This Calabacitas recipe is a beloved Mexican vegetable dish made from sauteed zucchini and squash, corn, onions, peppers, tomatoes and cheese. It’s healthy, comforting and super satisfying, even for the biggest of meat lovers!
What is Calabacitas?
Calabacitas (which translates to “little squash” in English) is a Mexican dish made from sauteed zucchini or squash, corn, tomatoes and peppers.
It’s often served as a side dish, but is substantial enough to be served as a main vegetarian meal alongside some homemade flour tortillas.
There are many variations of this dish throughout Mexico and the southwestern United States. Some versions don’t include tomatoes, some are plain and feature only the sauteed vegetables, and some include a flavorful cooking liquid that doubles as a sauce.
This calabacitas recipe has a very light and delicious cheese sauce that’s made from adding a little shredded cheese and milk at the end of cooking.
Both ingredients melt and combine with the cooking liquid of the vegetables to create an irresistible sauce that will have you and your family coming back for second!
Ingredients You’ll Need
- yellow squash
- onions and garlic
- jalapeno and poblano peppers
- plum tomatoes
- canned corn
- salt, black pepper, ground cumin
- shredded cheddar cheese
How to Make Calabacitas
- Saute the vegetables: Saute the onions and peppers for 5 minutes. Then add the corn and tomatoes, and saute for 5 minutes. Lastly, add the squash and all the seasoning, and saute for 5 more minutes.
- Cover and simmer: Add in 1/4 cup water, reduce the heat to simmer, cover and cook for 5 minutes to tenderize the zucchini.
- Make the sauce: Add the shredded cheese and milk. Mix everything together until the cheese has melted and formed a light sauce. Immediately remove the pan from the heat.
- Garnish: Top with chopped cilantro and crumbled cotija cheese. Serve and enjoy!
This recipe is ready in only 30 minutes from start to finish, making it a great weeknight side dish that’s also healthy and delicious!
Calabacitas is super colorful and a great use of summer vegetables. But just in case you don’t have all of the ingredients in your kitchen, here are a few helpful substitutions you can make:
- You can use any type summer squash you have. Additionally, you can use all zucchini or all yellow squash.
- Instead of fresh peppers, you can use 1 4-ounce can of diced green chiles. Make sure to drain them before using them.
- If poblanos and jalapenos are too spicy for your liking, you can use 1 large or 2 small bell peppers instead.
- Don’t have cotija cheese? Substitute it with crumbled feta cheese or leave it out completely.
Storing and Reheating
Calabacitas can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 5 days in an airtight container.
Leftovers can be reheated in a microwave on high for 1-2 minutes, stirring halfway through, until fully warmed through. You can also reheat it on the stove in a skillet or pot over medium-high heat until hot.
I do not recommend freezing leftovers.