The chayote is an unusual looking fruit that has the appearance of a wrinkled-up pear. In cooking, it is treated as a vegetable and is delicious added to casseroles, stews, eaten raw in salads, or sautéed in butter. Chayotes are a part of the gourd family that includes squashes, melons, and cucumbers. Their flavor is mild, fresh, and slightly sweet, with a crisp crunch - a little like of cucumber.
If chayotes are out of season or they aren't grown in your part of the world, then you're going to need an alternative ingredient. We've compiled a list of our favorite chayote substitutes so that you can get that recipe finished without them. Most of the vegetables on this page are everyday ingredients which can be found in most supermarkets, so long as they are in season. Let's take a look at your best options.
Recommended chayote substitutes
We recommend zucchini as your first choice for replacing a chayote in your cooking. They have a mild flavor which is slightly bitter and sweet. Although they can be eaten raw, they are delicious when cooked - their taste sweetens and they develop a richer mouthfeel. Zucchinis are a lot like a blank canvas that can take on the flavors of the other ingredients in the dish.
Zucchini does have some subtle differences when compared to a chayote. Its flavor is stronger with a slightly softer texture and higher water content. You will need to cook zucchini for a few minutes longer than you would a chayote, so keep this in mind if you are following a recipe.
2. Green papaya
The green papaya is a common papaya that hasn't been given the chance to ripen yet. When picked early, the fruit can be used as a vegetable in the kitchen. When slicing into green papaya, you will notice the texture is foamy with a crisp flesh that has very little taste. The raw fruit is excellent used in Thai salads or any other salad that benefits from a crispy element. Green papaya can also be sauteed in butter or steamed to enhance its sweetness and soften it a little.
An unripened papaya can be used in any recipe that calls for chayote. However, you may discover this ingredient is also hard to find at your local store. If you can't get it locally, then keep in mind there are various online stores selling them.
Related reading: how do I replace papaya in a recipe?
The cucuzza, also known as bottle gourd, is a type of squash that is great for replacing chayote. Look for young squash, that offer a mildly nutty, rich squash flavor. They can best be compared to a mix of zucchini and cucumber and will work in most recipes that call for cooked chayote.
Although cucuzza can be eaten raw, it is usually best cooked. They contain small seeds that are edible when young, but should be discarded before eating once matured.
4. Yellow Crookneck Squash
The yellow crookneck squash is a variety which produces yellow-skinned fruits that are long and bumpy with thin necks. They have flesh that is firm and white like chayotes and will do a good job of replacing them in cooking. Although they do have a more buttery flavor, most people wouldn't notice once added to other ingredients.
The kohlrabi is a juicy and crisp vegetable that is mild and slightly sweet in flavor. We talked a lot about this vegetable in a previous article which is well worth reading, so check out our kohlrabi article here.
Use this vegetable raw in salads or cook them in the same way that you would chayotes. They do have a little more flavor though, with hints of radish and cabbage coming through. To tone this flavor down, you may want to replace chayote with a 50/50 mix of kohlrabi and a summer squash of your choice.
Kohlrabi is a very healthy option well worth adding to your food. It contains approximately twice the dietary fiber and protein that you would get from chayotes and four times the amount of vitamin E.
6. Pattypan squash
The pattypan squash can come in a range of colors including white yellow or green. They are a versatile ingredient that can be used in a wide range of summer recipes. Use them fried, grilled, oven-roasted, sliced thinly into salads raw, or even added to desserts!
Look for young, new season pattypan squash for the most tender, mild option. The older, more mature squashes are better for stuffing.
7. Fuzzy Melon
The fuzzy melon is a vegetable lettuce native to Southeast Asia and Chinese cuisine. It is a type of gourd that looks similar to a zucchini that is covered in fuzz. This melon is mild in taste and is commonly used in stirfries, soups, steamed, or stuffed. If you're in a pinch and can't find any other items on this page then the fuzzy melon will make a suitable chayote backup option.
The fuzzy melon can also be used to replace winter melons in cooking.
Fast facts about chayotes
- They are round or pear-shaped with prickly, hairy, or smooth light green skin.
- The perennial climbing vine is commonly grown in tropical and subtropical locations throughout the world.
- In cooking, it is popular in Caribbean, Cajun, North African, Asian, and Latin American cuisine.
- The chayote has a subtle flavor with a sweetness that pairs well with ingredients like garlic, chili, red pepper, cilantro, and scallions. It also works well with rich ingredients like cheese, bacon, coconut milk, and butter.
- Chayotes are also known as choko, custard marrow, chocho, chow-chow, miltilon, vegetable pear, and christophene.
- They are growing in popularity in the keto community and can be used to make an apple pie or crumble without the apples. In vegan cooking, they make a great meat substitute in Mexican tacos.
The chayote has a pleasant mild taste with a crispy texture that works well in many dishes. If you don't have any in the kitchen then your best option is to replace it with zucchini, green papaya, cucuzza, yellow crookneck squash, kohlrabi, pattypan squash, or fuzzy melon. They won't perfectly mimic the flavor and texture, but they all share similar characteristics and could easily fit into any recipe that calls for chayote.
Have you tasted chayote before? What did you think of its flavor? Please let us know in the comments below.