Calabacitas is the Spanish word for little squash. Therefore, it can refer to yellow squash and zucchini which are used to make the traditional New Mexican Calabacitas dish. This colorful side dish is pueblo in origin and first recorded from the 16th century. Trade routes resulted in the addition of New Mexico chile being added to the dish, but many recipes leave this out. In fact, there are over a hundred variations of the Calabacitas dish made today. Some add tomato, some garlic, and some cheese. Individual preference will determine what type of Calabacitas is made.

History of Squashes

However, the fact remains that the squashes calabacitas traditionally refers to were cultivated near Oaxaca, Mexico 10,000 years ago. Many were propagated into the soft fleshy types we have now which are extremely nutritious.


One can eat the roots, shoots, blossoms, seeds, and flesh. These elements are low in calories and contain the disease fighting nutrients of magnesium, vitamins K, A, and C, foliate, and plenty of fiber. The dish known as Calabacitas is considered one of the “Three Sisters” of Mesoamerican agriculture. Three sisters are considered a divine triad of squash, beans, and corn. They are considered to be a nutritionally complete combination.

A simple recipe for Calabacitas:

2 Tbls of butter

2 Tbls of olive oil

1 cup finely chopped onion

2 tsp minced garlic

2 cups diced yellow squash

2 cups diced zucchini

1 cup fresh corn kernals

Heat butter and olive oil in skillet. Sauté onions for about 3 minutes until translucent. Add garlic and sauté for 2 minutes. Add yellow squash and zucchini and sauté for about five minutes until soft.

Brown the corn and add at end of dish.

Variations: Add tomatoes, chili, cheese, cream or chicken stock for extra flavor at end of cooking process.



Photo by Ela Haney on

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