Grilled Mexican Panzanella Salad with Chayote

Grilled Mexican Panzanella Salad with Chayote is a Latin inspired spin on the classic Tuscan bread salad. Grilled bread, corn, and chayote are combined with fresh tomatoes and queso fresco, and it all gets tossed with a yummy Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette!

Mexican Panzanella Salad with grilled chayote squash, corn, and bread, fresh tomatoes and a cilantro lime vinaigrette in a white bowl with a copper spoon.
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👩🏻‍🍳 Tamara Talks – Recipe Inspiration

I would venture to guess if you love to cook Mexican food, you have heard of Rick Bayless? The Food Network icon has authored several cookbooks including 2 in my collection – Mexican Everyday and Authentic Mexican.

I love Bayless’ fresh, healthyish approach to Mexican food. He emphasizes whole foods, chiles, fresh ingredients, and lots of flavor. His options go far beyond tacos, enchiladas, rellenos, and tamales. Yes, those delicious (not-so-healthy) dishes are beloved in the US, but Mexican food includes so much more… It is my aim to introduce my readers to new Mexican (Latin, global) dishes.

Back to Rick Bayless… I went looking for Mexican salads, and came across his
Chayote Salad with Tomato and Garlic Dressing. This was my “jumping off point.”

🥒 What is Chayote Squash?

Chayote squash (aka mirliton) is from the family Cucurbitaceae. In the US, people are more familiar with eating only the fruit, but the stems, seeds, roots, and leaves are edible as well. They are typically treated similarly to summer squash.

Grilled Mexican Panzanella Salad with Chayote uses only the fruit. I look for younger fruit with smooth skins. If the skin is smooth, I don’t peel them. While the seeds are edible, I have never eaten them. LOL.

Nutritional Profile

Nutritionally speaking, chayote are low in calories (only 19 per 100 grams raw), it is a rich source of dietary fiber, magnesium, vitamin c, potassium, phosphorus, and choline. Its folate content makes it a great choice for pregnant women. It contains no cholesterol and no unhealthy fats. What are you waiting for?

For more on chayote squash, see this article

Slice the chayote squash into 4 lengthwise sections. Using a sharp paring knife, remove the 1 large seed piece from each section.

Cut each section into 3-4 chunks. Toss with a little bit of sea salt, fresh ground pepper, and olive oil. Grill the chunks in a grill basket.

Ingredients for Grilled Mexican Panzanella Salad with Chayote from top clockwise: Bread cubes, queso fresco, corn on the cob, whole chayote, cilantro, heirloom tomatoes.

Salad

  • corn – Grilled fresh corn is fantastic in this salad, but you can use fresh or canned corn in a pinch.
  • sea salt, pepper, olive oil
  • chayote squash – Zucchini or other summer squash variety make good substitutes.
  • bread – We like a ciabatta roll. It cuts into cubes easily. Any crusty, firm bread will work.
  • tomatoes – I like heirloom or other flavorful tomatoes. Tiny tomatoes are a great option. Avoid flavorless grocery store tomatoes if possible.
  • cheese – Queso fresco is my recommendation. Panela, mozzarella, and similar make good substitutes.

Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette

  • cilantro
  • jalapeños
  • garlic – Use fresh minced garlic or roasted garlic for the best flavor.
  • limes
  • vinegar – Sherry vinegar is my recommendation, but any smooth, mild vinegar is fine – white or red wine vinegar, champagne, etc.
  • dijon mustard
  • sweetener – I use agave nectar or honey
  • olive oil
  • sea salt and fresh ground pepper

Because this salad is served room temperature, it’s flexible. Most importantly, you want to toss the vinaigrette, grilled bread cubes, and veggies just prior to serving! The corn takes 15-20 minutes to grill (depending on size), and the squash about half that.

