatoes, onions, lettuce and pinto beans

Preparation
1. Put flour in bowl. Add baking powder, salt and powdered milk. Mix.
2. Mix in warm water to form dough.
3. Knead dough by hand until soft but not sticky. Cover with a cloth and let stand for 15 minutes.
4. Shape dough into balls about two inches across, then flatten by patting and stretching the dough.
5. Melt about an inch of shortening in a frying pan. When hot, put dough in pan. Fry one side till golden brown, then turn and fry the other.
6. Add toppings.


A sheep eating

Mutton Stew (Atoo')

Ingredients
1 lb. mutton or lamb
1 medium squash (fresh corn may be substituted)
1-2 large potatoes
3/4 cup green chili
1 small onion
2-3 sticks celery
4 cups water
Pinch of salt

Preparation
1. Cube the meat, sauté it to light brown and put it in boiling water.
2. Peel and cut the potatoes, onions and celery. The squash should be sliced but not too thin.
3. Roast the green chili and peel before adding it to stew.
4. Cook the meat over medium heat for 30 minutes.
5. Add the remainder of the prepared ingredients and the pinch of salt. Cook for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, adding water whenever necessary.
6. Remove from heat and cool for ten minutes before serving.





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