Three Sisters Soup

Three Sisters Soup in a cast iron pot

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 in a white pot

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!

Three Sisters Soup in a cast iron pot

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. 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.

  1. CORN ~ the tall corn provides support for the beans vines to grow on.
  2. BEANS ~ add nitrogen into the soil to fertilize the corn and squash. These can be fresh or dried beans.
  3. 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.
a bowl of Three Sisters Soup with spoon

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
  • garlic
  • onion
  • 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
  • cumin
  • salt and pepper
Three Sisters Soup in a black bowl

change things up!

As I’ve made it, this 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 IT VEGAN Switch out the chicken stock with water or vegetable stock.
ladling out Three Sisters Soup from a pot

who doesn’t love a hearty soup?

Three Sisters Soup in a cast iron pot
Print
5 from 6 votes

Three Sisters Soup

Three Sisters Soup is a delicious harvest soup made with the nourishing trio of corn, squash, and beans. This classic Native American soup recipe is a family favorite!
Course Soup
Cuisine Native American
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Yield 10 servings
Calories 162kcal
Author Sue Moran

Equipment

  • A large soup pot or Dutch oven

Ingredients

  • 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

garnish (optional)

  • fresh parsley
  • grated cheese such as Parmesan or Asiago

Instructions

  • 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.
    sautéing onions and garlic
  • Add the potatoes, chipotle powder, cumin, and bay leaves to the pot and cook a couple of more minutes, stirring almost constantly.
    sautéing vegetables for six sisters soup
  • 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.
    adding broth and tomatoes to soup pot
  • 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.
    simmering broth for six sisters soup
  • 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.
    adding corn, beans, and squash to six sisters soup
  • Serve the soup topped with fresh parsley, and a sprinkle of cheese, if you like.
    Three Sisters Soup in a black bowl

Nutrition

Calories: 162kcal | Carbohydrates: 28g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 1g | Sodium: 456mg | Potassium: 805mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 8g | Vitamin A: 371IU | Vitamin C: 27mg | Calcium: 56mg | Iron: 3mg
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although theviewfromgreatisland.com tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.
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8 Comments

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    Please rate this recipe!




  • Reply
    Martha in KS
    September 4, 2021 at 4:22 pm

    When I make Tortilla Soup, I use a little Jiffy Corn Muffin Mix to thicken it, since I always have it on hand. I’ll be trying your recipe as soon as the temp cools off a little.

  • Reply
    Inforapenny
    August 30, 2021 at 6:46 pm

    5 stars
    I made this for dinner tonight. Fantastic! I really liked the squash and especially the fresh corn cooked for such a short time, so their amazing flavors were still present and the corn provided some crunch. I had a wealth of small heirloom tomatoes, so I oven-roasted them and used them in place of the canned fire-roasted ones. Scrumptious! Filling without making me feel overstuffed! Next time, I will add more chipotle and more jalapeno–it didn’t turn out as spicy as I’d imagined. And I sprinkled a good handful of shredded sharp cheddar on it before serving. Delicious! Thanks for the recipe!

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      August 31, 2021 at 4:31 pm

      Thanks for the quick feedback! I bet your roasted tomatoes made the soup extra yummy.

  • Reply
    Lindsey
    August 30, 2021 at 4:07 pm

    I like to print out your recipes but those pages with steps broken down with photos are just too much extra to print.
    Could you put the recipes on one or two pages with just a photo of finished dish? (Maybe for those who like the step by step photos those could come at the end.)

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      August 30, 2021 at 4:09 pm

      Hi Lindsay, yes, there’s an option to print with or without photos, it’s at the top of the print page. Let me know if you don’t see it.

  • Reply
    Inforapenny
    August 30, 2021 at 8:05 am

    This looks fabulous, Sue–and perfect for what’s available right now at the farmers’ markets. I’m going to make it tonight, but I’m going to use some of my heirloom tomatoes, rather than the canned ones.

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      August 30, 2021 at 8:17 am

      I bet it will be amazing!

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