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Albuquerque Innsights

Former New Mexico innkeeper knows secrets and tells anyone who will listen.

New Mexico Style Calabacita Recipe. Muy Bueno!

This is the time of year that zucchini starts showing up on your doorstep. Your friends and family have a garden, their squash and zucchini plants are prolific and these well meaning folks are running out of workmates and neighbors to give it to, so they drive around town leaving it at doorsteps when no one is looking. I use to dread it, but now I love to use them to make calabacitas, a southwestern dish that is often served here in New Mexican restaurants as a option to the usual rice and beans with your entree. So if you are sick of making zucchini bread, try this recipe for a great side dish in the summer.

Technically, calabacita is Spanish for squash, but here in New Mexico we use the word generally to mean this dish made from squash. Calabacitas recipes are like green chili stew recipes out here in New Mexico – everybody has one and it is the best. I’m not going to say mine is the best – but it is tried and true and is sure to please. Here is my basic calabacitas recipe, but be sure to experiment on your own. All spices are subject to taste and that is where the experimenting starts. You may also add tomatoes, but I don’t because they don’t agree with me. Whatever you do, don’t leave out these basic ingredients, or you will have to call it something other than calabacitas.

Adobe Nido Calabacitas – serves four as a side dish


1 yellow squash 8-9″ or so

1 zucchini 8-9″ or so

1 cup frozen sweet corn

1/2 cup sweet yellow onion chopped

1/2 cup grated cheese ( I always use queso fresco if I can – after all , this is a classic Mexican Dish. If you have a Mexican market in town – get the queso fresco Mexican cheese – otherwise use any other mild white cheese, like mozzarella.)

1 or 2 cloves of garlic (I keep dried granulated garlic around so I use about 1/2 tsp of that.)

1/4 cup prepared roasted/chopped green chili

1 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350º

Prepare squash and zucchini by quartering lengthwise and then chopping into 1/4 to 3/8″ chunks. Set aside.

Saute chopped onion, garlic, salt and pepper in olive oil until onions are just threatening to brown, and then add squash and zucchini and cook until they are about half done. Add corn and as soon as it is thawed move to a 1 quart casserole dish and mix in cheese and green chili.

Bake uncovered for 35 minutes.

We served this up as a side dish to Roasted Cuban Pork with black beans and rice and it was a perfect compliment.

Many people will leave out the green chili, but I just can’t do that. I have found a fantastic local product, Sandia Chile Grill Authentic Green Chili that will soon be available online from their website. Get it when you can! There are many fine chili-in-a-jar products out there now and so far this is the best I have tasted. It is very close to fresh roasted and I actually prefer it now to the frozen kinds that have been a staple in New Mexico for years. Of course – freshly roasted is best so if you want to roast and peel your own – go for it! Whatever you do – don’t use canned green chili. Yuck! Sacrilege!

If you can – plan a trip to the Fiery Foods and BBQ Show, held in Albuquerque every year at the end of February or first part of March – depending on how the calendar falls. This coming show will be held March 4-6, 2011. Besides being the Mecca for all chiliheads everywhere – there are many other gourmet foods to taste as well, and every purveyor of prepared green chili will be their with their product for you to be the judge! Mark your calendar and plan a stay with us at our Albuquerque Bed and Breatfast, Adobe Nido.

I know the best things to eat in Albuquerque!
Sarah Dolk, Adobe Nido Bed & Breakfast
Expert on Destination Albuquerque and Central New Mexico!

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64 Responses to “New Mexico Style Calabacita Recipe. Muy Bueno!”

  1. Jordene says:

    Thank you for the recipe. I added my leftover ground beef that was used for burritos the night before. I call it taco meat. Delicious. I didn’t put up any Green Chile last fall so I had to use the frozen. Too many seeds LOL. Going to have to do my own peeling and seeding this year. I’m a transplanted New Mexican by way of Texas and I’ve never had gravy on my enchiladas! I love me some red or green!!

