American Indian

Acorn Squash & Tepary Bean Soup

January 20, 2022
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Photo by Rocky Luten Prop Stylist: Brooke Deonarine Food Stylist: Adrienne Anderson
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Serves 4 to 6
Author Notes

During a culinary event at the Tohono O’odham Nation in southern Arizona—the second-largest nation in the U.S.—I was first introduced to the tepary bean. Communities from desert climates have relied on tepary beans since 500 BCE because they’re versatile, tasty, and drought resistant; a delicious solution for scarcity in dry times. Tepary beans still grow wild in the southwestern United States and Mexico, and they’re readily available at most gourmet groceries and health food stores, or they can be easily ordered online. Navy beans are a good substitute, but it’s worth going out of your way to experience the particular flavor of this delicately hearty Native American dish. White varieties of tepary beans are a little sweeter than the earthier brown ones; both are rich and flavorful. Adjust the recipe to your preference, and don’t shy away from the acorn squash—it’s beautiful as a decorative object, but it’s better in soup, where it adds a light, buttery, almost creamy texture.

Excerpted with permission from New Native Kitchen: Celebrating Modern Recipes of the American Indian (Abrams Books, 2022) by Freddie Bitsoie & James O. Fraioli.Freddie Bitsoie

What You'll Need
  • Soup
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 4 cups (620 grams) cooked Tepary Beans, recipe follows
  • 2 acorn squash, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • 2 quarts vegetable stock, or as needed
  • 2 tablespoons crème fraîche, or as needed, optional
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar, or as needed, optional
  • Tepary Beans
  • 1 pound (455 grams) dried tepary beans
  • 2 carrots, trimmed and halved
  • 2 stalks celery, halved
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and halved
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  1. Soup
  2. In a large, heavy-bottom large pot over low heat, add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion, garlic, celery, thyme, and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper. Split the vanilla bean and, with a sharp knife, scrape the inside of the bean and remove the seeds. Add the seeds to the pot. Sweat the vegetables, stirring occasionally, until they are soft, 10 to 12 minutes. Add the tepary beans and acorn squash and cover with the stock. Add more stock if necessary.
  3. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Allow to boil for 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the acorn squash is fork-tender, about another 5 minutes. Note: You may need to add more liquid (stock); the beans and squash should be 50 percent of the amount of stock in the pot. Adjust the seasoning if necessary, remove and discard the bay leaf and thyme sprigs, and remove from the heat. Garnish each bowl with 1 teaspoon crème fraîche and 1 teaspoon agave nectar, if using, just before serving. This soup can be refrigerated for three to four days or frozen for four to six months.
  1. Tepary Beans
  2. In a large pot, add the beans, carrots, celery, onion, salt, and pepper. Cover with water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to medium and allow to simmer for 1 hour, or until there isn’t any bite to the beans. Note: While cooking the beans, keep some additional hot water on hand and add more when the level gets low. Remove from the heat, separate the beans, discarding the vegetables, and set the beans aside until ready to use. Cooked beans can be refrigerated for three to five days.

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