Navajo Coffee is coffee that has been thickened with toasted flour. In fact, it’s so thick it’s like a paste and you can eat it with a spoon.
The coffee uses a very specific flour, called Blue Bird flour, made by the Cortez Milling Company in Cortez, Colorado, which is popular in the south-west. Blue Bird is also a favoured choice for making Navajo Fry Bread and Tortillas.
It contains about 7% protein, less than all-purpose flour (10-11%), so it has a lower gluten content making for a lighter, chewier bread. The flour is toasted in a cast-iron skillet and then added to the coffee to thicken it. Sugar is added for sweetness.
Navajo coffee has made a comeback thanks to a video by blogger Sierra Johnson. The recipe came from Johnson’s grandparents, whom she remembers making the drink/dessert. It is not a traditional Navajo recipe, coming from the time of The Long Walk, when the Navajo people were displaced from their ancestral homes in Arizona and New Mexico and relocated some 300 miles away. To enable them to make the arduous 18-day journey, the Navajo were allotted meagre rations including flour and coffee. Modern Navajo staples like Navajo fry bread came from the people’s use of those rations, and so the ingredients became integrated into their traditions.
Navajo coffee differs from regular coffee because of its thickness, but also the toasted flour gives it a creaminess that, together with the sugar, takes the bitter edge off and pushes it into the realm of desserts.