Chicken Fajita Spaghetti Squash
Chicken Fajita Spaghetti Squash- We're swapping out traditional tortillas with spaghetti squash then stuffing it with fajita spiced chicken, sautéed veggies, and shredded cheese for a lightened up twist on a family favorite meal.
February 18, 2021 by Nicole Collins
I'm cursing out that darn Punxsutawney Phil today.
I blame him for the fact that we're currently stuck in this awful cycle of snow, ice storms, and gloom.
If anyone out there lives someplace where the sun still shines, could you send me a pic? I'm starting to forget what it looks like.
It's no secret that I despise this time of year. I am not cut out for never ending cold, dark days. But, I had this moment the other day where I was outside for just a few minutes taking care of a chore, and I came back in with tears in my eyes because it was so utterly miserable outside.
Or maybe the tears were because it was below 20 degrees and I was outside in freezing rain, but tears are tears, nonetheless.
So today, we're making something warm and sunny to try and lift the spirits of everyone counting down the seconds until summer arrives. (You can't even trust spring anymore these days...hello March snow storms.)
Today, we're making Chicken Fajita Spaghetti Squash!
Every time I make spaghetti squash, I fall more and more in love with it. Which is funny, because I was sure I wouldn't like it. But, it's just such a blank canvas and great at soaking up any flavors you throw at it. So, it's the perfect vessel for our lightened up version of a favorite meal.
Let's start with the spaghetti squash. We need to slice it in half before we cook it, which can sometimes be a little tricky to do. So, I like to lop off the end to give myself a flat and steady surface to stand the squash upon, and then we can slice it right down the middle vertically into two equal halves.
Once our squash is cut, we'll scoop out the seeds, give it a little drizzle of olive oil, and give it the tiniest pinch of salt and pepper for seasoning. Then, to the oven it goes to roast for just about 25 mins. Now, it's important to pay attention to the weight of your squash vs. the cook times. A smaller squash takes less time to roast than a heavier one. But ultimately, the last thing we want is overcooked spaghetti squash. We want to keep it perfectly al dente, and you can test to see where you're at with your cook by running your fork through the squash and seeing if the strands easily pull out for you. That's when you know it's done.
While the squash cooks, we can work on our filling. We're going to use my 5 minute marinade trick for our chicken thighs which is a quick and easy way to tenderize and impart lots of flavor into the meat in no time at all. So, we'll place our chicken thighs in a resealable bag along with some grapeseed oil, lime juice, and a homemade fajita spice mix. Then, we'll seal it up and gently massage the marinade into the meat for 5 minutes straight. After that, we'll throw it in a skillet on the stove top; and cook it until it's perfectly moist and juicy on the inside.
After the chicken has finished cooking, we're going to take advantage of that leftover flavor in the pan and cook our veggies right in the same skillet. So, we'll add some sliced peppers and sliced red onion to the pan along with a pinch more fajita seasoning, and we'll cook those veggies until they just start to soften and brown.
If we time things right, our chicken and veggies should finish cooking at right about the same time as the squash. So, we'll scoop out the squash strands, add it to a mixing bowl along with our chicken and peppers, throw in a healthy amount of shredded cheddar, and give it all a good mix. Then, we'll stuff it back inside the squash shell to make it look fancy, give it a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of chopped cilantro, and it's time to chow down!
These spaghetti squash boats are a little bit of everything. The squash makes them feel light and refreshing. The warmly spiced chicken makes them feel hearty and comforting. The colors from the peppers and onions make them feel like sunshine on a plate. And, that creamy sour cream on top adds the cooling effect that makes the perfect fajita bite, if you ask me.
You truly won't even miss the tortilla shells in this deliciously guilt free meal!
Ok, everyone. The countdown is on. Only 122 days until summer. Thank goodness for meals like today's to hold us over!
I hope you enjoy! And, let's eat!
Chicken Fajita Spaghetti Squash
Serves: 2 Print
1 spaghetti squash (about 2-2 ½ lbs)
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp salt, plus more to taste
¼ tsp chili powder
¼ tsp paprika
1/8 tsp pepper, plus more to taste
1 ½ tbsp + ½ tbsp grapeseed oil, divided
¾ tsp lime juice
½ lb boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 cup red bell pepper, thinly sliced
½ small red onion, thinly sliced
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
sour cream and cilantro, for serving
olive oil cooking spray
Prepare the Spaghetti Squash: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Cut the top off the spaghetti squash (the stem side) to create a flat surface. Stand the squash up, cut side down, and carefully cut vertically through the center of the squash to create two halves. Scoop out and discard the seeds in the center.
Lightly spritz the flesh of the squash with olive oil cooking spray. Season both halves with a tiny pinch of salt and pepper. Place the squash cut side down on prepared baking sheet, and roast for 25-30 mins until the squash strands come loose easily with a fork. Allow the squash to sit for about 5 mins before shredding the squash.
Meanwhile, make the chicken: In a small bowl, mix cumin, garlic powder, ½ tsp salt, chili powder, paprika, and 1/8 tsp pepper. Reserve 1/8 tsp of the seasoning mix, and set aside. Add 1 ½ tbsp grapeseed oil and lime juice to the remaining spice mix, and whisk until well combined. Place chicken in a freezer safe plastic bag. Pour marinade over chicken, let the excess air out of the bag, and seal the bag to close. Gently massage the bag, making sure to evenly distribute the chicken in the marinade, for 5 consecutive minutes.
Heat ½ tbsp grapeseed oil in a nonstick skillet over medium heat. Remove chicken from the marinade, and add to the skillet. Cook chicken for 6-7 minutes per side until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 degrees. Remove chicken from skillet.
If the skillet looks dry, add another little drizzle (about 1 tsp) of grapeseed oil. Add peppers, onions, and reserved 1/8 tsp of fajita spice mix. Toss to coat. Cook for 6-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables start to soften and slightly brown. Remove from heat.
Use a fork to shred the spaghetti squash strands, leaving about a ½ inch border, and add the squash strands to a bowl. Chop the chicken into bite sized pieces, and add chicken to the bowl along with the veggie mix and the cheddar cheese. Stir to completely combine.
To serve, fill the squash shells with the squash mix and transfer to a plate, or transfer the squash mix to a serving bowl. Top with sour cream and cilantro, if desired. Enjoy!
*The 5 minute marinade is a great trick to infusing flavor and tenderizing meat in no time it all. Gently massaging the meat in the marinade provides the same benefit as a protein that's been marinating all day. But, be gentle. We don't want to shred our meat in the marinade. We just want to speed up the flavor process!
*Grapeseed oil is one of my favorite oils, because you get some nutty, earthy flavor like you would from an olive oil with a higher smoke point like you'd get from a vegetable or canola oil. You could certainly use canola oil as a substitute.
*Be careful not to overcook the squash. It turns to mush quickly. Check it at 25 mins, and if it shreds easily, we're done. If not, give it a few more mins in the oven. This recipe is based on a roughly 2 lb squash, so if your squash is heavier, it will need to cook a little longer.
*I like to use the mini sweet peppers for this recipe, because you get a variety of colors of peppers all in one bag. You also get smaller strips when you slice the peppers, which are perfect for this delicate squash mix. About 8-10 mini peppers equals 1 cup of of sliced bell pepper.