16 Native American Dishes You Haven’t Tried, But Should

Most people don’t know much about Native American cuisine, and are surprised to learn that there are multiple unique and delicious dishes out there to try. From three sisters stew to amaranth salad, this article shares 16 of these dishes, passed down through generations of Indigenous Americans. 

Piki Bread

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This is a traditional Hopi bread, loved for its thin, delicate texture. It’s actually grayish-blue in color, and this is due to it being made with blue corn and a hint of ash—which really adds to its smoky flavor. It’s often served during ceremonial occasions and celebrations.

Bison Ribs

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You’ve likely had your fair share of pork ribs; how about trying bison next? This is a hearty dish from the Great Plains, typically slow-cooked with native herbs and spices. It’s often served with traditional sides like cornbread or wild vegetables.


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Manoomin, “also known as wild rice (Zizania palustris), is a species of grain-producing grass native to the Great Lakes area and portions of Canada,” as per Sea Grant Michigan. It’s a staple for the Anishinaabeg community around the Great Lakes and is known for its nutty flavor and high nutritional value.

Three Sisters Stew

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The name of this stew might seem odd, but it’s actually quite meaningful. The ingredients used to make it involve the traditional crops of corn, beans, and squash, which symbolizes the Iroquois philosophy of growing these plants together for mutual benefit. It’s rich in flavors and extremely nutritious!

Pueblo Bread

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This is a moist, puffy white bread that’s baked in an outdoor “horno,” otherwise known as a traditional adobe oven. The bread has a lovely smoky flavor and is often eaten with either honey, on the side of a dish, or with a spread. Each Pueblo community has its own variation of the bread.

Acorn Soup

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Made from processed acorns, which are a traditional food source for many tribes, acorn soup is said to have a rich, earthy flavor. Interestingly, the broth is thickened naturally by the acorns. It’s also sometimes combined with venison or turkey. Would you give this a try?


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Fried in hot oil until it puffs up perfectly, Native American frybread is typically made from simple ingredients like flour, sugar, and lard—ingredients that were once provided to the Indigenous people by the government to prevent them from starving when they were forced to move. It’s a controversial yet iconic dish with a deep historical background.

Smoked Salmon

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You’ve likely tried or at least seen smoked salmon before, but probably not in the Native American way! This type of smoked salmon results in dry, jerky-style filets—typically smoked over open fires to add depth of flavor. It’s often enjoyed on its own or incorporated into salads and pastas.


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Again, cornbread is nothing new to most Americans, but the Indigenous people have a totally different way of doing it. It’s a common, very popular dish across many tribes, especially in the Southeast. As you may have guessed, it’s made with ground cornmeal but also often mixed with nuts or berries.


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Britannica defines pemmican as “dried meat, traditionally bison (moose, caribou, deer, or beef can be used as well), pounded into coarse powder and mixed with an equal amount of melted fat.” It can also be mixed with berries. This dish was once essential for long trips or times of scarcity and isn’t too common these days.

Venison Stew

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Venison stew was once a staple dish for tribes that relied heavily on deer hunting but is still enjoyed today. It’s slow-cooked with Native American vegetables and herbs and is known for its rich, gamey flavor. Hearty and warming, you should give it a try!


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Though more commonly associated with Latin American cuisine, tamales have been adapted by Native American tribes in the Southwest. They’re filled with a variety of ingredients, such as beans, chilies, and sometimes even game meats. Absolutely delicious!

Amaranth Salad

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This unique Native American salad is made with amaranth, an old grain known and loved for its health benefits. It’s often mixed with fresh vegetables, herbs, and a light dressing, and is said to represent the revitalization of traditional crops.

Navajo Tea

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This is an herbal tea made from the greenthread plant found throughout the Southwest. It has a mild, slightly sweet flavor and is traditionally consumed for its medicinal properties. According to NM State, the plant is also used to make dyes. 

Agave Syrup Cakes

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A delicious sweet treat, agave syrup cakes are made from—you guessed it—agave syrup. It’s a natural sweetener used by Southwestern tribes. The cakes are often flavored with pine nuts or juniper berries and baked or fried to create a light, fluffy texture.

Chia Fresca

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Another Native American delight that you likely haven’t tried is chia fresca, a refreshing drink made from chia seeds. The seeds are typically mixed with water, lemon or lime, and honey or another sweetener. Once you have a sip, you’ll be craving it again and again!

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