Traditional Foods

Traditional Foods

As a general rule, Apaches would not eat bugs, scaly things, slimy things, or things which lived in water.  Nor would Apaches eat anything which they believed ate those things.  They would not eat bears, pigs, dogs, or fish because these animals ate nasty things.  Mules, woodrats and in emergencies even field mice could be used for food because these animals ate only plants or fruit or seeds.

The key to survival was the ability to find susteinance.  Knowledge of the relationships between the plants, the animals, the terrain, and the seasons allowed the Chiracahuas to be in the right places at the right times to harvest the products of their land.  Ndebitah, the land of the Chiricahua.  

The Chiricahua Apaches in the 1800’s had a great variety of foods available to them.  Most of these foods were gathered with much effort and traveling.  Apaches learned to prepare these foods by methods passed on through generations without written recipes.  These two recipes, boiled meat and chigustei, were selected because they don’t require wild foods like many Apache recipes, they are easy to prepare, and they are typical of Chiricahua Apache food.  Writing these recipes required measuring ingredients and observing procedures which are usually done through long familiarity by the Apache cook.

Boiled Meat
  • 1 lb. lean beef stew meat cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons salt


Place all ingredients in a large pot.  Bring to a boil over medium heat.  This may take about 30 minutes to boil.  Watch carefully as it comes to a boil because it foams up and might overflow.  Reduce heat to simmer and stir down the foam for a few minutes until it stays down.  It can be skimmed off if you prefer.  Cover and simmer for 90 minutes.  Serve as a few pieces of meat in a bowl of broth.

To remove fat, allow to cool, chill and lift off the hardened fat from the surface.  Reheat to serve.  

Common variations: Beef short-ribs are the preferred meat to use when making boiled meat. Deer meat can be substituted for beef; black pepper, red or green chili, or chunks of onion can be added while cooking for seasoning; chunks of potato or a handful of rice (from reservation rations) can be added in the last 30 minutes of cooking.


The Apache name for this bread can be tsegustei meaning “cooked on a rock” or chigustei which means “cooked on embers.”  These days it is ordinarily cooked on a griddle.  Chigustei resembles a thick version of a Mexican-style flour tortilla. It has been a familiar Apache food item for a long time and is mentioned in accounts from the 1800s.  Chigustei is very good served with boiled meat.  

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons shortning
  • ¾ cup warm water

Blend shortning with dry ingredients.  Add water.  Mix well.  Knead lightly.  Let the dough rest, covered in a warm place for 30 minutes.  Divide dough into 6-8 pieces.  Keep the dough covered until it is used.  Take a piece of the dough and roll it into a flat circle no more than ¼ inch  thick and cook on a non-stick griddle or lightly greased iron griddle over medium-high heat turning the bread over once.  They should have dark speckles on one side and dark spots on the other.  Serve them warm.  They are often torn into pieces and dropped into the broth with the boiled meat.