A Spicy Perspective

Three Sisters Butternut Squash Chili

Three Sisters Butternut Squash Chili Recipe: A Native American recipe with squash, corn, and beans. This Slow Cooker Vegetarian Chili Recipe is rich and inviting!

Butternut squash chili recipe

Slow Cooker Vegetarian Chili

Nothing screams fall like a hearty bowl of chili.

The blend of chiles, spices, meat, and vegetables is a family favorite, we love to make the moment the weather turns cool.

Although we love meaty chilis, I’ve discovered making vegetarian chili for groups is the way to go. Our vegetarian and vegan friends are happy, and the meat-eaters won’t even miss the meat in the veggie chili, if it’s well made.

Today’s amazing Vegetarian Chili Recipe is bold and rustic with chunks of butternut squash, peppers, beans, and corn. It can be made on the stovetop or in a slow cooker!

vegetarian chili

Three Sisters Chili Recipe

“The Three Sisters” in the title is derived from an old tale about Mexican and Navajo gardening culture… Corn, beans, and squash grow best when planted together.

The corn stalks offer support for the other crops. The beans pull in nitrogen from the air to benefit the soil. And the big squash leaves protect the soil to keep it moist and prevent weeds.

The Mexicans and Navajos believe that because these vegetables grow well together, they pair well together in recipes as well. We totally agree!

Chili recipe

Squash Chili Recipe

This vegetarian chili is hearty and filling. Made with fresh harvest produce that was meant to be together, you certainly won’t leave the dinner table feeling hungry. 

Imagine sitting by a fire, wrapped in a chunky woven blanket, in perfect crisp 55 degree weather. Then someone hands you a big bowl of Three Sisters Butternut Squash Chili, colorful, aromatic, and steaming hot.

It sounds picture-perfect, right?

No matter where you’re seated, we believe you’ll enjoy these flavor so reminiscent of fall.

butternut squash

Three Sisters Butternut Squash Chili

  • Butter – To saute the vegetables and provide richness. However, you can use olive oil in the recipe if you are vegan.
  • Sweet Onion and Garlic – For deep zesty flavor.
  • Poblano Peppers – For smoky flavor and mild spice.
  • Butternut Squash – Sister #1. Soft, sweet, and a great thickening agent in the chili.
  • Red Kidney Beans – Sister #2. To fill out the chili and provide texture.
  • Corn – Sister #3. To offer sweetness and pop in the recipe.
  • Crushed fire-roasted tomatoes – For a hearty tangy note.
  • Vegetable broth – Smooth and flavorful. 
  • Green chiles – To bring the heat. You can use mild or hot chiles.
  • Ground cumin – Smoky essence.
  • Dried oregano – For deep herbal sweetness.
  • Bay leaf – Creates balance in the soup. 
  • Cilantro – To add freshness at the end.
  • Salt and Pepper – Can you cook a good meal without it?

How To Make Vegetarian Chili

  1. Prep and chop all the produce. Cut the butternut squash in half, then peel with a vegetable peeler. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon and discard. Chop into even 1/2 inch cubes.
  2. Sauté the veggies. Set a large saucepot over medium heat. Add the onions, chopped poblano peppers, and minced garlic. Sauté to soften. Add in the cubed butternut squash, rinsed beans, tomatoes, broth, green chiles in juices, corn, and all spices. 
  3. Simmer. Simmer the chili until the squash is fork-tender. Add cilantro and serve!

Get The Full (Printable) Three Sisters Butternut Squash Chili Recipe Below!

three sisters soup

Crockpot Vegetarian Chili

On the go? You can make Three Sisters Chili in the crockpot! 

  1. Sauté the onions, poblano peppers, and garlic on the stovetop. 
  2. Then dump the veggies into a large 6+ quart slow cooker and add all remaining ingredients. 
  3. Cover and cook on high for 2-4 hours, or on low for 5-7 hours.
native american chili

Butternut Squash Chili Recipe FAQ

Why is the butternut squash not softening?

Make sure the butternut squash is cut into equal ½ inch cubes, so that they cook evenly. You can also turn up the heat if needed.

Can you freeze Three Sisters Chili?

Yes, you can! Place it in an airtight container and keep in the freezer. Then thaw to room temperature before you reheat it. 

How long does Three Sisters Chili last?

This chili will last 5-7 days in the refrigerator. That makes this a great make-ahead meal!

Can I make this soup in the crockpot?

