Navajo Tacos

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Ditch the fry bread and serve these

These Navajo Tacos start with the absolute best homemade Fry Bread! The bread is topped with a deliciously seasoned beef and bean mixture and then topped with all your favorite taco toppings like cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and sour cream.

Image of the Navajo Tacos on a plate

What Is A Navajo Taco?

Navajo Tacos start with a fry bread that has been topped with a chili-style meat and bean mixture. The meal is finished off by adding your favorite taco toppings like cheddar cheese, chopped lettuce, tomatoes, olives, sour cream, guacamole, etc.

The fry bread is deep fried, and that gives it a lightly crisp exterior. The interior is soft, chewy, and so flavorful. Fry bread is fairly easy to make and doesn’t require much time to prepare — in fact, there is no rising time required!

QUICK TIP

Fry bread is a traditional flatbread in the American southwest. It’s also called Navajo Bread. There are many versions of this recipe–here’s my adaptation–but it’s a tortilla-like bread that is deep fried until deliciously crispy and golden.

Process shots-- images of the dry and wet ingredients being combined and mixed together

What Are Navajo Tacos Made Of?

There are essentially three parts to this recipe:

  1. Fry Bread
  2. Meat & Bean Mixture
  3. Toppings

We’ll break down each component below.

Process shots of Navajo Tacos-- images of the dough being formed into a ball, resting, then being cut into 8 equal parts, and each part being pressed into a circle

1. Let’s Chat Fry Bread

This fry bread is my all-time favorite — I think it’s the best part of Navajo Tacos! It’s so ridiculously flavorful with the best possible texture, and it’s also simple to make with typical pantry ingredients. Here are a few notes:

  • Yeast. There is yeast in this fry bread, but it does not require rising time. We do rest the bread a little (just while preparing the meat and bean mixture) but this is so the gluten can relax– which will make it easier to form pieces of dough before frying. Also, there’s no kneading required! In fact, the less you touch the dough, the better.
  • Dough texture. The dough is shaggy and rough looking. It is supposed to be sticky, but not so sticky that you can’t work with it. Add a touch of extra flour if needed, but avoid adding too much extra. On the flip side, if the dough is too dry, you may need a touch more milk. (There are always going to be variations due to climate, humidity, and individual measuring discrepancies.)
  • Frying the bread. I recommend using a large cast iron pot which retains and maintains an even temperature for the oil. I also recommend adding a thermometer to the side of the pot so you can keep the temperature consistent. We don’t want it to get too hot (or too cool) because that will affect how the bread fries. Here is the thermometer I attach to the pot and would highly recommend adding to your kitchen. (affiliate link).

Process shots-- images of the Fry Bread cooking in the oil

2. Next, The Meat and Bean Mixture

Next up we’ve got the chili-style meat and bean mixture. If you’ve recently made this tasty Crockpot Chili, you can add the leftovers to fry bread and have dinner on the table that much quicker. (Few things beat Navajo tacos with chili!)

But if not, don’t worry! This meat and bean mixture whips up quickly. I tried to keep it as simple as possible with minimal ingredients, while not sacrificing flavor! Specifically, there are two ingredients that help us cut down on overall ingredients while adding loads of flavor:

  • Taco seasoning packet: Taco seasoning packets can vary in the spice level and even in overall flavor. We love McCormick® or Old El Paso® mild taco seasoning packet. Otherwise, we’ll usually use a homemade taco seasoning blend (see “quick tip” box below).
  • Chili beans: You can find chili beans near other canned beans in the grocery store. They are generally pinto beans in a mild chili-spiked sauce. If you can’t find chili beans (sometimes called ranch-style beans), I’d recommend using a can of pinto beans instead.

