Cherokee recipes and food traditions (2024)

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Cherokee recipes and food traditions (1)
Cherokee recipes and food traditions (2) Cherokee recipes and food traditions (3)

Cherokee recipes and food traditions (4)

I have taken several recipes and information from this wonderful book:

Cherokee recipes and food traditions (5)

It was edited by Mary Ulmer & Samuel E. Beck and published by Mary and Goingback Chiltoskey.

It was based on the information provided by Aggie Ross Lossiah (1880-1966) , grand-daughter of Chief John Ross

Copyright 1951 by Museum of the Cherokee Indian

My special thanks to Carol V. Moore, who loaned me the book

Bean Bread


Fried Hominy


Grape Dumplings

Cherokee Bread Pudding

Walnut Mixture

(Se-Di A-Su-Yi)

Potato Soup

(Nu-Nv Oo-Ga-Ma)

Cherokee Corn Pones

Fry Bread


Wild Onions and Eggs

Old Field Apricot Drink


Leather Breeches

(A-Ni-Ka-Yo-Sv-Hi Tsu-Ya)

Observations on the Creek and Cherokee Indians food traditions

(by William Bartram in 1789, great document about the Cherokee alimentary culture)

Cherokee recipes and food traditions (6)Bean Bread

•1 cup of cornmeal

•½ cup flour

•2 tsp baking powder

•1 tbsp sugar

•2 cups milk

•¼ cup melted shortening

•1 beaten egg

•2 tbsp honey

•4 cups drained brown beans

Mix all of these ingredients, except beans, thoroughly, and then fold in the beans. Pour into greased, heated pan. Bake at 450 until brown (usually 30 minutes or so)

According to Aggie Lossiah, this is the old traditional recipe:

"Sure, corn meal is the main part of bean bread. Corn meal is the main part pf the food eaten by us Indians. Beans are used too. If you folks will visit with me for a while, I'll show you how bean bread ought to be made. How my old Cherokee granny made it when we lived in that cave of the Tennessee River, only I have a few pots and pans like my old granny never had. Maybe I'll give you a a taste of some that I cooked yesterday, if you want it.

Cherokee recipes and food traditions (7)You passed my corn patch yonder as you came up the mountain. That's flour corn, the best kind to eat. Right in that patch is where I gathered this corn I'm going to use. I'll set the beans to cooking here by the fire in the fireplace whilst we go out to the branch to skin the corn. First, pour some water into this iron pot here over the fire. Sift in some good wood ashes. Pour in the shelled corn. Stir once in a while and let cook until the bubbles begin to come up. Take out a grain to test it with the fingers, to see if the skin is ready to slip. That is the way we tell if it has been in the lye water long enough. Wash the corn in a basket seive to get rid of the skins. Put the corn into the wooden beater (Ka No Na ) and beat it with a heavy piece of wood. Yes, use the little end; the big end is to give weight. Feel the meal to see if it is fine enough. The hot beans and their soup are poured into the pan of meal,. No, leave out the salt. Work quickly so the mixture will not get cold. Work the mixture into a ball. Flatten the ball because we are making "broadswords" as my granddaddy called them. Wrap the corn blades around the dumpling. The blades were pulled green and hung up by the little end to dry, then scalded to make limber. Fold the ends under to hold or tie with a strong grass. We'll cook these in the iron pot out by the branch. The clear water I left out there should be boiling by now. The bean dumplings will have to boil about an hour." Do no put any salt in Bean Bread or it will crumble.

Cherokee recipes and food traditions (8)Fried Homin


•2 strips of good bacon

•2 cups of hominy

•2 or 3 green onions

Fry bacon while cutting green onions into small pieces. Crumble bacon, and add onions. When the onions start appearing to be frying, add hominy and cook for about 10 to 15 minutes first on high heat, then on low.

Cherokee recipes and food traditions (9)Grape Dumplings

•1 cup flour

•1 ½ tsp baking powder

•2 tsp sugar •¼ tsp salt

•1 tbsp shortening

•½ cup grape juice

Mix flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and shortening. Add juice and mix into stiff dough. Roll dough very thin on floured board and cut into strips ½" wide (or roll dough in hands and break off pea-sized bits). Drop into boiling grape juice and cook for 10 - 12 minutes.

