Three Sisters (Squash, Corn, Beans) with Green Chile Tomatillo Salsa

Three Sisters (corn, beans, squash) with leftover chicken and tomatillo-green chile salsa |

Three sisters” is the name given to three companion crops – corn, squash and beans, grown as major crops by Native Americans for generations.  If you are a gardener, you understand what is meant by companion crops – crops that aid each other in some manner.  For the three sisters it all starts with the corn.  Corn provides a tall stalk on which bean vines grow.  In return beans produce nitrogen in the soil that feeds the corn and the squash.  Squash spreads along the ground providing a mulch as well as shade for roots and plantings.

In addition to being companion crops, the three sisters are also companion ingredients for some very tasty dishes.  The dish featured here is a one pot meal consisting of the three sisters and leftover smoked chicken, topped with a spicy, green chile tomatillo salsa.  We’re growing a variety of squash this year so I used three types for this dish – a zucchini, yellow squash, and tatuma (a Mexican variety of squash).  The beans are pintos from Diaz Farms and local sweet corn.  You can really use whatever you have available like winter squash and black beans or acorn and lima.  Just keep color and texture in mind for a tasty meal that you can change up every time you make it.  For those of you who like changing things up frequently, this is a wonderful recipe to work from.


Three Sisters with Chicken and Tomatillo Salsa

Three Sisters (corn, beans, squash) with leftover chicken and tomatillo-green chile salsa #pintos #squash #hatch #chile @mjskitchen


Three Sisters (corn, beans, squash) with leftover chicken and tomatillo-green chile salsa #pintos #squash #hatch #chile @mjskitchen
Print or Save Recipe
Three Sisters with Chicken and Tomatillo Salsa Recipe
15 mins
10 mins
Total Time
25 mins

In addition to being companion crops, the three sisters (corn, beans, squash) are companion ingredients for some very tasty dishes. This dish is a one pot meal consisting of the three sisters and leftover smoked chicken, topped with a spicy, green chile tomatillo salsa.

"*" See Kitchen Notes for more information or links to special ingredients.

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: New Mexico
Yields: 4 servings
Recipe Author: MJ
  • Exact measurements not required
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 medium size summer squash* chopped
  • ¼ - ½ medium onion diced
  • ¼ - ½ cup sweet bell pepper diced
  • 1 – 2 cups leftover cooked chicken* torn or cut into small pieces (optional)
  • 1 - 1 ½ cup corn
  • 1 - 1 ½ cup cooked pinto or black beans*
  • 6 garlic cloves* minced
  • ½ tsp. Mexican oregano
  • ¼ tsp. salt or to taste
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • 1 cup Green Chile Tomatillo Salsa*
  • * See Kitchen Notes
  1. Make the green chile tomatillo salsa and refrigerate until ready to serve. This could be made a day in advance.
  2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium to medium-low heat. When the oil is hot add the onion, sweet peppers, and squash. Saute’ for about 5 minutes or until squash starts to soften.
  3. Add the garlic, corn, beans, chicken, herbs, salt and pepper. Cook another 2 – 3 minutes or until squash is cooked the way you like it. (We like ours between firm and soft.)
  4. Serve into serving bowls. Top each serving with about ¼ cup salsa.
Kitchen Notes

Squash - Any summer squash works, even winter squash. Pumpkin and black beans sound like a good combination to me.


Chicken - We use smoked chicken if we have it.  However, leftover rotisserie chicken, roasted or grilled chicken work just fine.  Leftover turkey works as well.


Beans- Just about any type of bean can be used. We like using pintos or black beans.


Garlic -If you happen to have roasted garlic, then use that instead of fresh garlic.


Green Chile Tomatillo Salsa – The tomatillo salsa adds a spicy tartness to the dish that is quite nice; however, any spicy salsa or a pico de gallo works.


Vegan/Vegetarian Option – Just omit the chicken. Your protein is in the beans.


Three Sisters (corn, beans, squash) with leftover chicken and tomatillo-green chile salsa |

One pot meals like this three sisters meal is easy and versatile, and can be made relative quick providing your family with a healthy and hearty meal.  For more one pot meals, check out the dishes below.

