Introduction: Barbecue Navajo Tacos (Indian Fry Bread)

About: I'm a chef who runs a food blog called The Frayed Apron. Come check out what I'm cooking!

As an Arizona native, I've grown up eating and loving the navajo taco.
Voted the state dish in 1995, I guess everybody loves this fried delicious dough. I was inspired to try adding barbecued pork with toasted chilis because of my love of smoky, spicy flavors. This frybread is the real deal - made simply with baking powder, flour, salt, and water and smothered in chili con carne! While I make this with pork country ribs - you could also try it with barbecued beef.


4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp kosher salt

1 1/2 tbsp baking powder

1 1/2 cups warm water vegetable oil for frying Navajo Tacos

1 pound pork, such as country ribs (no bone)

3 New Mexico chili peppers

2 cups refried beans

4 oz cotija or cheddar cheese, shredded

1 head ice-burg lettuce, thinly sliced

1 tomato, diced

2 tbsp sour cream

Step 1: Prepare the Fire

Fire up the offset smoker or barbecue using briquettes or oak hardwood. Allow the wood to smolder for at least 20 minutes.

Add a water bath (use a throw away tine foil tray) near the fire to keep the atmosphere moist. You want the internal temperature of the smoker to be 275 °F throughout the cook.

Step 2: Barbecuing the Pork

Apply salt and pepper to both sides of the pork, using double the amount of pepper to salt. Place the pork on the barbecue. Total Cook Time is 6 hours minimum (low and slow) until tender.

Timing the Cook (6 hour breakdown schedule) aka 3-2-1 ribs:

  1. 3 hours, then flip
  2. 2 hours (spritz with water, apple juice, or apple cider vinegar)
  3. last hour (submerge the pork in chile sauce and transfer to the oven)

*Remember to keep the fire going at a constant temperature throughout the cook. Set the oven temperature to 275 °F.

Step 3: Make the Chili Sauce

During the barbecue process, I like to make the chili sauce. Remove the seeds from 3 New Mexico chili peppers and toast them dry in a skillet for 10-30 seconds. You want to release the aroma a bit.

Toast 3 New Mexico red chili peppers in a hot skillet for 10 seconds. Blend with 2 cups water, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1 minced clove garlic.
Pour the sauce into a baking dish. Add the barbecued pork and warm in the oven (275 degrees F) for 1 hour (or longer if you want a softer texture).

Step 4: Frybread

Frybread Ingredients
4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp kosher salt

1 1/2 tbsp baking powder

1 1/2 cups warm water

vegetable oil for frying

Frybread Instructions

Add flour, salt, and baking powder to a medium bowl. Stir to combine. Now add the water, a bit at a time while stirring. Gather into a dough with your hands, squeezing a bit to disperse the flour. Place a slightly damp cloth or plastic wrap over the bowl. Rest for 1-2 hours.

Divide the dough into 8 equal portions. Flour a work surface and roll until 1/4" thick (or shape with your hands). Keep the dough covered to prevent if from drying out. Pour vegetable oil into a skillet so that the depth is about 1 1/2".

Warm over medium heat. Tear off a tiny piece of dough to test the temperature. It's ready when the dough bubbles right away (350°F). Gently lay a piece of dough in the hot oil and rotate it with tongs when it's golden and puffy. Cook the other side for a couple minutes, just until golden brown. Set on a tray lined with paper towels to drain excess oil.

Step 5: Navajo Tacos

Navajo Taco: Top with any of these or all of them…
beans, cheese, lettuce, tomato, salsa, sour cream

Last but not least, shred the chili con carne (barbecued pork) with the chile sauce. Top the taco with the meat and get ready to be in barbecue heaven!

*This recipe was developed and shared by The Frayed Apron, a food blog about flavor layering, cooking techniques, and a love of all things grilled, smoked, and barbecued. Stop by and say hi or find me @thefrayedapron on Instagram.

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