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Ojibwe Food

Ojibwe Food


The traditional Native American diet was seasonally dependent on hunting, fishing, foraging, and farming produce and grains. Hunting and gathering have always been part of the Ojibwe life cycle. Ojibwe Food depends on the seasons. Traditionally, the Ojibwe migrated to obtain sugar sap from the maples in the spring. In the summer, to find berries, wild greens, and herbs, harvest wild rice in the fall, and kill game and spearfish in winter.

The lunar phases of the yearly cycle were identified by food availability. For example, September was the Moon of Ricing, and April was the Moon of Sugar Making. These names modern Ojibwe remember although they may no longer seek that food.

Many aspects of food and diet are sacred to the Ojibwe. They are intertwined with religion and guide the treatment of the land and its products. Plants, trees, animals, and grasses all have a purpose and are a gift that the Ojibwe hold in reverence.

Wild rice, maple sugar, and various wild game are integral parts of religious feasts. Because this bounty was placed on earth for food or medicine, it must be managed carefully to ensure its presence for generations to come. This sacred use of food is a personal matter that most Ojibwe prefers not to discuss.

Ojibwe Diet

Wild Rice

Indians, in general, used two thousand different foods derived from plants alone, not to mention the available wildlife. Nuts, berries, greens, onions, turtle eggs, camas bulbs, leeks, Jerusalem artichokes, and numerous other foodstuffs formed part of the Ojibwe diet.

Maple syrup is an essential part of life in Ojibwe. Maple sugar has always been enjoyed as a sweet, and Indians still use the syrup on vegetables, cereals, fish, and wild rice. In addition, for some, it has medicinal qualities. For others, an element of sacredness. For all, it is a symbol of good relations among people and harmony between them and their religious world.

The modern Ojibwe diet has substituted other types of food like frybread and "Indian tacos" in place of these traditionally prepared meals.
An interest in traditional ingredients like wild rice, which is the official state grain of Minnesota and was part of the pre-colonial diet of the Ojibwe, is growing.

Gathering wild rice (actually the kernel from an aquatic wild grass called Zizania aquatica by botanists and manomin by the Ojibwe) is a vital food ritual involving all family members.

Other staple foods of the Objibwe were fish, maple sugar, venison, and corn. They grew beans, squash, corn, and potatoes and foraged for blueberries, blackberries, chokecherries, raspberries, gooseberries, and huckleberries. During the summer hunting for animals like deer, beaver, moose, goose, duck, rabbits, and bear.

Ojibwe Typical Food

Ojibwe Typical Food

American Indians did not use salt before 1845. Before this time, foods were seasoned only with maple syrup or maple sugar. Salt, however, was quickly incorporated into Ojibwe's cooking. It was also used in food preservation, especially after the Scandinavians who came to fish Lake Superior's north shore waters showed the Ojibway how to salt down fish for winter storage.


Fish, once crucial to the survival of the Ojibwe during winters, is still a mainstay in the diet of many Indians. Before the introduction of salt, fish were most often preserved by cleaning and freezing or by smoking. Another way was to layer the cleaned fish in snow.

Fish is served either boiled, baked, pickled, or made into cakes. Larger fish are boiled in salted water for ten to fifteen minutes and, traditionally, are accompanied by boiled potatoes and onions. Baked fish is covered with strips of bacon or salt pork. Fish cakes are a well-liked entree. Every family has its recipe for mixing flaked fish with crumbs, eggs, canned milk, and seasonings. Some women grind up sunfish, bones and all, add other ingredients, form the mixture into cakes, and fry them. Recipes for pickled fish use trout, whitefish, and bullheads.

Wild Game

A wide assortment of wild game found its way to the cooking pots of the Ojibwe. Deer, moose, bear, rabbit, muskrat, beaver, raccoon, porcupine, partridge, duck, and coot were the most common. Deer and moose are favorite meats, often butchered into steaks and roasts or processed for ground meat and sausage.


The summers were filled with berry picking, beginning with strawberries followed by Juneberries, raspberries, pin cherries, and blueberries. The fruit was canned, dried, or made into jelly or jam for the winter. Fruit supplied almost the only dessert eaten by the Ojibwe.

Ojibwe Food Recipes

Because of the nomadic life the Ojibwe led, they frequently prepared one-pot meals over an open fire. Whenever weather permitted, this fire would be outdoors. On rainy days or in the depths of winter, it was moved to the center of the large wigwams.

