Olmec Vegan Stew


A vegan recipe celebrating an ancient civilization of Mexico. This Olmec Vegan Stew recipe can also be made with chicken.

While watching a documentary about the ancient Olmec civilization, located in central Mexico along the Gulf coast, I learned about their ingenious gardening technique.

Chayote Squash
Photo by David Monniaux

Tall stalks of corn would be grown. Beans (which put nitrogen into the soil) would be planted to grow up and around the corn. Squash (which utilize nitrogen) would then be planted to grow up, around and among the corn stalks. Chayote squash was probably grown at that time.

This got me thinking of how the ancient Olmec might have cooked these together into a soup or stew. This Olmec Vegan (or Chicken) Stew recipe is my attempt at cooking like an Olmec.

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1 large sweet onion, roughed chopped

1/2 small pkg of black beans, cooked and drained or 3 – 4 cups of canned beans, drained

Chicken if you like, boneless, skinless and cut into bite-sized pieces The Olmec did raise chickens so you could add chicken.

2- 3 Chayote squash, chopped into 1/2 to 1/4 ” cubes (about 3 – 4 cups), available at my local grocery store in the produce section

1 yellow pepper, seeded and minced (not the sweet kind) or pepper of your choice

2 TB Liquid Aminos (or more to taste)*

2 TB Epazote, finely chopped**

(3 tsp Herb Ox Sodium Free Chicken Bouillon*** (or vegetable bouillon or broth****)

2 TB fresh cilantro, finely chopped

1 TB garlic, minced

1 tomatillo, chopped

2 heirloom tomatoes, chopped (vine ripened tomatoes could be substituted, but heirlooms are sweeter and less acidic)

8 oz pkg of frozen corn or fresh if you can get it

2 TB oregano of your choice (spicy is better for this dish; I used Cuban oregano and it is quite spicy)

32 oz of vegetable (or chicken) broth


  1. Begin heating your pot over low heat with the lid on while chopping your onion and other vegetables.
  2. Raise heat to medium and coat bottom of pot with canola or other oil (not deep frying, you just want to keep the onions from sticking).
  3. Add onions and cook until transparent.
  4. Add corn. Raise heat a little and continue cooking until onions are slightly browned. Browning the corn is great but not necessary.
  5. Add garlic and stir.
  6. Add (chicken) beans, chayote, tomatoes, pepper, tomatillo, epazote, oregano, cilantro, liquid aminos and vegetable (or chicken) broth. Stir.
  7. Cover and bring to a boil.
  8. Lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
  9. Remove from stove and place in Wonderbag (without removing lid) and slow cook for 3-4 hours.
  10. Enjoy!

For more vegan recipes click here.

*I use liquid aminos in many vegetarian dishes because plant-derived proteins tend to be lacking in essential amino acids. This tastes a bit like soy sauce. There is no added salt in the brand I use, but naturally derived sodium; it does contain sodium. I use Bragg Liquid Aminos and keep in refrigerator.

** Epazote is used in traditional medicine for stomach distress, and it has a much better taste than baking soda. Don’t be afraid to use the stems because they contain plenty of flavor. I keep in an airtight container. This may be difficult to find in a grocery store. Here is another product I order from Amazon. This brand is good – flavorful and freshly dried, not stale.

*** I use Sodium Free Herb Ox Chicken Granules. If you are on a low-sodium diet this is a great product. It is very flavorful; I think better than any other chicken bouillon(with or without salt) that I have ever tasted. This product can be difficult to find in grocery stores, but it can always be found at  Amazon. Please see the link on my Low-Sodium Chicken Noodle Soup post – at bottom of page.

**** My preferred vegetable broth is made from organic vegetables that I buy from a local farmer, but these are only available here during the summer months. Otherwise I use Frontier Co-Op Low Sodium Vegetable Broth Powder.

I rarely peel any of my vegetables because I feel that too much nutrition is lost by peeling. And if you have a method of easily peeling chayote squash I want to know about it. So nothing was peeled here.

Please tell me what you think of this recipe in the comment section below.


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7 thoughts on “Olmec Vegan Stew”

  1. Hi Suzanne. That look delicious, congratulations on making a clear description of your recipe, your photo is mouth-watering.

  2. Thabo Khoza says:

    Wow, I am glad that I bumped into your website and this recipe since I am vegan.
    I am always looking for new recipes and the Olmec Vegetarian Stew is just perfect. I will bookmark this for the weekend.

    1. I just recently realized that the Olmec Stew is actually vegan. Thanks and hope to hear from you again soon.

  3. Amy says:

    This sounds great. I’m not vegan but my cousin is and I struggle with ideas for what to prepare, so your vegan stew is perfect! And I don’t like peeling vegetables either. I have an instant pot – do you think this would work if cooked in a pressure cooker?

    1. I have an instant pot too. Yes, I think this would be good cooked in an instant pot. However, I would use pre-cooked or canned bean. I never cook dried beans in a pressure cooker for fear of clogging the pressure valve. The first pressure cooker I owned was the kind you put on the stove . . . maybe you remember your mother cooking in one of these.

      1. Zanne Winant says:

        I rarely peel vegetables either, Amy. You lose nutrients when you peel them, and they don’t hold up well to cooking. You could taste each ingredient in this. Okay, nearly all ingredients…

  4. Zanne Winant says:

    I loved that each ingredient retained its own flavor. And I love both epazote and chayote.

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