18 Best Native American Recipes for Thanksgiving

Many thanks to the Native Americans who first walked the land and cultivated so many foods still enjoyed today, such as corn, squash and beans. Thanksgiving is a day to give thanks, but it’s also a day of solemn mourning for many Native Americans grappling with painful history. And while many Native Americans retreat from the festivities altogether, some use the day to celebrate family, nature and the riches of the land. That’s why we decided to celebrate traditional Native American dishes with Thanksgiving dishes created by Native chefs, like buffalo meatballs, three sisters and wild rice with root vegetables.

Perhaps it’s no surprise to know that the “first Thanksgiving” wasn’t like what we were often taught in school. There was probably no stuffing, turkey or pumpkin pie. But there was certainly no shortage of options, as Native Americans marked festive meals with lots of fish, produce, and wild rice. Craving an all-Native-inspired Thanksgiving meal? Serve our whole roasted trout with roasted turnips, fried cornbread and wild rice pudding for dessert.

Native Americans are the origin of many classic dishes that might surprise you too, such as fried green tomatoes, succotash and tamales. Did you know? Grilling salmon on cedar planks also has roots in the tribes of the Pacific Northwest, where salmon is revered as a sacred food for tribes throughout the region.

In general, Indigenous cooking is not necessarily about using pre-settlement ingredients, but about using what is local to you and using the food to build community. Want to know what foods are native to your area? This map of native lands is an excellent starting point. And if you’re looking to spread awareness about Native American food sovereignty, consider checking out Alliance for Native American Food Sovereignty, First Nations Development Instituteand Native American Agriculture Fund.

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