Native American Bannock Bread

Native American Bannock bread

Hello all!

Well another busy week over. I have been thinking all week about possible topics for an article. Then, it dawned on me: Emily, write about bannock! The bread of the Native people, the bread of our ancestors. And such a simple bread to make. So let’s take a look at the history of bannock, and at my personal recipe for it 🙂

First off, what is bannock?

Bannock is also know as fry bread. That’s it. Done. Bannock is fry bread 😉 Ok ok, let’s talk about it some more. The word Bannock actually stems from the old English word bannuc which meant a morsel. More so, it has a Scottish origin of all places! If you read novels set in Old England or Scotland, you might read about the bannock they were eating.

bannock

bannock

Thus, bannock or fry bread is not exclusive to the Aboriginal people and can be found across different nations of the world, including Africa for example. I have a friend whose family is from South Africa. The first time I made bannock, he said: “OMG, fry bread like my mom used to make! But it is not as salty as hers”. So different locations, different recipes!

Bannock of the Aboriginal people

So how did bannock make it to Canada? Well it is not all that clear. But there is some evidence that it was eaten by Europeans fur traders when they arrived in Canada. It was then known under different names: bannock, bannaq, galette and made with flour, water and sometimes fat. Whereas, the Scottish version was mostly made with oats or barley. However, at the time of the fur traders, flour was not that easily acquired in America. Corn flour or plants rather than wheat flour would have been more easily found. Therefore, the belief that bread was not available before the arrival of Europeans has not been demonstrated. Instead, it is more plausible that bread was made by the Indigenous people but using natural ingredients (may it be lichen or corn) rather than wheat. As flour was a luxury item, not readily used but rather saved for special occasions. Preparing bannock on an open fire (either in the ashes of the fire or in a frying pan over the fire). I would say that Europeans learned from the cooking of the people of the land, how they used the land to gather strength and nutrients.

bannock sandwich

bannock sandwich-looks so good!

Why is it called fry bread then?

As I just said, bannock used to be prepared as big biscuit and baked in a big frying pan or propped on sticks by the fire. Or even wrapped around sticks. It was made very simply with water, flour, salt and a bit of fat (lard or bacon grease). Over time, although it was still prepared in a skillet, people began adding oil to fry it. It was either baked as a big biscuit or cut into wedges or rounds. Or even in the shape of doughnuts! As for the recipe, around the mid 1800’s, it became a tad more elaborate. Butter, buttermilk, baking powder were sometimes added. Nothing fancy by today’s standards but more elaborate back then considering their nutrition.

However, as it is fry bread, even though it has been a staple of the Native culture, a big part of traditions and part of the Indigenous people’s nutrition, it should not be eaten every day. Yes although it is not soaked in oil, it is still cooked in it. Yes technically you could have it baked in the oven. But really, once one has had fry bannock, there is no going back! Alright, now on to my personal bannock recipe. Although everyone says their recipe is the best (big competition here!), mine really is 🙂

my bannock

My bannock 🙂

My bannock recipe

3 cups flour

1 1/2 cup warm water

a pinch of salt

one tsp of yeast

one tsp baking powder

Mix warm water and yeast and add to dry ingredients. Knead in a ball and covered in a bowl and let rest for 45 minutes. This will give time for the yeast to activate. Roll out (about 1/3 inch thick) and cut into wedges. Drop in hot oil and fry about 2 minutes max per side. Or until brown and bubbles form. Sponge off on a paper towel. The bannock will be all fluffy and light. Eat with lard (as our ancestors did), with peanut butter and jam (sold at every Pow wow I have been to), or rolled in sugar and cinnamon. I have made it a tradition to bring my own bannock at work and give it to clients. I now get requests on how they want it (“you should make it with sugar and cinnamon”)!. They say food brings people together. It is especially true of bannock 🙂

bannock

All my Relations

 

 

30 thoughts on “Native American Bannock Bread

  1. AnnieLouisa

    Hi Emily I have actually heard of bannock from Scotland! So I was intrigued to see how native American bannock bread differed from the Scottish variety. And, I have just finished a book on Edward Curtis, the great photographer and anthropologist who did so much to preserve the way of life of the native Americans in print and photograph! Anyway, this looks a delicious recipe and it seems pretty easy to do. Wouldn’t want to eat it with lard though, sugar and cinnamon sounds great to me.

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      hi Annie Louisa!
      how funny that you knew bannock from Scotland! And yes love love Edward S Curtis. I post so many of his pictures! I would not eat it with lard either….

      Reply
  2. yunier

    oh wow ! this is something that i been dying to try but never was sure lol I plan to use your recipe and see how it pans out !

    Reply
  3. Tony

    Good read, i had never heard of this bread before and i am glad i did cause the bannock with sugar and cinammon sounds very tasty 🙂 thanks for the recipe!

    Reply
  4. Jessy

    Hey Emily,

    Amazing site over all, really respect your people and this is a very great site to inform the ingnorant. I come form a small town calle Gaspe Quebec where a lot of natives still reside and I have some friends that are Mic Mac (I Don’t know if you heard of them)

    Never heard of bannock bread but it sounds amazing. I personally never heard any history of the native people (apart from what they teach in school which is almost nothing) although i Don’t really remember my history classes that much. 😛

    Will definitely be trying this recipe (i can’t bake but my girlfriend can 🙂 ). Again great site, like what you did with the background very beautiful scenario. and keep it up people need to know about history from ACTUAL people, not what they write in books.

