Calabacitas Recipe

Enjoy this vegetable-rich dish as a nutritious pairing to a variety of meals, such as rice and beans or chile con queso.

Photo by Getty Images/carlosrojas20

A medley of flavors unite in this Southwestern favorite, named after the Spanish word for gourd, calabaza. If you want to experience chayote in this versatile dish, use it in place of the zucchini. Calabacitas may be served as a side vegetable with rice and beans, or it can be paired with chile con queso and eaten with tortillas.

Yield: 6 servings.


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (corn or olive)
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped red onion
  • 2 small zucchini, patty pan squash, or chayote
  • 1 cup chopped red or green bell pepper (optional)
  • 2 jalapenos or serrano chiles, halved, seeded, and sliced (optional)
  • 5 to 6 ears fresh corn, about 3 cups kernels
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large, ripe tomato, chopped (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seed, toasted and ground
  • 1⁄3 cup packed cilantro (coriander) leaves, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper


  1. Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed saute pan. Add onion and saute for 2 minutes. If you’re using zucchini, halve lengthwise and slice in 1⁄4-inch slices; if using patty pan squash or chayote, quarter and slice into 1⁄4-inch slices. Add squash, bell pepper, and jalapeno and saute for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2.  If using fresh corn, cut kernels from the cobs. If you like, slice one or two ears into 1⁄4-inch rounds. Add the corn, garlic, tomato, and cumin into the saute pan; stir well, cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook for about 5 minutes. If the pan is dry, add a splash of water, vegetable stock, or white wine. If you don’t use the tomato, you may need to add up to 1⁄2 cup of liquid.
  3. Add cilantro, salt, and pepper. Stir well and cook, covered, for another 2 to 3 minutes. Season to taste. Serve with warm tortillas. 

Curious about the chayote used in this recipe? Learn more about this obscure fruit that’s quickly gaining a fan base for its nutrition and adaptability in Chayote: A Plant on the Rise.



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