Calabacitas is one of my all-time favorite Mexican dishes, which is really saying something since I love Mexican food. This is the perfect recipe if you’re the kind of person who – like me – often ends up with a ton of produce that you gotta use quick. The only traditionally-required ingredient really is the zucchini or yellow squash, since calabacita is a Spanish word that roughly means “little squash,” as well as a highly-suggested inclusion of onions, corn and plant-based queso.
While this recipe uses primarily produce, there is a lot of flavor– so don’t let silly stigma fool you. All of the veggies are sauteed with plant-based butter and olive oil before they are baked, which slowly extracts a lot of natural flavors from the veggies, such as the sweetness of the yellow squash, corn and cherry tomatoes combined with the earthy flavors in the broccoli, onion and the spiciness of jalapeños– then once you add all the other veggies and bake it in plant-based cheese… forget about it.
… becomes this.
The other key component to this dish is definitely the heat.
The spiciness of this dish is very important, and it’s included in three different ways. However, it is important to note that with the way this dish is prepared, only the flavor is spicy and not the sensation. The burning aspect of spiciness that some people find unpleasant is completely cut out by the sweet veggies, canned corn, sauteing and baking the dish, as well as using quite a bit of plant-based cheddar.
The three primary ingredients that make this baked dish bring the heat is: fresh jalapeños, Chili Powder and Cajun-style Blackened seasoning.
The jalapeños can be easily manipulated to be more-or-less spicy– for a less-spicy effect from jalapeños, seed and clean each pepper, as well as allow them to sauté for a little longer than called for.
As for the Chili Powder and Cajun seasoning, definitely just use to-taste! The Chili Powder brings out a lot of flavor from South America, while the Cajun seasoning brings out the flavors from the American South.
Personally, I used a Blackened Seasoning blend for my Cajun spice, which is slightly less-spicy than a traditional pure Cajun Seasoning would be, and I love the smoky flavor that it brings.
This recipe takes about 45 minutes to prepare, but the bulk of your time will be spent prepping all the wonderful veggies in this dish, and then the rest will go by really fast. If you happen to have the time, pre-prepping & freezing veggies can definitely help make this dish even easier.
Vegan Southern-Style Calabacitas
Prep for 35-40 minutes
Cook for 45 minutes
Ready in 2 hours
Serves 4-6 people
It’s Vegan! ✌🏻
- Yellow Squash (2)
- Zucchini (2)
- Onion (1)
- Carrot (1-2)
- Bell peppers (2)
- Cauliflower (¼ head)
- Broccoli (¼ head)
- Jalapeños (1-4)
- Cherry Tomatoes (handful)
- Canned Corn (1 can)
- Plant-Based Butter
- Shredded Plant-Based Cheddar (1 cup)
- Black pepper
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
- Chili powder
- Cajun-Style Blackened Seasoning
- Preheat your oven to 400F
- Get ready to prepare a bunch of veggies – take a breath – and then wash and chop the yellow squash, zucchini, onion, carrots, bell peppers, cauliflower and broccoli.
- Now, in a large frying pan, melt a liberal amount of plant-based butter on low heat.
- Throw all those veggies in there!
- Add a bit of olive oil, as needed, as well as a dash or two of salt.
- Turn up the heat in your frying pan just a bit, and stir occasionally.
- Cover up your frying pan, and turn up to medium-low heat.
- While your veggies cook, take a moment to chop up your tomatoes, and as many jalapeños as you’d like– but at least one!
- Now, open up and drain one can of corn completely, take the lid off your pan, and add the corn, as well as the jalapeños and tomato.
- Stir everything together, and turn down the heat on your pan significantly.
- To taste, season your vegetables with salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, and your favorite Southern-style heat-packed seasoning– personally, I used a Cajun-Inspired Blackened Seasoning blend.
- Now, drain any excess liquid that may have built-up in your frying pan, and turn off the heat source.
- Get together a ton (about a cup) of shredded plant-based cheddar, and fold the cheese into the veggies while they are still very hot, and get the shreds to melt fully into your vegetables.
- Finally, scoop everything into a greased baking dish, and top with a little extra black pepper!
- Cover your dish with aluminum foil, and let bake for 30 minutes while covered, and then an extra 15 minutes uncovered.
- When ready, pull out of the oven, and allow to settle and cool for at least ten minutes!
Thanks for reading!
~ Chef G.