Three Sisters Vegetarian Chili

Three Sisters Chili
Three Sisters ChiliSharon Palmer, RDN

This delicious, healthy chili is inspired by the story of the “Three Sisters,” a Native American agricultural tradition of planting beans, squash, and maize (corn) together.



This planting style was practiced by the indigenous peoples of the Americas dating back to 1000 A.D. The corn was planted in a mound; a bean was planted at the base, using the corn as a pole; and the squash created a canopy, controlling sun exposure and soil moisture levels.

This system also helped achieve biological interactions among pests and weeds, and contributed nitrogen to the soil through the cultivation of legumes.

Recipe by Sharon Palmer, RDN, The Plant-Powered Dietitian.

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  • 124 calories
  • 6 grams protein
  • 1 gram fat
  • 25.5 grams carbs
  • 5 grams sugar

Prep time

15 minutes min.

Cook time

90 minutes min.

  • 1 pound red beans (i.e., kidney, small red, cranberry), dried
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 vegetable bouillon cube (gluten-free)
  • 1 small acorn squash, peeled, cubed (about 2 ¼ cups)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 bell pepper, diced
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon juniper berries (available at spice shops or online)
  • 2 teaspoons ground, dried sage
  • ½ - 1 teaspoon crushed red chili pepper (according to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon dried tarragon
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
  • Sea salt (optional)
  • Fresh tarragon and sage, if desired
Soak beans overnight in water.
Drain and place beans in a large pot. Add fresh water (4 cups), vegetable bouillon cube, squash, onion, garlic, celery, pepper, bay leaves, juniper berries, sage, chili pepper, tarragon, and corn. Stir well, cover, and bring up the heat. Simmer over medium-low for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. May need to replace water lost to evaporation.
Add tomato sauce and tomato paste. Cook for an additional 15-30 minutes, until thick and beans are tender. Add fresh mint and stir well. Remove bay leaves. Season with salt, if desired. May serve with fresh tarragon and sage, if desired.