Calabacitas Recipe: A Flavorful Mexican Zucchini Dish

Calabacitas Recipe: A Flavorful Mexican Zucchini Dish

Calabacitas recipe - Dr. Axe

Have you ever tried calabacitas? It’s commonly served as a side dish in New Mexico and Mexico, but when you add plenty of veggies, beans and a source of high-quality protein, this dish becomes a healthy and fulfilling meal.

That’s the calabacitas recipe that I’ve developed here, as a complete plant-based, vegetarian meal. (It becomes a vegan meal if you remove the eggs.) Furthermore, I will also give some suggestions about what to remove from the dish if you simply want it as a lower calorie side dish.

Zucchini is the star of this dish, and mid-to-late summer at the farmer’s market is when zucchinis are being harvested in most parts of the U.S. Otherwise, zucchini is one vegetable that most grocery stores keep in stock year-round, but this dish is best served in warmer months in my opinion.

The combination of these ingredients make for a comforting, hearty and satiating calabacitas recipe. And it’s super easy to prepare; it just takes about 20 minutes to chop the veggies and cook them down. It’s simple enough to prepare on a busy weeknight when you would be tempted to go for something a little less healthy.

What Are Calabacitas?

Calabacitas is a traditional New Mexican dish that’s made with zucchini/squash, corn and peppers. In Spanish, the word calabacita means “zucchini,” so clearly zucchini is the staple ingredient, but there are a number of calabacitas varieties out there. Some are made with cheese (like cotija and cheddar), some call for pork or other types of meat and some just include a combination of vegetables.


For my calabacitas, I use a mix of veggies like zucchini, yellow squash (“summer squash”), corn, shallots, roasted red pepper, radishes, avocado and spinach, along with chickpeas and cauliflower rice. This makes my version vegan (without the eggs at the end), vegetarian-friendly and gluten-free. Plus, you are getting plenty of healthy fats and immune-boosting nutrients like vitamin C and vitamin A.

Key Ingredients

The star ingredients in these calabacitas are zucchini and yellow squash. These two veggies are closely related and boast a ton of health benefits.

Zucchini, for example, is low in calories, carbs and sugars; and it’s high in essential nutrients like potassium, manganese, and antioxidants like vitamin C and vitamin A.

Did you know that a fully ripe zucchini can grow to be as big as a baseball bat? In fact, when we buy zucchini in the grocery store, they are still considered “immature,” but once they are cooked down with avocado oil (which I use in this recipe), they become soft and tasty.

Avocado oil is far superior to artery-clogging oils like canola, as it contains antioxidants and has a high smoke point.

Nutrition Facts

One serving of my calabacitas is loaded with nutrients:

  • 243 calories
  • 10 grams protein
  • 14 grams fat
  • 23 grams carbohydrates
  • 8 grams fiber
  • 8 grams sugar
  • 115 milligrams vitamin C (153 percent DV)
  • 2,809 IUs vitamin A (120 percent DV)
  • 48 micrograms vitamin K (54 percent DV)
  • 0.56 milligrams vitamin B6 (44 percent DV)
  • 167 micrograms folate (42 percent DV)
  • 0.74 milligrams manganese (41 percent DV)
  • 1.7 milligrams vitamin B5 (34 percent DV)
  • 0.35 milligrams vitamin B2 (32 percent DV)
  • 0.27 milligrams copper (31 percent DV)
  • 459 milligrams sodium (31 percent DV)
  • 199 milligrams phosphorus (28 percent DV)
  • 63 milligrams magnesium (20 percent DV)
  • 1.6 milligrams zinc (20 percent DV)
  • 10.9 micrograms selenium (20 percent DV)
  • 3 milligrams vitamin E (20 percent DV)
  • 793 milligrams potassium (17 percent DV)
  • 2.7 milligrams iron (15 percent DV)
  • 2.1 milligrams vitamin B3 (15 percent DV)
  • 0.17 milligrams vitamin B1 (15 percent DV)
  • 0.26 micrograms vitamin B12 (11 percent DV)
Calabacitas ingredients - Dr. Axe

How to Make Calabacitas

To begin prepping your calabacitas, first roast the corn on a grill or stovetop pan for a few minutes. Then make cauliflower rice or buy in stores like Trader Joe’s.