A typical one-pot meal often begins with the preparation of fry bread.

Foods were cooked in a birch-bark container suspended from a tripod over a low fire that provided continuous heat. The cooks dropped hot rocks, taken from the coals, into the water-filled bark containers, which would not burn as long as there was water in the vessel. The rocks brought the water to a low boil sufficient to cook all the ingredients of the one-pot meal. Later the manomin (wild rice) or napodin (dumplings) might be added.

Cast-iron kettles replaced birch-bark containers as the Ojibwe began an exchange of goods with the white people, especially the fur traders.

Wild Rice and Chicken Wings Soup

Wild Rice and Chicken Wings Soup come to us from Ojibwe cuisine. This soup is pretty famous in Minnesota and Canada.

Wild rice and chicken wings soup consisted of traditional ingredients like wild rice (kernel from aquatic wild grass). 

Wild rice remains an integral part of the Ojibway diet and the official state grain of Minnesota.

Cooks have long combined fresh foods with wild rice to serve a hearty soup to their families. The use of chicken wings is a recent adaptation. You can add other chicken parts if you want.

For this recipe, you need 2 cups of cooked wild rice (take 2/3 cup wild rice, 3 cups water, and 1/2 teaspoon salt).

Wash rice several times in hot water to remove all particles. Place all ingredients in a 2-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer until rice is tender.

Hand-parched rice, which is dark green, cooks quickly, so check after 12 minutes.

The darker, brown-colored rice has usually been parched mechanically, removing more moisture. It should be done in about 40 minutes.

Fry Bread Ojibwe

Fry Bread Ojibwe

Fry Bread Ojibwe is a favorite treat for Ojibway and non-Indians alike at all powwows and events. Ingredients and shapes for fry bread vary from family to family.

Variations: Make a slash in the center of each round before frying. Add fresh berries to the dough.

Note: To reheat the next day, place in a brown paper bag. Twist the top of the pack. Heat in a 325-degree oven until warmed through.

Pickled Fish - Ojibwe Recipe

Ojibway living at Grand Portage uses this method to preserve their plentiful lake trout or whitefish catches. The brine can also be used with other varieties of fish.

For this recipe, you need Pickling Brine Vinegar. For Pickling Brine Vinegar, take 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, 1 cup vinegar, 1 cup white vinegar, 1 1/2 cups chopped onions, 1 1/2 tablespoons pickling spices.

In a small saucepan, combine all ingredients. Stir occasionally until the mixture boils. Set aside to cool.

Pour the cleaned and chopped fish over with brine. Leave in the cold.

Fish Cake - Ojibwe Recipe

Fish Cake - Ojibwe Recipe

This is a straightforward and famous fish cake Ojibwe recipe. For this recipe, use cooked and boned fish. Use fish from Minnesota streams or Lake Superior in the authentic Ojibwe recipe.

Long a staple of the Ojibway diet, pieces or chunks of fish is traditionally boiled or poached in seasoned water.

You can take any fish for this recipe. I love trout or pike perch fish cake.
Please make sure you get all the bones from the fish.

If you want more dietary fish cakes – you can not fry them but bake them in the oven. Usually, this dish was prepared in the winter. However, they roasted them. It was both an everyday and festive dish.

Ojibwe Stew

Ojibwe Stew

Ojibwe Stew is the traditional one-pot meal. One-pot meals that have long been part of the foodways of the Ojibwe.

The earliest recorded accounts of their lives tell of the cook fire in the center of the wigwam or in the area outside where a single sizeable birch-bark container held stew of some kind.

Variations: Vegetables can vary as to amount and kinds. Also, some cooks use more wild rice, while others use more liquid and call the dish soup.

Wild Rice and Chicken

Wild Rice and Chicken

Wild Rice and Chicken is a famous Native American dish.

Wild rice, which combines well with many ingredients, is used by the Ojibwe to extend the main dish if there is a limited amount of meat, poultry, or wild meat or fowl.

Popped Wild Rice

Popped Wild Rice

Popped Wild Rice becomes a crunchy and delicious snack. Wild rice can be popped like popcorn, even if it doesn't get as big and fluffy or puffy as popcorn.

Preparing wild rice in this traditional manner highlights the rich nutty flavor usually associated with the grain. Ojibwe people often mix the popped rice with pure maple sugar and enjoy the blend of two natural foods.