Sunday, August 24, 2014

Easy Calabacitas or Cheesy Summer Squash with Onions and Chiles (Low-Carb, Gluten-Free)

Easy Calabacitas or Cheesy Summer Squash with Onions and Chiles found on
If you have a surplus of zucchini, use some of them to make this delicious and easy Calabacitas.

(Updated with better photos and step-by-step instructions, August 2014.)   Calabacitas is a traditional recipe from the American southwest, and it's a quick and easy way to use up abundant summer squash if you have them in your garden.  Traditional recipes for Calabacitas sometimes include things like corn or tomatoes, but in my version I concentrate on the flavors of the squash, onions, cheese, and green chiles.  This is definitely a recipe that should be made to individual taste, and when I first made this I thought a 4 oz. can of diced green chiles was plenty spicy, but now I'd probably use a bigger can.  Key to the flavor here is slightly browning the onions and squash as they cook; as long as you manage that you can't go wrong with this easy recipe.

This can certainly be a vegetable side dish, but when I have a lot of summer squash (thanks to my sister Val who brought me some when we had a family reunion) I will happily eat a big plate of this for a Meatless Monday lunch or dinner.  (To see more Meatless Monday recipes, you can click the label Meatless Monday or check out Vegetarian Recipes in the recipe index or my Meatless Monday Pinterest board, which has good ideas from lots of bloggers.  I also share a weekly Meatless Monday idea for Meatless Monday at

Easy Calabacitas or Cheesy Summer Squash with Onions and Chiles found on
Cut onions into slivers (or chop, whatever you prefer.)

Easy Calabacitas or Cheesy Summer Squash with Onions and Chiles found on
Cut the squash lengthwise into fourths, then slice the pieces into slices about 3/4 inch thick.

Easy Calabacitas or Cheesy Summer Squash with Onions and Chiles found on
I used a 4 oz. can of diced green chiles, but next time I'd use a larger 7 oz. can.  (Don't make a mistake and buy jalapenos instead of these Anaheim Chiles, unless you really want it to be spicy!)

Easy Calabacitas or Cheesy Summer Squash with Onions and Chiles found on
Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and then cook the onions until they're barely starting to brown, about 3 minutes.

Easy Calabacitas or Cheesy Summer Squash with Onions and Chiles found on
Add the squash and cook about 4 minutes, turning a few times.

Easy Calabacitas or Cheesy Summer Squash with Onions and Chiles found on
Then add the can of green chiles, stir to distribute, and cook until the squash is barely starting to soften, about 6-8 minutes more.

Easy Calabacitas or Cheesy Summer Squash with Onions and Chiles found on
When the squash is barely tender, season well with salt and fresh-ground black pepper.

Easy Calabacitas or Cheesy Summer Squash with Onions and Chiles found on
Add the cup (or more) of grated cheese, stir gently and cook about 2 minutes to melt all the cheese.

Easy Calabacitas or Cheesy Summer Squash with Onions and Chiles found on
This won't win any beauty contests when its done, but it's truly delicious.

Easy Calabacitas or Cheesy Summer Squash with Onions and Chiles found on
And here's the original photo of this recipe from 2006, and looking back I'd say I should have browned the squash more in those days!

Easy Calabacitas or Cheesy Summer Squash with Onions and Chiles found on
Easy Calabacitas or Cheesy Summer Squash with Onions and Chiles
(Makes about 4 servings, recipe created by Kalyn with inspiration from many sources.)

1 onion, peeled and cut into slivers
4 medium zucchini or yellow squash, about 8-10 inches long (or use two of each like I did)
1 T olive oil, (more or less depending on your pan)
1 can diced green Anaheim chiles (Use a 4 oz. or 7 oz. can, depending on how hot you want it.  Don't use jalapenos unless you like really spicy food.)
1 cup plus 1/4 cup grated low fat Mexican cheese blend (or more)
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
sliced green onions for garnish (optional)

Peel the onion, cut in half lengthwise, and cut into thin slivers.  Wash squash and cut lengthwise into fourths, then into slices about 3/4 inch thick. Heat olive oil in heavy frying pan over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute 2-3 minutes, until starting to slightly brown. Add squash and saute about 4 minutes, or until squash is just starting to get tender.  Turn a few times but not too often (you want the pieces of squash to brown a little.)

Add canned green chiles with juice to the pan and cook 6-8 minutes more, until squash is cooked through, but still slightly chewy. (This is a personal preference, but I prefer mine a little on the crisp side. Cook a little longer if you prefer a softer texture. More mature squash will take a bit longer to cook.) Season well with salt and fresh-ground black pepper.

Sprinkle the cheese over and cook 1-2 minutes more, stirring until cheese is melted and squash is partly coated with cheese.  Serve immediately with a bit more cheese sprinkled over each serving.

South Beach Suggestions:
Zucchini and yellow squash are both great low-carb ingredients, and with low-fat Mexican blend cheese, this is a great dish for any phase of the South Beach Diet.

Nutritional Information?
I chose the South Beach Diet to manage my weight using The Glycemic Index partly so I wouldn't have to count calories, carbs, points, or fat grams, but if you want nutritional information for a recipe, I recommend entering the recipe into Calorie Count, which will calculate it for you.

