Creamy Zucchini, Corn, and Poblano Rajas
Try this recipe for Creamy Zucchini, Corn, and Poblano Rajas and get all the flavors of summer in one tasty skillet! Also known as Calabacitas con Elote y Rajas, this delightfully versatile vegetarian side dish or can be used as a filling for tacos, gorditas, sopes, or spooned over your favorite grilled meats.
Is your summer farmers market or home garden overflowing with chile peppers, zucchini, and corn right now? If it is, I have your dinner fix! This creamy, dreamy veg-centric meal takes just 15 minutes of active time to assemble and can be used in a variety of ways throughout the week.
What Are Rajas?
Rajas (pronounced “raw-HAS”) simply means “strips” in Spanish, and generally refers to roasted poblano peppers that have been cut into long, thin slices. Technically speaking, both the mild poblano peppers and the onions are cut into rajas for this yummy meal!
This traditional Mexican recipe is similar to calabacitas con elote (literally “zucchini with corn”), but with the addition of smoky roasted peppers and sweet caramelized onions bathed in a creamy and salty sauce.
About This Recipe
At this point in the year, my garden is literally bursting at the seams with veggies. To make the most of my crops, I’ll sometimes turn to vegetarian recipes like this one to help me plow my way through the late summer bounty.
NOTE: Just because this dish uses a lot of summer veggies, you can easily make it year round! Poblanos and zucchini are pretty much always available at the grocery store, and you can swap in frozen corn kernels in cooler months.
This simple recipe is one that both my kids and my husband love – sweetly caramelized onions, charred, earthy peppers, and crunchy roasted corn combine forces with a creamy, cheesy sauce for a comforting dish that nods both to the impending switch in seasons and the delicious end of summer crops.
While I’m sure all of you are familiar with the concept of sautéing veggies, using butter (rather than oil) to caramelize the onions is what really makes this dish special. Be careful though – butter has a much lower smoke point than most oils. To ensure that your onions turn out sweet and jammy, opt to go low and slow with your cooking.
Also, while poblano peppers are the traditional choice for making rajas, you can certainly opt to switch things up depending on what you have on hand. Anaheim or Hatch chiles are a fabulous choice if you like some heat, while green bell peppers are lovely mild options.
Finally, I went very traditional with this recipe and opted to use queso fresco and crema Mexicana for the cheesy sauce. While these ingredients are becoming increasingly available at larger grocery stores and are always available at Latin supermercados, you are welcome to substitute more accessible ingredients like sour cream and feta or monterey jack cheese.
How to Make Creamy Calabacitas con Rajas
This easy recipe for poblano rajas takes only about 15 minutes of active time to get on the table.
First, you’ll need to roast your chile peppers. Once roasted, remove the stem and seeds and cut into rajas. Set aside.
Next, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add zucchini and corn and cover and cook until zucchini is tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Now it’s time to caramelize the onions. In the same skillet (no need to wash it), heat the butter over medium-low heat until melted and foamy. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent and starting to gently brown around the edges, about 12 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 more minute until fragrant.
Increase the heat to medium-high and add the poblano chile strips and the zucchini and corn mixture. Bring to a boil.
Reduce heat to low, add the queso fresco, and crema, and stir gently, and simmer for 5 to 6 minutes. That’s it! Now you’re ready to enjoy your calabacitas con rajas y elote.
Watch this video to see the step-by-step process for this easy recipe.
This rajas de poblano recipe is the perfect vegetarian filling for gorditas de harina, tacos, or sopes. It also makes a great side dish to grilled steak, pork, or chicken. I especial love it spooned over Thanksgiving turkey!
Frequently Asked Questions
Mild poblanos are readily available year-round. For a spicier chile pepper, try Anaheim or Hatch. You can also swap in mild green bell peppers instead.
Absolutely! If corn isn’t in season, or you just don’t feel like shucking the ears or cutting the kernels off the cob, turning to a bag of frozen corn is an excellent option. Note that there is no need to defrost the kernels before adding them to this recipe.
I love the mild flavor and thinner consistency of crema mexicana, but you can easily substitute sour cream, crème fraîche, or even whole milk plain yogurt in a pinch.
Feel free to swap in feta or Monterey Jack instead.
More Summer Recipes
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Creamy Zucchini, Corn, and Poblano Rajas (Calabacitas con Elote y Rajas con Crema)
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add zucchini and corn and cover and cook until zucchini is tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
- In the same skillet, heat the butter over medium-low heat until melted and foamy. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent and starting to gently brown around the edges, about 12 minutes.
- Add the garlic and sauté for 1 more minute until fragrant.
- Increase the heat to medium-high and add the poblano chile strips and the zucchini and corn mixture.
- Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, add the queso fresco and crema, and stir gently, and simmer for 5 to 6 minutes.
- Serve hot as a side dish or as a filling.
- Roasting chile peppers: If you are unsure how to roast chile peppers, please refer to this blog post: How to roast chile peppers.
- Choose your peppers of choice: Mild poblanos are readily available year-round. For a spicier chile pepper, try Anaheim or Hatch. You can also swap in mild green bell peppers instead. Learn more about a variety of chiles here.
- Do I need fresh corn? Feel free to use frozen corn. Note that there is no need to defrost the kernels before adding them to this recipe.
- No crema Mexicana? Substitute sour cream, crème fraîche, or even whole milk plain yogurt in a pinch.
- No queso fresco? Feel free to swap in feta or Monterey Jack instead.
Photography by Jenna Sparks
Originally published: March 2018