Three Sisters Vegan Rice and Beans

Growing up I was never a fan of beans in general.  In college I remember thinking how disgusting it was that my roommate would eat these bean burritos.  Refried beans looked like caca, regular beans tasted like chalk and any kind of beans would spontaneously conjure up why the tried and true limericks were invented by children.  As I grew older I learned to appreciate and then like beans.  After learning a few techniques I didn’t even have to deal with bad side effects of any sort.  After listening to Dave Ramsey talk about “rice and beans” eating to save money for months on end I started to actually crave the stuff and have tried some recipes!

As time went on I wanted to try to punch the whole concept up a bit and turn into a full fledged meal or a very hearty side dish.  Just rice and beans is one thing, but can you make it a full meal?  Starting with a base recipe I went back to the Native American agricultural concept known as “The Three Sisters”.  The idea is that you grow squash, corn and beans together; in some cases literally right next to each other in a process known as “companion planting.”  A great discussion of it can be found in this Wikipedia article.  Along with the plants helping each other grow you actually get complementary amino acids between the corn and the beans.  Neither is a “complete protein,” which means that they each lack some of the amino acids that our bodies can’t make for themselves.  However together the corn and the beans do.  So as a healthy homage to this concept I give you a healthy hearty vegan rice and beans recipe:

Ingredients (serves four)

  • 1-2 TB olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup of uncooked rice
  • 2 cups low sodium vegetable or mushroom broth
  • 1-28 oz can of diced stewed tomatoes
  • 1 can of black beans, drained and heavily rinsed (or 1/3 cup dry beans prepared)
  • 1 can of unsweetened canned corn
  • 1 lb zucchini sliced


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil
  2. Add salt to taste to the pot, probably 1-2 teaspoons
  3. Add zucchini to boiling water and cook for 1-2 minutes.  Zucchini should have a vibrant green color and still be somewhat firm.
  4. Take zucchini out of pot and put to the side for later
  5. Heat a stock pot or large skillet on medium heat.  At the same time bring the vegetable stock up to a simmer in a small saucepan on medium to medium-high heat (don’t boil it).
  6. Add the olive oil and then the onion to the skillet
  7. Cook onion for 1-2 minutes and then add garlic
  8. Stir together and continue cooking until onions are slightly browned, another 2-3 minutes
  9. Add rice to the pan and continue cooking for 2 minutes
  10. Open the can of tomatoes and pour into skillet
  11. Pour vegetable stock into skillet and let it come up to a simmer
  12. Add remaining ingredients and mix well
  13. Season with salt and pepper to taste. To make spicier you can any one or a combination of red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper and/or chili powder.
  14. Cover skillet and continue to cook on low-to-medium heat until rice is cooked (probably another 15 minutes or so).
  15. Serve hot.