Three Sisters Casserole Recipe | Vegetarian Times Skip to main content

Three Sisters Casserole

A Native American expression, "three sisters" refers to the practice of growing beans, corn, and squash together. This filling casserole can be frozen for an upcoming party or made fresh for dinner. Serve with Pumpkin Seed Pesto.


Ingredient Set Name: 

Polenta Topping


Ingredient Line: 
1 ½ cups yellow cornmeal
Ingredient Line: 
1 Tbs. chili powder
Ingredient Line: 
¾ tsp. salt

Ingredient Set Name: 



Ingredient Line: 
3 Tbs. olive oil, divided
Ingredient Line: 
1 small onion, chopped (1 cup)
Ingredient Line: 
1 large red or yellow bell pepper, cut into 1-inch dice (1 cup)
Ingredient Line: 
1 lb. kabocha squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes (2 cups)
Ingredient Line: 
1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes with chiles
Ingredient Line: 
2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp.)
Ingredient Line: 
1 tsp. ground coriander
Ingredient Line: 
1 tsp. ground cumin
Ingredient Line: 
½ tsp. salt
Ingredient Line: 
1 15-oz. can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
Ingredient Line: 
1 cup frozen corn kernels, thawed


1. To make Polenta Topping: Whisk together cornmeal, chili powder, salt, and 4½ cups water in double boiler, or in large metal bowl over barely simmering water. Cook 40 minutes, or until polenta is thick and stiff, stirring 3 or 4 times. Remove from heat.

2. To make Filling: Preheat oven to 375°F. Heat 2 Tbs. oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, and cook 7 minutes, or until softened, stirring often. Add bell pepper, and cook 5 minutes more, stirring often.

3. Stir in squash, tomatoes, garlic, coriander, and cumin. Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in ½ cup water and salt. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low, and simmer, partially covered, 10 to 15 minutes, or until squash is tender. Stir in beans and corn, and cook 5 minutes, or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally.

4. Coat 8- x 11-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Spread 2 cups polenta over bottom of prepared dish. Spoon squash mixture over polenta. Smooth remaining polenta (about 2½ cups) over top.

5. Score casserole into 6 squares with knife. Brush top with remaining 1 Tbs. oil. Bake 30 minutes, or until heated through and top is lightly browned.

Nutrition Information: 

8 g
Total Fat: 
8 g
Saturated Fat: 
1 g
52 g
0 mg
830 mg
9 g
5 g
Serves 6

Comments on this Recipe

Maybe less salt in the recipe?

Excellent! I am a sucker for anything polenta/corn and squash. I did bake it 20 minutes longer though - the top was not really brown at 30 minutes. I probably had slightly more squash and beans than the recipe called for, so I used a 9x13 - though I had to really stretch the remaining polenta over the top.

Do you think another kind of squash would work in this recipe? I have a butternut squash and a delicata in my kitchen right now - would either of them work? Also, I think I'll omit the salt in the recipe as I'd rather not consume 830mg of sodium per serving.

Anxious to try this. It looks scrumptious

The recipe looks filling, flavorful and satisfying, perfect for cool autumn days. Easy for a crowd too.

I made this in advance and then popped it in the oven about 30 minutes before we were ready to eat. I'd say it's pretty yummy...although I wish there were a little more flavor, I'll probably add some extra spices to it next time. Overall, the textures and flavors are nourishing and satisfying and great for entertaining...

I used butternut squash because I had one on hand. Also, being lazy, I used a cornmeal bead mix, instead of stirring polenta for 40 minutes. It was delicious. I think that if the main ingredients are tasty then the whole recipe is very adaptable.

I've just popped this into the oven however I tweaked this recipe slightly using ingredients I had on hand- butternut squash, 2 fresh tomatoes & an 8oz can of tomato sauce, tin of corn, Caribbean celery which has a somewhat distinct flavor. Both the polenta & filling tasted scrumptious & I'll definitely be making this again.

Loved this recipe! I didn't have chili powder, so I used a mixture of Spanish smoked paprika, garlic powder and cayenne pepper in the polenta - great show burn. Also added fresh cilantro to the vegetable mixture. Sprinked the top with pine nuts and put it under the broiler for a few minutes at the end to brown...exceptional flavor and texture.

I made this last year for Thanksgiving and my meat loving family enjoyed it so much they asked me to make it again for Christmas. I changed up the squash to what was available and it is always yummy. Making it again this year with a mix of acorn and butternut squash.

This casserole was delicious. I used acorn squash instead of kabocha since that's what was on hand, and I also cooked the polenta according to the box directions instead of using a double boiler. Add a tiny bit of lime juice to the filling for a little extra zest. I also added a little bit of cheese to the top and then baked it. SUPER TASTY!

1. To make Polenta Topping: Whisk together cornmeal, chili powder, salt, and 4 ½ Stir in &frac12 (about 2 ½ cups) What is the &frac12 suppose to be?

Mary - That is formatting that went wrong. I think it should read "and a half".

There is a typo in the first section of instructions (1). Could you clarify.

Hmm. Just tried to comment earlier so apologies if this is the second time I'm saying this but fyi NO NEED to peel Kabocha squash (or delicata, either, if that's what you happen to have). One of the major advantages of Kabocha is that the skin cooks quickly and is edible and delicious, so there's no reason to spend time on removing it. Just sayin.....

Loved this! Family loved this, too! For dietary reasons, I left out the salt and only used a very tiny bit of oil to coat the baking pan, and water-sauteed the onions and other ingredients. I'm glad to hear you don't have to peel the kabocha squash because it was tough to peel. I'll make it without peeling it next time. I had to use pre-made polenta this time (so there was more salt than I should have in it) but I'll make it from scratch next time. Thanks for a delicious recipe!

Outstanding dish! Good to know you don't need to peel the kabocha squash -- that was hard! I used prepared polenta this time so too much salt for me, but I left out salt and only used a very small amount of oil on the bottom of the baking pan, water-sauteed the onions and other ingredients. Came out very well. Next time I'll make my polenta from scratch and not peel the squash.

I liked the filling and I love polenta but not for this dish. I made it a second time and had it with my favorite corn bread. Delicious. I am making it for the fourth time today ummmm

Love this. We also cheat with cornbread mixture and pre-cut butternut squash. Makes it a really fast, easy recipe. It was a big hit on Thanksgiving.

Excellent dish! Plan to serve this at Thanksgiving for vegetarian/gluten free friends. I used ready-made polenta and sliced it thin. Also broiled the top for 2 minutes at the very end. For lots of flavor use a can of fire-roasted tomatoes with chiles.

this is the recipe

I made this dish last night for dinner. We are a vegetarian household, so I am always looking for different dishes to make. I enjoyed this. The only thing I did not care for was the polenta. I made it from scratch. I used acrorn squash. This is the type of dish you can definiately, tweak the spices.

Loved it! My husband said this turned out great, although I subbed acorn squash as that's all i had. I will say peeling it was tough so I'll look for the kabocha squash next time. I was testing recipes for our holiday dinner and I think this will definitely be added to the menu.

I added a cup of TVP to the filling to make it a bit more substantial, and didn't notice any flavor change from it. If I make it again I'll probably do what others did and use cornbread instead of polenta -- I made it from scratch following the recipe exactly and it was my least favorite part of this. Alternately, you could use mashed potatoes and make this like a version of Shepherd's Pie. Worth playing around with though and making it your own.