Calabacitas are a delicious, healthy & easy zucchini side dish that’s typical in Mexican kitchens. Mexican zucchini are a traditional dish that brings families together at the table. This recipe is made with simple ingredients like corn, tomato, onions and cheese.  

Two white plates with calabacitas and a blue glass with water on the side.

I don’t know about you but I don’t always feel like eating beans or rice as sides for my Mexican dishes. This is the perfect alternative when you want to keep things healthy and on the lighter side.

These Calabacitas are so easy to make that I make them at least one a week! I also love to serve them to my guests as a healthy side dish for a more nutritious meal.

Did you know that Calabacitas in English mean “little zucchini or little squash”? Some people call this dish Calabacitas, Calabazas or “Calabacitas Con Queso” and Colache. I actually grew up calling them “Colache” and it’s a name more popular in Mexico. What do you call yours?

Why you’ll love this recipe

  • Crowd pleaser – People love to have a Mexican side dish that is healthy and delicious!
  • Easy to make it into a full meal – Add leftover shredded chicken and serve it over rice for a quick and satisfying meal!
  • Make it dairy free by adding dairy free cheese. It’s naturally gluten-free, low fat and vegetarian.
Calabacitas in a white bowl
Calabacitas (Mexican Zucchinis)


  • Calabacitas: You can use the green kind (like the one used in this recipe) or the lighter green ones that some people refer to Mexican squash. Yellow squash works perfect here as well.
  • Tomato: You can use roma tomatoes or regular as long as it’s ripe.
  • Onion: Use white, yellow or red onion. Whatever you have at hand.
  • Corn kernels: You can use frozen or fresh. I like to use the roasted kind but regular corn will work perfectly too.
  • Butter
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1/2 cup shredded Chihuahua or light mozzarella cheese (or any other melting cheese). I don’t add a lot of cheese to keep it on the lighter side. This quantity is enough to give it great flavor without overpowering the taste of the zucchini.
  • 1/2 cup queso fresco or cotija cheese, crumbled (Mexican fresh cheese) (Optional)

Did you know that zucchinis are actually fruit? 

In a culinary context, the zucchini is treated as a vegetable, which means it is usually cooked and presented as a savory dish or accompaniment. Botanically, however, the zucchini is a fruit, being the swollen ovary of the zucchini flower. The zucchini or courgette originates from Italy.” – Source 

Ingredients on small bowls: queso fresco, shredded cheese, corn, zucchinis, tomato, onion and butter.

How to make Calabacitas

  • In a large skillet, heat the oil and butter over medium heat.
  • Add the onion and cook about two minutes.
  • Add the zucchini, tomato, corn salt & pepper. Mix all ingredients well.
  • Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 8 minutes. Remove from heat and sprinkle the mozzarella cheese.
  • Replace the cover on the skillet and allow to sit until the cheese melts, 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Serve warm and sprinkle with some of queso fresco

This vegetarian dish is so versatile that could also be served as tacos, on tostadas or fill your quesadillas with it!


If you’re looking for variations to this Calabacitas recipe, here are some options:

  • Add roasted peppers like anaheim or poblanos. Also beller pepper
  • Use Cotija feta cheese if you can’t find any Queso Fresco or other Mexican cheeses. It has a similar crumbly texture and tangy flavor.
  • Add a little spice like paprika or cayenne pepper for another layer of flavors.
  • Sprinkle with some fresh cilantro at the for extra brightness.
A small white saucepan with calabacitas inside and a wooden spoon.

Tips and Notes

  • Do not overcook! Zucchini cooks relatively quickly, so it’s important to monitor the cooking time closely. It usually takes just a few minutes to cook.
  • Cut Uniformly: When cutting the zucchini, try to ensure uniform sizes. This helps the pieces cook evenly.
  • Add as much cheese as you would like!

