Zapallito Tacos Bowls (A Healthier Alternative)

This recipe that I’ve created on my own is super simple and a much healthier version of your typical mexican style taco bowl, and Im really proud of it!
A good friend of mine introduced me to zapallitos (more like forced me to eat them) and to be honest I wasn’t thrilled at first. Mainly because they are little green vegetables. Green…vegetables…yuck. But being forcibly feed these things time and time again I grew to…. appreciate them.

What are zapallitos?

They are little green, pumpkin-like veggies that are very common in Argentina. Cooking style similar to zucchini; they can be fried, cooked in the oven, or like in this case- stuffed! I havent experimented too much with them thus far, but thankfully I learned at least one use out of them. Thanks Wendy!

What you will need:

  1. Zapallitos- ~2 per person ( I used 5 for two of us, but some eat less and some eat more!)
  2. black or red beans (or both!) 1 cup
  3. quinoa 1 cup
  4. corn (canned or kerneled corn) 1/2 cup
  5. cheese (I personally used mozzarella this time, but use whatever tickles your fancy)
  6. taco salsa / hot-sauce
  7. salt, pepper, aji spices, etc
  8. guacamole

How to start:

  • First, I bought my beans dehydrated, so I had to soak them over night (at least 12 hrs) and then boil them the next day for about an hour on low heat. If you have canned beans this saves you a whole lot of trouble!
  • Before you start cooking your quinoa; you’ll need to wash it. This is to rinse away an element called saponins, which can leaves a bitter taste or a soapy flavor. Rinse a few times and you should be good. For extra help; heres a quick tutorial.

  • Bring to a boil your quinoa and beans in separate cooking pots. Quinoa absorbs very easily so if you want to add any aji or chili spices throw it in while its cooking. I use a 1:2 portion for water with the quinoa. Add salt to your preferance. You want your quinoa to be light a fluffy; too much water can make it very dense and overcooked. Heres a good resource for cooking the perfect quinoa.
    For the beans, I added just a dash of salt so it retains some extra flavor while cooking, and then strain them when they are nice and tender.

  • While your quinoa and beans are cooking, cut the tops off of your zapallitos. You only need to cut a small tip off, but enough to pierce the innards. 

  • Scoop all the innards out of your zapallitos with a small spoon. Dont be too aggressive as to not tear your new tiny bowls. Imagine like you are carving the insides of your Halloween pumpkin.
    Lots of people use the guts to use as part of the stuffing or for other recipes. I haven’t gotten quite there yet, so just throw away the extras for now! Sorry for wasting food.

  • Check back in with your quinoa! It should look similar to this; the seeds fully expanded with a tiny white ring around the outside. Almost all of the water should be evaporated by now; leaving the rest a nice smooth texture. You can always taste test to be sure.

  • When you beans are fully cooked and tender, mix in together the quinoa and corn. I used canned corn for this time just for timing purposes but I always prefer fresh corn. Throw over the burner for a few more minutes to heat up any excess water and to combine the flavors evenly. Add in any extra salt or spices to your liking.

Dont forget the cheese!
Obviously you can opt out of the cheese portion if you want a vegan recipe or cannot eat dairy. Or simply dont like cheese…weirdo.

  • Add a pinch of grated cheese on the bottom of your zapallito bowls. Press firmly (but gently) to pack all the cheese nice and tight to the bottom. Dont use all of it just yet, save some for the very end.

  • Fill those bad boys up! I used a small teaspoon to add a little at a time to make sure it all got in there nice and compact. Press down slightly with your spoon to add a little more room. Be careful not to overstuff or else your bowls will rip. 
    Leave a little room at the top; almost in a concave formation to leave space for your salsa and not causing it to overflow.

  • Use about a large spoonful to scoop out your salsa. I used both salsa and hot-sauce but you can make it as spicy or as mild as you want. Be careful not to overflow your bowls.

  • Preheat your oven to low heat. Place your zapallitos bowls into a glass or metal pan; making sure the are sitting upright and not tempted to fall over. Cook on low heat for about 45min-hour or until the zapallito is soft and tender…it might have a wrinkly appearance the longer its cooking.

  • Once they are done cooking, add extra cheese on top to get it nice and melty. Go ahead and turn off the heat, but leave them in the oven for about 5 more minutes. I mean…who doesn’t like extra cheese?

Ta daaa!
And they you have it, your own little zapallito mexican taco bowl. Add a small side of guac just because and enjoy yourself.
I hope you enjoy them, I did! It was my first time making them too so I am very excited to see what you all think. Leave your comments below!

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