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Native American cuisine

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Title: Native American cuisine  
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Subject: Cuisine of the Midwestern United States, Cuisine of the United States, Latin American cuisine, List of cuisines of the Americas, Barbecue in Texas
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Native American cuisine

Frybread is a staple food of Native American cuisine.[1]

Native American cuisine includes all food practices of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Modern-day native peoples retain a rich culture of traditional foods, some of which have become iconic of present-day Native American social gatherings (for example, frybread). Foods like cornbread, turkey, cranberry, blueberry, hominy and mush are known to have been adopted into the cuisine of the United States from Native American groups. In other cases, documents from the early periods of contact with European, African, and Asian peoples allow the recovery of food practices which passed out of popularity.

Modern-day Native American cuisine is varied.[2] The use of indigenous domesticated and wild food ingredients can represent Native American food and cuisine.[3] North American Native Cuisine can differ somewhat from Southwestern and Mexican Cuisine in its simplicity and directness of flavor. The use of ramps, wild ginger, miners' lettuce, and Juniper berry can impart subtle flavours to various dishes. Native American food is one of living flavours and ideas. Different ingredients can change the whole meaning of Native American cuisine. A chef preparing a Native American dish can adopt, create, and alter as his or her imagination dictates.[4]

Native American cuisine of North America

A 19th-century illustration, "Sugar-Making Among the Indians in the North". Aboriginal peoples living in the northeastern part of North America were the first people known to have produced maple syrup and maple sugar

The essential staple foods of the Eastern Woodlands Aboriginal Americans were maize (also called "corn"), beans, and squash. These were called the "Three Sisters" because they were planted interdependently: the beans grew up the tall stalks of the maize, while the squash spread out at the base of the three plants and provided protection and support for the root systems. A number of other domesticated crops were also popular during some time periods in the Eastern Woodlands, including a local version of quinoa, a variety of amaranth, sumpweed/marsh elder, little barley, maygrass, and sunflower.

In the Northwest of what is now the United States, Native Americans used salmon and other fish, seafood, mushrooms, berries, and meats such as deer, duck, and rabbit. Rum was popular, having first been introduced to the Western Hemisphere by Christopher Columbus.[5] In contrast to the Easterners, the Northwestern aboriginal peoples were principally hunter-gatherers. The generally mild climate meant they did not need to develop an economy based upon agriculture but instead could rely year-round on the abundant food supplies of their region. In what is now California, acorns were ground into a flour that was the principal foodstuff for about seventy-five percent of the population,[6] and dried meats were prepared during the season when drying was possible.[7]

Southeastern Native American cuisine

Southeastern Native American culture has formed the cornerstone of Southern cuisine from its origins till the present day. From Southeastern Native American culture came one of the main staples of the Southern diet: corn (maize), either ground into meal or limed with an alkaline salt to make hominy, using a Native American technology known as nixtamalization.[8] Corn was used to make all kinds of dishes from the familiar cornbread and grits to liquors such as whiskey, which were important trade items. Though a lesser staple, potatoes were also adopted from Native American cuisine and were used in many ways similar to corn. Native Americans introduced the first non-Native American Southerners to many other vegetables still familiar on southern tables. Squash, pumpkin, many types of beans, tomatoes (though Europeans initially considered them poisonous), many types of peppers, and sassafras all came to the settlers via the native tribes.

Many fruits are available in this region. Muscadines, blackberries, raspberries, and many other wild berries were part of Southern Native Americans' diet.

Southeastern Native Americans also supplemented their diets with meats derived from the hunting of native game. liver, brains, and intestines. This tradition remains today in hallmark dishes like chitterlings, commonly called chitlins, which are the fried large intestines of hogs; livermush, a common dish in the Carolinas made from hog liver; and pork brains and eggs. The fat of the animals, particularly of hogs, was rendered and used for cooking and frying. Many of the early settlers were taught Southeastern Native American cooking methods.


Native American cuisine of the Circum-Caribbean

Jerk chicken with plaintains, rice and honey biscuit

This region comprises the cultures of the Arawaks, the Caribs, and the Ciboney. The Taíno of the Greater Antilles were the first New World people to encounter Columbus. Prior to European contact, these groups foraged, hunted, and fished. The Taíno cultivated cassava, sweet potato, maize, beans, squash, pineapple, peanut, and peppers. Today these groups have mostly vanished, but their culinary legacy lives on.

