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Calabacitas go perfectly with fresh whole-wheat tortillas.

When we decided to write this up, we looked up calabacitas, thinking that it would explain something about the dish. It seems that, every time we get calabacitas somewhere, it’s slightly different. Different ingredients, sometimes with cheese, sometimes not, sometimes baked like a casserole, other times simply cooked in a large skillet. Well, knowing what calabacitas means does give some insight into the endless variations: squash. That’s it; calabacitas simply means squash.

So, squash it is, but it’s more than squash; as in our version, below, it also may have corn, and/or tomatoes, pretty much anything can be added to calabacitas, so take our recipe as a guide and use your cabeza to turn it into your calabacitas. Oh, and we will have to say that this is a great way to use up some of those pesky zucchini of the summer.


Yield: 2-4 servings



  • 1 Tbs canola or other light oil
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 3/4 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 medium zucchini or other summer squash, diced
  • kernels from 2 ears corn
  • 3-5 medium white mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 can (14 ounce) diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbs dried oregano (or 1/2 Tbs fresh oregano)
  • 1/4 tsp chipotle powder, or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp celery seeds
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Abbreviated Instructions

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and fry for a few minutes until translucent. Add garlic and cumin seeds and cook, stirring once or twice, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add squash, corn, and mushrooms, and cook, stirring occasionally, until everything is cooked through. Add remaining ingredients, reduce heat, and simmer until liquid is mostly gone.

Taste and adjust seasonings.

Serve with fresh tortillas and shredded cheese.

Ingredient discussion:

calabacitas ingredients
We guess that the only standard ingredient you need to make calabacitas is calabacitas (squash).

As we mentioned above, feel free to change this to match what you have in the house. The last time we made calabacitas, we had a few kohlrobis — diced, they made a great addition. The only thing you really need to include to make calabacitas would be, well, calabacitas, of course. Everything else can be changed to your liking and what’s available.

Procedure in detail:

Cook onions. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When hot, add onions, sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent and tender, about 5 minutes.

cooking onions
Cumin seems to be underused in the United States, but it’s commonly used in Mexican dishes.

Add garlic and cumin. Stir in the garlic and cumin and cook, stirring once or twice, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

cooking calabacitas
Let the squash and mushrooms cook all the way through.

Add calabacitas. Stir in the squash, corn, and mushrooms, and whatever else you’re using that needs to cook for a while. Let cook, stirring occasionally, until everything cooks through, and the liquid released is mostly evaporated, about 15 minutes.

cooking calabacitas
Add the remaining spices with the tomatoes and stir.

Add everything else. Stir in the tomatoes and remaining ingredients, let come to a simmer, then reduce heat and simmer until most the liquid from the tomatoes cooks off, about 10 minutes.

simmering calabacitas
Simmer until most of the liquid is gone so you can easily scoop the calabacitas with tortillas.

Taste and adjust. Now that your calabacitas have cooked down enough that they won’t make your tortillas soggy, give them a taste and adjust seasoning as needed.

Serve with fresh tortillas and grated cheese. You can keep the calabacitas on low while you fry up your tortillas. You do make your own tortillas, right? Well, we do, and, for these, we make 100% whole wheat tortillas (use white whole wheat in our scratched tortilla recipe).

While this is a really good way to prepare summer squash, we still find it somewhat bland. It’s not that it can’t be spicy — one of us adds a liberal dose of Tabasco Brand Pepper Sauce to each tortilla — but it’s more about the vegetables lacking a great flavor. But, that’s just the nature of squash such as zucchini. No matter what you do, it’ll be a bland vegetable with flavorings added to it. We’ll say four stars.

Worth the trouble?

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