Categories: Bean Stews and ChilisSpecial Occasions and EntertainingVegan RecipesVegan Thanksgiving Recipes

“Three Sisters” Stew

Three Sisters Stew

Here’s a great main dish option for Thanksgiving dinner. It’s somewhat like chili, though more about the squash than beans. In Native American mythology, squash, corn, and beans are known as of the “three sisters” — the very crops that the harvest festival of Thanksgiving is meant to celebrate! If you bake your pumpkin or squash a day ahead, the stew will come together in a snap. And if you’re not accustomed to dealing with winter squash, or don’t have the time, see the shortcut following the recipe. Photos by Hannah Kaminsky.

“Three Sisters” Stew
Recipe Type: Squash and bean stew / Thanksgiving
Cuisine: Vegan / Healthy
Author: Nava
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 8 to 10
Here's a great main dish option for Thanksgiving dinner. It's somewhat like chili, though more about the squash than beans.
  • 1 small sugar pumpkin or 1 large butternut squash (about 2 pounds), or see shortcut following recipe
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium green or red bell pepper, cut into short narrow strips
  • 14- to 16-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes, with liquid
  • 2 to 3 cups cooked or canned (drained and rinsed) pink or pinto beans
  • 2 cups corn kernels (from 2 large or 3 medium ears, or frozen)
  • 1 cup homemade or canned vegetable stock, or water
  • 1 or 2 small fresh hot chiles, seeded and minced, or one 4-ounce can chopped mild green chilies
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder or mesquite seasoning, or more, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro or parsley
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Remove stem from the pumpkin or squash and cut in half lengthwise. Cover with aluminum foil and place the halves, cut side up, in a foil-lined shallow baking pan. If your knives aren't sharp enough, just wrap the pumpkin or squash in foil and bake it whole. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until you can pierce through with a knife, with a little resistance.
  3. When cool enough to handle, scrape out the seeds and fibers (clean the seeds for roasting, if you'd like). Slice and peel, then cut into large dice.
  4. Heat the oil in a soup pot. Add the onion and sauté over medium-low heat until translucent. Add the garlic and continue to sauté until the onion is golden.
  5. Add the pumpkin or squash and all the remaining ingredients except the last 2, and bring to a simmer. Simmer gently, covered, until all the vegetables are tender, about 20 to 25 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  6. If time allows, let the stew stand for 1 to 2 hours before serving, then heat through as needed. Just before serving, stir in the cilantro. The stew should be thick and very moist but not soupy; add additional stock or water if needed. Adjust seasonings to your liking. Serve in bowls.


Shortcut: If you’re short on time or simply can’t deal with chopping and peeling pumpkin or squash, you can get peeled, cut raw butternut squash. At this time of year, it’s easy to find in the fresh produce department of supermarkets or natural foods stores.

Nava :

View Comments

  • I am making this (with butternut) for the main dish at this year's family Thanksgiving dinner. I love this recipe for lots of reasons: it's the perfect blend of historical representation, good nutrition and deliciousness. Thanks!

    • I made it this week just for the weekday meals, as I had a bunch of squashes. If you're feeding a bigger crowd, add another cup or two of beans, and spice it up to your taste. It's a very flexible stew! I also added a pinch of mesquite seasoning (available in the supermarket spice section), which gave it a deliciously smoky flavor. Enjoy and have a great Thanksgiving!

  • Thanks for the above comment and suggestion. I did add the extra beans, and some of my last jalapeños (from plants now in the garage, to avoid the frosty nights). Lovely, simple recipe. Perfect for today.

  • I also doubled the onion and red pepper. I've now entered this recipe into my hand-written recipe book, meaning tried and true. Thanks again, and hope you and yours have a happy Thanksgiving celebration.

  • I have made this as the vegetarian main dish for Thanksgiving for almost 10 years. I increase the cumin and the beans, but other than that, do it this way. It has been popular even with my "won't eat healthy ir vegetarian stuff" friends.

    • Thanks so much, David. So glad you've enjoyed this over the years! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving celebration.

  • How would black beans go with this stew? I would love to try this recipe, but I prefer the taste of black beans over pinto...

  • Well, I tried the crockpot myself and it works! I did start out in a dutch oven and let it cook for a few minutes and then put it in the crockpot on high for two hours. This recipe is so good!

  • Very tasty stew. Great combination of heat, savory, and sweet. I used steamed butternut squash. Next time I will use small red bean for the color contrast.

  • Would this still be good if made ahead of time and frozen? I'm trying to make several dishes beforehand as I have many dishes to make.

    • I'm not a big fan of freezing, but this is one of those dishes that thaws out well. So yes, go ahead, and I hope you enjoy this!