Chayote with Tomato and Green Chile

Perhaps you too have noticed an odd, pale green, oblong is-it-a-fruit is-it-a-vegetable in your market and wondered what the heck it was, or what you could make with it. Actually I’ve known the name of it for a while&#8212chayote; one sees them often in Mexican markets out here, and Whole Foods carries them. But it wasn’t until a friend thrust one into my hand with the challenge “it’s good, I’d love to see what you make with it” that I actually set out to cook one.

Chayotes, also known as “vegetable pears”, are related to zucchini, cucumber, and melons, and in a way, taste like a combination of all three. They are a staple of Mexico and Costa Rica, are high in vitamin C, low in calories, and are a good source of fiber. They can be eaten raw, or cooked, and like zucchini, fried, baked, broiled, sautéed, steamed, or mashed. The following recipe is based off of one from Diana Kennedy, who so often comes to the rescue when one is contemplating a Mexican ingredient. The dish reminds me of my mother’s summer zucchini, which is sautéed with onions and tomatoes, and served with cheese melted in. And like zucchini, the mild chayote is a lovely backdrop for the more flavorful ingredients.

Do you have a favorite chayote recipe? If so, please let us know about it in the comments.

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Chayote with Tomato and Green Chile Recipe

  • Yield: Serves 4.

Ingredients

chayote-tom-chile-1.jpg

  • 1 pound chayotes
  • 6 ounces of roasted tomatoes (can use canned fire roasted tomatoes, or roast whole tomatoes on stovetop or under broiler until skin begins to blacken, do not remove skin but process whole)
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp chopped onion
  • 1 large green Anaheim chile (stem and seeds removed and discarded), chopped
  • Pinch red chile pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup water
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro
  • 1/4 cup finely grated Monterey Jack cheese

Method

1 The peel is tough and inedible when cooked, so peel the chayotes completely. (This may take a little doing, as the folds in the chayotes can make it difficult.) Cut the chayotes into 1/4-inch wide, 2 inch long julienned strips, including the core.

2 Purée the roasted tomatoes and the garlic in a blender, set aside.

chayote-tom-chile-3.jpg chayote-tom-chile-4.jpg

3 Heat oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Add the chopped onion and green chiles. Cook on medium heat until just soft, about 3-4 minutes. Add the tomato mixture, red chile flakes, and continue to cook 3 minutes more. Add the chayote, water, and salt to taste. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes. Add the chopped cilantro and cook for 5 minutes more. The chayote should be just tender, moist but not watery.

4 Sprinkle with grated cheese and serve.

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Recipe adapted from Diana Kennedy's Chayotes Guisados con Jitomate in her classic The Art of Mexican Cooking.

Links:
Alborina de Chayote - a recipe from Lydia of The Perfect Pantry which includes chayote, bell peppers, onion, and eggs
Burmese chayote soup from Morsels and Musings
Chayote stir-fry from Heart and Hearth
How to grow chayote
More recipes for chayote in Food Blog Search

35 Comments

  1. Garrett

    A note to anyone using chayotes. Peel every bit of skin off of them. They do not cook down and are like shrimp shells, plastic-like and indigestible.

    Other than that, a very tasty dish!

  2. JoJo

    My mother uses chayotes instead of winter melon in her version of Chinese winter melon soup. Chicken, dried scallops, shitake mushrooms and chayotes. Strangely enough, she was introduced to chayotes in Australia, where they kind of grow wild in my aunt’s backyard.

  3. Alanna @ A Veggie Venture

    This looks great, Elise, spicing up a mild-flavored vegetable. Perhaps it depends on the variety or chayote (or the freshness or even taste) but when I did a quick Braised Chayote Squash, it wasn’t necessary to remove the skins. In fact, I thought they were good raw, too, like celery or carrots.

  4. Weezie

    So, down here in Louisiana, we refer to a chayote as a mirliton (pronounced MEL-lee-tawn or MER-lee-tawn). They grow prolifically in our climate, and at the holidays, they most always show up as Stuffed Mirlitons. Since our shrimp season coincides with mirlitons, that’s what’s used most often.

    Stuffed Mirlitons
    4 good-sized mirlitons, cut in half lengthwise
    1 tablespoon butter, plus extra for greasing the pan
    1/2 pound shrimp, chopped
    1/2 pound smoked ham, chopped
    3/4 teaspoon salt
    4 cloves garlic, chopped fine
    1-1/2 teaspoons paprika
    1 large pinch each oregano, thyme, cayenne pepper and freshly ground black pepper
    1/2 cup evaporated milk
    1/2 cup green onions (scallions), chopped
    1/2 cup yellow onion, chopped fine
    About 1 cup bread crumbs
    1 cup shrimp stock or water

    In a large pot, boil the mirlitons in water to cover for 1/2 hour, or until soft. Drain the water and set them aside to cool. While they’re cooling, heat your oven to 350°F and grease a square baking dish with butter.
    When the mirlitons have cooled, scoop out the seeds carefully and discard them. Then scoop out the mirliton flesh, leaving about 1/4″ all around. Chop the mirliton and put it in a bowl, setting the mirliton shells aside.

    Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shrimp, ham, garlic and seasonings. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the mirliton, milk, onion, green onion, and 1/2 cup of the bread crumbs. Cook for 5 more minutes, stirring well. Remove the skillet from the heat and spoon the mixture into the mirliton shells. Top each of the filled shells with about 1 tablespoon of the bread crumbs.

    Put the mirlitons in the baking dish and carefully pour the stock into the dish around them.

    Bake, uncovered for 1/2 an hour. Eat and enjoy.

  5. vidya

    This squash is a common indian vegetable.I grew up with it.
    This following blog which I refer to a lot has a few chayote recipes.
    http://www.nandyala.org/mahanandi/index.php?s=chayote

  6. Christine

    Thank you for posting! My korean mom kept talking about a chayote dish she made… but I had no idea what she was saying / hard to tell if its a new word or an old one she’s mispronouncing!

    My mom pickled her chayote, similar to how koreans make kimchee. I think she used some soysauce, vinegar, sliced jalapeno peppers (for kick), sliced celery (adds yummy dimension), and chayote. So good. its like salty bursts of flavor to eat w/ a bowl of steamed rice.

  7. Tara

    Wow! I’ve always wanted to cook with chayotes. AND, I’m really excited about using them as a substitute for winter melon. Thanks for the recipe, Elise. And, thanks for the tips, Garrett and Jojo. We are traveling to Nicaragua next week, near the Costa Rican border. I am looking forward to finding chayotes to cook this recipe for our group!

  8. Bill Koonce

    In South Louisiana, where I come from (New Orleans), the chayote is called a mirliton, and is stuffed with crab meat, small shrimp, or a combination of ground meats (beef and/or pork) along with breadcrumbs, onions, celery, and green peppers (Cajun cooking’s holy trinity), It is frequently baked in a tomato gravy. Stuffed Mirlitons are a staple at South Louisiana tables. A Google search of “stuffed mirliton” will give you several recipes from Chef John Folse using crab, shrimp, and/or ground pork that are outstanding. (John Folse is one of Louisiana’s outstanding chefs.)

    Bill Koonce
    League City, TX

  9. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry)

    A friend from Puerto Rico introduced me to chayote and taught me this recipe for Albornia de chayote, which is a kind of scrambled egg dish. I’ve also made it into a salad, with red onion and a wine vinegar dressing. Surprisingly, chayote is easy to find in supermarkets here in Rhode Island.

  10. Bill Koonce

    As a follow-up to my prior entry, the following is an explanation by Chef John Folse of the genesis of Chayote/mirliton to South Louisiana cooking.

    “Mirliton, which originated in Mexico, is known by many Americans as “chayote squash” or “vegetable pear” and by the French as “christophene.” The vegetable was brought to Bayou Country by the Canary Islanders, called “Los Isleños,” who relocated to Louisiana when Spain took ownership of New Orleans from France. This South Louisiana delicacy is wonderful when stuffed with shrimp and crabmeat.”

  11. Jean Prescott

    In New Orleans and environs, this green beauty if called mirliton (say it Merle-i-tawnh). Our holiday table wasn’t complete without Shrimp Stuffed Mirliton, a dish made either as a casserole or actually stuffed back into the mirliton skin. For starters, Mama simmered them whole until soft, split them and scooped out the innards (toss away the soft white seed). She then made a standard seafood stuffing of celery/onion/scallions/garlic sauteed in what seemed copious amounts of unsalted butter, added the shrimp (each one cut into 3 pieces), plenty of Creole seasoning and salt, and toward the end, a minimal amount of French bread crumbs, barely enough to sop up the remaining butter and juices. Stuffing went into the shells or a casserole dish, a few buttered crumbs on top and then into a 350 oven for about 25 minutes for the casserole, less for the stuffed skins. Sublimely delicious.

  12. Amanda

    These are called mirlitons in Louisiana and we fry them up like fried green tomatoes or put them in a stuffing. My mom adds shrimp and Italian sausage in the stuffing and it is very good.

