What is Chayote?
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 — chayote.
One sees chayote 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.
How To Cook Chayote
Chayotes 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 on 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. 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.
Other Names for Chayote
This squash is most often called chayote in English, but some commenters let us know they know it by another name:
- Merliton or mirliton (U.S. South, especially in Louisiana)
- Huisquil (Guatemala)
- Christophene (Caribbean)
- Choko (Australia)
Smooth Vs. Spiky Chayote
There are many varieties of chayote, and any will work in this recipe. Most of the chayote you find in the store or the farmers market will have smooth skin with ridges. Some varieties are spiky. While the skin of both types is technically edible when the squash is young and tender, we peel the skin for this recipe.
Tips for Cleaning and Peeling Chayote
- Use a peeler made with carbon steel; they maintain their sharp edge.
- If the chayote is a little slimy, peeling it under running water can counteract its slipperiness.
- Partially steam or boil chayote before peeling if the skin is particularly tough.
- For prickly chayote, wear gloves.
- Cut the squash into wedges along the folds and then peel the wedges.
5 More Low-Carb Side Dishes To Try
- Cauliflower Mashed "Potatoes" With Browned Butter
- Turkish Braised Green Beans
- Broccoli Rabe With Caramelized Onions
- Cucumber Salad With Tahini Dressing
- Orange and Beet Salad
Chayote Squash With Tomato and Green Chiles
Recipe adapted from Diana Kennedy's Chayotes Guisados con Jitomate in her classic The Art of Mexican Cooking.
1 pound chayotes
6 ounces roasted tomatoes (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 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped onion
1 large green Anaheim chile (stem and seeds removed and discarded), chopped
Pinch dried red chile pepper flakes
1/4 cup water
Kosher salt, to taste
1/4 cup roughly chopped cilantro
1/4 cup finely grated Monterey Jack cheese
Peel and cut the chayotes:
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.
Purée the roasted tomatoes and the garlic:
In a blender, purée the tomatoes and garlic. Set aside.
Sauté the onions and green chiles, add tomato and chili flakes:
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 to 4 minutes.
Add the tomato mixture, red chile flakes, and continue to cook 3 minutes more.
Add the chayote, water, and salt:
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.
Sprinkle with grated cheese to serve.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 10g||12%|
|Saturated Fat 2g||12%|
|Total Carbohydrate 10g||4%|
|Dietary Fiber 5g||17%|
|Total Sugars 4g|
|Vitamin C 29mg||143%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|