Next, chop up two zucchini and one yellow squash, and carefully slice the corn off of the cob.

Calabacitas step 1 - Dr. Axe

You’ll also need to chop three roasted red peppers (from a jar) and mince a shallot. Once you’re done chopping those veggies, get your fresh herbs ready. This recipe includes quarter-cup finely chopped dill and half-cup minced cilantro.

Calabacitas step 3 - Dr. Axe

Now heat a large pan over medium heat and add the avocado oil. Once the oil is heated, add in your chopped zucchini, squash and spices (cumin, chipotle powder, sea salt and black pepper).

Let everything cook down for about 10 minutes until the veggies become soft. Add the red peppers, roasted corn and fresh herbs and cook for two more minutes.

Now for the fun part. You are going to begin layering your ingredients to create your calabacitas. Lay out the number of bowls you need and divide up the cauliflower rice at the bottom of each bowl.

Add the calabacitas mixture on top of the rice, and then a fresh spinach layer. Then, in a circle, add the rest of the toppings: chickpeas, sliced lime, radishes and avocado.

Calabacitas recipe - Dr. Axe

The last food to add right in the middle of each bowl is a poached egg. It’s so easy to make poached eggs. Just add about a teaspoon of vinegar to water, bring it to a simmer and break the egg into a small bowl and gently slide it into the water. It only takes about 2 to 3 minutes for the egg whites to become firm.

The finishing touch is to add a touch of hot sauce to each bowl, if you like a little extra heat.


Calabacitas recipe - Dr. Axe

Other Healthy Mexican Dishes

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Calabacitas Recipe

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  • Author: Dr. Josh Axe
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x
  • Diet: Vegetarian


Calabacitas are commonly served as a side dish in Mexico and New Mexico, but when you add plenty of veggies, beans and a source of high-quality protein, this dish becomes a healthy and fulfilling meal. See both varieties below.


  • ½ cup roasted corn
  • 2 cups cauliflower, riced
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil
  • 2 zucchini, chopped
  • 1 yellow squash, chopped
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon chipotle powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 roasted red peppers from a jar, chopped
  • ½ cup fresh cilantro, minced
  • ¼ cup fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 1 cup spinach
  • 1 cup chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 lime, sliced
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 2 small radishes, sliced
  • 4 eggs, poached

Side Dish Version

  • ½ cup roasted corn
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil
  • 2 zucchini, chopped
  • 1 yellow squash, chopped
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon chipotle powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 3 roasted red peppers, chopped
  • ½ cup cilantro, minced
  • ¼ cup dill, finely chopped


  1. Prep all the veggies, including roasting the corn for a few minutes.
  2. Make cauliflower rice or use store-bought.
  3. In a large pan on medium heat, add the avocado oil first and distribute across the pan. Add the chopped zucchini and squash, shallots and spices.
  4. Sauté for 10 minutes or until veggies are soft.
  5. Add in the red peppers, roasted corn and fresh herbs. Stir well and cook for another 2 minutes.
  6. Next, layer the ingredients evenly between 4 bowls for serving: cauliflower rice, calabacitas mixture, and then spinach.
  7. Top each bowl with sliced lime, avocado and radishes, along with chickpeas and a poached egg.
  8. For the side dish version, simply omit the cauliflower rice and toppings.
  9. Serve warm.
  • Prep Time: 10 min
  • Cook Time: 10 min
  • Category: Main Dishes, Side Dishes
  • Method: Stoveop
  • Cuisine: Mexican


  • Serving Size: 1 dish (280g)
  • Calories: 323
  • Sugar: 5.4g
  • Sodium: 356mg
  • Fat: 23.1g
  • Saturated Fat: 3.9g
  • Unsaturated Fat: 17.6g
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 21.7g
  • Fiber: 8g
  • Protein: 11.7g
  • Cholesterol: 164mg

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