  13. sandy

    I recently rediscovered butternut squash for Thanksgiving, thanks to Elise’s recipe (delicious, btw!) and another recipe I found for butternut squash gnocchi. My main complaint is that peeling is tedious, and when my gnocchi turned out so dense that I turned them into dog treats (my friend says this is how an italian woman he dated makes gnocchi but I don’t buy it), I couldn’t bring myself to peel another butternut squash. You may chuckle, but I am ADD, and anything tedious or boring is most difficult for an ADD person to stick with. It’s excruciating! This chayote recipe sounds absolutely tantalizing, but unless someone has some hints on how to ease the peeling process, the idea of peeling that thing looks even more unappealing than peeling the butternut squash.

    What makes peeling a dream is a sharp peeler. Most peelers you buy in the store these days are made with stainless steel which gets dull quickly. The best peelers are made with carbon steel, which stain over time, but maintain their sharp edge. You can pick one up cheaply at Amazon.com. That said, I find that chayotes are easier to peel than butternut squash, more like peeling a zucchini. ~Elise

  14. Annalisa

    My dad grew lots of veggies when I was a child, including chayotes. He used to boil them and serve them with butter salt and pepper. I love them, but can’t seem to cook them quite like he did, I’ve tried roasting them in the oven and boiling them but they never come out right. I guess I could just call my dad for some tips! Btw, my parents and grandma make the same exact zucchini dish :o)

  15. Jacqui

    Yum, I love chayote! My mom would cook these in various dishes when I was younger, including with shrimp and ground pork or beef. But the best by far was Chicken Tinola, a Filipino soup that never fails to comfort. The dish includes chayote, lots of ginger, garlic, chicken breasts and thighs, and patis (fish sauce).

  16. h

    My family uses chayote in lots of different filipino and chinese dishes–different stews, sauteed with other vegetables and with meats or seafood, shredded and fried with eggs, ginger, garlic, and scallions, etc. It is an awesome vegetable that I’ve loved since my childhood. It is remarkably versatile–durable yet lighter than a potato.

  17. Tracy

    These are called a ‘choko’ in Australia. My mum used to steam them, and then serve with butter and pepper, or chop them up and use in all sorts of tomato dishes. They are quite bland, and take up other flavours well.

  18. Tracy

    Oh a tip on peeling: we used to cut into wedges along the folds, and then peel the wedges. They are very hard to peel whilst whole.

  19. K

    I ate a lot of chayote in Nicaragua (Peace Corps service). It is very popular as an addition to soup and they mash it as well. I love it and highly recommend it as a replacement for potatoes in soups.

  20. melikefood

    In the islands-Caribbean-we call chayotes Christophene. Thay most usually eaten raw with the peel–like crudites. When they are cooked, we eat them like mashed potatoes.

  21. Sylvie, Rappahannock Cook & Kitchen Gardener

    Chayotes are good in gratin – boil the whole fruit until tender. Peel, slice (eat the seed, it’s the best part!), put in buttered dish and cover with a bechamel sauce. Top with fine bread crumbs and a little cheese if you want. Bake. You can add shrimp or pieces of ham.

    The young shoots are edible. In my Virginia garden, it’s too cold in the winter for the vine to perennialize, so I plant new every year. The young shoots are great stir-fried/braised with a little garlic and ginger.

    The roots are also edible. But the vines need to be several years old to form a tuber big enough to eat. So, not in my garden!

    Sylvie

  22. Sylvie, Rappahannock Cook & Kitchen Gardener

    me again… several people complain about peeling the chayote. Yes it is a pain, and some cultivars have a substance (milky) that’s quite them on the hand. We always cooked them first – at least partially by boiling or steaming them whole. THEN it’s easy to peel.

    Sylvie

  23. nikkipolani

    Like Sylvie, I find that all chayote I’ve ever cooked with have that sticky slick substance that is really difficult to wash off. I always wear gloves when peeling them.

  24. Sylvie, Rappahannock Cook & Kitchen Gardener

    me again! 3rd time.
    Reading your post on chayote (which is called chouchou where I grew up) stirred such memories, Elise, that it made me dream for some. So I dug up photos of a dish I make when the shoots are abundant in the summer: Chayote shoots with Ginger Pork, and posted last night here: http://www.laughingduckgardens.com/ldblog.php/2008/12/12/chayote-by-any-other-name/

    Thank you for allowing me to share.

    Sylvie

  25. Rosie

    It’s great to this vegetable on a mainstream food blog. I grew up with this vegetable referred to as “chocho”. My Caribbean mom would add it to soups or serve it as a side dish like potatoes.

  26. Elana

    I have seen the chayote many times at the grocery store, but never knew how to use it. This recipe was great and I really enjoyed cooking with a new vegetable (or is it a fruit?). Thanks for sharing. I look forward to finding more recipes for the chayote and using this one again.

  27. Elisa

    These are SO common in Brazil, they grow anywhere. The skin gets tough and prickly as they get older, if you pick them small you don’t have to peel at all. In Brazil we usually eat them as a salad (cooked, cooled, tossed with vinagrette) or sauteed, but there are really no limits since it’s so abundant (gratin, souffle, dumplings, even as a sweet compote!)