Serving Suggestions

These Mexican Squash are a versatile side dish that pairs well with a variety of other dishes. They can be served instead of Arroz Rojo alongside Entomatadas, Salmon Tacos, Tacos Dorados, or just pair it with a warm bowl of Mexican Lentil soup for a nutritious vegetarian meal.

A white plate with calabacitas and a striped napkin on the side.

How to Store

  • Fridge: Store leftover Calabacitas in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days for best flavor.
  • Freezing: It is not recommended as it will lose its structure.


  • Micro: Depending on the leftovers amount, reheat in the microwave in 45-second increments until warmed through.
  • Stove: Reheat slow and gentle to prevent the calabacitas from getting too soft. Stirring occasionally with a cooking spoon will help distribute the heat evenly.
Two white bowls with Calabacitas (Mexican Zucchini dish)

I hope you like this recipe! Share it, or leave a rating and comment below. For questions that need an answer right away, please contact  me and I’ll get back to you asap. Gracias!!!! xx, Ana

Print Recipe:

Calabacitas in a white bowl

Calabacitas (Mexican Style Zucchini)

Servings 4 servings
Ana Frias
4.96 from 88 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Calabacitas is a delicious and healthy side dish recipe, perfect for any meal! It just might be the Best Healthy Calabacitas Recipe I’ve ever had. This side dish is good enough to eat on its own, but it pairs well with other Mexican recipes.
4 servings


  • 2 medium zucchinis sliced
  • ½ large roma tomato chopped
  • ¼ medium onion chopped
  • ¼ cup corn kernels frozen or canned
  • ½ Tbsp light butter
  • ½ Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • ¼ tsp kosher salt
  • tsp pepper or to taste
  • ½ cup shredded Chihuahua or light mozzarella cheese or any other melting cheese
  • ½ cup queso fresco crumbled (Mexican fresh cheese) (Optional)


  • In a large skillet, heat the oil and butter over medium heat.
  • Add the onion and cook about two minutes.
  • Add the zucchini, tomato, corn salt & pepper. Mix all ingredients well.
  • Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 8 minutes. Remove from heat and sprinkle the shredded cheese.
  • Replace the cover on the skillet and allow to sit until the cheese melts, 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Serve warm and sprinkle with some of queso fresco


Muy Delish Notes:

I use chihuahua or even mozzarella cheese if I can’t find a good Mexican melting cheese.  Make sure it’s light flavor so that it does not over power the taste of the zucchini.

Add Your Own Private Notes

Whenever you come back to this recipe, you’ll be able to see your notes.


Serving: 1cup | Calories: 130kcal | Carbohydrates: 6g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Cholesterol: 18mg | Sodium: 345mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g

The nutritional information and US conversions are calculated automatically. I cannot guarantee the accuracy of this data. If this is important to you, please verify with your favourite nutrition calculator and/or unit conversion tool.

Don’t forget to also follow on Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook and Youtube.

Original published date: May 2014. Updated to revise the content to be more helpful. The original recipe remains the same. Enjoy! 

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    We make this as a main dish and add hamburger meat, green chili, and use one zucchini and one yellow squash. Delicious!

  2. Just want to point out Zucchini is actually from the New World/Mesoamerica like all squashes, not Italy.

  3. 5 stars
    Grew up eating this so many times and am craving it for dinner tonight. I couldn’t remember if you add carrots or not so instead of calling my mom, I decided to ask google.

    My mom has made this with both traditional zucchini and the lighter Mexican version.

    However, I’ve never had this as a side, we’ve always ate it with a lot more broth, more like a soup, with a dollop of sour cream, and fresh homemade tortillas, which is how I’ll be having it tonight!

  4. 5 stars
    I deviated a bit, used a heritage tomato instead of roma, instead of melting cheese I added chunks of queso fresco at the end. Also made a bigger recipe because I figured it would be delicious and want leftovers, and I was not wrong. Served over rice.

  5. 5 stars
    Omg! This was absolutely delish!
    I made this as a side dish and added a little paprika with rotisserie chicken bean burritos, hit the spot perfectly!