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      hi Jessy
      thanks for visiting! I do know Gaspe as I am from Quebec originally 🙂 so yes I am familiar with Mic Mac. I had not tasted bannock until I moved on the West Coast. I just had some for lunch today! I have some at every event or gathering I go to. It is super easy to make! And you are totally right, history taught in school is very limited. So much more to learn about the history of our ancestors. So much that was not taught. All my Relations

      Reply
    2. Marc Parsons

      Hey Emily

      So glad I found this post! I am drooling just looking at your images of Native American Bannock bread.

      In South Africa we have two versions of this… and I have to literally force my self to stop eating before I explode 😉

      The first is vetkoek… “en mince” for those of you that know it. It’s basically fry bread stuffed with mince… MMMmmmmm.

      The other is an Afrikaans version (I believe) called Rooster brood… Straight of the fire with melting butter and jam on it…. It really is a treat!

      Wish I could upload some pics for you 😉

      Anyway, thanks for a great post.

      Cheers,

      Marc Parsons

      Reply
      1. Emily Post author

        hi Marc
        wow your fry bread sounds amazing! I knew it was also quite popular in Africa. A friend of mine told me it was a bit more salty over there. You have to take me away from warm bannock too 🙂

        Reply
  5. edy

    Glad to know Native American traditional secret to fry bread. That bannock bread looks delicious. Thanks for sharing its recipe here! I will consider making it in the future. By the way, do you have any additional ingredients to make it tastier? 🙂

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      hi Edy
      it is a super easy recipe, try it! It is not uncommon for people to add dry fruit to bannock to make it more “scone like”. Cranberries, raisins, for example. And adding a bit of sugar to the dough as well. Personally, I like it the traditional way: plain 🙂

      Reply
  6. George

    Hi Emily,
    There is something about the Native American tradition that’s particularly haunting. The recipe seems delicious, for sure, but I have to take a moment to appreciate your wondeful article in its core . It was like, I could sense the images, smells and sounds of your description. I traveled with it. Well done! I ought to stick around for more information on such a fascinating topic!

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      thanks George for the great comment! I am glad you could travel in time and be right there with the ancestors 🙂

      Reply
  7. Debra

    I will have to try this recipie as my husband loves every thing Irish. Interesting that it is fried. Curious what did the native indians use to fry these breads in?

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      hi debra!
      it is worth giving it a try for sure! Technically they did not fry it back then. They cooked it over a fire. The use of oil to fry came later

      Reply
  8. Enid @BeginPreppingNow.com

    I am a born and bred Montanan. We have a large native population. I had an uncle who was Little Shell. It is very important to respect others’ traditions. Respect for others’ beliefs is so important. There is value in many ideas. Most native people are so appreciative of the world around us.

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      hi Enid
      absolutely! if we think in terms of we are all related, then the whole world becomes important, as everything is a relation. respect is huge within the native culture.

      Reply
  9. Sammie

    I don’t know why I always thought that Fry-bread was made with corn meal? Glad I got educated, though! The bread in the pictures look so delicious and flaky. It also seems easy enough to cook (I’m such a cooking noob. I really feel for my fiancĂŠ haha!). Must haaaas <3

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      hi Sammie!
      thanks so much for visiting! it could have been made with corn flour before wheat flour was brought to America. It is very very easy to make indeed. Really hard to screw it up 🙂 and soooo good!

      Reply
  10. Nnamdi

    Hello Emily, this is really an interesting post. But one would really wonder how the Native Americans got bannock bread that has connection or it origin with Scottish people. But this shows how connected and related we all are, despite our differences. This must be a delicious bread, but I think the one made from oat maybe better…just a thought.

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      Hi Nnamdi!
      Bannock was given by Europeans settlers to Native Americans at their arrival. They went as far as rationing their food. We are all related and I am glad Native people made it their own. It is delicious!

      Reply
  11. shannon

    Oh my goodness, I have been looking for this recipe for ages. As a child I spent part of my life in a little town called Beatty Oregon, we had a log cabin on a mountainside that our family built, and it set just at the border of an Indian reservation. Thus we knew many Native Americans from the reservation and went to school with them. Plus my family bloodline comes from Apache. Every morning before school we would eat this only I could never pronounce it due to speech problem I had, so we grew up calling it Indian bread. I have always wanted my children to have the opportunity to experience the wonderful taste of Indian Bread I grew up on and came to Love. My son is about to be 21 and my daughter 14 but it’s never to late. Thank You for sharing this recipe.

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      hi Shannon!
      yay! so glad you can now have this recipe 🙂 it is so easy to make. I actually made some last night for the office and I am eating it as we speak! It is a very traditional food and as long as it is not eaten every day, I say go for it!

      Reply
  12. Johnathan Tarter

    Thank you for sharing this intriguing and inviting information with us all! The bannock bread looks absolutely delicious and it is very interesting and fun to learn about some of the recipes that Native American’s used! I will definitely be looking through other recipes that you posted and will post in the future! Thank you again and I will definitely be creating this bread for myself and my loved ones! 🙂

    Reply
  13. Farshid

    Thank you so much for posting this recipe ! I had never tried fried bread, and had never heard of Bannock, but when I ran across your recipe and saw how simple it was to make, I decided to give it a try. My wife has mentioned several times that she used to make fried bread, and top it with chili and shredded cheese. She always added how good it tasted. So I decided to make this. It was so easy, and turned out absolutely delicious. I put powdered sugar on them, and between me, my wife, and daughter, there was not much left. Next time I’m going to make them and top with the chili/cheese thing. Thanks again 🙂

    Reply
    1. Emily Post author

      yay Farshid! I am so happy you tried it! It is sooo easy to make. I make it every week and bring some to clients who love it too. I bet it is delicious with cheese and chili!

      Reply

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