Cherokee recipes and food traditions (10)Cherokee Bread Pudding

• 2-1/2 cups toasted bread cubes

• 2-1/2 cups scaled milk

• 1 cup butter

• 1/2 cup sorghum

• pinch of salt

• 2 eggs, beaten

• 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly grease a casserole dish. Pour scalded milk over bread; let stand 5 minutes. Heat sorghum, butter, and salt in a saucepan. Gradually pour over bread mixture. Cool. Gradually pour mixture over eggs. Stir in maple syrup. Pour into casserole dish. Place dish in pan of hot water and bake in oven for 50-60 minutes or until firm.

Cherokee recipes and food traditions (11)Cherokee Corn Pones

serves 8

• 2 cups cornmeal

• ¼ teaspoon baking soda

• 1 teaspoon salt

• ½ cup vegetable shortening

• 3/4 cup buttermilk

• 3/4 cup milk

• butter

Combine cornmeal, baking soda, and salt. Cut in shortening until mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add buttermilk and milk, stirring just until dry ingredients are moistened. Form batter into eight 1/2 inch thick cakes. Place on a hot greased griddle (400°F). Cook 15 minutes. Turn and cook an additional 15 minutes. Serve hot with butter.

Cherokee recipes and food traditions (12)Fry Bread

• 3 cups all-purpose flour

• 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

• pinch of salt

• 1-1/3 cups warm water

• vegetable oil for frying

• honey

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the water and knead the dough until soft. Roll the dough out on a lightly floured board until 1/4" thick. Cut out 4" rounds. Heat 1"-2" of oil in a saucepan. Fry the bread until puffed. Turn bread when edges are brown. own on both sides. Serve with honey.

Cherokee recipes and food traditions (13)Ka


Kanuchi is a real delicacy to the Cherokees in Oklahoma! At left is a rendering of a kanuchi stump, or kanona, used for preparing kanuchi. A heavy log is hollowed out a few inches in depth. The long heavy stick is used for the pounding, and not that the large end is at the top. This is used as a weight. Kanuchi making takes a lot of effort, but sure is worth it. The instructions for the making of kanuchi follows:

Hickory nuts, gathered in the fall are allowed to dry for a few weeks prior to preparation. The hickory nuts are cracked and the largest pieces of the shells are taken out. You can pick them out by hand or shake the pieces through a loosely woven basket. Usually, both.

The nuts (don't worry if there are some small pieces of shell) are put in the 'bowl' of the log, and are pounded until they reach a consistency that can be formed into balls that will hold there shape, about three inches in diameter. They must be kept in a cool place; today, most people freeze them.

When you are ready to prepare the kanuchi for serving, put one of the balls in a sauce pan with a quart or so of water. Bring it to a boil, and the ball should dissolve into the water. Simmer about ten minutes, then strain through a sieve. This separates any of the shell that is left. It should simmer until it is about as thick as a light cream. Add two cups of hominy to each quart of kanuchi. Most cooks add some sugar or honey. It should be served hot as a soup.

Cherokee recipes and food traditions (14)Wil

d Onions and Eggs

Gathering wild onions in spring is a ritual among the Oklahoma Cherokees, as well as the other tribes who live where these wonderful plants grow. Wild onions and eggs are often frozen and kept for months so they can be eaten the rest of the year.

Begin with a cup of wild onions that have been cut into small pieces. Two or three tablespoons of bacon dripping are put in a skillet and warmed over medium heat. Place the chopped onions and about one fourth cup of water. Simmer while stirring until the onions are tender. You can add small amounts of water if needed, When the onions are tender, and most of the water has cooked away, add six or seven beaten eggs and scramble.

Cherokee recipes and food traditions (15)Walnut Mixture

Skin and wash some flour corn at the same as for Bean Bread. Put the corn into a pot, cook until the grains begin to crack and raw shelled beans ( also pumpkin if you have it and like it ), cook until beans are soft. While this is cooking prepare walnut meats by pounding them in the corn beater, then mixing with a little water. Add this to the cooking mixture, stir constantly while cooking for 10 or 15 minutes more, or until done. A little meal may be added with the walnut meals to make it thicken.

Cherokee recipes and food traditions (16)

Old Field Apricot Drink

Gather old field apricots. Hull out the seeds and pulp, put these on to boil after adding a tiny bit of soda to make the seeds separate from the pulp. Strain the juice from the seeds and pulp, and meal to the juice and cook until the meal is done.

