Holidays and Entertaining/ Vegan Main Dishes/ Vegan Recipes/ Vegan Soups, Stews, and Chilis/ Vegan Thanksgiving Recipes

“Three Sisters” Stew

Three sisters stew recipe

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

“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.
5 from 3 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Squash and bean stew / Thanksgiving
Cuisine: Vegan / Healthy
Diet: Vegan, Vegetarian
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Servings: 8 to 10
Author: Veg Kitchen


  • 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


  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

Three sisters stew

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  • Reply
    Crista Meyer
    November 26, 2010 at 11:07 am

    Working ahead of time I soaked and cooked my beans for this and then was going to prepare the stew the next day. I then overlooked getting the cooked beans in the refrigerator so they sat in the pot on top of a gas stove all night, meaning more warmth there than if just on the counter. Did I kill them and need to toss them or should they be okay?

    • Reply
      November 26, 2010 at 11:12 am

      This is a tough call. If it were summer and the beans were in a warm kitchen aside from being on a warm stove, I’d say toss them. But if they taste OK and smell OK, chances are that they are fine. Not much in beans that is too perishable. I hope I’m giving you the right advice!

  • Reply
    December 12, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    Finally got the opportunity to make this last night. I peeled the butternut squash, diced it and then lightly steamed it – this seemed to speed things up a bit. I didn’t have any pinto beans in the house, so used small red beans instead. I have to tell you – this recipes is AMAZING. The whole family devoured this and came back for more. Definitely one of our new favorites. Will make again and again – thank you Nava!! (Looking forward to the leftovers for lunch today!)

  • Reply
    January 2, 2011 at 10:18 am

    I have been making the recipe for Thanksgiving for the past few years. It has become a tradition now for the holiday in our family. This is just an incredible recipe. I have always made it with butternut squash.
    I usually make it the day before I am going to serve it and let it sit on the stove or refrigerate it. If you are serving this to people that are sensitive to spicy food you may want to be be careful on how many chiles you put into it.

  • Reply
    January 3, 2011 at 8:30 am

    Thanks for the feedback, Pause and NedMan—glad to have helped you start a new tradition!

  • Reply
    reeanna chino
    October 21, 2011 at 2:23 pm

    I think these recipes are really good. I made one of these recipes for NY class, they really liked it, I was happy. So thanks to all the people who left these recipes. I hope other people enjoy these great dishes.

  • Reply
    Gluten free and vegetarian Thanksgiving Menu | Nellbe's Gluten Free Kitchen
    November 23, 2011 at 5:40 am

    […] “Three Sisters” stew (1)- to make this gluten free, use a gluten free stock or just plain water. It is very yummy, you could serve it with rice or mashed potatoes. […]

  • Reply
    Happy Thanksgiving! | Panduh!
    November 24, 2011 at 9:06 am

    […] – Three Sisters Stew […]

  • Reply
    Vegan Food in Vegas: a Thanksgiving Tour
    November 25, 2011 at 9:41 pm

    […] papaya.My mom made vegan pumpkin pies and she roasted some baby carrots. She also made a fantastic Three Sister’s Stew. The stew recipe introduction says this about the ingredients: “In Native American mythology, […]

  • Reply
    Vegetarian Thanksgiving Recipes | HealthyMamaInfo
    December 1, 2011 at 12:49 pm

    […] “Three Sisters” Stew […]

  • Reply
    February 6, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    Excellent stew. Served with pearled barley & a little Parmesan cheese on top.

  • Reply
    November 20, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    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!

    • Reply
      November 20, 2012 at 1:10 pm

      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!

  • Reply
    November 22, 2012 at 1:40 pm

    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.

  • Reply
    November 22, 2012 at 4:52 pm

    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.

    • Reply
      November 23, 2013 at 4:11 pm

      Thank you, Gina — same to you and yours!

  • Reply
    David Nurbin
    November 23, 2013 at 8:41 am

    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.

    • Reply
      November 23, 2013 at 4:10 pm

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

  • Reply
    November 16, 2014 at 5:48 pm

    Can this be made in a crock pot? Has anyone tried that?

  • Reply
    November 25, 2014 at 4:06 pm

    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…

    • Reply
      November 25, 2014 at 4:59 pm

      They’d be great, go for it!

  • Reply
    November 25, 2014 at 9:22 pm

    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!

  • Reply
    November 29, 2014 at 11:53 am

    Thanks for coming back and letting us know, Penny. It’s good to know that this can be make in a crock pot!

  • Reply
    Vegan Holiday Kitchen by Nava Atlas is Amazing! - Healthy Slow Cooking
    December 18, 2014 at 7:03 pm

    […] Three Sisters Stew – I made this for New Year’s day along side of my southern style greens and some black-eyed peas. My guests went nuts over this stew of corn, winter squash, and beans. (Yes, they liked it more than my black-eyed peas. But I’m not holding that against you Nava…) I even cheated and made it in the slow cooker so I made my beans from scratch and skipped the cans. […]

  • Reply
    September 4, 2016 at 10:32 am

    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.

    • Reply
      September 5, 2016 at 12:23 pm

      Thanks, Jan! This is definitely a Thanksgiving favorite.

  • Reply
    November 13, 2016 at 10:38 pm

    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.

    • Reply
      November 14, 2016 at 10:38 am

      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!

  • Reply
    September 9, 2019 at 2:03 am

    5 stars
    Tasty and healthy – thanks for posting this!
    My version used sprouted boiled beans, no oil, water for the stock, and steamed squash instead of roasted.

  • Reply
    November 4, 2020 at 8:49 pm

    5 stars
    This was fantastic with a nice bit of fresh bread. Super flavorful and healthy. I added a touch of maple syrup. Will make again!!

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