Chayote, also known as mirliton or cho-cho, is a type of squash that is popular in Latin American and Caribbean cuisines. It has a light green skin and a white, mild-tasting flesh. Chayote can be cooked in many ways – boiled, fried, baked, or added to soups and stews. But before cooking chayote, many people wonder if you need to peel it first. There are pros and cons to peeling chayote, and whether you need to do it largely depends on the recipe and your personal preferences.
Do you have to peel chayote?
Peeling chayote before cooking is optional. The skin is entirely edible, so it’s not necessary to remove it. However, some people choose to peel chayote for the following reasons:
Peeling gives chayote a more refined, uniform look when cooked. The pale green skin can sometimes look unappetizing or clash with other ingredients in a dish.
The skin is a bit tougher and more fibrous than the tender flesh. Peeling chayote can make the texture more pleasant, creamy, and smooth.
Chayote skin has a slightly grassier, earthier taste than the flesh. Peeling removes any bitterness or strong “green” flavors.
For some people, peeling makes chayote easier to digest. The high fiber skin may cause intestinal issues like gas or bloating.
So in summary, peeling chayote is not strictly necessary, but it can improve the appearance, texture, flavor, and digestibility in some recipes. It’s a matter of personal preference.
When should you peel chayote?
Here are some guidelines on when peeling chayote is recommended:
When eating raw
Chayote is often eaten raw in salads and slaws. Peeling is recommended for easier chewing and digesting.
When cooking whole
If boiling, baking, or roasting a whole chayote, peel for a more tender result.
For purees or mashed chayote
Peeling gives a silkier texture and smoother consistency.
For soups and stews
Peel for a more refined appearance and velvety texture.
When adding to delicate dishes
If adding chayote to light, subtle dishes like seafood, peel to avoid overpowering flavors.
When appearance matters
For festive occasions or elegant plated meals, peel for a polished look.
When digestive issues are a concern
Peel to remove the fibrous skin if bowl problems tend to occur.
So in dishes where texture and appearance matter most, peeling the chayote is usually preferable. But it’s fine to leave the skin on for heartier stews, casseroles, and stir fries.
When can you leave the skin on?
Here are some instances when peeling is unnecessary:
For stews and braises
The skin softens with prolonged cooking and adds fiber.
For stir fries
The skin crisps up nicely and isn’t noticeable.
When adding to smoothies
The skin blends smoothly into the drink.
In casseroles or gratins
The other ingredients and flavors mask the skin.
When roasting wedges or chunks
The skin gets browned and crispy.
For added nutrition
The skin contains beneficial fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
When time is limited
Skipping peeling saves prep time.
For added texture
The skin can provide a nice contrast of crispness.
So for quicker cooking methods like stir frying or when appearance doesn’t matter, leaving the skin on is fine. It can enhance nutrition while saving time.
How to peel chayote
Peeling chayote is simple:
1. Wash the chayote
Thoroughly wash the chayote under cool running water while gently scrubbing with a vegetable brush. This removes any dirt or debris. Pat dry with a towel.
2. Trim the ends
Trim just a thin slice off the stem and blossom ends. This creates flat, stable surfaces for easier peeling.
3. Peel with a vegetable peeler or paring knife
A swivel or Y-shaped vegetable peeler works best to remove the thin green skin. Take long strokes from top to bottom, rotating as you go. You can also use a sharp paring knife. Be sure to remove all the green bits.
4. Chop, slice, or cut as desired
Once peeled, the chayote can be diced, sliced, or cut into chunks depending on the recipe. Keep a bowl of acidulated water nearby to prevent browning.
5. Use immediately or store
For best quality and texture, use the peeled chayote right away. If storing, place in an airtight container and refrigerate up to 5 days.
Peeling chayote takes just a minute or two once you get the hang of it. The key is using the right peeling tool and removing all traces of the green skin.
Can you eat chayote skin?
Yes, the chayote skin is entirely edible. It contains beneficial fiber, vitamins, and minerals. The skin is not toxic, harmful, or dangerous to eat in any way. However, some find it tough, fibrous, and unpleasant. Whether or not to eat the chayote skin comes down to texture preference and the cooking method used. For example:
The crisp raw skin is often peeled since it can be chewy and hard to digest.
The skin softens but can still have a mushy, stringy texture.
Frying makes the skin tender with a crispy, crunchy exterior.
Roasting also crisps up the skin nicely.
Long cooking tenderizes the skin into a soft, edible state.
So while the skin can be eaten, peeling it first typically improves the texture and appearance for most cooked applications. But leaving it on works well for stews, stir-fries, roasted chayote, and other long-cooked dishes.
Chayote skin nutrition
Here is the nutrition breakdown for a 1-cup serving of raw chayote skin:
|5g (22% DV)
As you can see, chayote skin is low calorie but packs a good amount of fiber, vitamin C, folate, and magnesium. The fiber helps support digestive and heart health. Vitamin C boosts immunity and aids collagen production. Folate is important for red blood cell formation and DNA synthesis. And magnesium benefits bone strength, muscle function, mood, and energy levels.
So while the skin may not be as tender as the flesh, keeping it on provides extra nutrition and health perks.
Tips for working with chayote skin
Here are some tips for prepping and cooking chayote skin:
– Use a sharp knife
A dull knife can tear or shred the skin, making it harder to peel off.
– Peel just before cooking
For maximum freshness, peel right before adding to your dish.
– Fry or roast for crispy skin
Frying or roasting helps crisp up the skin nicely.