QUICK TIP

For this Navajo Taco recipe, you can make your own taco seasoning blend instead of using a packaged mix, if you prefer. Here’s my go-to taco seasoning blend (this mix perfectly replaces the store-bought mix in this recipe):

  • 1 tablespoon ground chili powder (McCormick for mild chili powder)
  • 1 teaspoon EACH: ground cumin, paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon EACH: onion powder, garlic powder, dried oregano, fine sea salt, and pepper

Process shots of Navajo Tacos-- images of the meat being browned and the garlic and seasonings being added

3. Navajo Taco Toppings

Below are some different options for topping these Navajo Tacos.

  • Shredded iceberg lettuce
  • Halved cherry tomatoes, a chopped Roma tomato, or a quick pico de gallo
  • Sliced black olives
  • Store-bought or homemade guacamole
  • Sour cream (regular or fat-free — both are great!)
  • Extra picante sauce or salsa
  • Fresh lime
  • Freshly chopped cilantro
  • Shredded sharp Cheddar cheese or a Mexican cheese blend 

Process shots-- images of the chili beans and picante sauce being added to the meat and then added to the fry bread

Navajo Taco Variations

  • Navajo Tacos with shredded beef: Use a package of Del Real Foods® Del Real Slow Cooked Beef Barbacoa. This beef is readily available in most grocery stores in the refrigerated section near other prepared (cooked) meats. Warm it to package directions and spoon it right on top of the Fry Bread — yum!
  • Easy Navajo Tacos: Instead of making your own Fry Bread and then frying it, fry pre-made biscuit dough instead!
  • Lower fat: Replace the lean ground beef with ground turkey and add in 2 teaspoons beef bouillon powder to get a beefier flavor.

Process shots of Navajo Tacos-- images of the cheese and remaining toppings being added to the fry bread

Repurpose Leftovers Into A Tasty Salad!

If you’ve got leftover meat and bean filling, repurpose it into a salad. Spoon leftovers over a bed of finely chopped romaine lettuce. Add some fresh avocado, corn, tomatoes, olives, cilantro, and a few squeezes of lime juice. Dress it all with this Cafe Rio Dressing — so good!

Up-close overhead image of a Navajo Taco with all the toppings on

STORAGE

Storing/Make Ahead Notes

Once the Fry Bread has been topped with meat and taco toppings, enjoy it promptly. Otherwise, the fry bread will quickly become soggy.

The meat and bean filling will stay good for 5-7 days in an airtight container in the fridge. The fry bread doesn’t store as nicely — it’s best right after it’s been fried.

Make ahead: You can make the Fry Bread dough in advance. Tightly cover the dough and chill until ready to use. The dough is best used the same day it has been made. 

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Navajo Tacos

5 from 6 votes
These Navajo Tacos start with the absolute best homemade Fry Bread! The bread is topped with a deliciously seasoned beef and bean mixture and then topped with all your favorite taco toppings like cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and sour cream.
Print Recipe

Navajo Tacos

5 from 6 votes
These Navajo Tacos start with the absolute best homemade Fry Bread! The bread is topped with a deliciously seasoned beef and bean mixture and then topped with all your favorite taco toppings like cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, and sour cream.
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword navajo tacos
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 8 servings (1 taco per serving)
Calories 349kcal
Author Chelsea
Cost $7.62

Ingredients

Meat & Toppings

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 lb. (16 oz.) lean (93/7) ground beef
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1 pkt. (28g) taco seasoning mix (Note 1)
  • 1/2 cup (125g) mild picante sauce (or use salsa)
  • 1 can (16 oz.; 454g) undrained chili beans (Note 2)
  • Optional toppings: shredded iceberg lettuce, halved cherry tomatoes, sliced olives, fresh guacamole, sour cream, fresh cilantro, fresh lime

Fry Bread

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 2-1/3 cup (313g) white, all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons each: white sugar, baking powder (NOT soda!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon each: instant yeast, fine sea salt
  • 1 cup (240g) milk (we use whole)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil + more for frying