Cherokee recipes and food traditions (17)Leather Breeches

Gather green beans as soon as the beans in the pods mature. Break off the ends and string the pods on a thread or lay them out in a single layer on a sheet. Put the beans in the sun for several days to dry, bringing them into the house at night and during rainy weather. Store for future use by hanging from the rafters or the wall. When ready for use, soak the beans overnight and cook all day the next day. Salt and grease may be put in them while they are cooking if available and desired.

Cherokee recipes and food traditions (18)

Potato soup

Peel white potatoes and cut them into small pieces. Boil in water with an onion or two until potatoes and onions mash easily. After mashing add some fresh milk and reheat the mixture. Add salt and pepper if desired. This soup is the best when eaten hot.

Observations on the Creek and Cherokee Indians food traditions

( by William Bartram in 1789, From "Transaction of the American Ethnological Society Vol. 3 Pt. 1. Extracts )

They use a strong lixivium prepared from ashes of bean stalks and other vegetables in all their food prepared from corn, which otherwise, they say, breeds worms in their stomachs.

The vines or climbing stems of the climber ( Bigonia Crucigera) are equally divided longitudinally into four parts by the same number of their membranes somewhat resembling a piece of white tape by which means, when the vine is cut through and divided traversely, it presents to view the likeness of a cross. This membrane is of a sweet, pleasant taste. The country people of Carolina crop these vines to pieces, together with china brier ands sassafras roots, and boil them in their beer in the spring, for diet drink, in order to attenuate and purify the blood and juices, it is a principal ingredient in Howards famous infusion for curing the yaws, etc., the virtues and use of which he obtained from Indian Doctors.

Their animal food consists chiefly of venison, bear's flesh, turkeys, hares, wild fowl and domestic poultry; and also of domestic kind, as beeves, goats and swine - never horse flesh, though they have horses in great plenty; neither do they eat the flesh of dogs, cats or any such creatures as are rejected by white people. Their vegetable food consists chiefly of corn, rice, convelvulus batatas, or those nourishing roots usually called the sweet or Spanish potatoes ( but in the Creek country they never eat the Irish potato).

All the species of the phaeolus and colichos in use among the whites are cultivated by the Creeks, Cherokees, etc. and make up a great part of their food.

All the species of cucurbita, as squashes, pumpkins, watermelons, etc. but of the cucumeres, they cultivate none of the species as yet, neither do they cultivate our farinaceous grains as wheat, barley, spelts, rye, buckwheat, etc. ( not having got the use of the plow amongst them, though it has been introduced some years ago ). The chiefs rejected it, alleging that it would starve their old people who employed themselves in planting and selling their produce, and selling their produce to the traders, for their support and maintenance; seeing that by permitting the traders to use the plow, one or two persons could easily raise more grain than all the old people of the town could odd by using the hoe. Turnips, parsnips, salads, etc, they have no knowledge of.

But besides the cultivated fruits above recited, with peaches, oranges, plums (Chickasaw plums ), figs and some apples, they have in use a vast variety of wild or native vegetables, both fruits and roots, viz: diospyros, morus rubra, gleditsia, miltiloba, s.tricanthus; all the species of juglans and acorns, from which they extract a very sweet oil, which enters into all their cooking; and several species of palms, which furnish them a great variety of agreable and nourishing food. Grapes, too, they have in great variety and abundance, which they feed on occasionally when ripe; they also prepare them for keeping and lay up for winter and spring time ( Vitis Vinifera; I call them so because they approach, as respects the largeness of the fruit and their shape and flavor, much nearer the grapes of Europe and Asia, of which wine is made, and are especially different from our wild grapes, and as different from the fox or bull grape of Penn. and Carolina)

A species of smilax ( s. pseudochina) affords them a delicious and nourishing food, which is prepared from its vast, tuberous roots. They dig up these roots, and while yet fresh and full of juice, chop them into pieces, and then macerate them well in wooden mortars; this substance they put in vessels , nearly filled with clean water, when being mixed well with paddles, whilst the finer parts are yet floating in the liquid, they decant it off into other vessels, leaving the farinaceous substance at the bottom, which being taken out and dried is an impalpable powder or farina, of a reddish color. Then when mixed in boiling water, becomes a beautiful jelly, which sweetened with honey and sugar, affords most nourishing food for children or aged people; or when mixed with fine corn flour, and fried in fresh bear's grease makes excellent fritters.

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