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Three Sisters Stew

According to Native American folklore, "the three sisters" were corn, squash, and beans, which have been planted together in North America for 3,000 years. The beans were planted at the base of corn stalks, which served as a trellis for the vines to climb up. The squash was planted in between; its large leaves shaded the ground and kept the soil moist. The three plants thrived together much better than if they were planted alone.

Three Sisters Stew is the result of this harmonious trio. There are many recipes for this indigenous stew; I was surprised to find one on the Weight Watchers website! Because I've been a Weight Watcher on and off for 50+ years, including the days when we had to make "diet" ketchup, I was skeptical of its authenticity.

Ah, what little faith I had. After perusing recipes from other reputable sources, including an almost identical recipe in the New York Times food section, I realized that Weight Watchers had nailed it. This is the real deal. It's super low in fat, calories and WW Points (only 2 per serving!), yet it's so rich and flavorful you'd never think it came from a diet website!

Per the slightly more generous NYT recipe, I added a can of black beans and more chicken broth than the WW recipe calls for. The black beans add color and zero WW Points. If you're not a Weight Watchers member, you'll appreciate the added protein. I also added a tsp. of chili powder and a pinch of cayenne pepper to give the stew a hint of spice.

Three Sisters Stew can serve as a side dish or a main dish for vegetarians. Be sure to make plenty: the meat-eaters at your table will likely want seconds of the Three Sisters.

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 red bell pepper, chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

3 cups cubed butternut squash

2 (15-oz.) cans low-sodium chicken broth

2 cups frozen corn, thawed

1 (15-oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained

1 (15-oz.) can pinto beans, rinsed and drained

1 (15-oz.) can diced tomatoes

1 (4-oz.) can diced green chiles

2 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. chili powder

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. pepper

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)

Fresh cilantro or parsley, chopped (optional)

Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat, Add onion, bell pepper and garlic and cook until the vegetables are softened, about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in squash, broth, corn, beans, tomatoes, chiles, cumin, chili powder, oregano, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, partially cover and simmer until the squash is tender, about 25 to 30 minutes. Garnish with cilantro or parsley if desired.

Serves 8

Serving size: 1 1/3 cups

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