Three Sisters Stew with Corn Dumplings | Stew Recipes | PBS Food

Three Sisters Stew with Corn Dumplings

Try this traditional Native American stew by Chef Loretta Barrett Oden using corn, squash, and beans–the Three Sisters.


Yield: 8 servings



  • ½ cup dried Anasazi beans or pinto beans
  • ½ cup dried lima beans
  • ½ cup dried white beans
  • ½ cup dried black beans
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1½ cups finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1½ cups finely chopped green bell pepper
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
  • 1 jalapeño chile, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seed
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons chile powder
  • 1 (28-ounce) can peeled tomatoes, with juice
  • 3 quarts water
  • 3 ears corn (about 3 cups corn kernels)
  • ½ cup beer
  • 2 cups diced zucchini, yellow squash, and/or other summer squash
  • For the Dumplings
  • ½ cup yellow cornmeal
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
  • ½ cup cooked fresh, thawed frozen, or drained canned corn kernels


  1. Place the beans in a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Cover with water by 2 inches and soak 2 hours or overnight. Drain and set aside.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium high heat; sauté the onions, bell pepper, garlic, and jalapeño until soft, about 5 minutes. In a dry small skillet, toast the cumin seed until aromatic and lightly browned; grind in a mini food processor or coffee or spice grinder, and add to the onion mixture.
  3. In the same skillet, toast the cayenne and chile powder for just 1 or 2 minutes, being careful not to burn; add to the onion mixture. Add the tomatoes to the onion mixture and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the 3 quarts water and drained beans to the pan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the beans are tender, about 1½ to 2 hours.
  4. Cut the corn kernels off the cob. Add the beer, corn kernels, and squash and cook until the squash is tender, about 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. For the Dumplings: In a bowl, stir together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar.
  6. In another bowl or glass measuring cup, whisk together the egg, milk, and butter. Add the liquid mixture to the dry and mix just until incorporated; fold in the corn. Drop the batter by heaping tablespoons into the slowly simmering stew (there should be about 16 dumplings). Cover and cook until a wooden toothpick inserted into the centers of the dumplings comes out clean, about 15 minutes.
  7. Spoon the stew into bowls and top each serving with 2 dumplings. Serve immediately.


You don’t have to soak beans overnight. To quick-soak: Pick and sort the beans, then cover with cold water. Bring to a boil, cover the pot, and remove it from the heat. Let sit 1 hour. Drain off the soaking liquid and fill the pot with fresh water. Cook as directed.
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