Pepita Salmon with Cotija Cilantro Crema and Sizzling Skillet Calabacitas

Are you ready to make waves and catch compliments this Cinco de Mayo? Cast your net beyond tacos, enchiladas, tostados and other Tex-Mex dishes that have become standard fiesta fare on this side of the border and reel in some fish.  One bite of my Pepita Salmon with Cotija Cilantro Crema and you’ll be hooked! I’ve also paired this dish with Sizzling Skillet Calabacitas, a Mexican squash recipe that can be whipped up with very little fuss while the fish bakes.

Fish is actually a popular protein in this part of the world, not surprising considering Mexico has 6,000 miles of coastline hosting an array of las delicias del mar  -- literally, delights from the sea. Those versed in world geography and marine biology may be chuckling right now – salmon is a cold-water fish that isn’t found anywhere near the mild oceans and seas of Mexico! But, one thing true about this seafood-loving country is that it celebrates fish from around the world – just like we do here in North America. So, it’s salmon for dinner tonight!

This fish recipe is as easy as uno, dos, tres! First, spread Cotija Cilantro Ultra Premium Dressing atop a salmon filet. Second, top salmon with crushed tortilla chips and roasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas), and then bake for 12 minutes. While fish is cooking in the oven,a quick skillet of squash comes together in minutes for a speedy yet stunning side dish called “calabacitas” that will encourage your family to eat more veggies! Although the word calabacitas means “little squash” in Spanish, it’s a generic term used in many parts of Mexico and the southern U.S. to describe a side dish featuring squash. For my calabacitas, I’ve used a Mexican zucchini but you can easily substitute with your favorite summer squash such as sunburst or crookneck.  

The secret ingredient to this dinner is the Cotija Cilantro Ultra Premium Dressing, one of my go-to favorites! Creamy and rich, this dressing is made with mild poblano peppers and bold Cotija cheese for a one-of-a-kind fiesta of flavor that can be drizzled on salads, used as a chip or veggie dip and dolloped atop basically anything as a southwestern substitute for sour cream. 

Pepita Salmon with Cotija Cilantro Crema with Sizzling Skillet Calabacitas

Serves 2-3 servings | Finish in 20 minutes

Reel in a fiesta of flavor with this easy salmon and squash recipe that is delicious for a quick Cinco de Mayo celebration or dinner any night of the week.


Cooking spray
4 6-oz salmon filets, skin on
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 ounces tortilla chips
1/3 cup roasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
½ cup Cotija Cilantro Ultra Premium Dressing (divided)
2 lb. Mexican Zucchini (or other summer squash), sliced to ¼” thickness
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoon Instantly Fresh Cilantro
1 teaspoon Instantly Fresh Oregano
1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup roasted pepitas


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line rimmed baking sheet with foil and lightly coat with cooking spray.
  2. Add tortilla chips a zip top bag and crush to a coarse consistency with rolling pin. Add peptias to bag, shake to combine, and pour out mixture onto shallow dish.
  3. Pat salmon filets dry with paper towels, place skin side down and sprinkle top with pepper. Brush each top with approximately 1 tablespoon Cotija Cilantro Ultra Premium Dressing. 
  4. One at a time, pick up the salmon filets and press the coated side down into the tortilla chip mixture until evenly coated. Place the salmon tortilla side up on the baking sheet and sprinkle with additional pepitas, lightly pressing them down, if desired.  Discard the unused tortilla chip mixture.
  5. Bake for 12 minutes, until the coating is crisp and fish begins to flake when pressed with a fork.
  6. While fish is baking, add olive oil to large skillet and bring to medium-high heat. Add garlic, squash and bell pepper and sauté, stirring constantly, for approximately 4 minutes or until softened. Stir in cilantro, oregano, red pepper flakes and salt, continuing to cook for another 1 minute. Remove from heat and toss with pepitas.
  7. To serve, top salmon with an approximate 1 tablespoon dollop of Cotija Cilantro Ultra Premium Dressing with a side of the prepared squash.

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