Calabacitas (Mexican Style Zucchini)

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.

Some people call this dish “Calabacitas” or “Calabacitas Con Queso” but I actually grew up calling them “Colache”.

Calabacitas in a white bowl

Calabacitas in English mean “little zucchini”. Also known as Calabaza.

Ingredients for Calabacitas

  • 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.
  • Tomato: You can use roma or regular tomato as long as it’s ripe.
  • Onion: Use white or yellow 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 over powering the taste of the zucchini.
  • 1/2 cup queso fresco or cotija cheese, crumbled (Mexican fresh cheese) (Optional)
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!

A small white saucepan with calabacitas inside and a wooden spoon.

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 

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

What’s not to love about this dish right?

Do you you like this Calabacitas recipe? I think you’ll love these Rajas Con Crema as well! Pair it with my delicious & creamy Horchata for the perfect combination!

Calabacitas in a white bowl

Calabacitas (Mexican Style Zucchini)

Servings 4 servings
Ana Frias
4.90 from 37 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 10 mins
Total Time 20 mins
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

Ingredients
  

  • 2 medium zucchinis sliced
  • 1/2 large roma tomato chopped
  • 1/4 medium onion chopped
  • 1/4 cup corn kernels frozen or canned
  • 1/2 Tbsp light butter
  • 1/2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper or to taste
  • 1/2 cup shredded Chihuahua or light mozzarella cheese or any other melting cheese
  • 1/2 cup queso fresco crumbled (Mexican fresh cheese) (Optional)

Instructions
 

  • 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

Video

*Ana’s 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.

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NUTRITION

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.

Original published date: May 2014. Updated in February 2020 to revise the content and photographs. The original recipe remains the same. Enjoy! 

Two white bowls with Calabacitas (Mexican Zucchini dish)

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44 Comments

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

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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!!

  5. 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!

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

  8. 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!

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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!

  12. 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…..love 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