Nothing says Fall harvest like a big plate of Calabacitas con Queso. Fresh vegetables seasoned then sauteed tender and made creamy with milk and cheddar cheese. Serve Calabacitas as a Mexican side dish, or with tortillas for a vegetarian taco. A very tasty Mexican squash recipe.
Every year, in August, when our Colorado fresh veggies start appearing at our farmer’s markets, the first thing I like to make is Calabacitas con Queso. (Squash with cheese).
What is Calabacitas con Queso? It’s a traditional Mexican vegetable side dish, or taco, where veggies are sauteed then smothered in melted cheese. The main ingredient is squash. Sweet corn, chile peppers and tomatoes join in for a healthy combination that simply refuses to skimp on flavor.
You can use zucchini, but I like to wait until I find what I consider to be a true calabacita, a Mexican squash, a Tatume squash.
What is a Tatume Squash (Calabasita Squash)?
Native to Mexico, a tatume squash is round, somewhat resembling a small watermelon. It can be labeled as Tatume squash, round zucchini or Mexican Zucchini. Tatume is a staple in Mexican cooking and is a great candidate for cooking on the grill. The flesh is firmer and it’s more flavorful than a yellow summer squash or zucchini.
That said, let’s make Mexican calabacitas.
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Fresh Sweet Corn
- Roasted Green Chile Peppers, Hatch or Pueblo chiles work well here
- Fresh Tomatoes
- Calabacita Zucchini type squash
- Cheese, grated cheddar cheese
- Onion, sweet or yellow
- Spices: Salt, pepper, Mexican oregano, cumin, red chile powder
- Cotija Cheese
Recipe Swaps and Subs
- Sweet Corn: If you don’t have access to good fresh sweet corn, use frozen sweet corn. White or yellow corn will work.
- Green Chile Peppers: Don’t have a stash of roasted chile peppers in your freezer? Use roasted, chopped canned peppers from the Mexican food aisle at the grocery store. Also check the freezer section at your store, some will carry frozen Hatch Chile Peppers. A roasted Poblano Pepper is also a great substitute.
- Calabacita: Talume Squash, Zucchini or yellow Summer squash will work for this recipe.
- Cheese: Substitute Monterey Jack, Pepper Jack or even Muenster Cheese.
- Mexican Oregano: If you don’t have Mexican Oregano, substitute Marjoram. You can use regular oregano, but it has a different flavor profile than Mexican Oregano.
- Tomatoes: If you’re making this calabacitas recipe during the Winter and don’t have access to good quality fresh tomatoes, use sturdy cherry tomatoes or plum tomatoes. You can also use a 15-ounce can of chopped tomatoes, drained before adding.
- Red Chile Powder: New Mexico Red Chile Powder is preferred for this recipe, but if you don’t have any, substitute Ancho chile powder. It has deep rich flavor with mild to medium heat.
- Cotija Cheese: Don’t have Cotija cheese? Substitute it with crumbled feta.
Mexican Oregano is preferred for this recipe. It’s peppery, grassy, earthy flavor is a good compliment for Mexican Food. If you don’t have Mexican Oregano, substitute Marjoram. Known for its aroma and delicate flavor, its related to oregano and will bring a sweet undertone to any recipe.
How To Make This Mexican Squash Recipe, It’s Easy
Making Calabacitas Mexicanas is a breeze because its a one pan event. After the chopping and dicing is over, you’re simply sauteeing vegetables, starting with the ones that take the longest to cook and ending with the most delicate, such as the calabacitas squash.
Pro Tip Knife Skills: Always keep the hand that’s gripping the knife clean and dry. A wet hand could cause slips resulting in nicks or worse a nasty slice on your hand.
- Step 1: Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions. Cook for three minutes, stirring occasionally until they begin to soften. Add chile peppers and garlic and stir until garlic is fragrant.
- Step 2: Add corn and tomatoes. Cook for five more minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Step 3: Add squash, salt, black pepper, oregano and ground cumin. Stir to combine and cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Step 4: Add the shredded cheese and milk, and stir together until the cheese has fully melted.