More Delicious Meatless Dishes with Summer Squash:
(Recipes from other blogs not always South Beach Diet friendly; check ingredients.)
Al's Hungarian Summer Squash with Sour Cream, Paprika, and Dill ~ Kalyn's Kitchen
Zucchini with Thyme ~ Simply Recipes
Roasted Zucchini with Green Onions, Feta Cheese, and Basil ~ Kalyn's Kitchen
Summer Veggie Stuffed Zucchini ~ Mountain Mama Cooks
Julienned Zucchini Mexican Bowl with Black Beans, Avocado, Tomato, Poblano, and Lime ~ Kalyn's Kitchen
(Want even more recipes? I find these recipes from other blogs using Food Blog Search.)

Blogger Disclosure:
Posts may include links to my affiliate account at, and Kalyn's Kitchen earns a few cents on the dollar if readers purchase the items I recommend, so thanks for supporting my blog when you shop at Amazon!
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Lydia said...

I was just wondering what to make with the zucchini and tomatoes I received from a gardening friend yesterday! This recipe looks great, and anything with green chiles works for me. Thanks, Kalyn.

gattina said...

I love sautee zucchini, your recipe definitely sounds great!

Cyndi said...

Oooh - I was going to grill the zucchini in my fridge, (well, it's stored in my fridge and I was going to grill it on the grill), but this looks much tastier. Maybe we'll give it a try tomorrow night. I"ll let you know if we try it.

Ellie said...

Ohhh, zucchini and cheese is such a winning combination, and I absolutely adore the flavours you've got working together in this dish! Num!

Karina said...

Hola Kalyn!

Just wanted to let you know that I'm linking to your post about calabasitas. I'm making a version tonight.

Yours looks yummy!

Kalyn said...

Thanks Karina. I noticed that someone googled "calabacitas Kalyn". That must have been you!

I will check out your version. I love these flavors.

Karina said...

Yup that was me! ;-) I just posted mine with a link back to you.

Clare W said...

Kalyn, I LOVE your blog!!! I stumbled upon it a few weeks ago when I was looking for some tasty South Beach recipes. I made calabacitas with fresh squash and zucchini from the famers' market and my husband and I are OBSESSED!!! The green chiles and cheese make it such a treat. Now I have also gotten my mom and sisters hooked on your recipe. Thank you so much! Kalyn's Kitchen has definitely become my number one source for recipes. In fact, I am looking for summer veggie recipes right now before heading off to the farmers' market again for some fresh produce!

Kalyn said...

Clare, thanks so much for taking time to let me know you're enjoying the blog. Have fun at the farmers market!

BettyCupcakes said...

Hi Kalyn- wanted to let you know I blogged about your delicious dish- Absolutely adored your take on calabacitas.

angie said...

I will make this tomorrow, as I have 2 summer squash and 2 zucchini and just bought a can of green chilies, I planned to make a veggie lasagna using the zucchini for a noodle replacement, but this sounds so quick and easy. My question is what do you serve with this? A protein? I am just starting on SB so I would be in Phase I.

Kalyn said...

Angie, this is a side dish, so I'd serve it with any kind of meat or fish.

Richard said...


Thanks so much for the great recipe. I just made this and already can't wait to try it again; this time a bit more spicy.

Kalyn said...

Richard, glad you enjoyed it.

Anonymous said...

My hubby and I tried this today, and I used Calabacita as the squash. I can't tell you how happy we were to find this - it really works well to curb the desire for carby Mexican fare! Thank you!

Kalyn said...

So glad you liked it!

Ashlie said...

Wow, another grand slam recipe from this blog! It's so simple, yet the flavor is amazing. The liquid from the green chiles blends with the cheese to make a delicious cheese sauce. I served it over brown basmati rice cooked in veggie stock. I'm vegetarian and always looking for easy and interesting veg dishes - this one made the permanent rotation!

Kalyn said...

Ashlie, I'm just waiting for my squash plants so I can make this myself!

Anne Bingham said...

Great recipe! I was given a large patty pan squash, didn't know what to do with it and found this recipe. A big hit with all ages :)

Sue/the view from great island said...

I've never heard of this dish, but I just picked up lots of summer squash today at the farmer's market, so I'm ready to try it, thanks Kalyn!

Kalyn Denny said...

Sue, I bet you will love it, enjoy!

Pam Greer said...

For some reason, I don't think I've ever paired cheese with summer squash!

Kalyn Denny said...

Pam, I am so surprised. This is really good, hope you try it!

Jody Dietz said...

Thanks so much Kalyn !
Making this foe part of tonight's dinner... so easy and sounds delicious. As others have said... what to do with all of that garden squash? This fits the bill.

Kalyn Denny said...

Jody, glad it's helpful for you!

Joanne said...

Perfect way to use up all that squash! I'll be passing this onto my mother-in-law who has a ton growing in her garden, still.

Kalyn Denny said...

Joanne, lucky her. I am missing my garden so much!

Cookin' Canuck said...

I have never made calabacitas, but I can tell by the list of ingredients that this is something that I'd love.

Kalyn Denny said...

Dara, I think you would! Glad you like it.

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