Native American cuisine includes all food practices of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. Modern-day native peoples retain a rich culture of traditional foods, some of which have become iconic of present-day Native American social gatherings (for example, frybread). Foods like cornbread, turkey, cranberry, blueberry, hominy and mush are known to have been adopted into the cuisine of the United States from Native American groups. In other cases, documents from the early periods of contact with European, African, and Asian peoples allow the recovery of food practices which passed out of popularity.
Modern-day Native American cuisine is varied. The use of indigenous domesticated and wild food ingredients can represent Native American food and cuisine. North American Native Cuisine can differ somewhat from Southwestern and Mexican Cuisine in its simplicity and directness of flavor. The use of ramps, wild ginger, miners' lettuce, and Juniper berry can impart subtle flavours to various dishes. Native American food is one of living flavours and ideas. Different ingredients can change the whole meaning of Native American cuisine. A chef preparing a Native American dish can adopt, create, and alter as his or her imagination dictates.
A 19th-century illustration, "Sugar-Making Among the Indians in the North". Aboriginal peoples living in the northeastern part of North America were the first people known to have produced maple syrup and maple sugar
The essential staple foods of the Eastern Woodlands Aboriginal Americans were maize (also called "corn"), beans, and squash. These were called the "Three Sisters" because they were planted interdependently: the beans grew up the tall stalks of the maize, while the squash spread out at the base of the three plants and provided protection and support for the root systems. A number of other domesticated crops were also popular during some time periods in the Eastern Woodlands, including a local version of quinoa, a variety of amaranth, sumpweed/marsh elder, little barley, maygrass, and sunflower.
In the Northwest of what is now the United States, Native Americans used salmon and other fish, seafood, mushrooms, berries, and meats such as deer, duck, and rabbit. Rum was popular, having first been introduced to the Western Hemisphere by Christopher Columbus. In contrast to the Easterners, the Northwestern aboriginal peoples were principally hunter-gatherers. The generally mild climate meant they did not need to develop an economy based upon agriculture but instead could rely year-round on the abundant food supplies of their region. In what is now California, acorns were ground into a flour that was the principal foodstuff for about seventy-five percent of the population, and dried meats were prepared during the season when drying was possible.
Southeastern Native American cuisine
Southeastern Native American culture has formed the cornerstone of Southern cuisine from its origins till the present day. From Southeastern Native American culture came one of the main staples of the Southern diet: corn (maize), either ground into meal or limed with an alkaline salt to make hominy, using a Native American technology known as nixtamalization. Corn was used to make all kinds of dishes from the familiar cornbread and grits to liquors such as whiskey, which were important trade items. Though a lesser staple, potatoes were also adopted from Native American cuisine and were used in many ways similar to corn. Native Americans introduced the first non-Native American Southerners to many other vegetables still familiar on southern tables. Squash, pumpkin, many types of beans, tomatoes (though Europeans initially considered them poisonous), many types of peppers, and sassafras all came to the settlers via the native tribes.
To a far greater degree than anyone realizes, several of the most important food dishes of the Southeastern Indians live on today in the "soul food" eaten by both black and white Southerners. Hominy, for example, is still eaten ... Sofkee live on as grits ... cornbread [is] used by Southern cooks ... Indian fritters ... variously known as "hoe cake", ... or "Johnny cake." ... Indians boiled cornbread is present in Southern cuisine as "corn meal dumplings", ... and as "hush puppies", ... Southerns cook their beans and field peas by boiling them, as did the Indians ... like the Indians they cure their meat and smoke it over hickory coals.
Southeastern Native Americans also supplemented their diets with meats derived from the hunting of native game. Venison was an important meat staple, due to the abundance of white-tailed deer in the area. They also hunted rabbits, squirrels, opossums, and raccoons. Livestock, adopted from Europeans, in the form of hogs and cattle, were kept. Aside from the meat, it was not uncommon for them to eat organ meats such as liver, brains, and intestines. This tradition remains today in hallmark dishes like chitterlings, commonly called chitlins, which are the fried large intestines of hogs; livermush, a common dish in the Carolinas made from hog liver; and pork brains and eggs. The fat of the animals, particularly of hogs, was rendered and used for cooking and frying. Many of the early settlers were taught Southeastern Native American cooking methods.
Barbacoa, the origin of the English word barbecue, a method of slow-grilling meat over a fire pit;
Jerk, a style of cooking meat that originated with the Taíno of Jamaica. Meat was applied with a dry rub of allspice, Scotch bonnet pepper, and perhaps additional spices, before being smoked over fire or wood charcoal.
Casabe, a crispy, thin flatbread made from cassava root widespread in the Pre-Columbian Caribbean and Amazonia;
Bammy, a Jamaican fried bread made from cassava and coconut milk or water;
Pasteles, origin of true name is lost in history. Pasteles were once made with cassava and taro mashed into a masa onto a cassava leaf. They are then stuffed with meat and wrapped.
Funche or fungi, a cornmeal mush seasoned with salt and butter;
Cassareep, a sauce, condiment, or thickening agent made by boiling down the extracted juices of bitter cassava root;
Pepperpot, a spicy stew of Taíno origin based on meat, vegetables, chili peppers, and boiled-down cassava juice, with a legacy stretching from Jamaica to Guyana;
Bush teas, popular as herbal remedies in the Virgin Islands and other parts of the Caribbean, often derived from indigenous sources, such as ginger thomas, soursop, inflammation bush, kenip, wormgrass, worry wine, and many other leaves, barks, and herbs;
Ouicou, a fermented, cassava-based beer brewed by the Caribs of the Lesser Antilles;
Taumali or taumalin, a Carib sauce made from the green liver meat of lobsters, chile pepper, and lime juice.
Chicha, a generic name for any number of indigenous beers found in South America. Though chichas made from various types of corn are the most common in the Andes, chicha in the Amazon Basin frequently use manioc. Variations found throughout the continent can be based on amaranth, quinoa, peanut, potato, coca, and many other ingredients.
Colada morada, a thickened, spiced fruit drink based on the Andean blackberry, traditional to the Day of the Dead ceremonies held in Ecuador, it is typically served with guagua de pan, a bread shaped like a swaddled infant (formerly made from cornmeal in Pre-Columbian times), though other shapes can be found in various regions.
Tereré or ka'ay, a cold-brewed version of yerba mate
Metate and mano
The earliest utensils, including knives, spoons, grinders, and griddles, were made from all kinds of organic materials, such as rock and animal bone. Gourds were also initially cultivated, hollowed, and dried to be used as bowls, spoons, ladles, and storage containers. Many Native American cultures also developed elaborate weaving and pottery traditions for making bowls, cooking pots, and containers. Nobility in the Andean and Mesoamerican civilizations were even known to have utensils and vessels smelted from gold, silver, copper, or other minerals.
Molinillo, a device used by Mesoamerican royalty for frothing cacao drinks
Metate, a stone grinding slab used with a stone mano or metlapil to process meal in Mesoamerica and one of the most notable Pre-Columbian artifacts in Costa Rica
Cooking baskets were woven from a variety of local fibers and sometimes coated with clay to improved durability. The notable thing about basket cooking and some native clay pot cooking is that the heat source, i.e. hot stones or charcoal, is used inside the utensil rather than outside. (also see Cookware and bakeware)