Porotos Granados–A pre Columbian recipe with a Chilean name

Before the Spanish advent, of necessity, Mapuche were largely vegetarian.  They had no cattle, goats, sheep or pigs, which were introduced by Europeans.  And in their forests the largest edible animal was the smallest deer in the world, the pudu, which is thirteen to seventeen inches tall:







The Mapuche had domesticated
chickens (not surprisingly called Araucanas) which lay blue eggs, and they probably also had domesticated ducks.  But they were farmers essentially, largely doing without “red meat,” their staples instead being plants unknown to Europeans of the time: potatoes, corn, and what we North Americans now call ‘beans’ (phaseolus vulgaris … as opposed to the garbanzos and fava beans eaten in sixteenth century Europe).  And they also cultivated squash, equally unknown to the contemporary Spanish….  Therefore, arguably, nothing is more natively American than that delicious triad of corn, beans and squash (known as the “three sisters” by native North Americans).

That said, there is–somewhat ironically–a quintessentially Chilean recipe in which the principal ingredients are nothing other than the three pre-Columbian “sisters.”  It is called “Porotos Granados,” poroto being the word for ‘bean’ in Chilean Spanish, and ‘granados‘ presumably referring to the grains of corn.  This is a recipe I have loved since childhood, which I here would here like to share with you….

As it is now harvest season, the essential ingredients are available in our garden.



These are so-called “shell” beans, as shucked fresh out of the husk.   They are often called ‘Cranberry Beans’ in the United States.





Almost any corn will work … a little old and tough–as with these late autumn ears from our garden–will do fine.  In fact Chileans use an enormous kind of corn, called “ Diente de Caballo,” or Horse’s Tooth, in traditional recipes, which is nowhere near sweet nor tender by North American corn-on-the-cob standards.





In Chile there are huge squash in the markets of which you buy a chunk for Porotos Granados. Here in the US  I have used both acorn and butternut squash with wonderful results.  But if I had to choose, I would probably go with butternut….




One last thing remains to be said before my version of this recipe:  aboriginal as the triad of essential ingredients might be, Chilean porotos granados include elements of European origin, olive oil and basil being foremost.  Onions and garlic as we know them should also be added to that list….



3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 medium squash, peeled and chopped into chunks
2 cups of fresh, shelled cranberry beans
The kernels from 2 or 3 ears of corn (2 cups or so)
3 tablespoons of fresh, chopped basil
salt and pepper

Heat the oil over medium heat in a largish pot.  Sauté onions until translucent.  Stir in the garlic and sauté a minute or two.  Stir in the squash and sauté a few more minutes.  Add a quart of water (or more, for something more like a soup).  Add beans and basil, and simmer half an hour, or until beans are tender.  Add corn, season with salt and pepper to taste, and simmer for five more minutes.

Note: Feel free to alter most of the “measurements” in this dish.  I personally never pay real attention.

Also … a traditional garnish which I would NEVER do without is called “color” by chilenos, for reasons you will appreciate if you choose to make it.  It’s easy, and I never measure the ingredients.  So … take maybe four tablespoons of olive oil and heat over medium heat in a small saucepan.  Add several cloves of finely chopped garlic (or as much as your garlic mania dictates) and fry until the garlic flavor has suffused the oil, but certainly not to the point that the garlic is browned.  Then add enough good paprika that the oil turns genuinely dark.  Stir a few times, and put a spoonful or two of this on your porotos….

Finally, porotos granados reheat wonderfully.








4 thoughts on “Porotos Granados–A pre Columbian recipe with a Chilean name

  1. Dear Mr. Caviglia,
    My name is Alex Szollo, I’m 23 years old, I live in Timisoara, Romania, and I’m an avid reader. I’ve been able to read ever since I was 3 and a half, due to my wonderful mother, who taught me the letters at a young age to compensate my Cerebral Palsy.
    I’ve been a fan of historical fiction since I was about 12 or so. There’s something about evoking the past through the power of the written word that I find compelling. I think reading a good historical fiction novel is a superior form of entertainment to watching a movie.
    I’m fascinated with Native-Americans, be they from North America or South America, and I found out about your novel, ARAUCO, by chance, while googling Native-American historical fiction. I had no idea about the natives of Chile, which is why I’d love to read your book. Sadly, it’s not available in Romania, and I can’t order it online, as I have no credit card. I come to you with a request that you may treat however you see fit.
    The only way I could “pay” you for a copy of ARAUCO is a review on my blog, where I talk about all kinds of books that have somehow attracted my attention. I’d love to feature your novel there because it sheds light on a subject that I previously had no knowledge of.
    So if I sent you my home address and promised a blog review, could you send me a signed copy of ARAUCO?
    Any answer will do.
    Respectfully yours,
    Alex Szollo, book buff.

    • Alex,

      Warm greetings from one book buff to another!

      Many thanks for your interest in my novel, and congratulations to you (and your mother:) for your accomplishments, including your mastery of at least two languages, and the ongoing liveliness of your blog. Obviously, I share your passion for reading and historical fiction, and I would love to share my novel with you.

      I don’t know if you have an e-reader, but as you have an email address and a computer the easiest way for me to send you the novel would be in electronic format. The other option is to mail the two and one half pound paperback text from upstate New York to Romania….

      So, please advise….



      • Do as you see fit. I do have Kindle, I am also cool with a PDF copy, so if mailing the paperback is too hard, either by way of transport or postage, you can send me a PDF or Kindle copy, however much I love the feeling of holding a book in my hand.
        Alex Szollo, historical novel buff.

        • Greetings, Alex,

          Never having mailed anything to Romania before, I looked into what it would cost to mail a two and a half pound paperback there, and–not surprisingly–found that this is definitely not cheap. I would be delighted to have you read my novel, but for the moment lets opt for the Kindle version … of which I am sending a copy to you via Smashwords. As one with an interest in native Americans, I recommend that you download (and perhaps print out) the Mapudungun/English glossary from my blog as a PDF file, to better understand the Mapuche. The illustrated version also includes photos of South American fauna and flora, and Mapuche artifacts unfamiliar to most.

          I hope you enjoy ARAUCO, and I genuinely look forward to what you have to say about it.



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