Independence Day Tradition: Noodlas and Watermelon

Every year for the July 4th Independence Day, one of my bestest friends, Kelly, gets together with her family and makes noodlas and watermelon. Now, you might be wondering what the heck a noodla is, and dearest reader, you would not be alone. I have never heard of them before meeting Kelly and her family, and I can’t find anything about them! Do things really exist if they don’t exist on the interwebs? Well, after this post, they will indeed exist somewhere online. 

(Just try searching for them – Google doesn’t even let you; it gives you the old “showing results for noodles” slip instead; and every time I type it I either get a red squiggly line or my computer just autocorrects it. Stop it, already! It’s a real thing!)

A July 4th tradition, noodlas and watermelon

A July 4th tradition: noodlas and watermelon

This tradition centered around Kelly’s grandmother, who was raised on a farm in North Dakota. Sadly, her grandmother passed away this past December, so this was the first July 4th without her. I was deeply touched to be invited to share in their special tradition.

First, Kelly started by mixing the flour, salt and other ingredients with water using her hands. She gave me permission to photograph and share their story, but I won’t be sharing the recipe. (Psst: the secret ingredient is love. No joke.)

Mixing the dough

She had me pour small drips of water into the bowl until she said the dough looked “just right.” That’s some skillz, right?

She started rubbing her hands together, and the noodlas started taking shape.



Meanwhile, they put some good ole’ Crisco in an electric pan with some water and let it melt down. Kelly and her mom’s hands worked quickly to roll all the noodlas and get them ready for their spa date. There was a lot of laughter and focused attention, and even a quick call to an uncle to check in on the finer points of the recipe to make sure it was all going according to Grandma’s specifications.

7-4-14-noodlas08Before long, the pan was full. They put the cover on and let the noodlas steam and absorb all that wonderful Crisco goodness.


Then we waited. We cleaned up a bit, chit-chatted, and cut up a watermelon. Watching the steam and smelling the in-progress dough made me drool a little bit.


Then, it was declared that the noodlas were ready. With a spatula and some elbow grease, they were all transferred to a serving bowl.



The ones in the center were delicately steamed, and the ones on the edges had brown crispy bits. Kelly says those are the best part. They were a touch salty; like a pretzel, but different. Chewy, yet tender. The watermelon complements the noodlas perfectly with its sweetness and juiciness.


There are plenty of family food traditions that take some convincing and adjustment (I’m looking at you, gefilte fish), but the fried-steamed salty dough goodness of noodlas are pretty much universal. It’s an easy one to love, and I hope that I can be included in the tradition again next year.

If you’ve heard of noodlas or something similar, I’d love to hear from you! Please share your story about where your version of noodlas came from and how you make them.



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Posted in: Food projects