  2. […] green chili stew recipes out here in New Mexico – everybody has one and it is the best.” (source) My own calabacitas are vegan and worked perfectly for Phase […]

  3. Melissa de Nuevo Mexico says:

    Excellent recipe, I leave out onion husband hates them but lovely! I make the several times a year.

  4. joser says:

    If you are gonna portray this a New Mexican dish, at least learn to correctly spell CHILE!

    • adobenido says:

      LOL – the correct spelling of chili/chile is much debated, on this blog and all over the internet. If you look it up you’ll find either spelling is acceptable and correct. The jar of chile in the photo? notice the spelling? That is a New Mexico Company. I encourage you to write them and tell them they are spelling it wrong too! And all the other people who chose to spell it that way. It’s a preference, not a rule.

  5. Rhonda says:

    Had this today as a taco. Was excellent. Thank you for the recipe.

  6. Donny says:

    I find it funny that I was born and raised in New Mexico and have never heard of this dish but I’ve had a variation of such in a casserole. My first taste of this dish was on Thanksgiving in Southern Arizona minus the green (Chile)…I knew something was missing!

  7. Stu Flavell says:

    You are a brave soul to post a recipe that so many consider ‘family’ food here in New Mexico. I made your recipe yesterday for an Albuquerque potluck, making one pot a vegan version, leaving the cheese out of the bake. I used cotija cheese, just because it was what I had. The native New Mexicans raved, so take that as an endorsement. As a gardener with a mountain of zucchini to consume, I am considering making some up to freeze.

  8. Mary says:

    I can squash for cooking in the winter. Can I use canned squash and zucchini for this recipe

  9. Karen says:


  10. Barb says:

    Your recipe is great! Mom used to get calabacitas in the south valley of ABQ when I was a little girl. Your recipe is very similar.

  11. suan craig says:

    i put piñon in mine and a splash of 1/2 and 1/2 and occasionally some cheese. yum

  12. sher says:

    I am so glad to find this. I ate at The Range Cafe and had this dish. It was served with scrambled eggs in a burrito. I love it, so I asked for a serving as a side dish. It has become one of my favorite dishes. I am going to make this . So anxious to try it. Thanks

  13. Tommy Kay says:

    You won’t use sacrilegious canned chili, but you use garlic powder? Okay. After a decade in New Mexico, trust me, you can leave out the green chili. Putting green chili on everything is highly over-rated.

    • Tracy Winslow says:

      It is not

    • Georgia says:

      Are you crazy? You don’t know how much you miss it until it is unavailable.

    • Diane says:

      This may be the most ridiculous comments involving NM recipes I’ve ever read. Hands down! Calabacitas is not calabacitas without the main ingredients, including Green Chile. Period.
      PS: you’re simply wrong. Green Chile rules–you can never go wrong with it.

    • K. Liebhaber says:

      You can certainly tell Tommy Kay is definitely NOT as Native New Mexican!!

  14. santafedog says:

    I have made calabasitas as a stew by boiling it and that is just as good if you keep the amount of liquid low. I generally start any herbs, spices, meats, etc., glassing the onions, then add the rest.
    One of my war stories is when I made a large batch for a group of people many of whom were flatland yankees from places like new England, so I shopped long and hard for Medium frozen green in a tub. I found some in a plastic sack, got one of those and one mild. made the batch of calibasitas and when I went to serve it, discovered the medium chile was hotter than most any hot I had ever had. Needless to say, the locals loved it in small amounts and the furiners left most of theirs on the plates. Labels can be wrong when dealing with something like chiles.

  15. Chey says:

    You are so right that a calabasita recipe will vary depending on how someone’s grandma or momma had on hand. There has to always be squash – I love using zucchini, yellow, and that little round one that has the shape of a flowere (kind of). I asked my mom why she didn’t make calabasitas with onion recently. She stated “because that’s the way Grandma made it.” : ) My family makes it with squash, fresh corn kernels off the cob, fresh shredded CABBAGE – and of coarse, garlic, salt, w/green chili. Love our recipe and again, you’re so right that there are MANY delicious calabasits recipes out there! : ) Thanks!