  1. Start the grilled corn – Preheat grill to medium-high. Lay each piece of corn on a sheet of foil large enough to wrap it up. Drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Wrap. Place on the grill. Turn after about 8-9 minutes. Our small corn was perfectly charred in about 15 minutes.
  2. Make the vinaigrette – Meanwhile, finish any prep and make the Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette. Add all vinaigrette ingredients to a processor or blender, and pulse until smooth.
  3. Grill the squash – Toss the chayote chunks with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. Add to a grill basket, and grill until tender when pierced with a fork. Chunks should have some caramelization (grill marks). This may take about 10 minutes.
  4. Grill the bread – When the chayote is done, using the same grill basket, grill the ciabatta cubes (stir regularly). They will cook quickly. Keep a close eye on them!
  5. Assemble the salad – When ciabatta, corn, and chayote are all grilled, toss them with the tomatoes, queso fresco or cotija, and desired amount of the Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette.
All of the ingredients for the Grilled Mexican Panzanella Salad with Chayote ready to be tossed. From top clockwise: Grilled chayote cubes in a purple bowl, Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette, queso fresco cubes, tomato cubes, cilantro, grilled corn.

How long will the vinaigrette last?

I keep homemade dressings in my refrigerator up to 2 weeks, but I make small batches and use them more quickly.

How long will the leftover salad keep?

If you don’t have soggy bread, it is really good for 2-3 days in the refrigerator. If you are planning on leftovers, remove them from the salad bowl before tossing with the bread.

💭 Tips

🥗 Substitutions

  • Omit the bread cubes and queso fresco, and add roasted peppers (poblano, anaheim, bell) for a gluten free, vegan, and low calorie option
  • Replace the chayote squash with zucchini or crook neck squash, and add fresh oregano and scallions
  • For a winter version, try butternut squash and sun dried tomatoes in place of the chayote squash and fresh tomatoes.

This Mexican Panzanella Salad will serve 2 as a light supper or 4 as a side dish. Isn’t it time to heat up that grill that has been idle for too long?

Signature in red and green with chiles and limes.

Grilled Mexican Panzanella Salad in a white ceramic bowl with a copper serving spoon

Grilled Mexican Panzanella Salad with Chayote

Grilled chayote and sweet corn, grilled bread cubes, fresh heirloom tomatoes, queso fresco all tossed with a cilantro lime vinaigrette!
5 from 2 votes

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Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Side Dishes
Cuisine Mexican
Servings 2 servings
Calories 242 kcal

Ingredients
  

Panzanella Salad

  • 2 ears fresh corn - shucked
  • sea salt - pepper, olive oil
  • 1 chayote squash - cut in chunks (see post for more info)
  • 1 ciabatta roll - cut in large cubes
  • 1 large or 2 small heirloom or other flavorful tomatoes - cubed
  • 2 ounces queso fresco - cut in cubes

Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette

  • 1 cup cilantro leaves
  • 1 or 2 jalapeños, minced (remove stems and seeds!)
  • 3 cloves garlic - roasted if possible
  • 2 limes - juiced
  • 1 tablespoon sherry or white wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon dijon mustard
  • ½ teaspoon agave nectar
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • sea salt and fresh ground pepper

Instructions

Mexican Panzanella Salad

  • Preheat grill to medium-high.
  • Lay each piece of corn on a sheet of foil large enough to wrap it up. Drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Wrap. Place on the grill. Turn after about 8-9 minutes. Our small corn was perfectly charred in about 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, finish any prep and make the Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette.
  • Toss the chayote chunks with a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. Add to a grill basket, and grill until tender when pierced with a fork. Chunks should have some caramelization (grill marks). This may take about 10 minutes.
  • When the chayote is done, using the same grill basket, grill the ciabatta cubes (stir regularly). They will cook quickly. Keep a close eye on them!
  • When ciabatta, corn, and chayote are all grilled, toss them with the tomatoes, queso fresco, and desired amount of the Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette.

Notes

The vinaigrette keeps well in the refrigerator for a week or so. We tend to go light on salad dressing, and only use part of it.
Macronutrients are an approximation only from MyFitnessPal.com, and include about 1/4 cup of the vinaigrette.

Nutrition

Calories: 242kcal | Carbohydrates: 24g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 15g

NOTE: Macronutrients are an approximation only using unbranded ingredients and MyFitnessPal.com. Please do your own research with the products you’re using if you have a serious health issue or are following a specific diet.

Did you make this recipe? Please leave a comment and/or star rating! Email us with any questions: tamara@beyondmeresustenance.com

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