- Step 5: Remove from heat, garnish with red chile powder, chopped cilantro and cotija cheese, and serve.
Pro Tip: Purchase good quality cheese and grate it yourself. Pre-grated cheese in bags includes additives to keep it from clumping, which will also compromise the melting factor. Grating cheese from a block of cheese will result in a creamier and more consistent melting experience. Plus, it’s less expensive.
What To Serve With Calabacitas
- We like to serve calabacitas spooned over a warmed flour tortilla and eat them with a fork.
- You can also serve them over or on warmed corn tortillas for calabacitas tacos. This will also make them gluten free.
- Make a calabacitas tostada.
Calabacitas con Queso FAQ’s
Yes. Every ingredient in this recipe is freezer friendly. I like to make a double or triple batch so I have leftovers to freeze. Store in a gallon freezer safe baggie. Squeeze the air out and lay it flat in the freezer for optimal storage space.
The flesh is meaty with a mild sweet taste. It’s also comes with a dryer flesh than zucchini, making it ideal for frying, as it won’t release as much moisture.
No. The skin is nice and tender and will not distract from the texture after cooking. As a matter of fact, the skin is a big source of the squash nutrition.
New Mexico Calabacitas is really no different. Just make sure to use New Mexican roasted green Chile Peppers, fresh or frozen, and a mix of Summer squash such as small zucchini, yellow crooked-necked or gold bar squash,
Storing and Reheating
- You can store Calabacitas in the refrigerator in an air tight container for up to five days.
- To reheat, place in the microwave and reheat about 2-4 minutes using 50% power. Stir half way through the cooking process.
- You can also reheat calabacitas stovetop in a saucepan. Use low heat to gently heat the ingredients, stirring only a couple of times.
Recipe for Calabacitas con Queso
I hope you give this recipe for Calabacitas con Queso a try. Keeping this recipe simple, lets the fresh vegetables and spices shine. It’s one of those Mexican authentic dishes that you’ll find yourself making over and over again.
And if you’re looking for Mexican squash recipes, this is a great recipe to try.
Looking for more Mexican food recipes? Don’t miss my Mexican Southwestern Food Category. You’ll find lots of great recipes to spice up your meal plan, including the most popular Mexican food recipe on my site for Hatch Green Chili, Colorado Style.
If you’re chile pepper crazed like us, don’t miss my post on Hatch Green Chile Recipes.
If you’ve tried this or any other recipe on my website, please leave a star rating in the recipe card below. And write a review in the comment section. I always appreciate your feedback.
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Calabacitas con Queso
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 medium sweet onion diced
- 3 Chile Peppers roasted, diced. or 1 4-ounce can chopped chile peppers
- 3 ears corn kernels removed, or 1 1/2 cup frozen corn
- 1 large tomatoes chopped. Or 1 15 ounce can chopped tomatoes, drained
- 1 medium calabacitas squash or one medium green zucchini, sliced into half moons
- 1 medium yellow squash sliced into half moons
- 2 cloves garlic grated
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1/4 teaspoon Red chile powder preferably New Mexico, or Ancho
- 1/4 cup cotija cheese crumbled, for garnish
- cilantro chopped, for garnish.
- 6 small flour tortillas if making tacos
- Heat olive oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add onions. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally until they begin to soften. Add chile peppers and garlic and stir until garlic is fragrant.
- Add corn and tomatoes. Cook for 5 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add squash, salt, black pepper, oregano and ground cumin. Stir to combine and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally
- Cover the skillet and let everything steam and simmer for 2 minutes.
- Uncover the skillet, add the shredded cheese and milk, and stir together until the cheese has fully melted.
- Remove from heat, serve over a warmed flour or corn tortilla, garnish with red chile powder, chopped cilantro and cotija cheese.
Calabacitas con Queso (Mexican Squash Recipe) … It’s What’s for Dinner
Why Trust These Recipes? Lea Ann Brown has lived, worked and played in Colorado for 45 years. She has immersed herself in the Colorado Culinary space, is a Culinary School Graduate and publishes her Colorado food Blog, Cooking On The Ranch.