You can never have too many spaghetti squash side dish recipes! Less than 10 minutes of active prep needed! This southwest version gets its flavor from smoky chipotle peppers and salty queso fresco.
Spaghetti squash side dish recipes are a “go to” around here. I first became smitten with this low carb squash when a good friend made this spinach and feta spaghetti squash recipe. It shook my world! Up until that point, squash was a bad word in my vocabulary. But the crunch of the al dente spaghetti squash strands changed my mind.
From there, I dove straight into the world of stuffed spaghetti squash, wooing my family over to the squash-loving world with Pesto Chicken Stuffed Spaghetti Squash and Vegetarian Enchilada Stuffed Spaghetti Squash. I even came up with a Thanksgiving leftovers version.
This easy version has a southwestern flair, thanks to a light dressing of chipotle peppers and olive oil, queso fresco (found in most grocery stores) and a good dose of minced cilantro.
What you need for this spaghetti squash side dish recipe:
These are the main components of this recipe (affiliate links included):
- Spaghetti squash: Look for a medium-sized spaghetti squash, about 3 pounds. Most grocery stores have scales in the produce section.
- Chipotle pepper: Chipotle peppers are sold in cans in adobo sauce and are typically found in the international aisle. For this recipe, you won’t need the adobo sauce, but don’t throw it out. It’s fantastic stirred into chili!
- Queso fresco: Queso fresco literally means “fresh cheese” in Spanish. In most supermarkets in the United States and Canada, it is served in a round block. Break off a piece and crumble it. It has a mild flavor with a nice hint of saltiness.
- Olive oil: Make a dressing of sorts by stirring together some olive oil with a minced chipotle pepper.
- Cilantro: Minced cilantro adds a wonderful fresh flavor to this side dish. If you’re not a fan of cilantro, use flat-leaf parsley instead.
Best way to cook spaghetti squash:
Preparing spaghetti squash couldn’t be easier! There are a few ways of ways to cook spaghetti squash and everyone seems to have their favorite.
Roasted or baked spaghetti squash
This is the favorite method of most cooks. It can be roasted whole or in halves, though I have the best results when the squash is cut in half and placed face down on a rimmed baking sheet. Scoop out the seeds first, rub the inside of the squash with olive oil and season it, then bake it cut side down in a 400 degree F oven for about 45 minutes.
In the microwave:
I admit that on busy nights, I often take the lazy route and microwave spaghetti squash. It produces surprisingly good results! Pierce the squash over with the tip of a sharp knife. Cook it in the microwave, turning halfway through. The cooking time will vary slightly dependent on the strength of your microwave. In my XX watt microwave, a 3-pound spaghetti squash typically cooks in about 12 minutes.
Once it’s cool enough to handle, cut the spaghetti squash using a large sharp knife. Scoop out and discard the seeds, then use a fork to scrape and twirl out the strands.
Why rings? You’ll get the longest strands of spaghetti squash. Using a large, sharp knife, cut the spaghetti squash into rings. Scoop out the seeds, brush both sides with olive oil (and season!) and place the rings on a baking sheet. Roast for about 40 minutes.
What to serve with this spaghetti squash side dish:
Serve it on the side of any southwestern or Mexican-inspired dishes. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Ground Turkey Enchilada Skillet Meal
- Southwest Ground Turkey Soup (Instant Pot)
- Southwestern Turkey Rice Casserole
- Salmon Tostadas
- Healthy White Chicken Chili
Frequently Asked Questions:
Yes! Let the spaghetti squash dish cool, then transfer to an airtight container. Store it in the fridge for up to 3 to 4 days.
There aren’t many ways to mess up this dish. Except for overcooking the spaghettis squash! When overcooked, the spaghetti squash strands become unpleasantly mushy and loses that fresh al dente texture that makes spaghetti squash so wonderful.
When cooking spaghetti squash whole, the skin should have a small amount of “give” when you press it. If the skin is collapsing inwards significantly, the squash is likely overcooked.
Queso fresco has a very mild flavor, but this dish is very versatile so a bolder cheese would work, too. Try cotija, feta or ricotta cheeses.
Spaghetti squash season typically beings in early fall and extends through the winter. Look for squash that are yellow and firm. Soft spots are a dealbreaker, so set those squash aside.
Southwest Spaghetti Squash Side Dish
- Using a large, sharp knife, pierce the spaghetti squash in several places.
- Place the spaghetti squash in a glass baking dish and cook in the microwave on high for 12 to 15 minutes (depending on the wattage of your microwave), turning the squash halfway through cooking. The skin should just have a bit of “give” when pressed. If it is collapsing inwards significantly, the squash is likely overcooked.
- Before handling, let the squash stand for 10 minutes. Cut it in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds and fibers. Using a fork, twist out strands of the spaghetti squash flesh and place in a large bowl.
- Place the chopped chipotle peppers in a small bowl and whisk in olive oil. Pour the olive oil mixture into the spaghetti squash and toss until combined.
- Add queso fresco cheese, cilantro, salt, and pepper to the spaghetti squash and toss again. Serve.
This post was first published on September 21, 2010. It was updated with new photos, tips and text on September 30, 2021.
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