Recipes – № 12

Winter Squash Tacos

Winter Squash is coming home

You might not usually associate winter squash with tacos or Mexican food in general, but winter squash, along with their pumpkin, summer squash and cucumber cousins (and seemingly every other delicious plant ever tasted by mankind), originated in Central and South America. I stumbled across the idea of using winter squash in tacos when I picked up two Native American heirloom squash, a calabaza Mexicana and a Chimayo calabaza at the market. According to the farmer, her Mexican workers had planted the squash for their own nourishment, to be eaten “in tacos, like everything else”. I found this particular recipe on the Food Network website and have adapted it only slightly. I have no idea whether it would meet the approval of Mexican farm hands or whether it's even really Mexican. It's at least Mexican-ish though and more importantly it's delicious. Better yet, it works with any kind of winter squash or pumpkin, sweet or not.

Note that’s it’s best, though not crucial, to pickle the shallots a day or more in advance. You will have leftover pickled shallots but they keep for up to two weeks in the fridge. You can use them to add a gentle kick to anything from cheese sandwiches to grilled meats.

Serves 4

2 to 2.5 lbs of winter squash or pumpkin, skin-on, with seeds. Any variety will do. This should translate into a little less than 2 lbs without the skin or seeds.

½ tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground cumin

Freshly ground black pepper

2 Tbsp olive oil

1 tsp fine sea salt

8 soft corn tortillas

1-2 green serrano or green jalapeño peppers (optional)

A handful of cilantro sprigs

½ cup of crème fraîche or sour cream

1 lime 


1 recipe pickled shallots


1 recipe refried black turtle beans


Reheat the refried black turtle beans over a low flame and stir occasionally. Cut open the winter squash or pumpkin, remove the seeds and peel with a vegetable peeler or knife. Dice into ½ inch cubes. Heat a large cast iron skillet (or a non-stick frying pan if that’s what you have) over medium-high heat. When the pan is quite hot, add the olive oil and then the squash or pumpkin. Toss the cubes in the hot oil and add the salt, ground black pepper, cinnamon and cumin. Sautee, stirring occasionally, until the squash or pumpkin is browned and soft but not mushy, around 10-15 minutes.

Slice some of the pickled shallots, clean the cilantro, cut the lime into 8 wedges and chop the peppers. Heat the fresh or frozen corn tortillas individually on a dry hot skillet for a few seconds each. Top the tacos with refried black beans, sautéed winter squash/pumpkin, crème fraîche/sour cream, sliced pickled shallots, peppers and cilantro sprigs (in that order) and serve each taco with a lime wedge.

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