Three Sisters Soup is a delicious harvest soup made with the nourishing trio of corn, squash, and beans. This authentic Native American soup is a family favorite!
three sisters soup celebrates the fall harvest
The three sisters refers to the combination of corn, beans, and squash, as well as to a native American companion planting technique that paired the three crops together for better productivity, and sustainable land use. The three foods have been staples in the diets of many tribes (from the Iroquois in the North, the Chickasaw in the South, and the Hopi and Navajo Nations in the Southwest) over the centuries, and this soup is a celebration of that magical trio. The whole family will love this hearty healthy soup, and it provides a great story and learning op as well!
meet the three sisters
These three crops not only support each other as they grow, they have been critically important foods to Native Americans, and are particularly nourishing. In three sisters soup corn, beans and squash are a complete nutritional package with carbohydrates from the corn, protein from the beans (they provide the missing amino acids in the corn) and essential vitamins and minerals from the squash.
- CORN ~ the tall corn provides support for the beans vines to grow on.
- BEANS ~ add nitrogen into the soil to fertilize the corn and squash. These can be fresh or dried beans.
- SQUASH ~ this refers to both winter and summer squash, both of which are low to the ground crops which provide shade to keep the ground moist and prevent weeds.
ingredients for three sisters soup
There is no one authentic recipe for this soup ~ it can be made, and is made, in a variety of ways, with different combinations of ‘sisters’. Recipes have been passed down through generations in tribes, and have become more modernized in the process. My version uses chicken broth and fire roasted tomatoes for a flavorful broth, potatoes for their satisfaction factor, jalapeño and chipotle powder for a little kick of heat, and black eyed peas because I love them. FYI tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers are all indigenous crops, native to the Americas.
- olive oil
- chicken broth ~ or veggie broth
- fire roasted tomatoes, canned
- red potatoes ~ sweet potatoes would also be nice
- zucchini and/or summer squash
- corn ~ while you could use frozen, I would urge you to slice the kernels off fresh ears, it really makes a difference
- black-eyed peas ~ either canned or dried
- jalapeño ~ makes things pop
- chipotle powder adds a nice smokey heat
- bay leaf ~ I never make soup without it
- salt and pepper
change things up!
As I’ve made it, three sisters soup is a wonderful late summer harvest meal, but oh my gosh there are so many ways to vary it.
- USE WINTER SQUASH Bring it into fall and winter by subbing out the summer squash for winter squash. There are SO many varieties to choose from, from pumpkin and butternut to to some of the lesser known types like kabocha. You can even blend canned pumpkin into the soup stock.
- EXPLORE DIFFERENT BEANS When you use winter squash, black beans are an obvious choice, but you could also use pinto or kidney beans.
- USE FRESH BEANS If you’re not into dried or canned legumes, use fresh green or waxed beans.
- Try HOMINY instead of sweet corn.
- ADD CHILES Either canned or fresh, chiles will enhance this soup. Go for mild or spicy. Hatch chiles are a great choice in fall.
- THICKEN THE SOUP Consider adding some masa harina toward the end of cooking, it will give your soup body and a lovely corn flavor. You can also take an immersion blender and blend just a portion of the soup to thicken it up.
- ADD ANIMAL PROTEIN It’s not traditional but you could definitely add some shredded chicken or sausage (chorizo would be nice.)
- ADD CHEESE Again, not traditional, but I sometimes add a shower of queso, Parm, or other aged cheese.
- MAKE THREE SISTERS SOUP VEGAN Switch out the chicken stock with water or vegetable stock.
if you love this three sisters soup I bet you’ll also love
- The Best Stuffed Pepper Soup
- Creamy Wild Rice Soup
- Mushroom Barley Soup
- Italian White Bean Soup with Sausage Meatballs
- Broccoli Stilton Soup
- Mushroom and Brie Soup
- German Potato Soup (Kartoffelsuppe) with Bratwurst
Three Sisters Soup
- A large soup pot or Dutch oven
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 lb red potatoes, diced (no need to peel)
- 1 tsp chipotle powder
- 1 tsp cumin
- 2 bay leaves
- 32 ounces chicken broth
- 28 ounce can diced fire roasted tomatoes
- salt and fresh cracked black pepper
- 1 jalapeño pepper, minced (leave out for less heat)
- 1 zucchini, diced (do not peel)
- 1 summer squash, diced (do not peel)
- 3 ears corn, kernels removed
- 2 cups cooked black-eyed peas
- fresh parsley
- grated cheese such as Parmesan or Asiago
- Heat the oil in a large soup pot or Dutch oven and add the diced onion. Saute for five minutes, stirring often, until the onion starts to soften. Add the garlic and cook a minute or two longer.
- Add the potatoes, chipotle powder, cumin, and bay leaves to the pot and cook a couple of more minutes, stirring almost constantly.
- Add the broth and tomatoes to the pot and bring to a simmer. Add the jalapeños, if using, at this point too. Bring to a boil.
- Lower the heat and simmer just until the potatoes are just tender, about 8-12 minutes. You can cover the pot if you like, but make sure you're cooking at a simmer, not a full boil.
- Add the zucchini, summer squash, corn and beans, and bring the soup back to a bubble. Season with salt and black pepper to taste. Add more chipotle or cumin at this point if you like. Cover and let the soup simmer for just a few minutes. You just want to take the raw edge off your veggies. When they taste just barely tender, the soup is finished. Add water if your soup seems too thick.
- Serve the soup topped with fresh parsley, and a sprinkle of cheese, if you like.