Instructions

  • PREPARE FRY BREAD: Start here so the dough can rest while preparing the meat. Melt butter in the microwave. Let the butter cool back to room temperature (it's important it's not hot!)  Microwave the milk until just warmed (Note 3), but not hot. Mix together melted butter and milk and set aside. In a large bowl, add the flour, sugar, baking powder, yeast, and salt. Whisk to combine. Add the milk mixture to the dry ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together.
    The dough should be rough, shaggy, and fairly sticky, but not so sticky you can't work with it. Lightly flour your hands and knead the dough a few times into a ball, being careful to not overwork/over-handle the dough. Drizzle a tablespoon of vegetable oil in the bowl, turn the dough in the bowl to coat in the oil, and cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel. Let rest until the meat filling is finished. We don't need the dough to rise, just the gluten to relax!
  • MEAT FILLING: While dough is resting, add the olive oil to a large skillet over high heat. Once oil is shimmering, add in the ground beef. Let beef sear (brown) before crumbling with a wooden spoon and browning all the way through. Reduce the heat to medium and add in the seasoning mix and garlic. Stir until very fragrant, about 1 minute. Add in picante sauce, scraping the bottom of the pan to release any browned bits. Mix until incorporated and then add in chili beans undrained). Stir and cook until beans are warmed through. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally until fry bread is ready.
  • FRY THE BREAD: Add 1 inch of oil to a large cast iron pot and heat to 350 degrees F. Divide the rested dough into 8 equal portions (cut the ball of dough in half then half again to get 4 large triangle pieces. Cut each triangle into 2 pieces to get 8 equal triangles). Lightly flour your hands and work with one piece of dough at a time (keep the rest of the dough portions covered). Holding the pieces of dough with your hands gently work the dough into a circle pressing it out with your fingers (don't roll out the dough with a rolling pin or flatten on the table). The dough should make a thin 5 to 6-inch circle and doesn't need to look pretty -- it's supposed to be rustic!). The thinner the pieces, the better; keep working the dough outwards, being careful to not rip it.
    Gently drop only one piece of dough at a time into the fully heated oil. Cook until golden brown, about 30 seconds up to 1 minute per side (if not using cast iron pot, it will take longer) flipping the dough with 2 forks halfway through. Use a large slotted spoon to remove the dough onto a paper-towel-lined plate. Repeat this process to fry the remaining dough.
  • ASSEMBLE: Set out fried dough and top with equal amounts of meat filling. Add your favorite toppings such as shredded iceberg lettuce, halved cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced olives, guacamole, sour cream, cilantro, and/or lime. Enjoy immediately.

Video

Recipe Notes

Note 1: Taco seasoning packet: Taco seasoning packets can vary in the spice level and even in overall flavor. We love McCormick® or Old El Paso® mild taco seasoning packet. Otherwise, we usually use a homemade taco seasoning blend. If you're concerned about heat, be sure to pick a "mild" packet.
Note 2: Chili beans: You can find chili beans near other canned beans in the grocery store. They are generally pinto beans in a mild chili-spiked sauce. If you can’t find chili beans (sometimes called ranch-style beans), I’d recommend using a can of drained pinto beans instead.
Note 3: Test milk temperature: Drizzle a few drops of the warmed milk onto the inside of your wrist. If it is warm and comfy it will be perfect for the yeast. If it feels hot, it will be too hot for the yeast. Too cold and the yeast will simply remain dormant.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 349kcal | Carbohydrates: 36.2g | Protein: 22.1g | Fat: 12.5g | Cholesterol: 54.1mg | Sodium: 400.2mg | Fiber: 1.7g | Sugar: 2.9g

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

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4 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I made this for my lunch for the week and today I tried it for the first time. It was amazing! Thanks for the idea. This will definitely be go-to from now on.

  2. Can’t wait to try, it looks & sounds amazing!!!!
    1. Question, this is the 1st time I’ve ever commented so I’m jw what reply I’m supposed to put n the website box?
    Also how do I know if my comments get responses?
    Ok that was 2 questions lol but Ty n advance

    1. You can leave the website box empty 🙂 You should get an email response with the reply 🙂 Hope you love these bowls!

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