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Authentic New Mexico Calabacitas

Summer is such a wonderful season in the culinary world because of all the fresh produce that is ready to be eaten at this time. One of my personal favorite summer vegetables is zucchini. Here in the Southwest, zucchini is used in one of my all-time favorite side dishes: authentic New Mexico calabacitas.

Cast iron skillet containing cooked calabacitas

What are Calabacitas?

The term calabacitas comes from the Spanish word “calabacín”, which translates to zucchini or squash. When we add the suffix “-itas”, it directly translates to “little zucchinis”.

So now that we have some background on the name, what exactly is calabacitas? Calabacitas are traditionally small slices of zucchini that are sautéed with a few other ingredients. Commonly, these ingredients include diced onion, chile peppers, and corn. Sometimes calabacitas are topped with shredded cheese.

My recipe for calabacitas is a simple, authentic dish that is completely vegan and dairy-free. It is a perfect side dish for a variety of Mexican and New Mexican meals.

Ingredients for New Mexico Calabacitas

Calabacitas requires a few basic ingredients. The base of the dish is zucchini that is typically sliced thinly. The zucchini is then cooked with garlic, diced onion, corn, and green chile (Hatch green chile is preferred… If you know you know).

Some variations include cheese or heavy cream. This version is both vegan and dairy-free, which I prefer because the flavors from the garlic and green chile don’t get overpowered.

Ingredient Notes

Zucchini: You can use zucchini alone or a combination of yellow summer squash and zucchini for a more colorful dish.

Corn: I use frozen corn rather than corn on the cob. It is easy to measure the right amount and put the rest in the freezer for your next batch of calabacitas or other recipe.

Green Chile: If you can get your hands on Hatch green chile, I highly recommend it. You can buy it in 4 oz cans, which is the perfect amount for this recipe. You can also substitute a jalapeño, or 1/4 of a bell pepper if you don’t like spicy food.

How to Make New Mexico Calabacitas

Prepare the Ingredients

First, you will prepare your squash. My recipe calls for 3 zucchini, although you can also use 1 yellow summer squash plus 2 zucchini. Wash the zucchini, then cut off the ends. Slice the zucchini in half lengthwise, and then slice each half thinly into about 1/4″ slices.

Sliced and halved zucchini in a close-up view

Next, you will prepare the remaining ingredients. Mince 2 cloves of garlic. Dice a small yellow onion. If using fresh roasted green chile, dice 8 oz roasted green chiles.

Note: In New Mexico, green chile is in season in the late summer. During this time, you can head to a local grocery store and purchase fresh roasted green chile. You can also purchase canned diced green chiles if you are not located in the Southwest. I highly recommend Hatch green chile if you can get your hands on it.

Cook the Calabacitas

Preheat 1 tbsp canola or vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the zucchini and onion and give it a good stir. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for about 8 minutes or until the zucchini is tender and somewhat translucent, but not mushy. Next add the garlic and 2/3 cup of frozen or canned corn. Continue to cook another 3 minutes. Finally add the diced green chiles and season with salt and pepper.

Serve immediately and enjoy!

Cast iron skillet containing cooked calabacitas

Authentic New Mexico Calabacitas

Calabacitas are the perfect side dish your favorite Mexican or New Mexican cuisine. Naturally dairy-free and vegan, this recipe can be shared with people from a variety of dietary backgrounds.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Mexican, New Mexican
Servings 4


  • 1 tbsp olive oil extra virgin
  • 2 medium zucchini, sliced thinly OR 1 zucchini and 1 yellow summer squash
  • ½ medium onion, diced
  • cup frozen corn
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 4 oz can Hatch green chile OR 1 jalapeno, finely diced
  • ½ tsp salt plus more to taste
  • ¼ tsp pepper


  • Add the olive oil to a large skillet and preheat over medium-high heat.
  • Add the zucchini and diced onion and reduce heat to medium. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 8-10 minutes or until fork tender and slightly translucent.
  • Add the frozen corn and garlic. Continue to cook for another 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the green chile, salt, and pepper and give it a good stir. Allow to cook for 30 seconds, just enough to heat the chile through.
  • Remove from heat and serve immediately.
Keyword Dairy-free, Easy, Egg-free, Quick, Simple, summer, Vegan, zucchini
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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