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Staples in Native American cooking

Rich Traditions: A Look at Native American Cuisine

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Many Midwestern states take their names from Native American roots.

Minnesota, for example, means “cloudy water” in the language of the Sioux, the Native American tribe from this area. Recently, Midwestern chefs have begun drawing from the same inspirations, rediscovering historic food traditions of the region’s Native American tribes.

Seasonal Food and Indigenous Ingredients

Some Native American foods have remained popular throughout the years, especially Navajo fry bread, an unsweetened dough that is deep-fried and may be topped with honey or jam. The recent culinary movement is digging deeper, creating the ultimate expression of local, seasonal food by emphasizing indigenous ingredients.

Fresh vegetable stew, adapted from Native American cuisine

Fresh vegetable stew, adapted from Native American cuisine
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Traditional Flair on Menus

Popular ingredients include game meats, fresh berries, maple sugar and wild rice harvested from lake beds. Additionally, flame-grilled bison burgers are appearing on restaurant menus, and many chefs offer as a side dish the trio of corn, beans and squash known to Native Americans as the “three sisters.” Diners can pair the foods with traditional teas made with indigenous aromatics such as steeped pine needles.

Sagamite, a Native American stew with Indian corn, vegetables and wild rice

Sagamite, a Native American stew with Indian corn, vegetables and wild rice
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