White Beans, Green Chile and Corn

Roasted Vegetables with Mexican Chorizo

Bean and Rice with Sausage

Chicken Pot Pie


Parting Shots – Pollinators and Blooms

Squash Blossoms and Bee |

Bees love Sunflowers! @mjskitchen

Yellow Squash Blossom |

Squash Blossoms and Bee |

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37 Responses to “Three Sisters (Squash, Corn, Beans) with Green Chile Tomatillo Salsa”

  1. Roz | La Bella Vita Cucina November 24, 2017 at 5:14 pm #

    My mouth is craving some seriously good food like this recipe, MJ! I love seeing your garden too!

    • mj November 25, 2017 at 11:45 am #

      Thanks Roz! Well, now that we have finally had our first freeze of the year, my garden is pretty much gone. The only thing I have growing now is Swiss chard which is actually doing quite well. YAY!

  2. Marta @ What should I eat for breakfast today September 20, 2017 at 2:06 am #

    And again, I’ve never heard of “three Sisters” 🙂 I enjoy your blog so much.

    • mj September 23, 2017 at 12:42 pm #

      And I yours!!! You take me places I have never and will never visit. So I’m traveling the world through your camera lens. 🙂 Thanks!

  3. Nancy September 14, 2017 at 11:12 pm #

    Your garden shots are gorgeous, MJ! I learned all about the three sisters this year and love the concept and how they work in perfect unison to help each other. Your dish looks amazing, one pot meals are my favourite.

    • mj September 16, 2017 at 3:59 pm #

      Thanks Nancy! Wish we had room to grown corn, but it’s a huge crop for a little return.

  4. Amy (Savory Moments) September 8, 2017 at 1:16 pm #

    This is a delicious twist on traditional Three Sisters! It is perfect for this time of year.

    • mj September 12, 2017 at 10:41 am #

      Thanks so much Amy!

  5. Katerina September 6, 2017 at 2:47 am #

    Gardening is a such a great activity but requires a lot of energy and time. Unfortunately since I work I do not have either of them. So I will just admire your beautiful garden MJ. I didn’t know about three sisters either! As Socrates said, as I grow old I always learn. Delicious dish!

    • mj September 12, 2017 at 10:38 am #

      And we are never to old to learn something new. 🙂 Thanks Katerina!

  6. Adina September 4, 2017 at 6:37 am #

    I’ve never heard about “three sisters”, good to learn something new. This dish looks delicious, I am particularly looking at those brown beans. 🙂

    • mj September 5, 2017 at 8:12 pm #

      Thanks Adina! Those beans are pinto beans. My favorite dried bean. My husbands prefers black beans but I love pintos a little more. 🙂

  7. Easyfoodsmith September 3, 2017 at 11:20 pm #

    I could have this for lunch today! 😛

    • mj September 5, 2017 at 8:11 pm #

      Thanks Taruna!

  8. Peachy @ The Peach Kitchen September 3, 2017 at 2:02 pm #

    It is very interesting to know what these are called three sisters.Nature is truly amazing and I can imagine how amazing this dish tastes as well.

    • mj September 5, 2017 at 8:11 pm #

      Thanks Peachy!

  9. Raymund September 3, 2017 at 12:45 am #

    I feel this would be perfect together with peri peri chicken in a wrap!

    • mj September 5, 2017 at 8:10 pm #

      Sounds good to me. Thanks Raymund!

  10. Kelly Mulcair September 1, 2017 at 11:19 am #

    A beautiful autumn inspired recipe MJ! I enjoyed reading about the companion crops – Mother Nature never fails to amaze and the title Three Sisters brings me the biggest smile. Was just chatting with my husband about how garden mastery is like another full time job! There is so much to learn I sometimes feel overwhelmed and definitely under-achieving 😉 (don’t always feel like I’m living up to the gifts of our climate). This one-pot wonder sounds like it would hit all the spots (we just need to get through this little 102° heat wave and I’ll return to the kitchen, lol).

    • mj September 5, 2017 at 8:09 pm #

      Thank you so much Kelly. Yes, I can say for a fact that gardening could easily be a full time job. I spend about 2 hours every morning watering and tending mine. Every year is different. Last year was the year of the tomatoes. The year before that it was tomatoes and cucumbers and this year is the year of the squash and very few tomatoes. The lack of tomatoes is frustrating but we all enjoying many new ways of cooking squash.

