Three Sisters Stew (squash, beans & corn)

Traditional Native American stew in which squash, beans and corn are braised in a deliciously piquant sauce. This vegan chilli is gluten-free and dairy-free

Three Sisters Stew

Paleo Plus
Paleo Plus
This page explains why it is necessary to include carbohydrates in your diet, and why the Paleo diet should not be strictly followed on a long-term basis.

Three sisters stew is a vegetarian stew which combines three staple foods from the Native American diet. It is a celebration of a traditional farming method called companion planting, whereby different crops are sown together to maximise plant health and yield. In this case, the tall corn plants provide a trellis for the beans to climb up, the bean plants provide fertiliser by fixing nitogren into the soil, and the low-growing, big-leaved squash plants provide ground cover to stop the soil from drying out and inhibit weed growth. By happy co-incidence, they all taste delicious when combined in a stew!

Three Sisters Stew is commonly served with cornmeal dumplings floating on top, but also works well served with plain rice.

cooking time
Three Sisters Stew (squash, beans & corn)


  • 1 can (400g) pinto beans / 100g dried pinto beans
  • ½ teaspoon salt (if using dried beans)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion (130g), peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cumin
  • ½ – ¾ teaspoon chilli powder (depending on how hot you like it!)
  • 400g (1 can) tinned chopped tomatoes
  • 400ml of homemade stock (I used chicken stock, but you can use vegetable stock for a vegan option)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 large red bell pepper, chopped into 2cm cubes
  • Neck of a large butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 2cm cubes (500g prepared weight)
  • 100g frozen sweetcorn


  1. Prepare the beans.
    • if using canned beans: drain and rinse the beans.
    • if using dried beans: place the beans and salt in a bowl and cover with a generous amount of cold water. Leave to soak for 8 hours. Drain and rinse when ready to use.
  2. Sauté the onion and garlic. Heat the oil in a heavy-based casserole / deep-sided saucepan over a medium-high heat. Add the onion and fry until translucent but not brown, stirring occasionally – about 5 minutes. Add the garlic fry for 1 minute.
  3. Fry the spices. Add the cumin and chilli powder and fry for 30 seconds.
  4. Simmer the stew. Add the tinned tomatoes, stock, salt and black pepper. Stir until blended. Cover, and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a brisk simmer.
    • if using dried beans: add the beans. Cook, covered, until the beans are mostly cooked and have lost their chalky texture – about 45-60 minutes, depending on the age of the beans.
  5. Cook the vegetables. Add the butternut squash and bell pepper. Cook, covered, until the squash is tender – about 20 minutes.
  6. Add the sweetcorn and cook, uncovered for 5 minutes.
    • if using canned beans: add with the sweetcorn.
  7. Transfer the stew into a serving dish and serve hot.




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