These Indigenous recipes blend traditional foods with modern twists

Indigenous communities in the Sonoran Desert have cultivated the tiny, drought-tolerant tepary bean for millennia. This recipe, adapted from “From I’Itoi’s Garden: Tohono O’odham Food Traditions” by Tohono O’odham Community Action (TOCA), a grassroots food and health community organization, re-imagines a traditional tepary bean dish by adding venerable corn, colorful peppers and rich aromatics. The white beans have a sweet finish, while the brown variety showcases an uncommon nuttiness. Navy or Great Northern beans may be substituted for the white tepary beans, but there is no equivalent for the unparalleled tepary brown. Combined with an assertive cumin vinaigrette, this robust salad manifests a rich blend of old and new indigenous foodways.

By Kevin Noble Maillard

Tepary bean salad

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Total time: 20 minutes, plus chilling

For the Cumin Vinaigrette:

1/3 cup apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

For the Salad:

1 cup cooked, drained white tepary beans, or Great Northern or navy beans (see Tip)

1 cup cooked, drained brown tepary beans (see Tip)

1 cup chopped red onion or scallions

1 cup cooked corn kernels

1 cup diced bell peppers (preferably a combination of red, orange and yellow)

1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems

1 jalapeño, diced

1. Make the vinaigrette: In a large bowl, combine vinegar, mustard, cumin, garlic and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper; whisk to combine. Slowly drizzle in the oil, whisking constantly until smooth.

2. Make the salad: Add white and brown tepary beans, red onion, corn, bell peppers, cilantro and jalapeño to the bowl with the vinaigrette; toss to coat, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour (or up to a few days) before serving. Toss well to combine, and enjoy chilled or at room temperature.


If tepary beans are unavailable at your local market, you may order them from online retailers like Ramona Farms or Tocabe.

Three sisters bean patties with raspberry aioli

The Three Sisters — corn, beans, and squash — are foundational foods of the Haudenosaunee people. This recipe is an Indigenous-inspired twist on falafel that brings together the sweetness of squash with savory red beans and cornmeal. Combined with an easy raspberry aioli, these nutritious patties can be eaten alone, tossed in salads or tucked into sandwiches.

By Ethan Tyo

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Total time: 2 hours

For the Patties:

1 small butternut squash (about 11/2 pounds)

Olive oil, for brushing squash

Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 1/2 cups (275 grams) medium-grind white (or yellow) cornmeal, plus more if needed

1 teaspoon baking powder

2 (15-ounce) cans red kidney beans (or other red beans), drained (about 3 cups)

1/2 sweet onion, minced (about 3/4 cup)

1/4 cup sunflower butter

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 teaspoon dried sage

For the Raspberry-Sage Aioli:

6 ounces fresh raspberries, finely chopped (scant 2/3 cup)

1 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage

1. Start the patties: Heat oven to 350 degrees. Halve the butternut squash lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Drizzle the cut squash with oil, season generously with salt and pepper, and place flat side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast until the skin is sunken and a fork passes through easily, 30 to 40 minutes.

2. While the squash cools, add the cornmeal, baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper to a large bowl; whisk to combine. Scrape and remove 3/4 cup squash from its skin with a fork and add to bowl (the remaining squash will keep, refrigerated, for 3 to 4 days). Add the beans, onion, sunflower butter, garlic and dried sage. Stir to combine, then transfer the mixture to a food processor and pulse until uniform. (Though a food processor yields better results, you could also simply mash the ingredients with a masher or your hands until well incorporated.) The mixture should be thick and pliable; if not, add more cornmeal, 1 tablespoon at a time, and mix thoroughly. Cover the mixture and let rest in the fridge for 10 minutes until slightly firmer.

3. While the mixture chills, make the aioli: In a small bowl, combine the chopped raspberries, mayonnaise, maple syrup and sage until well mixed. (Makes 11/3 cups.) Cover and refrigerate while you cook the patties.

4. Finish the patties: Remove the cornmeal mixture from the fridge. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Using 1 heaping tablespoon (with almost 2 tablespoons of the cornmeal mixture) at a time, begin to shape small 11/2- to 2-inch balls, adding them to the prepared baking sheet and pushing each to flatten slightly. Continue until all the dough is used; you should have about 24 patties. Bake on the prepared baking sheet for 20 to 30 minutes, until golden brown and crisp. Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving with aioli.

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