  16. Daryl says:

    Hello all,
    Greetings from Maine, where they don’t even know what green chile and calabacitas are! However, we grew some in our back yard, I made a trip out to NM and brought back some frozen green chile and woooohooo! I have calabacitas thanks to your recipe!

  17. Jen Brown says:

    I wanted you to know that I have made this recipe 3 or 4 times already this summer! If you add 2 cups of canned black beans and serve with tortillas, it becomes a complete vegetarian meal!

  18. Randy says:

    Thank you. I shared it with my friends on FB. I’m always posting New Mexico related foods, pics and recipes. This is so close to my own version. Thanks. And yes, Never used canned green chile. It has a taste all its own and not a taste anyone should every experience. 😉 Plenty of places ship Hatch Green Chile nowadays.

    This with some spanish rice and pinto beans…yes!

  19. Diane says:

    In Southern Arizona, down my the border, we say chile (chi-ley), just the way vowels are pronounced in Spanish. Chili (chil-eee) is made with meat and beans (or not) with red chile. This recipe is very authentic. Thank you for posting it!

  20. Junior says:

    Your blog post, “New Mexico Style Calabacitas
    Recipe | Albuquerque Innsights” was indeed worthy of commenting
    down here in the comment section! Really wished to admit u really did a superb work.
    Regards -Marguerite

  21. I love calabacitas, but I have never made it with cheese…just zucchini and yellow squash, onions, garlic and green chile, fresh tomatoes and corn off the cob. It is great rolled in a tortilla too. My favorite summer dish. Thanks!

  22. P.S. Don’t forget the oregano.

    • Suzanne Castillo Devlin says:

      Sorry, but I’m native New Mexican whose Spanish roots go back to the 1500’s and oregano and cumin are two spices that my family only used in posole and menudo. Not in red or green chile and not in calabacitas.

      My mother who was the best New Mexico cook ever in Socorro and Valencia counties, according to friends and family went bonkers when anyone added cumin or oregano to red or green chile and she certainly didn’t add it to calabacitas.

      Bacon cut up into small pieces was used and the bacon grease was used to sauté the zucchini, garlic and onions though.

      Also, use fresh white or yellow corn when possible. Easy to cut off the cob with a knife.

      Some times various white cheeses were used and or a very small amount of milk as well. Like 2 T.

    • adobenido says:

      Why are you sorry. I’m sure folks will love to hear how wrong I am. LOL! I didn’t know there were rules to adhere to.

  23. During 30 years in Santa Fe, my recipe varied over time but the standard stuff found in the post and the comments always were at the heart of the dish. The only variation is that I dice bacon and fry the squash and onion with the bacon in the drippings. (I try to stay away from browning onion and garlic together because it can sometimes leave a metallic aftertaste.) Now I am in a place where chile only comes in a can…oh well, someday. BTW, Spanish speakers can only pronounce the word correctly if it has the ‘e’ on the end.

    • Paula says:

      if you’re in a place where green chile only comes in a can, you can fake it pretty well with what is sold at groceries and farmer’s markets as “long hots.” here in South Jersey, all the Italian markets and farm stands have those, and they work. the heat varies widely – taste each pepper before you use it.

      red chile, though, I’ve been SOL. have to get sympathetic friends to mail me packages.

      And Adobenido, this is a terrific basic calabacitas recipe. it’s simple, easy, and you can riff on it all kinds of ways. thanks!

  24. Phyllis Duran says:

    I love calabacitas. This is how I make them:

    I cut up calabacitas and fry them in olive oil with onions and garlic. I then add white sweet corn, green chili, red bell peppers and hamburger meat. Of course you cook your meat seperate, and then top it off with cheese.

