- Food and Cooking
Chayote Health Benefits & Recipes
C is for chayote, and choko, and chouchou
Whether you call it a christophine, choko, merleton or pear squash, you're sure to appreciate its creamy, dense texture, versatility and health benefits.
Do you eat chayote? If you don't, you'll soon know how to prepare it by following the simple instructions on this page.
If you do, there are plenty of sweet and savoury recipes to be found that will make you love chayotes even more.
You'll also find out how this vegetable pear can fade scars, replace apples and help the survivors of natural disasters. Enjoy!
Fresh chayotes - shipped to your door!
If you can't find this fabulous vegetable near you, you can have it delivered to your door within 2 days with the click of a button.
Fresh chayote is edible raw or cooked, in pickles, curries, stir-fries and even desserts. And chayotes are really easy to grow. Simply reserve one fresh fruit aside for a few weeks, and it will sprout. You are now ready to grow your own chayote vine and enjoy it whenever you like.
Fresh, versatile chayotes shipped to you if you can't find them locally.
What do you call the green fruit in the picture above?
What's the big deal about chayotes?
News correspondent Arthur L. Allad-iw described it as "hanging green gold" due to its amazing versatility and range of uses, and he's not alone in his appreciation of the fruit. Known to botanists as Sechium edule, and widely used in regional cuisines from Mexico to Vietnam and everywhere in-between, its mild taste makes it suitable for any dish.
Chayote can be boiled, stuffed, mashed, steamed, grilled, baked, fried, or pickled, and eaten raw in salads. Its dense texture and neutral taste make it a fantastic replacement for people who limit their consumption of potatoes. And although it's the fruit that is most well-known, all parts of the vine can be used. The shoots and leaves are delicious, with the crispness of green beans and the deep, green taste you'd expect from spinach.
In the Philippines, it is prized due to its economic value and resilient character. The crop has been found to be an excellent soil restorer, and especially hardy in gullies where it grows profusely. In fact, damaged gullies in Sto. Nio were completely rehabilitated after the introduction of chayote canopies. It is also used as a recovery food after natural disasters. 250tons of the cucurbit was delivered to victims after the 1991 eruption of Mt Pinatubo, for instance.
Chayote health benefits
A chayote a day keeps the doctor away
The chayote is well-known to contain medicinal properties.
- An infusion made with the leaves can be used to lower blood pressure, treat arteriosclerosis and soften kidney stones.
- Tea made with the flesh is used as a diuretic and to reduce bloating
- Has cell-regenerative properties. As an example, the mummies of people from the Colombian town of San Bernardo are known for their perfectly preserved flesh and skin. They consumed very high amounts of chayote.
- The raw fruit can be grated and used under a bandage to reduce swelling, bruises and inflammation
- The white sap obtained when peeling the fruit can be applied to new scars to help fade them
- Regular consumption may help avoid muscle cramps, improve memory, prevent acne, and maintain good thyroid health
It contains amino acids, thiamine, calcium, riboflavin, sodium, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin B6, folate, zinc, copper, manganese, niacin, pantothenic acid, magnesium and potassium. The chayote is also very low in saturated fat and cholesterol, but high in dietary fibre.
Drink chayote tea for its health benefits
Make your own healthy chayote tea
Making chayote tea is easy when you can find powdered chayote. Made from dried leaves and flesh of the cucurbit, just add the powder to hot water and leave to infuse. It couldn't be simpler!
Drink this tea for its amazing anti-inflammatory effects, anti-diuretic properties and ability to reduce kidney stones and blood pressure.
Powdered chayoteCHECK PRICE
Did you know?
In Australia, the chayote has been used as a replacement for stewed apples for years, to cut costs and use up a high-yielding vine. Rumour has it that McDonald's apple pies are made with 'chokos', but the fast food giant denies it.
Preparing your chayote - tips for handling the sticky sap
You'll be very grateful you read these tips before tackling your first chayote.
- The fruit has a sticky 'milk' under the skin that will dry out and leave a film on your hands. To combat this, halve the chayote, then rub the halves together in a circular motion. The milk will pool together. Rinse well, then continue peeling.
- You can also peel the fruit under running water, or wear gloves
- Once peeled and chopped, the fruit will last a week or two in the fridge, so prepare several at a time and keep in a plastic bag or closed container. This reduces the prep time for recipes.
- Because it has many ridges and folds, it's easier to quarter the fruit before peeling
- Another tip is to cook the fruit whole, then blanch in icy water. The skin should come off easily.
- Young, tender fruits can be prepared with the skin on, but older ones have plastic-y skin that is fibrous and inedible.
- 2 large chayotes
- 1/2 cup fried & crumbled bacon or french lardons
- 1 red onion
- 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp sherry / white wine / apple cider vinegar
- 1/8 tsp fine sea salt
- Peel the chayotes and cut into bite-size pieces. Boil or steam until tender but still firm (between 5 - 10 minutes depending on age of fruit). Drain and let cool. Thinly slice onions and put into a salad bowl along with salt and vinegar. Mix and let sit 5 minutes. Add olive oil, mustard and thyme leaves. Add chayote and bacon, then combine and serve.