Of course! The directions for the crockpot version of Three Sisters Chili are included in the recipe below.

slow cooker

More Fabulous Chili Recipes

crock pot
Butternut Squash Chili Recipe #ASpicyPerspective #chili #vegetarian #vegan #glutenfree #fall
Print Recipe
5 from 12 votes
Leave a Review »

Three Sisters Butternut Squash Chili Recipe

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
A Vegetarian Chili recipe inspired by the Native American legend of the Three Sisters: corn, squash, and beans.
Servings: 8


  • ¼ cup butter (olive oil for vegan)
  • 1 large sweet onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 poblano peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 whole butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 3 – 15 ounce cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 28 ounce can crushed fire roasted tomatoes
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 13.5 ounce canned chopped green chiles, mild or medium
  • 10 ounces frozen corn, or fresh
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ cup chopped cilantro
  • Salt and pepper


  • Prep and chop all the produce. Cut the butternut squash in half, then peel with a vegetable peeler. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon and discard. Chop into even 1/2 inch cubes.
  • Set a large 7-8 quart saucepot over medium heat. Add the onions, chopped poblano peppers, and minced garlic. Sauté for 5 minute to soften.
  • Add in the cubed butternut squash, rinsed beans, tomatoes, broth, green chiles in juices, frozen corn, and all spices. Add 1 teaspoon of salt, but save the cilantro for later.
  • Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Then uncover and simmer another 5 minutes to thicken. Once the squash is fork-tender, remove the bay leaf. Taste, then salt and pepper as needed. Stir in the cilantro and serve.


Slow Cooker Instructions: Yes, you can make this is a crockpot! Sauté the onions, poblano peppers, and garlic on the stovetop. Then dump the veggies into a large 6+ quart slow cooker and add all remaining ingredients. Cover and cook on high for 2-4 hours, or on low for 5-7 hours.
Cooking Notes: Poblano chile peppers are mild and smoky. However, every once and a while you can stumble upon a spicier poblano. If you are worried about spicy heat, smell the poblanos as you chop them, then decide how much to add in.


Serving: 1.25cups, Calories: 200kcal, Carbohydrates: 36g, Protein: 5g, Fat: 7g, Saturated Fat: 4g, Cholesterol: 15mg, Sodium: 1027mg, Potassium: 906mg, Fiber: 7g, Sugar: 10g, Vitamin A: 10791IU, Vitamin C: 74mg, Calcium: 125mg, Iron: 4mg
Course: Main Course, Soup
Cuisine: American
Author: Sommer Collier

Making this recipe? Follow us on Instagram and tag @ASpicyPerspective so we can share what you’re cooking!

Share This Recipe With Friends!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Did you make this recipe? Rate it!

33 comments on “Three Sisters Butternut Squash Chili”

  1. Thanks for this delicious recipe!  I made it today, with a few tweaks, not because it didn’t sound perfect, but just because I didn’t have everything on hand.  Instead of canned diced green chili, I used 5 cayenne and 2 small jalapeño peppers, well seeded and membranes removed.  I didn’t have kidney beans, or 3 cans of any one bean, so I put in one can each of pinto, black and garbanzo beans. I used the last fresh tomatoes from my garden, but was a little short, so added some pulverized sun-dried tomatoes from last year’s garden.  Super happy with the results.  This is a keeper for sure!  Thanks again.

  2. Pingback: Länger jung bleiben: 10 entzündungshemmenden Nahrungsmittel für Longevity

  3. Pingback: 21 Healthy Freezer Meal Recipes For Easy Eating!

  4. Pingback: Practical Wisdom learned from the Winter Solstice & Water Element -

  5. Hi.  Do you think this would freeze well?  making it now ;)

  6. Do you roast the poblanos? Do you remove the skin from the poblanos?

    • Hi Cathy!

      I don’t roast and peel the poblanos in this recipe. In my opinion, they cook down soft enough that it is not necessary. However, if you are sensitive to textures, you can certainly do that ahead of time.

  7. Anyone try this in an Instant Pot? Would you share timing recommendations?

  8. Pingback: 20 Delicious Butternut Squash Recipes - Making It All Work

  9. Such a perfect meal!! Very comforting and so good!

  10. Love this chili combination – one of the best vegetarian chili’s I have tried!

  11. This looks great! If using frozen butternut squash, how much would be the equivalent to one butternut squash?

  12. Thanks for sharing! Does it keep long?

  13. This looks so good so good! What a great way to get some extra heat on this classic fall soup! 

  14. Pingback: 25 Best Chili Recipes (easy + delicious!) | The Endless Meal®

  15. Pingback: 25 Best Chili Recipes | The Endless Meal®

  16. Do you mean a 4.5 oz can of chopped green chiles? I have never seen a 13.5 oz can. 

  17. Butternut Squash Chili taste of squash, corn, and beans make more perfect .

  18. can you use jalapenio vs pabalno peppers?

  19. This was wonderful… but, of course, I DID add beef!

  20. This hearty meal is so good and chalk full of veggies and flavors I just love! I will be making it again.

  21. This is so good! Perfect for this cold week. :)

  22. So many delicious, comforting flavors in this soup!! The butternut squash is so tender!

  23. I know what I will be making for Sunday dinner! What a great way to warm up on a cool, fall evening; yum!

  24. Made this for my family get together and it was a hit!