Cheesy Calabacitas is a dish of summer squash with onions and green chiles, and it’s the perfect side dish to make with zucchini. My recipe omits corn and/or tomatoes that are sometimes used to make this a low-carb side dish!

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Cheesy Calabacitas photo of finished dish in pan

Cheesy Calabacitas is a quick and easy way to cook summer squash if you have them in your garden, and if you like the idea of cheesy zucchini with green chiles you’ll probably enjoy this recipe. Some recipes for this dish include things like corn or tomatoes, but for my lower-carb 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 use two cans! 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. And this can certainly be a vegetable side dish, but when I have a lot of zucchini and summer squash I’d happily eat a big plate of this for a meatless lunch or dinner.

What ingredients do you need for this recipe?

  • onion
  • zucchini or yellow summer squash
  • Olive Oil (affiliate link)
  • Minced Garlic (affiliate link)
  • Spike Seasoning (affiliate link), or other all purpose seasoning blend
  • canned diced green chiles (affiliate link) (see notes)
  • Mexican cheese blend
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

What is Calabacitas?

Calabacitas is the name that’s used to describe a way to cook summer squash or zucchini that’s common in Mexico or the American Southwest. This recipe is sometimes called Mexican Zucchini. Calabacitas always includes zucchini or summer squash, onions, green chiles, and cheese, and some versions add other ingredients like corn, tomatoes, or red pepper.

What type of Green Chile is used in Calabacitas?

There are quite a few different varieties of Mexican Chile Peppers that are green. But for this recipe that just uses diced green chiles that are found in the grocery store, the canned green chiles you find will be relatively mild Anaheim Chiles or Hatch Chile Peppers. Unless you really like spicy food I wouldn’t use hotter chiles in this recipe.

Want more recipes to use up the Zucchini?

If you’re looking for more ideas for using zucchini or summer squash, check out The Top Ten Low-Carb Zucchini Recipes or 50 Amazing Zucchini Recipes! Or check out Slow Cooker and Instant Pot Zucchini Recipes on my other site, Slow Cooker or Pressure Cooker.

Cheesy Calabacitas process shots collage

How to Make Cheesy Calabacitas:

(Scroll down for complete recipe with nutritional information.)

  1. Chop onions and open one or two 4 oz. cans of diced green chiles (affiliate link), depending on how much heat you prefer.
  2. Cut the squash lengthwise into fourths, then slice the pieces into slices about 3/4 inch thick. 
  3. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and then cook the onions until they’re barely starting to brown, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add garlic and Spike Seasoning (affiliate link) and cook 1-2 minutes longer. 
  5. Add the squash and cook about 3 minutes without turning to get the squash lightly browned.
  6. Add the cans of green chiles, stir, cover the pan, and cook about 3 minutes more or until the squash is barely starting to soften. 
  7. When the squash is barely tender, season well with salt and fresh-ground black pepper.
  8. Add most of the two cups of grated cheese (more or less to taste), stir gently, and cook about 2 minutes to melt all the cheese. 
  9. Sprinkle a little more cheese on at the end and let it melt as you serve it.
  10. This won’t win any beauty contests when its done, but it’s truly delicious.

Cheesy Calabacitas finished dish in pan, square image

More Delicious Zucchini and Summer Squash:

Al’s Hungarian Summer Squash
Instant Pot Ratatouille
Cheesy Zucchini and Basil Strata
Garlic-Lover’s Vegetable Stir-Fry
Grilled Sausage and Summer Squash with Lemon and Herbs

Cheesy Calabacitas finished dish in pan, square image
Yield: 6 servings

Cheesy Calabacitas

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes

Cheesy Calabacitas is side dish of zucchini and yellow summer squash with onions and green chiles, and of course lots of cheese!

Ingredients

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 medium zucchini or yellow summer squash (see notes)
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 T minced garlic
  • 2 tsp. Spike Seasoning
  • two 4 oz. cans diced green chiles (see notes)
  • 2 cups grated Mexican cheese blend (more or less to taste)
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Chop onions and open one or two 4 oz. cans of diced green chiles (affiliate link), depending on how much heat you prefer.
  2. Cut the squash lengthwise into fourths, then slice the pieces into slices about 3/4 inch thick. 
  3. Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and then cook the onions until they're barely starting to brown, about 3 minutes.
  4. Add garlic and Spike Seasoning (affiliate link) and cook 1-2 minutes longer. (Use any all-purpose seasoning blend if you don't have Spike.)
  5. Add the squash and cook about 3 minutes without turning to get the squash lightly browned on one side.
  6. Then add the cans of green chiles, stir to distribute, cover the pan, and cook about 3 minutes more or until the squash is barely starting to soften.
  7. I like the zucchini to be slightly tender-crisp. Cook longer if you want it softer.
  8. When the squash is barely tender, season well with salt and fresh-ground black pepper.
  9. Add most of the two cups of grated cheese (more or less to taste), stir gently, and cook about 2 minutes to melt all the cheese. 
  10. Sprinkle a little more cheese on at the end and let it melt as you serve it.

Notes

Use zucchini or yellow summer squash that's about 8-10 inches long; we used about 2.5 lbs. of squash.

You can use one or two 4 oz. can of green chiles, depending on how hot you want it. These are mild green chiles; don’t use Jalapenos unless you like really spicy food.

This recipe created by Kalyn with inspiration from many sources.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

6

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 232Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 35mgSodium: 739mgCarbohydrates: 13gFiber: 3gSugar: 7gProtein: 12g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated by the Recipe Plug-In I am using. I am not a nutritionist and cannot guarantee 100% accuracy, since many variables affect those calculations.

Did you make this recipe?

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Low-Carb Diet / Low-Glycemic Diet / South Beach Diet Suggestions:
Zucchini and yellow summer squash are both great low-carb ingredients, and Cheesy Calabacitas is a perfect dish for any phase of the original South Beach Diet or any other type of low-carb eating plan.

Find More Recipes Like This One:
Check out Zucchini Recipes for more ideas to use up that zucchini! Use the Recipes by Diet Type photo index pages to find more recipes suitable for a specific eating plan. You might also like to Follow Kalyn’s Kitchen on Pinterest to see all the good recipes I’m sharing there.

Historical Notes for this Recipe:
This recipe was first posted in 2006. Recipe was updated with better photos and nutritional information 2020 and updated again with more information in 2021.

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