Navajo Tacos

Published May 3, 2023. Updated July 27, 2023

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Navajo Tacos are made of tender homemade fry bread that are layered with a seasoned ground beef and bean filling, crisp lettuce, rich cheese, juicy tomatoes, and creamy sour cream. They are truly one of the ultimate comfort foods!

Homemade navajo taco on a plate. Made with homemade fry bread, ground beef and bean filling, lettuce, tomatoes, olives and sour cream.

Our Favorite Navajo Tacos!

Think piled high taco salad but even better! These are a Southwestern classic.

Just imagine a pillowy soft yet chewy center encased by a lightly crisp, perfectly fried golden brown exterior. Then it’s generously topped with a deeply flavorful browned beef taco filling and all those vibrantly colorful toppings that have a pleasant complementary blend of textures.

People of all ages love them! They are such a simply satisfying taco to say the least.

Try them soon and you’ll see why our family has craved them as long as we can remember!

Ingredients needed to make Navajo tacos recipe.

Navajo Tacos Recipe Ingredients

For the Navajo taco filling, you’ll need:

  • Olive oil
  • Yellow onion
  • Garlic
  • Ground Beef
  • Spices (chili powder, cumin, paprika, salt, pepper)
  • Kidney beans
  • Diced tomatoes
  • Diced green chilis
  • Fry bread ingredients, recipe here

Continued steps showing how to deep fry Navajo fry bread.

How to Make Navajo Tacos

  1. Saute onion and garlic in skillet.
  2. Add beef, season with salt and pepper and cook and break up, until browned.
  3. Drain fat. Stir in spices, kidney beans, canned diced tomatoes and green chilis.
  4. Simmer for 10-15 minutes.
  5. Serve over Navajo fry bread with toppings.

Six steps showing how to make navajo taco filling and layer onto fry bread.

Possible Variations

  • My mom used to use a shortcut route for fry bread. She opted to use frozen dinner roll dough (such as Rhode’s Rolls) to make the fry bread. I would say this homemade fry bread recipe included is unbelievably easy and you don’t have to wait hours for dough to thaw and rise, but there’s also no shame in using store-bought dough to skip a step.
  • Another way you can make Navajo tacos, besides using the beef filling listed is just with leftover chili. You just want to use a slotted spoon to strain away excess broth when serving so they fry bread doesn’t get soggy.
  • Rather than using the spices listed you could sub a store-bought or homemade taco seasoning blend. Just add to taste.

Fry bread tacos.

Can I Make These Ahead of Time?

For best taste and texture I recommend making the fry bread within a few hours of serving.

The taco filling can be made a day or two ahead of time, stored in the fridge, then be reheated when ready to serve.

How Do You Eat Navajo Tacos?

These tacos are quite messy so it’s best to eat them with a knife and fork, kind of like an open-faced taco or a taco salad. If you find a way to eat these mess-free with your hands let us know. :)

Three navajo tacos shown on plates from above.

Tips for the Best Navajo Tacos

  • When making the fry bread, it’s very important that you cover the dough with plastic wrap when you let it rest. It’s a small detail, but it keeps the fry bread dough from drying out.
  • Be careful not to overwork the fry bread dough for a tender and fluffy end result.
  • If you want fluffier fry bread shape the dough with your hands rather than rolling out with a rolling pin.
  • Don’t skip simmer time for the filling. This allows time for the flavors to develop and meld together.
  • You don’t have to use all the toppings listed but I’d recommend the filling and the cheese at a bare minimum.

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Homemade navajo taco on a plate. Made with homemade fry bread, ground beef and bean filling, lettuce, tomatoes, olives and sour cream.
5 from 26 votes

Navajo Tacos

Made of tender homemade fry bread that are layered with a seasoned ground beef and bean filling, crisp lettuce, rich cheese, juicy tomatoes, and creamy sour cream. They are truly one of the ultimate comfort foods!
Servings: 6
Prep20 minutes
Cook30 minutes
Ready in: 50 minutes


Navajo Fry Bread, recipe here

    For serving

    • Romaine or Iceberg lettuce, chopped
    • Shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
    • Roma tomatoes, diced
    • Sour cream
    • Sliced black olives and chopped cilantro (optional)


