Navajo Taco

All the ingredients of a standard-issue taco may be present on a Navajo taco: ground beef, shredded cheese, lettuce, tomato. But there is no tortilla involved. Instead, this open-face dish is built on a round of Navajo fry bread, which makes all the difference in the world. It is a broad disc of dough that puffs up when fried in hot oil, making the ostensible taco look like a thick-crust pizza. Although modern in spirit, and a favorite menu item in cafes that cater to tourists in the Southwest, Navajo tacos have a venerable connection to history. The fry bread on which they are built is hugely important in Navajo culture, something like matzoh is to Jews. When the U.S. Army rounded up Navajos after they surrendered to Kit Carson in 1864 in what now is Arizona, the captives were marched 300 miles through winter snows (known as the Long Walk) and interred in a harsh reservation in New Mexico. Meager supplies issued by their captors included lard, flour, baking powder, and powdered milk. From these they made fry bread, which has become a symbol of the will to survive.

Restaurants With This Dish

El Bruno’s

CUBA, NM

Hermie’s Drive-In

CEDAR CITY, UT

Navajo Hogan

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