Puffy Indian Tacos with Masa Fry Bread

When I was a little girl, mom was the den mother for my brother’s Webelo and Cub Scout packs – and by the simple fact that, at 6 years old, I had nowhere else to be, I accepted the honorary role of den sister. Truthfully, I “commandeered” the role.

There were den meetings and pack meetings, mottos ((“Do Your Best”)), promises, oaths, challenges, crafts, projects, songs, survival training ((that maybe a “slight” exaggeration for the Cubs…)), badges, beads, belt loops, the pinewood derby AND my most favorite: SNACKS.

The truth is, I have always been a foodie. Foodies go wherever foodies need to go to get there little hands on yummy food — even if it means forcing our way into the den.

I remember many hours of sitting at the feet of my mom while she worked with the boys. I also remember receiving many glares from my brother when he thought I got a little too involved in the business of the den. ((Hey a woman’s got to do what a woman’s got to do!)) But whenever I think back to those years, one afternoon always comes to mind first. And yes, it has to do with food.

Indian Fry Bread to be exact.

I remember mom sharing the history of Indian fry bread and, as she taught us that simple recipe, I remember being amazed. Isn’t it amazing that such simple, meager ingredients can be combined in such a way as to feed and sustain an entire group of people?

Well, as I have gotten older, I, of course, have learned that all peoples from all over the world have survived by doing that very thing for centuries. But at the moment mom mixed water and flour and dropped it into the hot oil – my mind was blown. And my mouth watered.

It’s no surprise – the taste of that hot, slightly greasy, crisp and fluffy bread was delicious. I am not sure powdered sugar was part of the original recipe, but WOW – it needed to be.  Really, with moments like this, who wouldn’t want to be a den sister??!


Fast forwarding the present, imagine my excitement in sharing the same experience with my kiddos. However, my first attempt at making them wasn’t quite as magical as I had remembered. Mom assured me “Emily — it’s just flour ((self-rising)) and water… you can’t mess it up.” After all these years, does she really even know me?

I can drive down the road and roll my ((in use)) tire right off the wheel. I can lock my keys in my running car while pumping gas. I can flood my entire UPSTAIRS apartment when trying to just wash a few dishes. Trust me – I can mess anything up.


I even managed to mess up flour and water. Sure, the fry breads were pretty and the taste was decent — but the texture. It was like chewing on a boot. Yep, I can mess anything up, indeed.


But, in the word’s of my momma: “If at first you don’t succeed; fry, fry a hen”. And that is exactly what I did – well, mostly. This time, I did a little more than just mix flour and water. I ((actually Gracie))mixed:


  • self-rising flour
  • baking powder
  • salt
  • sugar
  • masa harina
  • milk


One of my original problems was the density of the fry bread. To fix that, I added 2 teaspoons of baking powder. As a side note, and little kitchen tip, baking powder “puffs” and baking soda “spreads”. So depending on your desired result, add the appropriate ingredient. I wanted my fry bread to PUFF, so in went the baking powder.

The remaining ingredients were added to improve flavor. The masa added a nice, nutty flavor and that wonderful “bite”.


When adding the milk, add it incrementally until you reach the desired consistency.


And my last tip for achieving fluffy fry bread perfection: do not over mix. ((Over mixing = tough)) Some lumps are fine!


While you are measuring and mixing, be heating your oil over a medium-high flame ((I didn’t use a thermometer, but if you do — 350° is a great frying temperature)).


Once the batter has rested for a few minutes, use a ½ cup scoop to carefully drop the batter into the hot oil. Use the back of the scoop to spread the batter out just a bit.


Allow one side to turn medium golden brown before flipping to the other side.


Place the finished breads on a parchment lined baking sheet and into a 275° preheated oven, to keep the warm and crisp, until ready to serve.


Add desired toppings ((we did taco meat & beans, shredded cheese, avocado, salsa, tomatoes, olives, jalapeños & lettuce (( if I have it on hand)).


Take 2 on the puffy tacos was a winner!! The masa was a great addition & the baking powder did wonders to the overall texture. Although they are not exactly like the ones from my “den sister” days, they were so tasty and the kiddos LOVED them ((DAVID did too))!


Puffy Indian Tacos with Masa Fry Bread
Serves 8
A perfectly puffed fry bread with a yummy twist, thanks to the addition of masa harina.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
  1. 2 c self rising flour
  2. 1 c masa harina
  3. 2 t baking powder
  4. 2 - 3 T cane sugar
  5. 2 c whole milk*
  6. 4 c canola oil
  1. Add oil to an extra deep large cast iron skillet & heat to approximately 350°. Mix remaining ingredients in a medium mixing bowl, taking care not to overwork ((which can lead to very tough fry bread)). Add link incrementally in order to reach desired consistency, I used almost 2 cups milk.
  2. Once fry bread batter in ready and the oil is hot**, use a scoop to drop equal amounts of batter into the hot oil. Use the back of the scoop to flatten out the fry bread if it is staying too thick. Once the first side has turned medium golden brown, flip and continue to fry until the bread is cooked through and medium golden brown on both sides. Once the fry breads are cooked through, place them on a parchment lined baking sheet and into a 275° oven until ready to serve. This will keep them warm & crisp.
  3. Repeat the frying process until all of the batter in used.
  4. Top with desired garnishes such as: taco meat, beans, sour cream, shredded cheese, salsa, lettuce, olives, jalapeños, avocados etc. Or,toss in powdered sugar and serve as a dessert.
  1. *More or less depending on desired consistency.
  2. **I did not use a cooking thermometer, if you have one and feel more comfortable knowing exactly what your oil temps are, 350° is a perfect temperature for frying.
Food for a Year: https://foodforayear.com/

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