  25. Ron Perzan says:

    I am from the East Coast and have lived in Colorado and Arizona since 1964. That sort of makes me a “Native”. I have made Calabacitas for years with many different ingrients. I have found that making it with Mexican Gray Squash is the best for flavor, firmness, and few seeds. I also use yellow and green squash for color. I use the old black cast iron pan on the outside grill. I like Hatch roasted green chiles that we can get at the market every day. Just found your site surfing the web. Now we will have to try the B & B.


    • adobenido says:

      Hi Ron! Thanks for your comment. I’ll look for the squash you mentioned. Now…come on down!!!

  26. Aggie Villanueva says:

    Unfortunately, for health reasons, I had to leave my beloved NM last summer.

    But where I lived up north past Cuba (about a 2-hr drive north from ABQ) about 7,750 feet at the boundary of the San Juan Wildnerness area, the loacals taught me to make it similar to yours, but with the addition of browning just 1/4 – 1/2 lb of mild breakfast sausage. Some used Chorizo but most prefered the taste of breakfast sausage.

    Thankx so much for sharing.

    • Jenet says:

      Hi Aggie! I was reading your comment, regarding the calabacitas, where you mentioned having to leave northern NM. I was just trying to calculate what town would be about 2 hours north of Albuquerque, and I wondered if it was Taos? I grew up in northwestern NM, but also lived in Santa Fe and Albuquerque. I miss that part of the country – it’s hard to find anyone from NM where I live, and we certainly have no true NM cuisine. As hard as it is to believe, I’ve actually had people ask me what it’s like growing up in a foreign country, when I tell them I’m from NM!

  27. Christobal Juan de Pino Montano (Chris Dannenberg) says:

    Thanks so much for your post! I found Mom’s NM recipe book yesterday. Too cool! I like your recipe better. My best old girlfriend sent me some chiles from NM two years ago. We roasted, peeled and froze ’em. Still good. My Aunt Nita used to make Calabacitas in Corrales. Hope I do well…. I’m stuck in MO- God help us!

  28. GrrBear69 says:

    We add a cup of diced tomatoes and half teaspoon of cumin. It’s hard to come up with a bad version of calabacitas!

  29. TulieGirl says:

    Lori Johnson~
    I am so proud to share New Mexico with you.
    If your state question is “red or green”? The fruit that grows on a vine, is CHILE.
    Next door, in the land where they ask if “Y’all want gravy on them enchiladas”, the second I is acceptable.
    You are absolutely correct… although the dictionary accepts alternate spellings, New Mexicans ChilE farmers don’t grow that stuff that ends in an I.

    • adobenido says:

      Just goes to show you…everyone’s an expert about something. Why anyone really cares to argue such a silly point is beyond me. Let it go people!
      BTW – neither chili, nor chile grows on a vine. Those would be grapes, and New Mexico grows lots of those too!

  30. Recipe Roundup for August’s Bounty | Formation of a Foodie Recipe Roundup for August’s Bounty | Following my passion for food to see where it takes me says:

    […] Calabacitas (New Mexico-style zucchini and corn)— at Adobe […]

  31. […] And here is a great story and description of New Mexican Calabacitas. […]

  32. Lori says:

    Love Calabasitas… grew up in NM, and love this recipe with green chile/chili in it. Also, adding black beans is fabulous–one-16 oz can adds an amazing flavor and texture to it!

  33. Thanks for sharing your recipe. I have corn, squash and zucchini growing in my garden and I can’t wait to make it with my own produce.

    P.S. I live in Arizona and I see both spellings used interchangeably. It seems so petty to argue about it on a website. Adobe Nido is graciously sharing a recipe, not writing a legal document!

  34. Tracy Winslow says:

    On Facebook we were discussing what we would put in a New Mexican Pie (like broccoli cheese pie). We decided potatoes, cheese, green chili and calabasitas- i think I’ll make it like a Spanish Tortilla and use your recipe. Thanks for sharing this.

    • adobenido says:

      Tracy! Report back. I’d like to hear more about this NM Pie.