  28. Janine

    I love veggies and this was a new one. Yet, when my hungry Mexican boyfriend saw me in the kitchen peeling them, he said that we would never eat that night. He was close. It took over 1.5 hours to get them soft cooked. I saw no other complaints about that, which makes me wonder. Maybe I should have boiled them in water first and then transfer to the tomatoe sauce. My BF also said that his mom left the peel on – it can be eaten with it.

    If chayotes are very young and tender, you can eat the peel, otherwise they are way too tough. Truly inedible. ~Elise

  29. Mikki

    Like one reader mentioned, it is a common Southern Indian Vegetable. One trick my mother- in-law taught me, to get rid of the sticky goo that adheres when you try to peel and chop, is, cutting it lenghtwise along the flat side and rubbing the two pieces together gently in a circular motion. You can see the goo come off, rinse thoroughly and then peel. Very similar to how you would remove the bitter/milky goo from cucumber tips.

  30. TexasT

    Your recipe is very similar to mine, except that I use no chiles, no cilantro, and no cheese. I’ll have to try it your way now.

    We never peel them raw. First, we boil them, and then we peel them — much easier! Oh, and the cook gets the seed, which is the best part (that is, provided nobody else knows this; otherwise, you’re putting your life on the line!). The seed also has to be “peeled” at times, since the outer covering can be tough on older chayotes.

    But my absolute favorite way of fixing chayotes is as follows:

    Boil them whole and unpeeled, then cut them in half following the seam. Scoop out all the flesh onto a bowl, being careful not to break the skin. Mash the flesh with a potato masher, add a bit of butter, a little brown sugar, some cinnamon, a pinch of nutmeg, and some raisins. Mix well, and let it sit until the raisins soften (or you can plump them ahead of time with any liquid, including diluted rum or bourbon). Fill the shells with the mixture. Mix some plain breadcrumbs with some butter and sprinkle on top of the filled shells. Put under the broiler until the topping browns slightly, being careful that it doesn’t burn. Serve.

    These are absolutely yummy and a wonderful substitute for candied yams or baked cinnamon squash.

    What a great way to use chayote! Thank you for sharing. ~Elise

  31. karla

    Mmmmmm! Love chayote! I’m Guatemalan and we call them huisquil (wees-kill). To peel them, I cut them in half along the main fold, and the peel the halves with a peeler. Our chayotes have thorns, so we usually wear gloves to peel them. If you find the dark green, thorny ones, you can cook them whole, cut them in half, scoop out the meat, mash it, and mix it with brown sugar, cinammon, eggs, raisins and graham cracker crumbs. Fill the shells and bake them at 350 until they are brown on top. Yummmm!

    By the way, that milky substance they sometimes have when you peel them is great on recent scars, they help heal and fade them faster. (Old indian remedy).

  32. defessa

    Since this is in the low-carb section of your recipes, I’ll share my favorite low-carb way of cooking Chayote.

    Peel and dice, boil in a sugar-free spiced apple cider until mostly tender.

    Makes for a great apple substitute for diabetic or low-carb eating.

  33. Yadiel

    Here in Puerto Rico we sometimes cut them in half and boil them or bake them, and then we stuff them with ground beef and cheese, churrasco (skirt steak) or maybe sautéed vegetables and call it “canoe”. We also do that with all types of squashes and sweet plantains.

  34. Tess

    My grandmother used to make a pie with them (we call them mirlitons here). It was mildly sweet and had a texture like a firm cheesecake. I believe it was made with Bisquick? Delicious.

  35. Reina West

    I was introduced to chayote a few years ago by a friend from Laos. her mother cooked a fabulous dish that consisted of pork, chayote, garlic, ginger, soy and a ton of fish sauce. Tasted great with a side of jasmine rice. A couple years later, my neighbor decided to throw some in the yard and whaddaya know, we had a whole garden of them! Mind you, they cost about a dollar a piece so I decided to pick then and think of everything I can do with it. for starters, my sister took some home and made kimchi. BOMB!!! I decided to experiment a little and came up with a nice little recipe. Simple soup with chicken, prepared chayote, garlic, ginger and whole parsley chopped up. Let it simmer for a minute and holy lord, it’s a simple heartwarming soup! I’ve also thrown it in some curry, salad, and again! Mostly stirfrys. Downside…. They are a bitch to cut and peel them. I’ve been stabbed a couple of times at the attempt. Little slimy so you may want to peal then under running water and MAKE sure you remove the seed in the middle. It reminds me of matted hair an not tasty either. Enjoy it because it is a hidden fruit!!

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