Three Sisters Casserole with Cornbread Topping
Three Sisters Casserole with Cornbread Topping

This hearty Three Sisters Casserole is made with corn, beans, and squash and topped with cornbread cookies. It makes a great meatless main course or a vegetarian side dish!

I first heard about Three Sisters Casserole almost twenty years ago, back in the dining room of my dorm in Boulder, Colorado. This hearty casserole always popped up in the fall: a concoction of seemingly canned veggies with a cornbread topping.

As I started thinking about planning a fall menu this year, the flavors of this Three Sisters Casserole kept coming to mind. I thought, “There has to be a way to make this vegetarian entree stand out and really shine.” . . ” Translation: no canned vegetables!

What are the “Three Sisters”?

If you’ve never heard of the “three sisters,” these were the three predominant crops grown by Native Americans: Corn, beans, and to squeeze.

They were called the three sisters because they were planted close together – each plant had properties that helped the others grow. The corn proved a great structure for the beans, the beans provided nitrogen to the soil, and the squash helped deter weeds by spreading them on the soil.

Three sisters casserole from scratch

My version takes the Southwest classic further by boosting the spice profile, throwing in a few greens for extra color and nutrients, and adding a rustic cornbread cookie topping. Fresh veggies make for a more interesting, savory texture!

Plus, there’s no shame in buying pre-diced and peeled winter squash if you’re prone to it. It’s usually a bit more expensive but will save you time.

Want to make your beans from scratch too? Here’s how to make them on the stovetop or in the pressure cooker!

How to advance or freeze

Feel free to make the filling ahead of time. It will keep covered in the fridge for up to 3 days. When you’re ready to bake the casserole, the topping doesn’t take time to whip together. You can pop the whole thing in the oven and dinner will be ready in 30 minutes.

The casserole itself also keeps in the fridge for 3 to 4 days and can also be frozen wonderfully. To reheat, I let it thaw in the fridge overnight and just reheat in a 300F oven until heated through (or in the microwave if you prefer).

More vegetarian pumpkin recipes:

  • Roasted winter squash with cilantro chimichurri
  • Harvest Salad with Roasted Miso Maple Butternut Squash
  • Pressure Cooker Butternut Squash Soup
  • Vegan Stuffed Pumpkin with Brown Rice and Mushrooms
  • Roasted eggplant and butternut squash with tahini yogurt sauce

Three sisters casserole with cornbread topping

preparation time
35 minutes

cooking time
25 minutes

total time
60 minutes

8 servings


  • For the cornbread topping:
  • 1 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal

  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (or your favorite gluten-free all-purpose flour mix)

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

  • 1/2 cup whole milk

  • 1/2 cup water

  • For the filling:
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

  • 1 yellow onion, diced (about 1 cup)

  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped

  • 1 pound butternut or kabocha squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes (about 2 cups)

  • 1 (15 ounce) can diced fire roasted tomatoes

  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste

  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 3/4 cup vegetable broth

  • 1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels

  • 1 (15 ounce) can kidney beans, rinsed and drained

  • 2 cups chopped vegetables (such as spinach or kale)


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F:

    Spray a 9×13-inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.

  2. make filling:

    In a large, high-sided skillet or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until shimmering and add the onions. Cook until translucent, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.

    Add the squash, tomatoes, tomato paste, spices and salt. Stir in the broth and bring the mixture to a boil.

  3. Let the filling simmer:

    Cover the pot and reduce the heat to low. Simmer 15 to 18 minutes or until squash is tender.

  4. While the filling is simmering, make the cornbread topping:

    In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt. Slowly stir in the butter, milk and water with a wooden spoon; Mix only until just combined. Set aside and let rest for about ten minutes while the filling simmers.

  5. Add the remaining ingredients to the filling:

    Stir the corn, beans, and vegetables into the filling and continue to cook, covered, until the mixture is slightly thickened and all the ingredients are incorporated, 3 to 5 minutes.

  6. Pour into a casserole dish and bake:

    Scrape the filling into the prepared pan and top with generous, cookie-sized chunks of cornbread topping (this can be rustic and uneven).

    Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until filling is bubbly and topping is golden brown.

  7. Surcharge:

    Remove from the oven and let cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

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Hello everybody, Even if you're limited on time and money, I believe you can prepare wonderful food with everyday products. All you have to do is cook cleverly and creatively!