Native American Sourdough

Discover the rich history of Native American Sourdough on Sourdough Savvy. Explore pre-colonial fermentation techniques used by Indigenous communities to create bread-like products from corn and other grains. Learn about the process of nixtamalization and how it improved the nutritional value of corn. Join us as we delve into the lost or overlooked knowledge about these indigenous fermentation traditions and their revitalization today​


11/12/20201 min read

Indigenous Peoples' Sourdough:

Before European settlers arrived, some Indigenous communities in North America were already fermenting corn and other grains for bread-like products. It's a tradition that predates modern sourdough bread by hundreds, possibly even thousands, of years.

It's important to note that the term "sourdough" as we understand it today—a dough fermented with a mixture of wild yeasts and bacteria—may not exactly apply to the techniques used by Native American communities.

Prior to European contact, many Native American tribes had developed various methods of fermenting grains and cornmeal. Some tribes in North America used a fermentation process to make a corn-based bread product, which was a predecessor to what we would call sourdough today.

In some parts of Mexico and the Southwestern United States, indigenous peoples created a similar fermented cornmeal dough for making tortillas. This was made by nixtamalization, a process where corn is soaked and cooked in an alkaline solution, usually limewater, and then hulled. This process increases the nutritional value of the corn and makes it easier to digest. After this process, the dough could be left to ferment slightly, which would add flavor and further increase the bioavailability of nutrients.

Unfortunately, much of the specific knowledge about these indigenous fermentation traditions has been lost or overlooked. Many indigenous food traditions were disrupted or suppressed during the colonization of the Americas. Today, there is a growing interest in revitalizing and acknowledging these traditional food practices, and researchers are beginning to delve deeper into these ancient methods of fermentation.

Remember, Native American cultures are diverse and vast, so bread-making practices would have varied widely depending on the region and the resources available.