– Simmer in stews to soften
Low and slow cooking tenderizes the skin.
– Embrace the color
The green skin can add a pop of color to otherwise pale dishes.
– Add acid for anti-browning
A splash of lemon juice prevents oxidation when preparing peeled chayote.
– Store peeled chayote in water
Submerging peeled pieces in acidulated water keeps them from browning.
With the proper tools and techniques, the chayote skin can become tender and delicious or be easily removed if desired.
Common questions about peeling chayote
Here are answers to some frequently asked questions:
Is it necessary to peel chayote?
No, peeling is optional since the skin is edible. It can be left on for many cooked dishes. But peeling does improve the texture and appearance for some recipes.
What’s the easiest way to peel chayote?
A swivel or Y-shaped vegetable peeler works great. Take long strokes from top to bottom all around the chayote. A paring knife also works.
Can you cook chayote with skin on?
Yes, the skin can be left on for roasting, stewing, boiling, and stir frying. It softens and becomes tender when cooked.
Is chayote skin healthy to eat?
Yes, the skin provides beneficial fiber, vitamin C, folate, magnesium and other nutrients. It can be consumed, but some find it tough.
Does chayote skin taste different than the flesh?
The skin has a slightly tougher, more fibrous texture. The flavor is earthier, grassier, and more bitter than the flesh.
Should you peel chayote for soup?
It’s recommended to peel chayote for soups for a more velvety texture and refined appearance. But it’s not strictly necessary.
Can you eat raw chayote skin?
The raw skin is very tough and fibrous, so it’s best to peel chayote if eating raw.
So in summary, peeling chayote is optional depending on your texture preference and recipe. The skin can be consumed but peeling improves the tenderness for most cooked dishes.
Substitutes for chayote
If you can’t find fresh chayote, there are a few suitable vegetable substitutes:
Jicama is a sweet, crunchy tuber with pale flesh that absorbs flavors well. It has a similarly mild, nutty taste. Use raw in place of chayote.
Firm, ripe pears have a comparable crisp, juicy texture. They work for cooked applications.
Zucchini matches the mildness of chayote and has a similarly firm, moist bite.
Daikon is crisp and juicy with a faint sweet-peppery flavor. Use raw or cooked.
Tart green apples have a firm bite and stand up well to cooking.
When swapping, be mindful of moisture content. Reduce added liquids slightly since chayote has high water content. Overall, jicama and daikon radish make the closest substitutes in both raw and cooked recipes.
How to cook chayote
Chayote is incredibly versatile in the kitchen. Here are some of the most popular ways to cook chayote:
Roast wedges or chunks tossed with oil, spices, and herbs at 400°F until browned and tender, around 15-20 minutes.
Dice chayote and sauté in butter or oil over medium-high heat until lightly browned and fork-tender.
Cut into chunks and steam until just tender, 10-15 minutes. Toss with spices, herbs, oil or sauce.
Simmer whole, halved, or chopped chayote in salted water until easily pierced with a fork.
Stir-fry matchstick strips or diced chayote with aromatics and sauce for a quick veggie side.
Added to soups/stews
Simmer chunks or wedges of chayote in soups and stews until fully tender.
Grill thick wedges over medium heat until charred and tender, brushed with oil.
Bake whole stuffed chayote or casseroles with chayote at 350°F until fork-tender.
The key is not to overcook chayote to a mushy texture. Cook just until barely fork-tender for the best flavor and bite.
Chayote Recipe Ideas
Here are some delicious ways to use fresh chayote:
Chayote squash salad
Thinly slice chayote and toss with mixed greens, shredded carrot, nuts, and citrus vinaigrette.
Shred raw chayote and combine with thinly sliced cabbage, red onion, cilantro, jalapeño, and lime juice.
Saute chayote with onion and seasonings. Serve in warmed corn tortillas with toppings like cotija cheese and guacamole.
Simmer chayote, potatoes, onion, garlic, broth, and seasonings for a comforting soup.
Halve chayote lengthwise and bake stuffed with a mixture of cooked rice, cheese, herbs, and meat.
Thinly slice chayote and layer in a cheesy béchamel sauce. Top with more cheese and breadcrumbs and bake.
Chayote stir fry
Stir fry matchstick cut chayote with chicken or tofu, bell peppers, and a ginger soy sauce. Serve over rice.
Chayote salsa verde
Boil, peel and chop chayote. Add to a tomatillo salsa with chiles, cilantro, and lime.
Chayote keeps best in the refrigerator:
– Whole chayote keeps 1-2 weeks in the crisper drawer.
– Cut chayote should be tightly wrapped and keeps for 5 days.
– Store in water to prevent browning. Drain before using.
– Chayote can also be frozen: blanch pieces for 2-3 minutes, cool, and freeze in airtight bags up to 3 months.
The ideal storage temperature is 45-50°F. Avoid overripening as chayote will become soft and lose flavor. Cook within several days of purchasing for best texture and taste.
While peeling chayote squash is optional, it does yield a more tender, elegant result in many cooked preparations. The skin can be left on for stews, stir fries, and other long-cooked recipes quite successfully however. Just be sure to cook the squash until perfectly fork-tender. Chayote has a very mild flavor that pairs well with both savory and sweet ingredients. It can be swapped for pears or jicama in recipes. Store chayote in the fridge and cook within several days for optimum freshness and texture. With its versatility and nutrition, chayote is a tasty, nutritious addition to any meal.