    Gracias Ana!!

  6. I made this and am making again tomorrow for a group of us. The leftovers are fantastic in scrambled eggs the next day with some air fried potatoes.

  7. 5 stars
    These calabacitas were a hit during thanksgiving! I wanted to add some more veggies to the spread and these were one of the most popular dishes on the menu. Thanks for the recipe!

  8. 5 stars
    I use little yellow crookneck squash, and throw in some chopped green chile (being from New Mexico, that’s kind of obligatory). Delicious, nutritious and perfect, especially in the harvest.

  9. 5 stars
    So easy and delicious! I’m always looking for new side dishes especially when I’m doing tacos or burros. This was great!

  10. This recipe is absolutely delicious, I went light on the cheese and still loved it! Definitely a new favorite.

  11. Also, I served this with a baked chili rellenos dish, black beans with onions and cumin, and a garden salad. It was a very tasty meal!

  12. 5 stars
    I loved this recipe. Your photo of this picture, however, does not look like the dish I made. Your photo does not show melted cheese, which is one of the ingredients that lends a real yumminess!

    1. It does actually, if you look closely you can see it melted onto the zucchini. The fresh cheese you see on top is the queso fresco.

  13. 5 stars
    This was so good and easy. I was searching for a vegetable side dish for mom taco night since my partner can’t eat beans and this was perfect. I’ll definitely add this to our taco night rotation, it is so much lighter than just corn. Thank you!!

  14. Ok. So in the grocery there are 2 different squash. Calabasas and zucchini. Different texture, taste and they hold up to cooking different. Yet translate Calabasa is “squash”. So what is the proper term for what the grocery calls calabasa. Because those I favor over zucchini?

    1. Hi James! In the U.S. you would get squash or zucchini but in Mexico we call these calabazas verdes. You are correct that the translation of calabasas to English is pumpkin which is very different! Stick to zucchini and you can’t go wrong 🙂 Oh and the yellow squash will work too. Good question!

  15. 5 stars
    This is an easy traditional Mexican dish. This particular rendition is even easier! Kudos to you. Typically this dish has more onion and tomatoes, at least two cloves of mashed garlic and some Serrano pepper and epazote rounds it out. Also, the taste is predicted on the Mexican zucchini (lighter in color and a more delectable flavor profile since it’s sweeter and buttery). IMO, no need to sauté in butter. I usually crumble some queso fresco on top. Yummy! But I never thought of adding melting cheese-thanks for the tip.

    1. Thank you so much Dear for the kind review! I have never tried it epazotes but will do so next time! My mom never made it with it so it sounds very interesting. We’re from a family of 9 so she always looked for quick ways to cook stuff and this was it lol! I hope you have a great day!

  16. 5 stars
    I have tried this amazing maxican roasted zucchini recipe and i found this recipe really an amazing recipe. Thanks for sharing this recipe with all of us. Even i have a special maxican zucchini recipe as well.

  17. 5 stars
    This recipe was delicious and followed it to a T. My family loved it as it’s not overpowered by other ingredients. It was light and fresh! Thanks for the recipe Ana!

  18. 5 stars
    This is a family favorite! Yummy even as a main dish with tortillas. Variations could include adding some green chile, adding salsa, or using alternative kinds of cheese. I love your well written, authentic recipes to share with my daughter and nieces and nephews.

  19. 5 stars
    Never heard of this before but had to try it due to the success I’ve had with Muy Delish recipes. Very, very good! This has become one of my favorite side dishes.

  20. 5 stars
    I always loved this side dish from my mom too! So yummy and healthy at the same time.Thanks Ana for posting our wonderful Mexican food!

  21. 5 stars
    Time off (solid no plans time off) is the best – I can totally see why you’re excited!! Have a great long weekend… this recipe 🙂

    1. 5 stars
      Thanks Katrina! I hope you have a fabulous weekend as well! I’m sure your will include something yummy as well 🙂 xo, ana