    • Tracy Winslow says:

      Hi, I just refound this recipe- the calabacita’s quiche was really good. But, now I’m on Weight Watchers and can’t enjoy such things:)— thought I’d tell you the good news- I put this recipe in the recipe builder on Weight Watchers points- it’s only 4 points. Woohoo! I might be able to make the quiche without the crust. Yum!

    • adobenido says:

      I have a friend who lost 80 lbs on Weight watchers, and calabacitas was one of her staples. She would make a giant batch of it and eat it all the time, It’s great rolled up in a warm 100 calorie tortilla, or layered with some fresh corn tortillas. Yum!

  35. Melissa says:

    This was my first shot at calabacitas. I have lived in NM for 5 and a half years now and I am slowly adding New Mexican cuisine to my menus. I LOVED the dish tonight. I made a double batch, one for tonight and one to freeze. Thanks for the great recipe!

    • adobenido says:

      I am so glad you liked this. I make large batches too, only we eat so much of it that not much goes to the freezer! Thanks Melissa! Try my Thai Red Curry Chicken Recipe – it is a nice departure from NM food without leaving the heat behind! You can get all the ingredients locally at Ta Lin.

  36. Yolanda says:

    Great job on publishing a New Mexican favorite, BUT if you’re going to say that you can’t call the recipe Calabacitas without using the chile, you better make sure you are spelling CHILE correctly! Chili is served over hot dogs and french fries.

    • adobenido says:

      Both spellings are acceptable, I checked. And there are more too!

    • Lori Johnson says:

      Yes, chile can be spelled a variety of ways. But if you’re a New Mexican, and you’re referring to the fruit which we all love, it’s chile. Chili is mixed with meat and beans. The dictionary may have different ways of spelling it, but New Mexico doesn’t! 😉

    • adobenido says:

      There you go – another expert. I guess I’m gonna have to move. I’m a New Mexican – and I spell it chili. I am not alone. Check out this website:
      http://www.nmchili.com/ Just google “green chili” and you’ll see, it really doesn’t matter. That other kind of chili – At our house we call that Chili Con Carne (en España, Chile con carne), or Texas Chili.

    • Kerrina says:

      Oh my goodness! I don’t usually get involved with pettiness but Adobenido is CORRECT! Both spellings are used by MANY “locals” as well as long time (generations long) “natives” and quite acceptable. I think people replying with negativity or know it all comments should quit bickering about something as inadequate as which vowel to end a word with and enjoy the fact that this amazing recipe was shared in the first place. New Mexico is famous for our CHILI/ CHILE and cuisine. Not bickering. Lets highlight the positive and remain focused on sharing variations to this recipe or compliments and “thanks for sharing” posts. I’ll start:

      Thank you for sharing this recipe. I have never tried using cheese as an addition but I am certainly going to tonight! I am very intrigued with the Roasted Cuban Pork recipe you served this with……

    • adobenido says:

      Thanks, Kerrina! Sometimes I think this is just the season bor bickering over minutia, know what I mean? LOL

    • deanna says:

      I agree with Kerrina. Wonderful recipe, and who cares how (it) CHILI is spelled. Keep the great recipes coming

  37. Alice Heffner says:

    Hi Sarah! This is Alice, of the Alice and Alan duo from Ramsey, NJ who had such a wonderful stay with you in July. I hope that all is well with you. It has been an interesting winter here, as I’m sure you’ve heard. Luckily, Alan and I have taken up snowshoeing and cross country skiing so we don’t mind the winter so much.

    I came upon your calabacitas recipe while surfing the web to assemble my Superbowl Sunday menu. (Yes, we’ve recovered from the Jets’ abysmal performance against the Steelers – we’re rooting for the Packers!). I’m making posole stew and wanted a nice vegetable accompaniment. Will check out your recipe, and this email gave me a chance to say hi.

    Best wishes!

  38. Hey looks very appetizing. Can not wait to have a go this recipe.

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