Calabacitas con Elote (Zucchini with Corn)

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Here’s an easy way to make Calabacitas con Elote (Zucchini with Corn) – a zesty and satisfying side dish to have in your summer menu. The buttery creaminess of the suero (whey) catapults me to my childhood every time. The joy of growing up Mexican!

Calabacitas con Elote or Zucchini with Corn ready and served in an iron skillet on a colorful runner

Calabacitas con Elote

Zucchini season is in town, and that means that it’s everywhere, it’s cheap and it’s plentiful. It also means that it is the perfect reason to enjoy this Calabacitas con Elote (Zucchini with Corn) recipe. 

What Is Calabacitas?

Calabacitas is a traditional Mexican side dish that is everyone’s favorite in summer and whenever you can get that healthy zucchini or squash on the table. Traditional recipes include corn, tomatoes, peppers, onion, garlic, and even pork or chicken if you are making a meat version.

Prefer leaving the meat out? This Zucchini with Corn dish is so impressive that you can serve it both as a side dish or main – it will delight you either way.

Calabacitas con elote can be made with or without cheese. This recipe includes it as an optional topping.

In addition, I love using suero (whey) in calabacitas for its buttery creaminess that catapults me to my childhood every time. But if you don’t have it or prefer using something else, you can substitute it with buttermilk.

plastic of bottle suero (whey) from Lincon Dairy in El Paso San Eli Texas

What Is Whey?

Whey is the liquid remaining after milk has been curdled and strained. It is the byproduct of cheese making.

In fact, whey is the watery cheese liquid you’ve seen in freshly opened containers of yogurt.

No Whey?

If you don’t have whey or sour milk, don’t worry, you can use store bought or homemade buttermilk, but you will need to add some salt.

How to Make Buttermilk?

Here is a very quick way to make buttermilk – it only takes less than 10 minutes. All you need is plain milk with lemon juice or vinegar.

Zucchini and corn in an amazing Mexican casserole dish ready for cooking

Zucchini with Corn

My garden is overrun with zucchini. 

Squash is bountiful in summer and fall and so we had calabacitas con elote quite often while I was growing up. The joy of growing up Mexican!

This Zucchini with Corn is one of those recipes that I find myself longing for whenever I see all the squash varieties available. 

But what do you do if you don’t have all the ingredients?

Onions, tomatoes olive oil, salt and other ingredients on a marble surface

Helpful Substitutes

In case you are missing one of the ingredients, here is what you can do to save the day.

Fresh Corn

Don’t have fresh corn? Substitute with frozen corn instead. I do not recommend canned corn, as it won’t taste the same.
Tomatoes, onion and other healthy ingredients in a small tray on top of a colorful Mexican runner

White Cheese Options

Some of the most popular white cheese options are:

  • Asadero – developed in parts of northern and central Mexico, asadero is perfect melting cheese.
  • Oaxaca – semi-hard cheese from Mexico, similar to unaged Monterey jack, but with a mozzarella-like string cheese texture.
  • Chihuahua – semi-soft cheese that originates in the Mexican state of Chihuahua.
  • Monterey Jack – semi-hard American cheese with a sweet note.
  • Cheddar – the hardest cheese from the above, originating in England.
This Calabacitas con Elote can be made with or without cheese.

Make This Dish Dairy-Free

Instead of suero (whey) use salsa verde or salsa casera. And don’t add cheese to dish.

There are a couple of great options that you can use to replace suero:
  • Salsa Verde is one of them. It is very simple to make – all you need are tomatillos, garlic, onion, jalapeño, serrano, and cilantro. It is fresh, tangy, and slightly spicy – just perfect for this Zucchini with Corn recipe.
  • Salsa Casera is a fantastic fire roasted green chile salsa and a great dairy-free option in place of suero.
Closeup on the delicious Mexican Calabacitas con Elote or Zucchini with Corn

Storing and Reheating

You can store your calabacitas in a fridge for 5 days. Just make sure to use an airtight container for it. 

When ready to eat, reheat the leftovers on a stove, in a pot, or in a microwave. Whichever you prefer, make sure to stir the dish halfway through to ensure it warms up evenly. Enjoy!

Calabacitas con Elote or Zucchini with Corn served in two bowls on a table covered with a beautiful cloth

Love Calabacitas con Elote? Try These, Too:

Did you make this recipe? Leave a comment below and tag @muybuenocooking on social media!

Calabacitas con Elote (Zucchini with Corn)

Here's an easy way to make Calabacitas con Elote (Zucchini with Corn) - a zesty and satisfying side dish to have in your summer menu. The buttery creaminess of the suero catapults me to my childhood every time.
Calabacitas con Elote or Zucchini with Corn ready and served
Print Recipe
4.34 from 6 votes
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  • 4 ears of corn, shucked and cut from the cob
  • 4 zucchini or squash, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups suero, whey or buttermilk can be used as a substitute
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • cheese, grated (Chihuahua, Monterey Jack, or cheddar)


  • Remove corn kernels from the cobs using a knife on an angle. Set kernels aside.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; cook and stir the onion in the hot oil, about 2 minutes then add the tomatoes for 2 more minutes.
  • Add the garlic for an additional minute until fragrant.
  • Mix the zucchini and corn into the onion and garlic and cover until zucchini is tender; about 10 minutes.
  • Uncover and stir the suero/buttermilk into the mixture. Season with salt and pepper; stir. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and simmer.
  • Sprinkle with cheese (optional) to serve.



  • Instead of fresh corn use frozen corn but don’t use canned.
  • Instead of suero, replace with buttermilk.
  • For a dairy free option use salsa verde or salsa casera and do not add cheese.
  • White cheese options - asadero, Chihuahua, Monterey Jack, cheddar
  • Nutrition facts do not include cheese.


Calories: 252kcal, Carbohydrates: 22g, Protein: 34g, Fat: 6g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Cholesterol: 60mg, Sodium: 76mg, Potassium: 693mg, Fiber: 3g, Sugar: 11g, Vitamin A: 642IU, Vitamin C: 32mg, Calcium: 148mg, Iron: 3mg

I’d love to see what you cook!

Tag #MUYBUENOCOOKING if you make this recipe.

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Photos by Jenna Sparks / Video by Pure Cinematography

Originally published: September 2010. This recipe is also published in the Muy Bueno cookbook.


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