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Bean Balls

This dish combines beans and cornmeal into a simple, traditional recipe. These ingredients represent two of the “three sisters” of beans, corn, and squash, plants that were grown together and were staple ingredients for many Native American cuisines including the Cherokee. Beans have been grown in the Americas for about 6,000 years, making the plant one of the oldest agricultural products in American history. In the Cherokee tradition, these bean balls are made from brown beans that are first cooked to tenderness and made into a paste with other ingredients and slowly boiled. Today, brown beans, also known as pinto beans, remain the most popular variety for culinary use in both the United States and northern Mexico. Bean balls are vegetarian or vegan alternatives to meatballs in contemporary American cuisine.

Recipe Servings: 4

Prep Time
5 minutes
Cook Time
3 hours
Total Time
3 hours 5 minutes
Gluten Free
Dairy Free



  1. Add the beans to large pot of salted water. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook until the beans are tender, about 2 to 3 hours. Set aside.
  2. Combine the cornmeal, flour, and baking soda in a large mixing bowl.
  3. Add the boiled beans and some of the cooking liquid to the cornmeal and flour mixture. Combine to form a stiff dough.
  4. Pinch off portions of the dough and roll into balls.
  5. Bring a different pot of water to a boil. Drop the bean balls into the pot and cook at a slow boil for 30 minutes.
  6. Remove with a slotted spoon. Let drain.
  7. If desired, roll in additional cornmeal before serving.

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