From pancakes to zeppole and everything in between, the types of fry bread are endless, and they all have the delicious crisp yet pillowy texture that we love about any fried food. While every culture has endless traditions of various fried breads, we’ve tried to accumulate a sampling of fried breads for you. Click on any of the recipes below to find your new favorite fried bread.
What is Fried Bread?
A fried bread counts as anything that consists of any bread-like substance that is cooked in oil. That means pancakes, donuts, fried pastries, and even waffles count as fried breads. But the list doesn’t end there. When you add the fried breads from around the world, you have anything from flatbreads to sweet fried breads.
Whether you cook your fried bread in more than an inch of oil or just barely enough to coat the bottom of the frying pan, the results are pretty similar in the way that you get a golden, crisp outside with a fluffy inside. And the best part about any fried bread is that they’re so easy to make, and you don’t have to worry about the oven, making them great outdoor and emergency breads as well.
Now that you know what to expect from fried breads in general, let’s get into the different fried breads from around the world.
North American Fried Breads
Pancakes and waffles are the most popular fried breads in North America. Typically served for breakfast or brunch they can also be made as savory cakes and served with sauces for lunch or dinner.
Other commonly known fried breads in North America include donuts and fried pastries like funnel cake.
Yeasted Fry Bread (Utah Scones)
You can often find this fried yeasted dough sold in food stands, fairs, or carnivals. It’s simply a bread dough rolled out, cut into chunks, fried, and covered in butter and syrup. The taste is very similar to a raised, glazed donut and best served hot, like most fried breads.
In the eastern part of the country, fried yeasted dough might be referred to as fry bread, but as you get closer to the West, especially in Utah, it’s more commonly known as scones (not to be confused with English scones). In other parts of the country, you might hear it called elephant ears, flying saucers, or even beavertails.
Native American Fried Breads
There is also a history of fried bread among the American Natives. When the American Indians were relocated to reservations in the 1800’s, they had limited resources of flour, water, and lard. From this came their style of fry bread.
The dough is pressed flat and can be leavened with either yeast or baking powder. Often these bread pieces are topped with beans, ground beef, salsa, and cheese to make Indian or Navajo tacos.
Central and South American Fried Breads
The most commonly known fried bread from Central or South America is the churro. Churros originated in Spain but have since expanded their reach through the Carribean and even became a popular ball park snack or fair food in the United States.
Churros are typically made by pushing the dough through a star-shaped nozzle and into a pan of hot oil before being dusted in cinnamon-sugar.
South American Sopaipillas
You can find sopaipillas in many Mexican restaurants across the United States, but they do not originate from Mexico. Sopaipillas are typically made with either yeast or baking powder, deep fried, and eaten as savory sides or covered in cinnamon-sugar for a sweet dessert.
The Chileans often make their sopaipillas with pumpkin or squash in the dough with wheat or corn flour. In Argentina, sopaipillas are more often baked in an adobe oven rather than fried, but the result is still delicious.
European Fried Breads
The most commonly known European fried bread is probably the crepe. It’s a delicately thin pancake made in a frying pan or a crepe pan. Crepes can be eaten plain, dusted with powdered sugar, or folded around a sweet or savory filling of eggs and cheese or a pastry filling.
The blintz is the crepe’s Eastern European cousin. It’s made just like a crepe and then rolled up and folded around a creamy filling like a wrap and fried in a pan of oil to seal in the filling.
Zeppole are small, light, fried cakes from Italy–the classic Italian donut. These sweet cakes are sold on the streets, given as gifts, and consumed on holidays. They can be filled with custard, jelly, or honey-butter and covered with powdered sugar.
We looked at a number of recipes, many of which were too complicated for the home baker. The following recipe is easy though maybe not authentic. Authentic or not, these are decadently good.
Indian Fried Breads: Chapatti
Chapatti is an unleavened griddle bread similar to pita bread. In India, it is cooked on a special griddle called a tava and held over a fire, so that steam within the bread puffs it up. The result is a puffy disc of flatbread.
Traditional chapatti is often served as a complement to stew or vegetables, but you can also eat it like a tortilla for beans, rice, or salsa. It’s traditionally made with whole grain durum flour, but if you don’t have that on hand, a mixture of stone-ground whole wheat and all-purpose flour works just as well.
Of course, we didn’t have a tava or a fire in our test kitchen, so we improvised with the griddle. We also added just a touch of sugar to anglicize the recipe even further, and the result was a delightful cross between a flatbread and a pancake.
Katie, our teenage daughter at the time, walked in during the session and promptly found some jam to smear on them. She graduated to hot buttered chapatti sprinkled with plenty of cinnamon and sugar and declared them scrumptious.
Our version may not be authentic but it is so quick and easy, it’s worth making.
Portuguese Fry Bread
Portuguese fry bread is similar to American fry bread with a crisp, golden outside and a light, pillowy inside like a donut, but it’s made with baking powder instead of yeast. This change in ingredients makes it quick and easy without having to fuss over the yeast or letting the dough rise.
(Updated from May 11, 2014)