  • Barbacoa, the origin of the English word barbecue, a method of slow-grilling meat over a fire pit;
  • Jerk, a style of cooking meat that originated with the Taíno of Jamaica. Meat was applied with a dry rub of allspice, Scotch bonnet pepper, and perhaps additional spices, before being smoked over fire or wood charcoal.
  • Casabe, a crispy, thin flatbread made from cassava root widespread in the Pre-Columbian Caribbean and Amazonia;
  • Bammy, a Jamaican fried bread made from cassava and coconut milk or water;
  • Guanime, a Puerto Rican food similar to the tamale; made with cornmeal or cornmeal and mashed cassave together.
  • Pasteles, origin of true name is lost in history. Pasteles were once made with cassava and taro mashed into a masa onto a cassava leaf. They are then stuffed with meat and wrapped.
  • Funche or fungi, a cornmeal mush seasoned with salt and butter;
  • Cassareep, a sauce, condiment, or thickening agent made by boiling down the extracted juices of bitter cassava root;
  • Pepperpot, a spicy stew of Taíno origin based on meat, vegetables, chili peppers, and boiled-down cassava juice, with a legacy stretching from Jamaica to Guyana;
  • Bush teas, popular as herbal remedies in the Virgin Islands and other parts of the Caribbean, often derived from indigenous sources, such as ginger thomas, soursop, inflammation bush, kenip, wormgrass, worry wine, and many other leaves, barks, and herbs;
  • Ouicou, a fermented, cassava-based beer brewed by the Caribs of the Lesser Antilles;
  • Taumali or taumalin, a Carib sauce made from the green liver meat of lobsters, chile pepper, and lime juice.

Native American cuisine of Mesoamerica


The pre-conquest cuisine of the Native Americans of Mesoamerica made a major contribution to shaping modern-day Mexican cuisine, Honduran cuisine, Guatemalan cuisine, El Salvador cuisine. The cultures involved included the Aztec, Maya, Olmec, and many more (see the List of pre-Columbian civilizations).

Some known dishes

Native American cuisine of South America

Roast guinea pig (cuy)
Cheese-filled arepa
Chipa, cheese bread

Andean cultures

This currently includes recipes known from the Quechua, Aymara and Nazca of the Andes.

  • Grilled guinea pig, a native to most of the Andes region, this small rodent has been cultivated for at least 4000 years.
  • Fried green tomatoes, a nightshade relative native to Peru;
  • Saraiaka, a corn liquor;
  • Chicha, a generic name for any number of indigenous beers found in South America. Though chichas made from various types of corn are the most common in the Andes, chicha in the Amazon Basin frequently use manioc. Variations found throughout the continent can be based on amaranth, quinoa, peanut, potato, coca, and many other ingredients.
  • Chicha morada, a Peruvian, sweet, unfermented drink made from purple corn, fruits, and spices;
  • Colada morada, a thickened, spiced fruit drink based on the Andean blackberry, traditional to the Day of the Dead ceremonies held in Ecuador, it is typically served with guagua de pan, a bread shaped like a swaddled infant (formerly made from cornmeal in Pre-Columbian times), though other shapes can be found in various regions.
  • Quinoa Porridge;
  • Ch'arki, a type of dried meat;
  • Humitas, similar to modern-day Tamales, a thick mixture of corn, herbs and onion, cooked in a corn-leaf wrapping. The name is modern, meaning bow-tie, because of the shape in which it's wrapped.
  • Locro (from the Quechua ruqru) is a hearty thick stew popular along the Andes mountain range. It one of the national dishes of Argentina, Bolivia and Peru.
  • Mate de coca;
  • Pachamanca, stew cooked in a hautía oven;
  • Papa a la Huancaína, Peruvian potatoes covered in a spicy, creamy sauce called Huancaína sauce.
  • Pataska, spicy stew made from boiled maize, potatoes, and dried meat;
  • Ceviche, marinated in acidic tumbo juice in Pre-Columbian times;
  • Cancha or tostada, fried golden hominy;
  • Llajwa, salsa of Bolivia;
  • Llapingachos, mashed-potato cakes from Ecuador;
  • Tocosh (Togosh), a traditional Quechua food prepared from fermented potato pulp.