Chicken Tinola - A comforting Filipino soup
- 1 Tbsp cooking oil
- 1 onion
- 4 cloves peeled garlic
- 1 piece (1 1/2 inches) peeled & thinly sliced fresh ginger
- 1 Tbsp fish sauce
- 3 pounds chicken legs & thighs
- 28 ounces / 800mL chicken broth
- 2 peeled and cubed chayotes
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 head cleaned and chopped bok choy
- 1 pepper leaf (optional)
- In a heavy-bottomed pot, heat the oil and brown the chicken. Add the onions, fry until softened, then add the fish sauce, ginger and garlic. Pour over the chicken broth and add the pepper leaf, then cook another 5 minutes with a closed lid. Add the chayote and cook a further 10 minutes until the chicken is cooked and chayote is tender. Add the bok choy, and take off the heat when it is barely wilted. Serve hot.
Caramelised chayote tart - You'll swear you're eating apples
- 1 shortcrust pastry
- 3 small peeled chayotes
- 3 cloves
- 1/2 cinnamon stick
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1/8 cup lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp butter
- Line a tart tray with shortcrust pastry, and blind bake until golden. Boil the chayotes with the cloves and cinnamon until tender, then drain and cool. Slice thinly. Layer the slices in the tart tray, alternating each layer with brown sugar and lemon juice. Spread butter on top and finish with a generous sprinkle of sugar. Bake at 180C / 350F for around 30 minutes until golden.
Chayote and orange salad with miso ginger vinaigrette
This would make a great lunch: comforting, yet light and fresh.
Stuffed Mirlitons - This southern USA classic is great for festive meals
- 4 large chayotes halved lengthways
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 1/2 pound chopped shrimp
- 1/2 pound chopped smoked ham
- 4 cloves crushed garlic
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1 pinch thyme
- 1 pinch oregano
- 1 pinch cayenne pepper
- 1/2 cup evaporated milk
- 1/2 cup chopped green onions
- 1 cup breadcrumbs
- 1 cup water or shrimp broth
- Boil the chayotes in water to cover for 1/2 hour, or until soft. Drain the water and let them cool. Meanwhile heat your oven to 350F / 180C and grease a large baking dish with butter.
- When the chayotes have cooled, take out the seeds carefully and eat them (they're delicious!). Scoop out the flesh, leaving about 1/4" / 5mm all around. Chop the flesh and put it in a bowl, setting the shells aside.
- Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shrimp, ham, garlic and spices. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the chayote flesh, milk, onion, green onion, and 1/2 cup of the bread crumbs. Cook for 5 more minutes, stirring well. Remove the skillet from the heat and spoon the mixture into the shells. Top each of the filled shells with about 1 tablespoon of the bread crumbs.
- Put the chayotes in the baking dish and pour the stock into the dish around them.
- Bake, uncovered for 1/2 an hour.
Hungry for more?
This fruit features in traditional dishes from around the world, from Daube Chouchou to Su Su Xao Tom.
Poached vanilla bean chayotes - A twist on poached pears
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 vanilla pod split lenghtways
- 4 small peeled & halved chayotes
- ice-cream (optional)
- chocolate sauce (optional)
- slivered toasted almonds (optional)
- In a medium saucepan, bring water to boil with sugar and vanilla. When sugar is dissolved, add the chayote halves, and simmer on a very low heat until soft (about 20mins depending on age of fruit). Serve warm or cold with ice-cream, chocolate sauce and toasted slivered almonds.
Tender chayote shoots
photo credit: CIAT International Center for Tropical Agriculture via photo pin cc
The shoots and leaves need to be cleaned and sorted out before use. Pick off the curly tendrils and tough stalks, then rinse well. You're now ready to cook! My favourite way to prepare the shoots is in a simple stir-fry with lots of chopped garlic and some sesame oil. Make sure not to overcook.
South Indian chayote curry - Vegetarians & meat lovers will both love this filling dish
- 2 chayotes
- 2 large potatoes
- 2 carrots
- 1/2 cup cooked chickpeas
- 1 Tbsp ghee or vegetable oil
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 3 curry leaves
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1/4 tsp rock salt
- 1 Tbsp grated coconut
- 2 green chillies
- Peel and dice all vegetables into roughly the same size. In a sauce pan, heat the ghee & add the curry leaves, cumin & mustard seeds. When the seeds are fragrant & popping, add the turmeric, vegetables and chickpeas. Cook, covered for around 15 minutes. Meanwhile, crush the chillies, salt and coconut in a mortar and pestle until a paste is formed. Stir the paste into the cooked curry. Serve with naan or chapatis and a yogurt sauce.
