Liddie’s Traditional New Mexican Dishes: Calabacitas

Calabacitas. Photo by Liddie Martinez 

How to prepare calabacitas. Video by Liddie Martinez 

Española Valley

Mid-summer is when our hearts fill with glee at the sight of squash in our gardens. If you are like me and go overboard with planting, you will soon have more squash than you can eat and will start giving everyone in your family bags of squash; you will be taking them by the basket full to work and leaving squash care packages on your unsuspecting neighbors’ doorsteps.  It is wonderful to have this abundance and it feels good to share with the people you care about.

Mexican squash is an ancient vegetable some 10,000 years old. It is such a prolific producer, that it is no wonder it is still around ten thousand years later. A member of the three sisters, it is a historical gem, and a nod to history, when you serve the three together. 

My grandmother often made calabacitas, a wonderful dish of sauteed squash and corn with onion and green chile, which she served with a bowl of pinto beans. It made for a nutritious meal that was high in protein, vitamins A and C and rich in potassium. It was also a good choice when wanting to eat a vegan meal. This time I have substituted the traditional chopped green chile for Chimayo red chile pods that I crushed using my malcajete. I love the bright colors in this presentation.

In the small garden of my childhood, we also had an abundance of squash; so, my grandmother would have us kids help preserve them for later use in winter by making rueditas (little wheels). We washed then sliced the squash into thin rings and then placed them in a single layer on framed screens to dry in the sun. Long strands of these wheels, or rueditas as grandma called them, were also strung into garlands and hung to dry on a sunny porch. Once dry, they were stored in clean flour sacks and reconstituted in winter for use.

Mexican squash is greyish in color and thin skinned with very white flesh that is sweeter than zucchini, although zucchini can be used as a substitute. Try not to overcook as these tender morsels will become mushy if cooked too long.


3 Mexican squash or zucchini

2 ears fresh corn cut from the cob

½ red onion, chopped

3-4 red chile pods, crushed

2 Tbsps. olive oil

2 Tbsps. butter

½ tsp. Salt 

In a cast iron skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat and sauté onions until transparent, then add a couple of pinches of salt and the squash. Cook for about three minutes then add corn. Stir well and sauté for an additional three minutes. Season with salt then add butter and stir until incorporated. Transfer to serving dish and sprinkle top with crushed chile. This recipe serves six.

Editor’s note: Liddie Martinez is the author of the popular Chile Line Cookbook: Historic Recipes of Northern New Mexico, which is available online at

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