Three Sisters Casserole with Cornbread Topping

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

  • Prep time: 35 minutes
  • Cook time: 25 minutes
  • Yield: 8 servings


For the cornbread topping:

  • 1 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (or your favorite all-purpose gluten-free flour blend)
  • 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 cloves garlic, minced
  • 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 greens (such as spinach or kale)


1 Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 9x13-inch baking dish with non-stick cooking spray and set aside.

2 Make the filling: In a large, high-sided skillet or Dutch oven, warm the olive oil over medium heat until it’s shimmering and add the onions. Cook until translucent, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute.

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

3 Simmer the filling: Cover the pot and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 15 to 18 minutes, or until squash is tender.

4 Make the cornbread topping while the filling simmers: In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together cornmeal, flour, baking powder, and salt. Using a wooden spoon, slowly stir in the butter, milk, and water; mix only until just combined. Set aside and let it sit for ten minutes or so, while the filling simmers.

5 Add the rest of the ingredients to the filling: Stir in the corn, beans, and greens into the filling, and continue cooking, covered, for 3 to 5 minutes, until mixture has thickened slightly and all the ingredients are incorporated.

5 Transfer to baking dish and bake: Scrape the filling into the prepared pan and top with generous biscuit-sized clumps of cornbread topping (this can be rustic and uneven).

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

6 Serve: Remove from the oven allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before serving.

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  • davidp

    Slamming Delicious!! Butternut squash…awesome surprise. This recipe is now permanently placed in my rotation.


  • Rachel Knecht

    I love this recipe! It is so easy to put together (especially when I buy precut squash) and absolutely delicious. Can’t wait to make again!


  • Michael L.

    Well, update. Make this yesterday and made a batch and a half. Added the chiorzo and great. I did make enough cornbread to cover the top and I really liked that. Its more cornbread but I can hardly have enough cornbread. This is a keeper. I took the 9×13 to a pot luck . The little history lesson about the “three sisters” combined with the ‘holy trinity’ seemed to pick interest. I’m in Arkansas and we have Louisianans here and they picked up on that really quick.

  • Sandy S

    This is such a winning recipe! Couldn’t stop going back for ‘2nds’! Will definitely be making again.


    • Sandy S

      Since my first post I have made this recipe with a few substitutions due to working with what I had on hand. Two are worth mentioning in my opinion. I didn’t have onions so I used a small can of green chilies in their place and quite liked the results. For those who like a little heat, the chilies are recommended! Another time I replaced the squash with a large can of yams. This turned out to be very good. Hope these notes encourage others to try this recipe even if you need to make substitutions.

  • Brian

    Made this a couple of nights ago. Loved the flavors, will definitely make this again. I had tried to use some left over butternut squash that I had roasted for another use. Could have worked, but I overcooked it waiting for a chicken to finish up in the smoker. Next time will be done with raw squash – I’m sure it will hold up better.

    Also – didn’t have any smoked paprika so I subbed in some chipotle powder instead. Seemed to fit the southwestern theme just fine. Agree with Mike too – chorizo in this would be delicious!


  • Michael L

    I printed this off to use as a base. I plan to add black beans and rice. I want to complete the proteins. If one is not a vegetarian this dish screams for some chiorzo. I also think covering the whole top with cornbread would not hurt.

  • Jelena

    I’m not a fan of beans, but I otherwise like the dish. How about lentils or chickpeas as a replacement? Thanks in advance! Best regards,Jelena

  • Sandy S

    This sounds Great! I had not heard of The Three Sisters Casserole but now that I have I will be trying it and may try growing them together next spring. Thanks for the history and for the GF alternatives.
    PS I keep waiting for a Simply Recipes cook book and/or magazine! Hint Hint!