Other South American cultures

  • Arepa, a maize-based bread originating from the indigenous peoples of Colombia and Venezuela
  • Paçoca, from the Tupi "to crumble," describes two different dishes of pulverized ingredients: One with peanuts and sugar, and the other with dried meat, ground manioc, and onion.
  • Angu, an indigenous Brazilian type of corn mush
  • Pamonha, a Brazilian tamale
  • Cauim, a fermented beverage based on maize or manioc broken down by the enzymes of human saliva, traditional to the Tupinambá and other indigenous peoples of Brazil
  • Mocotó, a Brazilian stew with cow's feet, beans, and vegetables.
  • Maniçoba, dish of boiled manioc leaves and smoked meat indigenous to the Brazilian Amazon
  • Moqueca, a Brazilian seafood stew
  • Tucupi, manioc-based broth used in Brazilian dishes such as pato no tucupi and tacacá
  • Tacacá, a Brazilian stew of tucupi, jambu leaves, and shrimp, typically served in a dried gourd.
  • Curanto, a Chilean stew cooked in an earthen oven originally from the Chono people of Chiloé Island
  • Lapacho or taheebo, a medicinal tree bark infusion
  • Merken, a ají powder from the Mapuche of Patagonia
  • Pira caldo, Paraguayan fish soup
  • Soyo, shortened from the Guarani name "so’o josopy," a Paraguayan soup based on meat crushed in a mortar.
  • Bori-bori, a Paraguayan soup with cornmeal dumplings.
  • Chipa, a wide variety of corn flour or manioc-based breads traditional to Paraguay.
  • Sopa paraguaya, a corn flour casserole esteemed as the national dish of Paraguay, related to chipa guasu.
  • Mbeju, a pan-cooked cake utilizing manioc starch.
  • Lampreado or payaguá mascada, a starchy, manioc-based fried cake from Paraguay and the northeast of Argentina.
  • Kiveve, a sweet or savory dish from Paraguay consisting of pureed pumpkin and other ingredients cooked over a fire.
  • Kaguyjy, a Guarani-derived locro corn mush that become part of the national Paraguayan cuisine.
  • Mate (beverage)
  • Yerba mate, a tea made from the holly of the same name, derived from Guaraní
  • Tereré or ka'ay, a cold-brewed version of yerba mate

Cooking utensils

Metate and mano

The earliest utensils, including knives, spoons, grinders, and griddles, were made from all kinds of organic materials, such as rock and animal bone. Gourds were also initially cultivated, hollowed, and dried to be used as bowls, spoons, ladles, and storage containers. Many Native American cultures also developed elaborate weaving and pottery traditions for making bowls, cooking pots, and containers. Nobility in the Andean and Mesoamerican civilizations were even known to have utensils and vessels smelted from gold, silver, copper, or other minerals.

  • Molinillo, a device used by Mesoamerican royalty for frothing cacao drinks
  • Metate, a stone grinding slab used with a stone mano or metlapil to process meal in Mesoamerica and one of the most notable Pre-Columbian artifacts in Costa Rica
  • Molcajete, a basalt stone bowl, used with a tejolote to grind ingredients as a Mesoamerican form of mortar and pestle
  • Batan, an Andean grinding slab used in conjunction with a small stone uña
  • Paila, an Andean earthenware bowl
  • Cuia, a gourd used for drinking mate in South America
  • Comal, a griddle used since Pre-Columbian times in Mexico and Central America for a variety of purposes, especially to cook tortillas
  • Burén, a clay griddle used by the Taíno
  • Cooking baskets were woven from a variety of local fibers and sometimes coated with clay to improved durability. The notable thing about basket cooking and some native clay pot cooking is that the heat source, i.e. hot stones or charcoal, is used inside the utensil rather than outside. (also see Cookware and bakeware)

Crops and ingredients

A Russet potato with sprouts
The bean pods of the mesquite (above) can be dried and ground into flour, adding a sweet, nutty taste to breads
A maple syrup tap
Several large pumpkins
Acorns of Sessile Oak. The acorn, or oak nut, is the nut of the oaks and their close relatives (genera Quercus and Lithocarpus, in the family Fagaceae).

Maize, beans and squash were known as the three sisters for their symbiotic relationship when grown together by the North American and Meso-American natives. If the South Americans had similar methods of what is known as companion planting it is lost to us today.

Non-animal foodstuffs

Hunted or livestock

Bison cow and calf

See also


  1. ^ "Native American Food." (Project for Anthropology 85A course). University of California Irvine. Accessed July 2011.
  2. ^ The Native American Culinary Association :: Index
  3. ^ NativeTech: Indigenous Food and Traditional Recipes
  4. ^ Native American Recipes -
  5. ^
  6. ^ "the People's Paths home page!" NAIIP Recipes
  7. ^ JerkyFAQ - The Definitive Guide to Beef Jerky and more! - The History of Jerky
  8. ^ Dragonwagon, Crescent (2007). The Cornbread Gospels. Workman Publishing.  siva sasi sathish sheik mani
  9. ^ Hudsen, Charles (1976). "A Conquered People". The Southeastern Indians. University of Tennessee Press. pp. 498–499.  
  10. ^ NativeTech: Indigenous Food and Traditional Recipes
  11. ^ NativeTech: Indigenous Food and Traditional Recipes
  12. ^ NativeTech: Indigenous Food and Traditional Recipes
  13. ^  
  14. ^ "ahpòn". Lenape Talking Dictionary. Delaware Tribe of Indians. Retrieved November 20, 2014. 
  15. ^ "sapàn". Lenape Talking Dictionary. Retrieved June 26, 2011. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ [1]


External links

  • Traditional Chiricahua recipes
  • Canadian Wild Foods
  • American Indian Health and Diet Project
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