Make sure your spice cabinet is stocked before trying out these recipes.
Prep Time: 15
Total Time: 25
Beef and chayote stir-fry - This lovely dish from Vietnam is easy enough for a weeknight
- 200 g / 7 oz thinly sliced beef
- 2 peeled and thinly sliced chayotes
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 4 spring onions
- cut into finger-length pieces
- 1 Tbsp crushed garlic
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 2 Tbsp fish sauce
- 1/2 tsp freshly-ground pepper to taste
- 1 Tbsp light soy sauce
- 1 finely sliced red chilli
- 1 small handfull Thai basil
- Marinate the beef in half the sugar, fish sauce and pepper for at least 10 minutes. Mix the soy sauce with the chillies. In a very hot wok, heat the oil and cook beef for one minute. Set aside. In the same wok, stir-fry the chayote with remaining sugar and fish sauce, and the garlic and ginger. Cover and cook for around 5 minutes until tender but still firm. Add the spring onions and cooked beef, then serve immediately. Serve with white rice and the soy-chilli sauce and basil leaves spooned over the top.
These look delicious!
Achard Chouchou - This quick pickle from Reunion Island is spicy, zesty and crunchy
Prep Time: 10
Total Time: 20
Serves: 8 as a side dish
- 3 chayotes
- 3 red onions
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1 small piece ginger root
- 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
- 5 small chillies
- 1 Tbsp white vinegar
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
- salt & pepper to taste
- Peel the chayotes, and cut into finger-length strips. Thinly slice the onions & crush the garlic and ginger. In a frying pan, heat the oil and fry the onions until translucent. Add the garlic and ginger, then the turmeric and cook until fragrant. Add the chayote and stir-fry for around 5 minutes. The fruit should be cooked, but crisp. Add the chillies, either crushed or thinly sliced. When mixture is cool, add the vinegar and chill in fridge before serving with meat and rice.
Gratin Chouchou - Another Reunion Island specialty
A lighter version of the traditional potato gratin that's just as good as the original. Add cubes of bacon or smoked salmon if you're feeling fancy.
- 1 kg / 2 lbs chayotes
- 1 Tbsp flour
- 1 Tbsp butter
- 1/2 cup milk
- 4 crushed garlic cloves
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup grated cheese (I use emmental)
- 2 Ttbsp bread crumbs
- Salt & pepper to taste
- Peel & dice the chayotes. In a pot, boil the chayote pieces with salt, 1 clove garlic and thyme until tender. Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F. Prepare a bechamel sauce: cook the flour and butter, add the milk and whisk until thickened but still pourable. Add remaining 3 cloves of garlic, plus salt and pepper. Drain the cooked chayote, pour into oiled gratin tray and cover with bechamel sauce. Sprinkle cheese and breadcrumbs on top, then bake for around 30 minutes until golden.
Gateau Chouchou au Chocolat - My own recipe, based on traditional Reunion Island chayote cake
This cake has the texture of a baked custard with the delicate taste of vanilla.
- 3 large peeled & diced chayotes
- 3 eggs
- 1 cup raw sugar
- 3/4 cup flour
- 1/2 vanilla pod
- 125 g cubed butter
- 100 g dark chocolate
- Boil or steam the chayote untli tender, then drain and cool. In a blender or food processor, combine chayote with butter and eggs. Blend until completely smooth. Add sugar & flour and mix to combine. Using a sharp knife, split the vanilla pod lenghtways and scrape the beans into the chayote mixture (Keep the split pod and add to your sugar jar for great-smelling sugar!). In a glass bowl over a pot of boiling water, melt the chocolate. When melted, swirl into rest of mixture in the baking dish. Bake at 180C / 350F for around 50 minutes until the edges are golden. Let cool completely before serving.
'Chouchous' at the march St Paul, Reunion Island
Did you know?
'Chouchou' is a term of endearment in French, to signify the favourite person in a group.
The chayote vine is a climbing plant that will grow onto anything and can easily rise as high as 12 meters. Its leaves are heart-shaped, 10-25 cm wide and the stems are covered with tendrils. If the plant is male, the cream-coloured flowers will show in clusters.
Sechium edule is viviparous. The seeds must germinate inside the fruit, and cannot be dried to save for later. Therefore, in order to plant chayote you need to have access to the fresh fruit.
Sprouting is easy and would make a great science project for children. Simply leaving the fruit for several weeks on the counter will lead it to sprout, athough you can speed up the process by putting the fruit seed-down in a container of water.
You can then place the sprouted fruit in a corner of the garden (no need to dig a hole unless you want to) and, if the weather is warm enough you'll have home-grown chayotes in no time. The vine needs 150 days between frosts in order to grow properly. But even when the cold damages the green growth, the root will stay alive underground and your plant will grow again when the frost is over. You can, of course try to plant it annually or in a greenhouse if you live in a particularly cold area.