      Hope you aren’t being affected by the fires out there. We’re starting to get some of the smoked from all of the fires in the west and northwest, but so far, we’ve had enough rain to lower the fire danger a bit. Stay safe Darlin!

  11. Evelyne@cultureatz August 31, 2017 at 12:51 pm #

    I actually saw a little public art/garden in Montreal that was the Three sisters, I had never heard of it before and it is so cool I see again so soon. Great recipe, looks tasty. And great shots at the end of the post 🙂

    • mj September 5, 2017 at 7:59 pm #

      Thanks Evelyne! If I had room, I’d grow corn and the other two sisters but for now I have to be content with beans and squash. 🙂

  12. Liz August 30, 2017 at 11:27 am #

    I knew these 3 crops were called the three sisters, but I had never heard the full explanation. And what a tasty dish to bring them back together again—now where’s my bag of chips???

    • mj August 30, 2017 at 9:55 pm #

      Thanks Liz! Yes, the name and the reason for it is a great story. I got to listen to a local Navajo give a talk on the Three sisters on the Navajo reservation and the importance of these crops to their culture and diet. It was quite interesting, leaving me with a lot to think about.

  13. Sissi August 30, 2017 at 8:11 am #

    What a beautiful name of this dish and of the three main ingredients! I had no idea beans were like natural fertilisers. Next year I’m planting them alongside my chillies! Your garden photos are beautiful. The bumble bee (is it a bumble bee???) looks like the regular visitor to my balcony. I always see one and I’m starting to think it’s always the same one… it hops from one chilli flower to another and becomes more and more covered in pollen. Such fun to observe it! (Much less fun to see the aphids invade my plants, but it’s another story!).
    Your dish looks wonderful and seems easy to modify, as you say, especially the toppings. I already see changing the toppings and I imagine how wonderful smoked chicken must be (I haven’t had it for ages though; I must check if it’s sold here). Must be great with grilled chorizo too… (You have got made me all dreamy…).

    • mj August 30, 2017 at 9:50 pm #

      Thanks so much Sissi! I found out about beans several years back when I would fertilize them with manure tea which is high in nitrogen. My plants were absolutely beautiful, but no blooms, thus no beans. After some research I found they produce nitrogen so they don’t need it. UGH! Oh well, they were nice to look at. 🙂

      Yes, that is a bumble bee, a BIG bumble bee. We also have solid black bees that are even bigger. Great pollinators.

  14. 2pots2cook August 29, 2017 at 11:58 pm #

    Love the idea but most of all love the openness to create with the ingredients available. It is a pleasure to have you for guidance. Thank you.

    • mj August 30, 2017 at 9:44 pm #

      Thank you so much!! I’m all about creating new things and tweaking the classics. 🙂

  15. Angie@Angie's Recipes August 29, 2017 at 10:51 pm #

    Such a healthy and delicious one pot meal! The yellow zucchini plants in your garden look excellent!

    • mj August 30, 2017 at 9:43 pm #

      Thanks Angie! I love yellow summer squash and it’s so pretty to grow.

  16. Anna @ shenANNAgans August 29, 2017 at 9:39 pm #

    Wow! I really do like the sound of this meal MJ, adding the salsa is a nice twist too.

  17. Deb|EastofEdenCook August 29, 2017 at 6:38 pm #

    I really enjoyed the lush garden photos! It’s hard to believe that summer is ending soon. The recipe for the 3 sisters captures the essence of the season, bountiful and bursting with flavor.

    • mj August 30, 2017 at 9:41 pm #

      Thanks Deb! Oh I know – I signed something today and had to dated it and realizing it was Aug 30, was shocking.

  18. John/Kitchen Riffs August 29, 2017 at 5:32 pm #

    I really like the combo of squash, corn, and beans. In fact I make variations of this dish all the time! The salsa verde is such a nice addition to it, too. This would make a great dinner for us — thanks.

    • mj August 30, 2017 at 9:40 pm #

      Thanks John! This dish is SO easy to change up, isn’t. It’s like beans and rice. Never tastes the same way twice in a row. 🙂 Your salsa verde would be a great topping for this as well.

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