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Calabacitas is a vibrantly flavorful combination of tender vegetables tossed in a buttery rich sauce and finished with crumbled cheese and fresh lime juice. It's a traditional Mexican dish that's a welcome accompaniment to many main courses, but hearty enough to be a meal on its own.
Think of this easy recipe as a starting point for your own creativity. It's endlessly versatile and can be customized to suit your personal tastes or just to use up vegetables that you have on hand.
Ingredients You Need to Make Calabacitas
- Butter: salted butter or unsalted butter
- Olive Oil: ideally extra-virgin olive oil
- White Onion: or yellow onion
- Poblano Pepper: or Anaheim pepper
- Red Bell Pepper: or other sweet pepper like yellow or orange bell pepper
- Garlic: fresh garlic cloves
- Yellow Summer Squash
- Green Onions
- Fresh Corn Kernels: or frozen corn kernels
- Cotija Cheese: or queso fresco
- Fresh Cilantro
- Lime: fresh lime wedges for serving, optional
- Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Calabacitas is a traditional Mexican dish that made with a variety of vegetables, like zucchini, corn, peppers, onions, cream, and/or cheese, herbs and spices and sometimes tomatoes.
While zucchini is a key ingredient in calabacitas (a Spanish word that means "little squash") the word typically refers to a dish of several vegetables and other ingredients.
Calabacitas is believed to have originated in Mexico, but has evolved over time and can now be found with varying ingredients depending on region or personal preference. It's a dish that's been around for centuries and is also popular in the Southwestern United States.
- Use a generous splash of heavy cream instead of butter.
- Try out another good melting cheese like Monterey Jack or mozzarella.
- Stir in diced ripe tomato along with the other vegetables.
- Use roasted poblano peppers in addition to or instead of fresh chile peppers.
- Kick up the spice with cumin, chili powder, or a generous pinch of cayenne pepper.
How to Store and Reheat
Store leftover calabacitas in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Reheat in a large skillet over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until heated through; adjust seasoning as desired and serve.
More Must Try Side Dishes
- Mexican Corn on the Cob
- Rice Cooker Mexican Rice or Mexican Cauliflower Rice
- Homemade Refried Beans or Refried Black Beans
How to Make Calabacitas
Cook and stir onion, poblano, bell pepper in a sizzling blend of butter and olive, in a large skillet set over medium heat salt until softened. Add garlic and cook until fragrant.
Add zucchini and yellow squash; cook until softened. Then add green onions and corn; simmer without stirring until most of the liquid has cooked off. Stir in remaining butter and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to serving bowl and sprinkle with cotija cheese; serve hot with lime wedges (optional).
- 3 tablespoons butter divided
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small white onion finely chopped
- 1 poblano pepper stemmed, seeded and diced
- 1 small red bell pepper diced small
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt or 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper plus more to taste
- 2 large cloves garlic minced
- 1 medium zucchini cut into quarter rounds, ¼-inch thick
- 1 medium yellow summer squash cut into quarter rounds, ¼-inch thick
- 4 green onions thinly sliced white and green parts
- 1 cup corn kernels fresh or frozen corn kernels
- 2 ounces crumbled cotija cheese about ½ cup
- coarsely chopped fresh cilantro for garnish, optional
- fresh lime wedges for serving, optional
- In a large skillet heat 2 tablespoons of the butter and the olive oil over medium heat until sizzling. Add onion; cook and stir 4 to 5 minutes, or until softened and translucent. Add garlic; cook and stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add poblano chile, bell pepper, salt and pepper; cook and stir 4 to 5 minutes more until vegetables have softened.
- Add zucchini and yellow squash; cook and stir 4 to 5 minutes, until softened. Stir in green onions and corn; simmer, undisturbed 5 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated. Stir in remaining tablespoon of butter until melted; season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to serving bowl or platter and sprinkle with cotija cheese and cilantro if using. Serve immediately, with lime wedges if desired.