This picadillo de chayote is a fast and easy authentic Costa Rican family dinner recipe. Picadillo de chayote is vegetarian and gluten-free, making it a great dinner recipe for company or other get-togethers.
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!) It’s a great vegetarian dish, and the whole meal can be ready in less than 30 minutes! This dish serves 2 adults as a main dish or 4 adults as a side.
What Do I Serve With Picadillo de Chayote?
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! 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.
What Is a Chayote?
Good question! A chayote is a member of the squash family. It’s generally about the size of a small potato in the States, but can weigh almost 3 lbs in Latin America, specifically Costa Rica. In Costa Rica, chayotes are often light green or dark green. Chayotes are very watery- so they cook down to quite a bit smaller. Chayote is extremely low calorie.
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- otherwise 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!
What Other Costa Rican Recipes Include Chayote?
Our very favorite Costa Rica recipe, the Olla de Carne, has chayote in it. We have a st I’m also lately experimenting with a white bean and pork soup that has chayote. But that’s actually all I can think of right now!
Can Picadillo de Chayote Be A Vegan Recipe?
Such a great question- and the answer is YES! In fact, 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!
How Can I Lower The Calories In This Recipe?
Another good question! 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.
How Do I Chope The Chayotes?
Right? It’s not that hard once you get the hang of it. After washing them, here’s what I do.
First, cut the chayotes in half.
Second, slice them lengthwise.
Next, slice each cross section. Then dice.
The key is to make each tiny piece evenly sized in order to make the dish look pleasing visually.
Ok- so here’s the recipe!
Picadillo de Chayote Recipe From Costa Rica
This vegetarian and gluten-free picadillo de chayote recipe is easy to make in less than 30 minutes. Picadillo de chayote is a healthy and authentic Costa Rican recipe for the whole family.
- 2 chayotes I find them locally at Sprouts, King Soopers, and most Mexican supermarkets. Be prepared for your checker to have no idea what they are or how to ring them up.
- 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
- 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). While it’s warming, chop up the onion into very fine pieces and mince the garlic (I put it in a garlic press). 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!
- While that is heating up, go ahead and wash and chop your chayotes. There are probably a zillion ways to do this, but here is how I go about it.
- Cut chayote in half.
- Slice lengthwise.
- Slice each cross section. Then dice.
- The key is to make each tiny piece evenly sized in order to make the dish look pleasing visually.
- After you've diced them up, add the chayotes to the pot, cover it and turn up to a good medium high. 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. The chayote will often cook all the water out and want to brown on the bottom of the pan. Brown is no good. 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. You could also add water here, but I prefer to use the liquid from the corn, and it adds some nice flavor. This dish is usually served with Costa Rican white rice, black beans, and tortillas so I get those going while the chayote is boiling.
- 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.) Cover with heavy cream (or put in as much as you want) and heat thoroughly. Chop up some cilantro and stir it in about 10 minutes before serving. Buen provecho!
**You can make this a dairy free recipe by boiling in water until the water evaporates and serving it “dry”, or add chicken broth or stock and serve it in a bit of liquid. You can also substitute oil for the butter.