Picadillo de Chayote – Costa Rican Recipe

Ceramic plate heaped with picadillo de chayote, beans, and white rice in front of a traditionally painted cart.

This picadillo de chayote is a fast and easy authentic Costa Rican family dinner recipe. Picadillo de chayote, served with Costa Rican white rice,  is vegetarian and gluten-free, making it a great dinner recipe for company or other get-togethers. free ebook popular costa rican recipes

The very first lunch I had upon arriving in Costa Rica was my host mom’s picadillo de chayote.  I hadn’t yet overcome my picky eating at this point, but I also hadn’t quite mastered enough Spanish to say “I don’t like vegetables.”  

Lucky thing, because this dish was an explosion of Costa Rican flavor on my tastebuds,  and once I learned enough Spanish, I requested this meal constantly.

 For many years I tried to master this dish, but it wasn’t until I went on my family cooking tour of Costa Rica that my sister in law taught me the secret to this dish (butter and cream, of course!)  

Picadillo de chayote is served with white rice. Check out our entire list of white rice recipes!

This picadillo de chayote is a fast and easy authentic Costa Rican family dinner recipe . Picadillo de chayote is vegetarian and gluten free too! #dinnertonight #costarica #costaricanrecipe #latinrecipe #dinnerrecipe #vegetarianrecipe #vegetarian

About Picadillo de Chayote

Picadillo de chayote is a very traditional Costa Rican recipe that combines the chayote fruit with traditional Costa Rican sofrito, spices, and cream. It is often served as a side dish to the Costa Rican casado, which is a main meal. 

Chayotes are a pale green pear-shaped fruit that are a good source of Vitamin C and Folate (Vitamin B9). The chayote squash has an extremely mild flavor which makes it take on the flavors of the spices used to make this picadillo.

Chayote is one of the most healthy foods you can find on the planet- it’s a summer squash but usually found year-round in grocery stores. People don’t notice they are there until they look. 

Costa Ricans use chayotes in a variety of stir-fries, likes this recipe. Some recipes include ground beef, but this particular recipe is traditional to San Ramon in the Central Valley, and is therefore vegetarian. 

You can generally find chayotes at the supermarket- our King Soopers (part of the Kroger family) has them, as does Sprouts. I have not seen them at Trader Joe’s yet. Definitely a Latin supermarket will have them.

Be prepared for the checker to have no idea what they are. I usually check the price and know it off the top of my head to ease the payment process!

You can note that chayote is a popular ingredient in the national soup- we use it in the Olla de Carne as well.

Costa Rican Picadillo de Chayote Recipe

Ingredients:

2 chayotes
½ white onion
3 cloves garlic
2 TB butter salted or unsalted doesn’t seem to matter
1-1 ½ tsp salt
heavy cream
½ can of whole kernel corn
½ bunch of cilantro

Instructions:

  1. As with most Costa Rican recipes, this one starts with a sofrito.  In a heavy saucepan, heat the butter on medium-low (Costa Ricans would actually use Numar margarine, but I prefer using butter over margarine).
  2.  While it’s warming, chop up the onion into very fine pieces and mince the garlic (I put it in a garlic press).  
  3. Raise the heat to a good medium and add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is transparent.  You’ve just made your sofrito!
  4. While that is heating up, go ahead and wash and chop your chayotes. (see FAQ)
  5. The key is to make each tiny piece evenly sized in order to make the dish look pleasing visually.
  6. After you’ve diced them up, add the chayotes to the pot, cover it and turn up to a good medium-high.  
  7. Chayotes are mostly water, so you want to cook the water out.  I cover the pot to let them boil a bit, until almost completely tender and dry.
  8. The chayote will often cook all the water out and want to brown on the bottom of the pan.  Brown is no good.
  9.  In order to combat the dryness, I open the can of corn and add about ½ cup of the liquid to the pan and let it keep cooking.  
  10. You could also add water here, but I prefer to use the liquid from the corn, and it adds some nice flavor.
  11. This dish is usually served with Costa Rican white rice, black beans, and tortillas so I get those going while the chayote is boiling.
  12. Once tender, add in your salt, and your half of the canned corn.  (You can definitely use fresh sweet corn here, but I don’t have the patience for it.)  
  13.  Cover with heavy cream (or put in as much as you want) and heat thoroughly.  
  14. Chop up some cilantro and stir it in about 10 minutes before serving.  Buen provecho!

Substitutions

You can substitute any type of milk for the whipping cream or heavy cream.

Variations

During my vegan challenge, I ate picadillo de chayote quite a bit. All you need to do is substitute the butter with olive oil (or really any oil you like to use to saute) and substitute vegetable stock for the cream. You can also just add a bit of extra water and salt instead of stock to make the recipe vegan as well. Try to use Himalayan sea salt- delicious!

You can also lower the calories. I like to make a version with olive oil instead of butter, and also using chicken stock instead of the cream. 

Also- you can add about 1/2 cup of water and a teaspoon of chicken bouillon if you don’t have the chicken stock.

If you don’t want to give up the creamy flavor, you can also substitute evaporated milk.

You can also make the sofrito on lower heat for a longer time, and add a tiny bit of water to soften the vegetables instead of using oil.

You can make a heartier version of this vegetarian picadillo with a picadillo de chayote and ground beef. If you want a completely different type of picadillo, the green bean and carrot picadillo with ground beef is super delicious. 

Serving Suggestions

We eat picadillo de chayote with the traditional Costa Rican white rice and also traditional Costa Rican black beans (or red beans). I especially love to dip a couple of tortilla chips in the picadillo and have some Costa Rican Black Bean Dip Recipe on the table too. This vegetarian dish is also often served with homemade corn tortillas. 

Picadillo de chayote is a staple of the Costa Rican casado as well. Casados are the main dish at lunchtime in Costa Rica, and include rice, beans, a protein, salad, and picadillo. Since chayote is so abundant in the Central Valley of Costa Rica, you will often find a version of this picadillo at restaurants as an accompaniment to the main dishes.

FAQ

How do I chop the raw chayote? –Right? It’s not that hard once you get the hang of it. After washing them, here’s what I do.

Chayote Squash

First, cut the chayotes in half.

Chayote Squash Halved

Second, slice them lengthwise.

How to cut a chayote squash

Next, slice each cross section. Then dice.

Costa Rican Chayote Recipe

The key is to make each tiny piece evenly sized in order to make the dish look pleasing visually.

Printable Recipe

Yield: 4 servings

Picadillo de Chayote

Ceramic plate heaped with picadillo de chayote, beans, and white rice in front of a traditionally painted cart.

This picadillo de chayote is a fast and easy authentic Costa Rican family dinner recipe. Picadillo de chayote is vegetarian and gluten-free too!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 chayotes
  • ½ white onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 TB butter salted or unsalted doesn’t seem to matter
  • 1-1 ½ tsp salt
  • heavy cream
  • ½ can of whole kernel corn
  • ½ bunch of cilantro

Instructions

  1. As with most recipes, this one starts with a sofrito.  In a heavy saucepan, heat the butter on medium-low (Costa Ricans would actually use Numar margarine, but I prefer using butter over margarine).
  2.  While it’s warming, chop up the onion into very fine pieces and mince the garlic (I put it in a garlic press).  
  3. Raise the heat to a good medium and add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is transparent.  You've just made your sofrito!
  4. While that is heating up, go ahead and wash and chop your chayotes. (see FAQ)
  5. The key is to make each tiny piece evenly sized in order to make the dish look pleasing visually.
  6. After you've diced them up, add the chayotes to the pot, cover it and turn up to a good medium high.  
  7. Chayotes are mostly water, so you want to cook the water out.  I cover the pot to let them boil a bit, until almost completely tender and dry.
  8. The chayote will often cook all the water out and want to brown on the bottom of the pan.  Brown is no good.
  9.  In order to combat the dryness, I open the can of corn and add about ½ cup of the liquid to the pan and let it keep cooking.  
  10. You could also add water here, but I prefer to use the liquid from the corn, and it adds some nice flavor.
  11. This dish is usually served with Costa Rican white rice, black beans, and tortillas so I get those going while the chayote is boiling.
  12. Once tender, add in your salt, and your half of the canned corn.  (You can definitely use fresh sweet corn here, but I don’t have the patience for it.)  
  13.  Cover with heavy cream (or put in as much as you want) and heat thoroughly.  
  14. Chop up some cilantro and stir it in about 10 minutes before serving.  Buen provecho!

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 112Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 24mgSodium: 923mgCarbohydrates: 8gFiber: 1gSugar: 2gProtein: 2g

Please double-check this information with your favorite nutrition calculator.

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Picadillo de Chayote Costa Rican Recipe

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6 Comments

  • Reply
    Sara @ Mom Endeavors
    March 10, 2016 at 9:44 pm

    YUM! This sounds super tasty…even though I had no idea what a chayote was! 😉

    • Reply
      Christa
      March 10, 2016 at 10:09 pm

      Thanks!! Get ready to eat lots of chayote in Costa Rica in June!

  • Reply
    Laura
    March 10, 2016 at 9:54 pm

    Looks so yummy! This brings me back to the summer I spent in Nosara. I look forward to making this dish soon.

  • Reply
    Mindy Stoms
    March 30, 2020 at 4:22 pm

    Can you make it with milk? I don’t have any cream.

    • Reply
      Christa
      March 31, 2020 at 5:47 pm

      Absolutely! Just add a little extra butter. Let me know how it turns out! ~Christa