    Navajo Taco Filling

    • Heat olive oil in a 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and saute 2 minutes, add garlic and saute 20 seconds. Scoot mixture to the side then crumble beef into skillet. 
    • Season with salt and pepper and cook stirring occasionally and breaking up beef when stirring, until beef has browned and cooked through. Drain fat from beef and return to skillet. 
    • Stir in chili powder, cumin, paprika, kidney beans, canned diced tomatoes and green chilis then season mixture with salt and pepper to taste. 
    • Cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes (if you used the tomato sauce you can add in a few tbsp of water to thin a little if needed). 
    • Using a slotted spoon, spoon mixture over prepared fry bread, then top with lettuce, cheese, tomatoes and sour cream (and any of the other optional toppings listed). Serve immediately.


    • *If you want a less juicy filling you can drain the canned tomatoes.
    • *An 8 oz. can of tomato sauce can be used in place of canned tomatoes in a pinch.


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    • Angela Andersen

      OMG! These are caucasian versions of Navajo Tacos! I say, Hahaha, you have the recipe, all wrong! My grandmother, was full blooded Navajo, and my parents had their own Mexican and Navajo restaurant! Called, Dine’ Cafe. From 1976, until 1993, in Kearns, Utah. Beloved by their customers, for the fresh and genuine food, and consistancy! And my mom, kneaded the dough, and patted it out by hand, made 200 tortillas a day, even with her arthritis in her hands! Not a Cuisinart or bread dough machine! The real deal!

      • Leonardo Montoya

        Not only are you a loudmouth elitist looking for attention, but a feckless luddite for bemoaning the usage of machines when they are not only efficient on larger scales – but help the physically handicapped with the daily grind that is kitchen work. Considering your mama with arthritis, I would have suspected you be more aware of the latter.

      • Steven grinde

        Lived in NM for years and ate a lot of these. This recipe is good and about the only thing I would change is the kidney beans for good old pinto beans instead. I also add fresh made guacamole.!

      • LesleyG

        Yes, I agree, this recipe is the Bilaganna version of Navajo Tacos. . . It’s okay for them, but for those of us who grew up with the real deal, it won’t satisfy. And we know that kneading the dough and flapping by hand is the way to make it; there is definitely a difference.

    • Jim Dopkus

      A bread machine makes it much easier because it not only mixes the dough, but kneads it also.

    • Lanette Hastey

      Excellent recipe. Easier than I thought it would be. Everyone wants it again soon! Thank you so much.

    • Donna A Pollock

      I like your recipe the best. I looked at all the others and they looked ok but for some reason your recipe stood out, so I made your recipe. WOW, did they ever turn out great. I had to make extra because my sons love these things but we had a guest that night and each person had 4……yes they did. They said they were so good they couldn’t stop eating them. I had all the fixin’s for the topping and I just used Costco hamburger and seasoned it well with everything including several kinds of chilies I’m growing in my garden. They were truly so good.

    • Jean P.

      These are the best, better than state fair. The little bit of yeast takes them to another level. Just forget not being authentic. Made the extras with cinnamon sugar and honey for dessert. Yum!

    • fran

      I am not a purist: I used frozen fry bread I found on Amazon, and it was really good, IMHO. I love your recipe for the filling. I’m curious, though, why you say it isn’t “healthy.” Sure, eating too much beef isn’t good, but here and there I don’t think it’s all that bad for you. Also, the recipe used lean beef, and you drain off the fat. Surprising how much there was. Other than that, the recipe calls for a lot of veg. I treated myself with some sour cream but avoided the cheese. I haven’t been able to go to the Southwest, so this recipe has made me more patient. Thanks!

      • Jaclyn

        Jaclyn Bell

        The fried bread just probably isn’t very healthy :). So glad you enjoyed the filling!

    • Dorothy Dice

      But no yeast in it. We don’t use yeast in our fry bread. That’s a different bread.

      • LesleyG

        Yup. Only flour, salt, baking powder and warm water. That’s it. Simplicity.

    • Dorothy Dice

      Coming from an actual Dinè (Navajo), WELL DONE! This is how some do it.