This Calabacitas Recipe (Mexican Zucchini with Corn) is vegetarian dish made with zucchini, corn, cheese and cilantro.
Do you need a nice side dish that goes with almost all Mexican dishes? This Cheesy Zucchini with Corn is so freaking delicious and takes about 10-15 minutes to make. It is an old family recipe of ours. Zucchini, or in Spanish Calabacitas, are widely eaten in Mexico, especially during the summertime. This is a low carb recipe and you can even modify how much cheesy, if any, you put in it. I totally encourage you to modify to your liking!
What is Calabacitas?
Mexican zucchini, also known as grey zucchini, is a summer squash. It is dark green zucchini but its more stocky, with a rounded blossom end. It is similar to the zucchini that you see in the US, but the shade of green will usually vary from darkish to light with light spots. When you make Calabacitas con elote y queso, that means Zucchini with corn and cheese. This is a typical side dish in the Mexico and the combination of the ingredients is fantastic.
Why you will love this recipe
Versatile: Zucchini is so versatile and you can make many variations of this. I have seen vegan variations by omitting the cheese. You could also add some salsa or bacon bits.
Great for warm weather: I love making this as a side dish in the summer months.
Serves a crowd: It is easy to double this recipe, and just as easy to make it.
Calabacitas Recipe Ingredients
You'll only need a few simple ingredients to make this. The exact measurements are listed in the recipe card below. Here's an overview of what you'll need:
- Olive oil
- Corn from a can
See recipe card for quantities.
How to make Calabacitas
In a large skillet heat up oil on medium heat. Add the onion, corn and garlic and cook until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the zucchini and cook for 10-15 minutes, until the zucchini is soft.
Remove from heat and add the cilantro on top. Immediately sprinkle the cheese and cover for 5 minutes, until the cheese melts.
Enjoy this Calabacitas Recipe (Mexican Zucchini with Corn).
Hint: When you add the cheese, make sure to remove from heat and immediately cover for five minutes. No peeking!
Oil: I used olive oil but feel free to use avocado or vegetable oil.
Garlic: For best results, use fresh, organic garlic. You could use garlic from a jar.
Onion: I used red onion since red onion is mostly used in Mexican culinary. Feel free to try white or yellow onion.
Zucchini: I love using traditional green zucchini for this recipe. You could try this with yellow or even butternut squash, as long as they are cut into bite sized pieces.
Corn: I love using corn for this. I made it easier and used corn from a can but feel free to buy an ear of corn and use the kernels.
Cheese: My favorite cheese for this is Oaxaca cheese, which is widely consumed in Mexico. You can use Mozzarella or Monterrey jack. If you find that Mexican blend cheese, that would work too.
Cilantro: I love the kick that cilantro gives, but if you don't like cilantro then omit.
Calabacitas Recipe Variations
- Cheesy Calabacitas: Add a generous amount of cheese to the calabacitas for a creamy and indulgent version. You can use cheddar, Monterey Jack, or any other melting cheese of your choice.
- Calabacitas with Bacon: Cook some bacon until crispy, then crumble it and mix it into the calabacitas. The smoky and salty flavor of bacon adds a delicious twist to the dish.
- Spicy Calabacitas: If you enjoy spicy food, add some heat to your calabacitas. You can use jalapeños, serrano peppers, or even chipotle peppers in adobo sauce to give it a kick.
- Calabacitas with Mushrooms: Incorporate mushrooms into your calabacitas for added earthiness and texture. Sauté the mushrooms separately and then combine them with the zucchini and other vegetables.
- Vegan Calabacitas: Make a vegan version of calabacitas by omitting the cheese and using vegetable oil instead of butter. You can also substitute plant-based protein like tofu or tempeh for a meaty texture.
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- Cutting Board: A sturdy cutting board is essential for chopping and preparing the vegetables.
- Knife: A sharp knife will help you slice and dice the vegetables, such as zucchini, onions, and peppers.
- Skillet or Sauté Pan: A skillet or sauté pan is typically used to cook the calabacitas. It should be large enough to hold all the ingredients.
- Wooden Spoon or Spatula: You'll need a utensil to stir and sauté the vegetables in the skillet. A wooden spoon or spatula is commonly used.
- Grater (optional): If you're adding cheese to your calabacitas or want to grate any other ingredients, a grater will come in handy.
- Measuring Cups and Spoons: If you're following a specific recipe, measuring cups and spoons are useful for accurately measuring ingredients such as spices, oil, or broth.
- Serving Dish: Once the calabacitas are cooked, you'll need a serving dish or platter to present the dish.
How to store Calabacitas
To store this Calabacitas Recipe properly, follow these guidelines:
- Refrigeration: If you have leftover cooked calabacitas, allow them to cool completely before transferring them to an airtight container or a sealable plastic bag. Place the container in the refrigerator. Cooked calabacitas can be refrigerated for up to 3 to 4 days.
- Freezing: Calabacitas can also be frozen for longer storage. To freeze, allow the cooked calabacitas to cool completely. Place them in airtight freezer-safe containers or freezer bags, ensuring to remove any excess air to prevent freezer burn. Label the containers with the date for easy reference. Calabacitas can be frozen for up to 3 months.
- Thawing: When you're ready to use the frozen calabacitas, transfer the container from the freezer to the refrigerator and let it thaw overnight. Alternatively, you can thaw it in the microwave using the defrost setting or gently reheat it on the stovetop.
- Reheating: To reheat the stored calabacitas, you can use either the stovetop or microwave. If using the stovetop, warm the calabacitas in a skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally until heated through. If using the microwave, place the calabacitas in a microwave-safe dish, cover it loosely, and heat in short intervals, stirring in between until thoroughly heated.
Calabacitas Recipe Top tips
- Choose Fresh Zucchini: Opt for firm and fresh zucchini for the best flavor and texture. Look for zucchini with smooth skin and vibrant color. Avoid zucchini that feels soft or has blemishes.
- Properly Prep the Vegetables: Make sure to wash and dry the zucchini, peppers, and other vegetables thoroughly before chopping them. Remove the ends of the zucchini and dice them into evenly sized pieces to ensure even cooking.
- Sauté the Vegetables: Start by sautéing the onions and peppers until they soften and become fragrant. This will help build a flavorful base for the calabacitas. Add the zucchini and corn afterward to prevent them from overcooking and becoming mushy.
- Don't Overcook: Calabacitas taste best when the vegetables retain some of their texture. Avoid overcooking the zucchini and corn to maintain a slight crunch. Cook the vegetables until they are just tender and still vibrant in color.
- Season Well: Don't be shy with the seasoning! Calabacitas benefit from a combination of spices such as cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, and salt. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed to suit your preferences.
- Add Fresh Herbs: For an extra burst of freshness, consider adding some chopped fresh herbs like cilantro or parsley at the end of cooking. They add brightness and elevate the flavors of the dish.
- Customize with Cheese: If desired, sprinkle shredded cheese over the calabacitas during the last few minutes of cooking. Allow the cheese to melt and become slightly golden for an added layer of flavor and richness.
- Serve with Accompaniments: Calabacitas can be enjoyed as a side dish or even as a main course. Consider serving it with warm tortillas, rice, or beans to make it a more substantial meal.
- Experiment with Variations: Don't be afraid to get creative with the recipe. Try different variations by adding ingredients like mushrooms, bacon, or different types of peppers to customize the flavors to your liking.
- Fresh is Best: While calabacitas can be stored and reheated, it's always best to enjoy them fresh when the flavors and textures are at their peak.
- Cook to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C)
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched raw meat
- Wash hands after touching raw meat
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Use oils with high smoking point to avoid harmful compounds
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove